CONTRIBUTED BY EXPLORAMUM & EXPLORASON
This inspiring Australian mom and son duo are travelling the world, helping the needy as they go. Aged 51, Exploramum decided that NOW is the time to spend as much time with her eight year-old son as she can – while he still wants to spend time with her! They sold everything and are now travelling the world, performing random act of kindness as they go. Powerful food for thought…
Our Old Life
Our old life was very, VERY stressful.
I was working in an executive position with an extremely demanding boss. I also ran my own online business. Put it all together and it meant that I had little time with my son. He was growing up and I was missing out on his childhood.
I was paying off a huge mortgage as a single mother, and was progressively going backwards. The house needed constant repairs, there were always problems and things breaking down, and it really was causing more problems than it was fixing.
I had no time for family or friends – and I was very, very alone.
I stopped and took a big look at life. It needed to change. I wanted less stress and I wanted quality time with my son before he grew up and no longer wanted quality time with me. So we talked and agreed to travel and spend quality time together. And that’s how the decision was born to start our new life together.
The whole process took about 18 months from first conception, which really isn’t too bad when you consider just what needed doing.
Each day we did at least one thing towards our goal. We trained with hikes. We bought what we needed for the trip. We sold what we didn’t need, which was pretty much everything. We prepared our blog. And we psyched ourselves up for what was coming.
It was a lot of planning to get the house ready to sell, selling possessions, deciding what to keep and store (not much) and working to a set plan. I constantly motivated myself with positive quotes around the house. Roughly in order, we had to:
- Decide – the hardest thing is to make a firm commitment
- Tell very few – we only told the school and a few positive friends – I wanted motivation, not obstacles
- Have a huge garage sale to de-clutter the house (we had two, this was the first)
- List valuable and large items for sale on eBay
- Prepare and list the house for sale
- Put aside and purchase clothes, luggage, and items needed for the trip
- Arrange storage of valuables and household items we wished to keep
- Blog – we started our own blogs before the trip
- Organise Travel Insurance, International Drivers License, Immunizations, International Banking, Investment Accounts etc
- We were only able to buy our tickets once the house sold, so this was near the end, but I did have a separate account for this
- Sell car, bikes and other modes of transport just prior to leaving
- Move out of house once sold, and stay at friends – to enable final clean-up and departure
Length of Our Travels – And Then…
We don’t know how long we will travel for; it will basically depend on how long we can make our money last. My son really wants to see Russia and Paris. I want to live in a village in Italy and would also love to see Cuba.
Right now it has been cold here in South America and we have been on the go a lot. We both long to lie on a warm beach with palm trees and have some relaxation.
I’ve invested a small amount of money which we won’t touch, and we’ll use that to essentially re-start life when our travels come to an end. I hope to live a lot more simply than we did in Australia.
Possessions tied me down. They did not bring freedom and I can see that now. We are living well as minimalists and hope to maintain that even after our travels.
Ultimately, I think we’ll settle somewhere warm. We loved Fiji and Ecuador; I guess both are possible. I would love to set up an orphanage somewhere, and my son adores children so I think he would also enjoy it. He’s very accepting and is particularly fond of street kids. If we were going to settle somewhere to help the poor, then it would be Cochabamba in Bolivia.
But there is a lot more of the world still to see. So who knows!
How we Decided to Help the Needy Along the Way
When we were first packing up the house, we put aside some toys because we wanted to give them to the kids in Fiji without. We talked about our big trip and decided that we wanted to help needy people whenever we could. What we can do is limited because our funds are limited, but so far we have managed to:
- Raise funds for a very poor village in Fiji. We then bought clothes, shoes and other items to give out. People who donated to our fundraising campaign were able to see every single penny of their money go directly to those who needed the items.
- We brought 40 kg of books and toys and clothes from Australia to Fiji to hand out to those who needed them.
- We lived near some children whose mother had deserted them, and their father had died. We bought them food, clothes and paid for their schooling for the year. We just got an email to say they were re-united with their mother and they thanked us for what was just an unbelievable provision for them. Those two children will always have a special place in our hearts.
- We gave out walking sticks.
- My son gave away his laptop computer.
- We bought food for the homeless in Hollywood, and drove around and my son would hand it out the window. He would give them choices – both he and they loved it!
- In Central and South America we often given out toiletries and clothes.
- In Bolivia we did a food distribution to the beggars. We loved helping the beggars in Bolivia; they needed so much.
- In Peru we recently helped a man who was blind in one eye, both mentally and physically handicapped, and crawling on his hands and knees as he could not walk. He had no shoes. When we helped him he had the biggest smile and I burst into tears.
Deciding WHO to Help
There are so many people in need, it’s sometimes tough to decide who to help and who not to help. I’ve learned a few lessons that now help us make this tough decision.
With beggars especially you need to look and see if they are genuine. Some sit there for an hour and then go off and buy a Coke and fried chicken. I guess I look at them and have learned to evaluate.
Glue sniffers, drug addicts and alcoholics would get food and drink from us, but not money. Abused women are often the same – as the husband might be watching, and he will just come and take the money from them.
We rarely give to those who ask; we find they can be ‘professionals.’ But to find a poor family with starving kids with no clothes and to go and bless them is just a wonderful feeling.
