From the series “In Conversation with …”
This is an interview with a special family, a family that has chosen to live an unconventional year, by travelling and exploring the world. In this interview, I connect with my own roots, through Nicole. Nicole is directly related to me through our grandparents, my maternal grandfather and her maternal grandmother were brother and sister. Then, there is her husband Ritesh, born and raised in Nepal, and their two daughters Bowie (7) and Frankie (6), Australia is their official home, but in a way, their souls feel at home around the globe.
This family decided to go on a “slow family travel”, for longer periods of time.
Their mission was to accumulate precious moments and extraordinary experiences, instead of accumulating material things. A family that has ventured on a slow family travel by visiting amazing parts of the world, exposing their children to different cultures, landscapes, and realities.
Nicole travelled to Nepal in 2006 and she fell in love with the place. In 2009, she took leave from her job to travel and decided that this should be her first stop. Little did she know that she would fall in love with a local and end up spending most of her year living in Kathmandu, and eventually marrying there. Nicole and Ritesh met walking along the Annapurna Trail in the Himalayas in 2009.
SOMETHING SIGNIFICANT TO LOOK FORWARD TO
Together with your family, you have decided to go on a “slow family travel”. Please share with us what exactly that entails, and what type of planning did that involve, and what triggered this decision? How did you plan your careers (sabbatical or similar)?
The idea of pursuing a sabbatical year and travelling the world came prior to us having children. We were desperately trying to fall pregnant and as we started to feel more hopeless about creating our own family we decided that we needed something significant to look forward to. There was a huge feeling of discontent when I imagined the mundane existence of working 5 days a week, paying our bills, and accumulating a house full of things we really didn’t need without having something else more meaningful.
I am in the fortunate position of being a teacher, and within our government system, we have the choice to take a reduced pay in exchange for time to pursue our own interests. This meant that for four 4 years, I received 80% of my pay. Four years of reduced pay meant that I was then able to take a year off from my job (which they needed to hold for me) to do as I pleased, whilst still getting paid. It’s an amazing scheme, which, since doing it, I recommend to anyone in the government teaching system where I live in Victoria, Australia.
So in terms of a plan – it was a long-term plan! We weren’t in the position to just pack our bags and disappear. This scheme helped us in terms of saving money and also gave us time to get our things in order and make plans.
KIDS ARE A GREAT REMINDER ABOUT JUST BEING IN THE MOMENT
How did you explain or rather informed your daughters about the style of life you would live for an extended period of time? How did they internalize this information?
I think we were quite fortunate that our girls were so young when we decided to leave. Frankie was 3 and Bowie was 4. They really didn’t get the concept of us being away from family and friends for long periods of time … and more importantly, they really had no sense of time!
Kids are a great reminder about just being in the moment. Every place we went, Ritesh and I would laugh as we watched them adapt and just play, no matter where we were or what toys or things they had to play with. It happened so many times. I specifically remember a moment when we had moved from spending a week in an awesome villa in Seminyak Bali – (complete with an amazing pool, lush tropical gardens, open-aired living spaces, and massive bedrooms) – to some very basic accommodation in Ubud in Bali. Ritesh and I were quite disappointed – it was dark, dingy and about 90% smaller than where we had just been. Whilst we sat and complained and contemplated finding somewhere else to stay, the girls giggled and played running up and down the stairs playing like they were in a two-story cubby house. They were having the time of their lives. We realized that where we were, was all we needed.
EVERY MOMENT WAS A NEW LEARNING EXPERIENCE
Your daughters certainly had an interesting year instead of being at a kindergarten like many other kids. Bowie was 4 and Frankie was 3 at the time of your slow travel…
We did take the girls out of 3 and 4-year-old kindergarten, which in Australia, is more about the opportunity to learn about socializing with others, taking turns, etc.
I had absolutely no hesitation about this and knew that the learning that they did along the trip would far outweigh what they might have missed at kindergarten.
And the learning was fabulous. Every moment was a new learning experience. As a family, we tend to like visiting cultures that are very different from what we currently experience. That is my favorite part of travel. They learned words in other languages, they learned about different customs such as religious festivals in Nepal, we ate different types of food. We talked to them about time, money, the history of the places we visited, how to read timetables, and most of all, they learned about how fortunate they were. So many times we were confronted by poverty and situations where we were thankful for our lives and the many privileges we had. When we were in Kathmandu, we often had to ride past a dry river bed where there were a number of families living under corrugated shelters. Young kids played amongst the rubbish in make-shift swings. We would try to show our girls that not everyone was as fortunate as they were.
