When Courtney Adamo told her friends she was packing up her seemingly glamorous life in London, along with her husband and four kids, to embark on a family gap year that would take them across the globe and back, some wondered if she’d finally lost it. After all, who in their right mind would sell their beautifully renovated Victorian home in one of the most exclusive suburbs of London to go travelling – for a large part in a cooped-up campervan – with four young children?
“Our friends were really surprised,” says the popular family lifestyle blogger and founder of Babyccino Kids, a successful online shopping portal that offers a carefully curated selection of virtual children’s boutiques from around the world. “They were like, ‘Why would you sell your house? Why would you take your kids out of this really good school? Why would you do that?’”
As she explains on her travel blog Somewhere Slower, the decision to turn their backs on life as they knew it in July last year was motivated by a long-held desire “to push pause on our busy lives in London and take a year out to spend time with our children.”
Speaking from Byron Bay on the far north coast of New South Wales, where the family were residing for a month, the mother-of-four, who has also been dubbed the mother of Britain’s “most stylish” brood, elaborates: “We really just wanted to slow down. Easton [her eldest child] turned 10 last year, so that was sort of a milestone within our family and it really reminded us of how quickly the last 10 years had gone.”
The couple has three other children; Quin, 9, Ivy, 7 and Marlow, 3, who, along with Easton, are being home-schooled by their parents while they are on the road.
“Last year, when we finally decided to do this, it just felt like a good time within our careers and the kids being the ages they are, just to take some time and really slow down,” says the US-born business owner, who previously lived in London for 12 years with her husband Michael, a successful film producer who quit his job to go on the road.
“There were some moments in London the year before we left where I’d be at home trying to make dinner and doing everything all at once, and the kids would be telling me about their day and I’d be just nodding but not actually listening to them,” she reflects. “It was almost like trying to shut them up in a way, and I just really wanted to be able to live more consciously and give more time to my kids as a mother.”
While she admits there are times when “I catch myself still doing that,” she says the decision to take a year out as a family has been life-changing.
“Without a doubt at all, it’s been the best thing we have ever done, really.”
Somewhere between Heathrow Airport and Byron Bay – perhaps while gazing at the large swells off Chile’s Punta de Lobos, or among the breathtaking fiords of New Zealand’s South Island – Courtney and her husband seem to have found the true meaning of living a conscious life, or at least discovered what truly matters within it.
“It sounds so cheesy but it really does make you feel like the world is your oyster. I think once you go to these places and you see the way people live, it just makes those things that used to matter, or that you used to worry about, just not matter anymore.”
Here, Courtney tell us her tips for taking a successful family gap year:
PICK THEMES. When planning our itinerary, we found it helpful to stick to a theme. Ours was ‘follow the sun’ (from the northern hemisphere, south and back again). This ensured a year of warm weather and outdoor activities. We also decided to favour rural/quiet places over cities and to stay in each place as long as we were able – usually around three weeks.
PACK HALF. When packing your suitcases, our best advice is to lay out all the things you think you absolutely need to pack… and then take half away. Take half away again and you’re close
to perfect. We only packed one suitcase each, but we still have more than we actually need.
JOURNAL TIME. Invest in nice journals before you start your adventure. Get the kids to log their adventures and write down their observations in each place you visit (we found it helpful to write questions for them to answer). We’ve also been collecting stickers from everywhere we visit. This has been a fun way to decorate the journals and document where we’ve been.
SAY HELLO. Get to know the locals as quickly as you can when you arrive somewhere new. Our favourite moments from the past year have been spent with new friends who gave us local insights to their towns. Instagram has been an especially great tool for meeting new people around the world. You can follow people in the places you plan to go and reach out to them before you get there.
LISTEN UP. Audio books have been a lifesaver for long car journeys. In addition to stories, we’ve also downloaded some informative, educational books relevant to our travels. This has been a great way for the kids to learn about and connect to each place we visit.
Image: Amelia Fullerton