I hate to think what it will be like in parts of Africa and India, but if we can help a few in the world, a little bit can really make a difference to the people
What these Random Acts Cost and How we Fund Them
We raise very little money for doing these random acts of kindness; mostly we use our own. This is the one area of our budget that I don’t track so it would be hard to assess how much we’ve contributed as it’s often our own items that we pass on.
For instance, my son gave his laptop away and we gave away a mobile phone when we left one country. We also had to hire a 4WD to get to the remote village in Fiji. We have given away so much that it’s really a tricky question!
We did a blog for Fiji, explaining what we were trying to raise money for and people contributed. I also put it on Facebook recently about what we were trying to do in Bolivia and we received donations for that as well.
If people want to follow along on our blog to see what we’ll be trying to do next, it would be wonderful to receive donations if a cause resonates with them.
We’re also asking for any ideas on how they’d like us to use their donations to help the needy locals we meet. Next we want to help a couple of children’s homes. In particular, we want to buy chickens for one as theirs have died.
I just want everyone to know that their donations go directly to the needy – and don’t fund any of our travels.
We have a very small budget of $50 – $60 a day, including transportation (so we travel almost entirely by bus as it’s the cheapest). We’re pretty good at finding interesting places to stay, and healthy places to eat within our budget. We buy our clothes, fruit, vegetables and toiletries at local markets to save money.
If we are in hostels, I cook and that saves a lot of money. There are some countries though, like the USA and most of Brazil, where they did not allow children in hostels. This meant we went over budget a lot because we had to stay in hotels. But we try to stay with families where possible, and have stayed at two mission bases along the way too; every little bit counts.
There are occasional times when we splurge. I think we have five star taste on a one star budget, so it’s always tricky. But we use the budget to teach my son math, so he knows our financial limitations very well and doesn’t ask for things he knows we can’t afford.
How we Fund our Travels
I sold the house, and invested some of the money. The market was really bad so I only sold for about half of what I’d wanted, and had to pay the bank back what I owed, so we don’t have much really. But I’m learning that, with wisdom, it can go a long way.
The Paypal donate button on our blog receives the occasional donation from someone who is enjoying reading the stories we are sharing and wants to support our travels – but most donations we receive are for our random acts of kindness fund – so we can’t use them to support our travels.
We would love to go to the Galapagos Islands next month as it would be so educational, but it’s not within our budget. If anybody wants to help us make that dream come true, we would be ever so grateful!
Life as a Single Mom on the Road
It has been tough and lonely at times. Some problems should not and cannot be talked out with an eight year old (he was seven when we started to travel).
When he ended up in hospital in Bolivia I couldn’t leave him. There was no toilet paper, water or food, so I paid the travel agent to come and bring me things, and to interpret – she was amazing.
We go to church when we get to English speaking places, and I make sure we connect with the people there. If something should happen to me, he then could be placed with a family and be safe (ie if I ended up in hospital).
Most importantly, we both wear ID bracelets with emergency phone numbers and I always put a hostel or hotel card in his pocket before we go out, in case he gets separated from me. Luckily, this has never happened.
Like most travellers, we have had a couple of rough spots – but we have both shared our feelings and moved on.
Travelling the World: Explorason’s Perspective
The best thing about travelling all the time is that I have more time with my mum – and that we get to go out all the time and see stuff, and we meet lots of people.
The worst thing is packing up and going on buses. I also miss my friends in Australia, and when I meet new friends on the trip, I always have to say goodbye, and that makes me sad.
Traveling with Mum is an amazing experience because I get to do all sorts of things that I would never get to do in Australia. Sometimes it’s tiring, but mostly it’s just SO fun!
It feels different because we’re not in the same city all the time but traveling with Mum is exciting because she likes to do interesting and exciting things.
I really loved Fiji, Palm Springs, Hawaii, New York, and Sucre in Bolivia, and the old city of Quito in Ecuador. I travel with only a few special things that I always like to have with me, including my iPad and mum’s laptop computer.
I like to collect Disney Cars, but that is hard to do in South America. I also collect Trash Packs. I love to draw, so we always have coloured pencils and paper with us too.
Advice for Single Moms who want to Travel the World
Firstly I would say:
‘You Can Do It!’
Believe in yourself, believe in your child / children, and believe in your dream. I have met other single mums who are travelling and all of their children are amazing.
I think preparation is the key. You need to be prepared before you go, and remain prepared every day when you travel. On buses we take an extra change of clothes, clothes for warm and cold, toilet paper, extra food, and double water.
Countless times buses have broken down. Being prepared can save you from having a distressed child.
Advice for Incorporating Random Acts of Kindness into Travel
Giving, I believe, is what gives you the greatest joy. It puts meaning in your day. Sometimes you need to ‘look’ for the needy. They don’t always beg or sit in the streets.
Random acts of kindness can be to animals too, and my son loves to do that. Take your leftover food from restaurants and feed the street dogs of beggars. If you see a needy person, stop and just do it.
Your inner spirit will guide you and prompt you. Giving can get addictive. We left Fiji with almost no clothes, and yet we felt fabulous.
- Contributed by: Exploramum & Explorason (via email interview)
- Written, formatted and edited by: Krista Beauvais
- Photos: all photos are courtesy of Exploramum & Explorason