SHARING HERITAGE AND CULTURES
Please share with us 3 locations or 3 stories that touched you and your family the most during this journey?
This is such a hard question to answer. I struggled to narrow it down.
- One of the best things about our travels was sharing our heritage and cultures with our children. My parents were both born in Istria (Croatia) and Ritesh was born in Nepal. We got to spend time with family and friends in both of these countries and see the deep connections and bonds we share, despite the fact that we live so far away from one another. Ritesh was so happy that the girls got to be part of a large couple of festivals in Nepal, called Dashain and Tihar. If we were to compare, they are a bit like Christmas where families and friends come together to spend time with each other.
- Goa in India was another favorite spot for me. We spent about a month in Armbol and because it was our last stop before heading home, we really just slowed right down. Our days comprised of some yoga or exercise, a swim either at the beach or a pool and then we’d usually head down to the beach after dinner to watch the sunset, check out the nightly drumming circle, or the artists selling their wares. Because it wasn’t too busy, I’d also have a go and getting around on our motorbike without feeling too nervous. There was just such a relaxed vibe here. It was so different from what we were expecting having visited India before. I was expecting us to get harassed all the time and to be on guard against getting scammed. Everyone was so friendly and chilled. I hope to get to go back there.
- As mentioned the most special moments were the ones that were not really planned. When we stayed in Spain we booked accommodation through an Air Bnb. It was this awesome little apartment, up on the fourth floor, with a balcony that looked over a town square. We loved watching life roll by from above. The best part of our stay there were the early evenings as everyone came out for dinner to the square or to catch up with each other. Kids rode around on their skateboards or played soccer or other games. Friends sat together on the park benches and drank and talked. We ended up just slotting in and tried to live like the locals. Our kids joined in with the games and we chilled with a few drinks as the night approached. Stopping regularly to appreciate how lucky and fortunate we were was the key to these simple moments being so special.
EXPLORING WAYS TO EXPERIENCE MOMENTS
Your mission was to accumulate precious moments rather than things. Tell us a bit more about your thoughts on this …
Ritesh and I have never been extremely materialistic. Mind you, I have much to learn in relation to being more minimalistic. I still get drawn into buying things I don’t need. However, in the bigger scheme of things, we really aren’t too bothered to have the ‘best’ of everything. We would much rather place our priorities on exploring ways to experience moments, and what I mean by moments are not necessarily moments that cost a lot of money.
THE WANDERLUST COOPERATIVE
They documented their travels on Instagram @ the.wanderlust.cooperative. The name came from their strong interest to discover new adventures and places, the longing to see the world and curiosity to know that there is more to life. The ‘cooperative’ part was the feeling of the fact that they knew they weren’t the only ones that felt that way. They were hoping to share stories with others and develop a community where people could share their ideas, tips and experiences.
During our travels, some of my favourite days were the ones when we didn’t really plan a strict itinerary. We’d just head off to explore and see what came our way. This, sometimes ended in some funny circumstances, like when we found ourselves riding through the rice fields in Ubud. The four of us on a motorbike balancing along very thin pavers and tracks that separated the rice paddies, while I hung on for dear life hoping that Ritesh would stay steady.
I CONTINUE TO WORK THROUGH THE CONDITIONING THAT MAKES US THINK THAT MUCH OF THE ABSURD IS CONSIDERED NORMAL
When people choose to live a life that is unconventional (even if it is just for a fixed period of time) or rather a life that does not conform to the prescribed societal norms that the majority of the people follow, they can be targets of judgment in various forms. How did your family and friends react when you have shared with them the plan of your slow travel?
I’ve always been a bit of the black sheep and in all honesty, I wish I had the courage to pursue more of my crazy ideas and actually check out from much that is considered conventional. I sit on the edge of conventionalism as much as I can and dip my toes into those societal ideas that honestly, don’t make much sense to me. I continue to work through the conditioning that makes us think that much of the absurd is considered normal.
