Following on from our previous post about the Email that changed our lives, this is the second part of the story of how we closed down our old lives and built completely new ones in just 11 weeks. So if you haven’t read the previous post get over there now and read it before you get stuck into this one. You know it makes sense.
So just like Back to the Future 2 or The Godfather Part II we need to recap slightly to set the scene. It’s the evening of Monday March 16th 2015 and we have both resigned from our respective jobs. Arriving home there should have been a mixture of unbridled excitement and complete fear. “What on earth had we done?”. Unbelievably though we were both absolutely calm as if it was the most natural thing to do in the world. Time to start planning.
We reasoned out that there were four different areas that required looking at:
- Friends and family
Not in any particular order of course as there was just so much to sort out but we’d got the ball rolling by handing in our notices at work. And by setting the date of June 1st as the day that our travelling would start we had tied ourselves to an 11 week schedule. So it was time to get busy.
Can you imagine how much there was to do?
The first two tasks were giving notice on our rented house and actually planning where we were actually going to travel to!
From Jo’s amazing email we decided that it was wise to go as far as possible initially so it just seemed obvious to head for Australia and New Zealand as that was potentially a once in a lifetime trip. We could stay in Oz for 3 months on a visitors visa so decided on another 3 months in NZ straight after. Looking at the seasons it was fairly sensible not to go in the southern hemisphere winter so we immediately hit upon a date in the first week of September.
Because of the anticipated stress and hard work involved in changing our lives we also thought we would have a lazy first 3 months where we would do a fair amount of nothing at all just to recover, recharge, and enjoy each others company. So there it was, easy. The dates seemed to organise themselves and virtually jumped out of the calendar at us.
- June 1st – 3 months in Europe
- September 1st – 1 week visiting our three sons
- September 8th – Australia
- December 6th – New Zealand
Another big decision we made that first evening was that we wanted to tell all of our family and friends about our new life direction in person. No Facebook announcements or emails. We would visit everyone we knew, within reason, and break the news face to face. So a shedload of visits and get-togethers now to arrange.
That first week was a whirlwind of cancelling insurances, sky contracts, utilities, etc and finalising our travel decisions. We decided that we would spend the first 3 months in Europe by staying in Holland, Germany and Austria for a month each. This threw up an incredible coincidence and opportunity which we just hadn’t foreseen as I booked our initial flight from London to Holland. We had decided to stay in the town of Nijmegen as it was where we had spent a lot of time in the mid 1980s when I was posted to Germany with the RAF.
The flight from London Stansted to the nearest airport Dusseldorf was actually to a place called Weeze. The airport was my old RAF station Laarbruch, now transformed into a civilian airfield. How strange that the first step of our new life would be to visit somewhere we lived 30 years ago. It seemed somehow appropriate to start there.
Onto travel planning then. So much to decide and book that I ‘borrowed’ a pack of flipchart sheets and covered the whole of the wall in our living room with paper so that we could write dates and bookings up and keep in control. Genius decision if I do say so myself. We also picked up a couple of guidebooks for research.
As the weeks raced by we organised our travel schedule and booked 14 flights, 30 Airbnbs, 12 trains, 11 hotels, 2 ferries, 3 hire cars, and multiple buses as the grand plan started to come together. In tandem with this we started giving what was left of our furniture and possessions away to local charity shops and got the house emptied. Around all of this we also managed to visit and meet up with all of our friends and family to share our news. We got two reactions which would become standard over the next three years. They were;
What a fabulous idea. How amazing, that will be brilliant.
What on earth are you up to? Why? Is this some sort of mid-life crisis?
We tried to explain that our new life wasn’t a crisis and that it would hopefully be brilliant but also stressed that we weren’t preaching this life-change to anyone. It was purely what we wanted to do. I think most people were pleased for us but you never know.
Everything was going like clockwork as we calmly got everything organised. Except for one thing. When I had resigned at work I had checked my contract and it stated I needed to give 2 months notice so March 16th was perfect. So when I was called in by my manager and informed that it should have been 3 months notice, and that the system was wrong, it was a major shock. Flights and accommodation were already booked. A very stressful couple of weeks followed where meeting followed meeting with arguments over my notice period getting more and more heated.
They insisted I work until June 16th. this could have potentially ruined everything at the first step. Luckily I had a moment of severe stroppiness and refused stating that ‘I would just go, I didn’t care‘. They blinked first and with unused leave and a couple of unpaid days I finally left on May 22nd. Crisis averted.
So moving towards the final weekend in May we had both left our jobs, the house was empty and everything was booked. Amazingly we had sold the car to a lovely couple who said that we could drive it to my Mums house nearby and they would collect it from there. As we left we dropped a final load off at the local charity shop including the ironing board and a warm iron! All we now had was a couple of small boxes of keepsakes and treasured photographs to be stored and a suitcase and a backpack each.
Four days later we were boarding a Ryanair flight to Weeze in Germany at the start of our big adventure. Little did we know how long it would last or where it would take us.