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It’s 12 months today since we left Australia for Asia with the dream of earning an online income that would support us to have a better lifestyle, more family time and to travel for as long as we wanted.
At the time, we had no idea what would happen. We had enough money saved to last us 4 months and to cover our costs to return home. We had tickets to Asia, a 2.5 week holiday booked to Bali and Kuala Lumpur and onward flights to Penang where we hoped to start our new life.
It is hard for me to imagine what that must have felt like now. To take such a big step into the unknown. I am still surprised that I had enough self confidence to take such a massive leap.
Everything has worked out so well that it all feels meant to be. We have been rewarded for taking such a risk and we have not only had the year of our lives, but have set ourselves up well for the future.
One of the best parts is that we have given ourselves choices – the choice to return home, the choice to stay away, the choice to go pretty much wherever we like. It is an amazing feeling.
We managed to make it to an amazing 17 countries this year – Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, England, France, Italy, Slovenia and Croatia.
I also made it to Myanmar and Josh to Japan and Luxembourg.
Not bad while building up a business and spending about 6 months on and off in Penang.
The biggest highlight, however, was building a successful online business. I managed to do everything (and more) that I promised Josh that I would when I convinced him that this crazy idea was the best idea ever.
Even though we want to return back to Australia next month when S starts school, this business will keep funding our lifestyle and give us many more choices than we had before we left. The best part is that my income from this just keeps going up – I should hit an amazing 5 figures for this month. I am hopeful that we will be able to recreate a lot of what we had in Asia soon enough with no need for Josh to work full time outside the home.
You can read more about our decision to return home in our last update.
The best part of this whole year for me has actually not been the travel or the lifestyle. It’s been finding myself again.
I know this sounds wanky but those of you who have kids will maybe understand how I feel.
After having S, the world changed completely for me. Everything became about her, and then Z as well. I never, ever thought I would be a stay at home mum and I have never wanted to be one. However, there was no way I was going to be placing her in child care many days a week and letting someone else spend more time with her than me.
Once I had Z, it stopped being an option anyway. Child care is crazy expensive in Australia.
The problem with all of this is that I have always measured myself in terms of what I was ticking off my to do list and I am a hard task master. I always enjoyed working and the personal satisfaction that came with it. A job is just such a big part of most people’s identity, including mine.
I love my kids and I love that I have got to be there throughout their childhood, but it did come with sacrifices. The biggest of which was feeling like there was no “me” anymore. Being a stay at home mum is a never ending list of jobs that never finish, that never really get ticked off and I struggled to find any personal satisfaction at all.
It’s also completely uninteresting to the outside world. Stay at home mums are completely undervalued in our society and it’s hard for that not to rub off as silly as I know it is. I do believe it’s the most important job in the world – unfortunately believing that doesn’t help me enjoy it or feel satisfied or content.
I always studied online while having my children. I completed a second degree and then a graduate diploma and although it certainly helped me to have an outlet, it didn’t bring me the same satisfaction as having a job.
When I did work as a part time graduate teacher for a short while last year, there was no satisfaction either. Just constant stress that I was failing everybody. I found it impossible to even just be an ok teacher and an ok mum. And I don’t want to just be “ok” at anything.
What attracted me to the idea of being a digital nomad was never the travel, it was the better lifestyle for all the family. The fact that both Josh and I could spend most our time with the kids. That we could get rid of the mundane aspects of life (like cooking and cleaning) and concentrate on the parts that mattered.
It became our goal because of that, but what I didn’t realise was that it would also fill that hole inside of me.
That it would give me myself back.
Building my online business has been hard work. There were many months where it was thankless, where I worked every moment I had free and didn’t earn much money at all. I still don’t know where I found the motivation and conviction to stick with it. I am so glad I did though!
It has obviously all been worth it. It gave our family an amazing year together and so many options for our future.
I love that I have created my own job where I have ultimate flexibility. I love that I now have an exciting career that motivates and excites me while never having to sacrifice time with my kids. I love that I will be able to be there at the school gate every day for S while still earning a great income which is enabling us to send her to the private school that we love, to live in the area that we want to live, that we can travel when we want and that we can afford to have a third child.