As it came closer to us heading off, most people were excited for us and loved hearing about our plan. I do remember my mum saying to me “I don’t know why you are going. You know the kids won’t remember it”. Selfishly, (or not), I told her that we weren’t really doing it for the kids – we were doing it for ourselves. I think they were the lucky ones to be born into our family and that we were taking them on this journey. Now, when we do talk to the girls about some of the things we have seen and done, we can see that they are forgetting many of the moments, however, I know that subconsciously they will remember the moments, the feelings of adventure, happiness, relaxation and contentment. If they can carry these qualities into their lives and their experiences, I will feel like I have given them something much more than any bike, phone, iPad or any other dispensable thing that I can give.
THINGS FALL INTO PLACE
Covid has altered most people’s plans and lockdowns have limited travel. How did Covid affect you and what is your plan for the future?
After our experience in 2019, we kept thinking about what other possibilities we had to keep travelling. This actually never stops for me. I am forever planting seeds in Ritesh’s head…
At the beginning of this year, we relocated to the opposite end of Australia for an adventure in the ‘top end’. Again, it was very different to where we are based in Geelong and if it had not been for our year of travel in 2019, I don’t think we would have done it. However, we realised during our travels that things just fall into place. We have the skills, patience and openmindedness to just see what comes and so we decided that since any overseas travel seemed so far away, we would make the most of what opportunities we could take.
In terms of the future, I am forever dreaming and imagining something new so that we are not stuck in a grind. Who knows what the future will bring? But, I know we are definitely not shelving the ideas of more adventures abroad. I would love to spend another long stint in Goa. I never got sick of the sunsets in Arambol, there was such a real sense of just living in the present and a real sense of freedom.
ADVICE FOR FAMILIES THAT WOULD LIKE TO VENTURE ON A SLOW TRAVEL
If you would give advice to a family that would like to go on a slow trip with children, what would that advice be?
Obviously, just do it. Don’t hesitate. I can’t think of any reason why you wouldn’t consider it. Figure out how to finance it. Don’t expect it all to go to plan, and enjoy the ride. Having our children with us was such a wonderful way for us to spend time together without feeling like we were being pulled into the direction of making money or comparing ourselves to others. We got to connect, play, laugh, be still and share. I will cherish these moments forever. I would have to say that almost weekly, I am taken back to one of the places we visited, a meal we ate in some cool little restaurant, an adventure we discovered or a challenge that we overcame. We have cherished every moment.
UNDERSTAND OUR CONNECTION TO ALL THAT SURROUNDS US
You have shared with me as well about how practising Yoga has helped you find balance, a sense of purpose and how it keeps you grounded…also you have gone to experience an ashram…
When I was about 19, I was feeling quite overwhelmed and lost in my life. I was quite unhappy and just couldn’t find a way to move past and through the negativity in my mind. Thankfully, I discovered yoga and there was an ashram about an hour away from where I lived.
(An ashram is a kind of sanctuary where a group of Hindus live together (voluntarily) away from the rest of society, or a place where Hindus can go in order to pray or mediate. It can be described as a monastic community, or a place for religious retreat.)
I had driven past the ‘ashram-left-sign’ a few times and one day I decided to travel down the dirt road the 10 kilometres through the Wombat State Forest to see what it actually was. Thank God, I did. It has been the one thing in my life that has always kept me grounded and supported me to question my own beliefs, strive to continually reinvent myself and understand my connection to all that surrounds me. Prior to having my girls, I would try to take regular time outs there to slow down, watch what was happening in my mind and reassess where I was heading. Without a doubt, every time I drove out of there after spending a few days, I felt such calmness and a sense of contentment. These feelings I try to translate into my everyday life and so, if I can’t get back to the ashram, just getting to a yoga class connects me back to calm. Visiting this ashram sparked me to go and live in an ashram in India and pursue teaching Yoga, which I still haven’t quite done because I feel I still have so much to learn. It is something that I wish I practised more intensely every day but again, I get dragged into insignificant things. So, whilst I don’t always practice asana (asana is physical yoga. Asana also refers to the poses or postures of yoga), or meditate or study some form of yogic philosophy. I do carry it in me and I know that when I really need it, yoga is the one stable thing that will support me in a world that is so unpredictable.
The first story in the Conversation with … Ivo Boscarol, founder of one of the most innovative company in the world, Pipistrel.
Web magazine Inspire me/Navdihni.me published by Insights d.o.o., družba za odkrivanje in razvoj potencialov
Photos: THE WANDERLUST COOPERATIVE