But most of all, I love that I feel like “me” again. I love that I have an identity outside of Sharon the mum and that I have done that without sacrificing Sharon the mum.
I’m satisfied, I’m content and I love how I am balancing work, parenthood and myself.
The biggest challenge for me in the following year will be keeping these feelings of satisfaction while going back to being the sole primary caregiver and welcoming a new baby into the world. It’s going to be hard.
I don’t want to pretend this year was all rainbows and sunshine. There were many challenges and times where I was stressed out of my mind!
It is very hard work building a business from scratch.
It is also hard knowing that my family was dependent on me making enough money for us to live when I have no reliable income. There were times when I had affiliate accounts (how I make most my money) shut down suddenly for no reason, PayPal stop working (how I receive a fair chunk of my income) and other challenges which had me in tears and wondering how I was ever going to ensure my family had enough to eat (which was overly dramatic as we always had some contingency saved but it’s how I felt at the time).
Travel with little kids is not always fun either. As much as we loved travelling Europe, we struggled towards the end. Full time travel + full time work + full time parenting is just crazy and it was killing us.
We also struggled towards the end of our Sri Lanka trip. Not because we didn’t like Sri Lanka, but because we didn’t like the food. It was repetitive and not particularly enjoyable. I had no idea how important good food is to me until I visited there.
My most recent challenge has been being pregnant. It has not been fun at all to be so sick. Even with feeling a fair bit better now, it is still tough. We are having some amazing experiences but they feel wasted on me as I’m too tired to enjoy them. Plus, it’s just wrong to be staying in beautiful pool villas in tropical weather without having a cocktail!
It’s honestly been hard for me not to race home. I know its a completely illogical feeling to want to go back early as it would not help me feel better – It would probably make things worse as Josh would either be at work and I would not have time to rest or we would be under big financial pressure as this is a very expensive time to be living in hotels in Melbourne.
But still, I’m not well, I’m tired and I just want to be at home, even though we don’t actually have one. No one said a pregnant woman had to be rational.
We still have a few weeks before we return home. We are currently on Lombok and will be exploring more of this island and then Java in Indonesia before heading to Singapore and finishing up back in Malaysia and Borneo.
We arrive back in Australia the week before S starts school with a million things to do – Z starts kinder, I have a whole heap of medical appointments, Josh has to start job hunting and a million of other little things – like finding our car, clothes and other things we are going to need. We don’t even have school bags, lunch boxes or a suit for Josh to wear to interviews.
It’s not a great time of year to look for a job but hopefully Josh doesn’t take too long to get one as we can’t really look for a rental home until he has one – me being self employed without a nice, clear, regular pay packet makes things tough.
We have an airbnb apartment booked for our first month.
Fingers crossed we have a home to move to after that, but I am doubtful it will all happen that quickly especially as the area we want to live (by S’s school) is competitive. And I’m doubtful a family with three young kids is particularly attractive to landlords in an inner city area. I may have to send Josh to inspections alone so they don’t know about the third!
I’ll be 20 weeks pregnant the day we arrive home, so it makes all of this extra stressful. I really hope we move before I hit the final trimester. On the topic of pregnancy, I am feeling a lot better than in my last update.
I’m still not good though. I’m exhausted, have a tough relationship with food and often feel nauseous. In happier news, we found out we’re having another baby boy, yay! The name game is no fun at all though, so I’d love to hear your suggestions!
I feel very excited, very anxious, happy and sad all at the same time about returning home. I have no doubt it is the right decision for us right now and I am looking forward to getting back. I’m just dreading the life changes and all the work that it will entail. I wish we could just skip to Josh having a job and being set up in a new house, the kids already at school and kinder and everything being done!
That’s it from us for now. 2015 was a life changing year, 2016 will also be a big year with many challenges ahead!
You can now read our 13 month update – that I wrote during our journey back to Australia.