Would you give up a home and stable job and lifestyle to take off around the world with your teen kids? Liz Deacle and her husband Brian did just that. And after covering 22 countries in one year, the family has no intention of going back to their old way of life.
Liz was born to a hardworking mother and a wanderlust-struck father living in Preston, Lancashire, a city in the north of England. When her father was in his late 20s, he took a boat to South Africa and sailed away for two years. He left behind his 24-year-old wife and three children all under the age of five.
“My father said that he wanted to explore the world and find a better place for us to live,” says Liz, now 47. “From an adult perspective, I think my mother must have been a saint: left at home with three kids while your husband travels to the other side of the world to ‘explore’. But as a five-year-old, I didn’t think there was anything strange about this. I looked forward to my father’s letters and the postcards with pictures of zebras on them and thought this was what every normal father must do.”
Liz describes her mother as “a woman who constantly worked”. “She taught me that you could do anything you wanted to do and you could go anywhere you wished to go. Her motto in life was ‘What’s the worst thing that can happen?’, a saying I have adopted with my own children,” says Liz.
When Liz was 16, her father encouraged her to go backpacking to Greece with a cousin and 250 pounds in her pocket. After the cousin left, she spent four weeks alone there, working in bars and restaurants on the Greek island of Paros. “It was in this time that I realised that I could indeed do anything that I wanted to do and see whatever I wanted to see. I paid the 250 pounds back to my father with the wages that I had earned. That trip also made me very independent.”
Liz was 18 and still in school when she met Brian, a plumber and gas-fitter by trade. They married 12 years later. “We started to travel as soon as we met. We travelled all over Europe, sometimes backpacking and living under trees and other times (in Chamonix, for example, where you’d freeze to death living under a tree in winter!) working. I worked in bars and Brian would either do the same or else get trade work,” she narrates.
A big life changer for the couple was after they travelled to Whistler in Canada to work as ski chalet hosts for six months. It made them both realise that they wanted to live somewhere other than England. So they migrated to New Zealand 10 years later.
When their children were babies, the couple always dreamed of being one of ‘those parents’ who travelled the world with their kids. “Unfortunately, we let life get in the way for the first 16 years. We emigrated to New Zealand and worked, worked and worked.” Before they knew it, the children were well into their teens, says Liz, who has been homeschooling her kids for the past seven years.
One summer evening over a glass of wine, the couple turned to each other and said, “Well? Are we going to be those parents or not? Are we ever going to travel the world with our kids?” The answer was yes and within eight months, they were setting off to go backpacking around the world for a year.
They rented out their house to a wonderful family who were emigrating to New Zealand and wanted a family home for a year. Brian sold half his company, and used the money earned to fund their journey. And they set off.
They visited 22 countries in this past year that they travelled with the kids. Their son Sonny is now 17, and daughter Tessa is 14.
“I have many, many memorable experiences that reinforced my decision. Climbing up to an old church in Croatia and reading aloud to each other for the afternoon. Seeing the Taj Mahal for the first time. Surviving a sleeper bus in India together! Taking an Onsen in a traditional Japanese garden. Walking around the ruins of Pompeii at sunset together. Laughing. A lot. At the world and at each other, with the world and with each other,” says Liz, adding. “The only regret that I have is that we didn’t do it sooner.”
All four of them have their own favourite destinations.
Liz’s favourite place in the world is India. “It is a colourful, adventurous, enticing country. I find India incredibly romantic. The colours, the smells, the people. I loved it. I felt challenged but at the same time supported. The days could be exhausting but when the sun sets and the animals breathe out a sigh of relief, it is as if you entered a different room within India. It is soothing. India makes me feel happy,” she says.
Her husband Brian, 55, loves the architecture, food – and wine – in Italy. Sonny’s favourite country is Japan. “He loved the culture and the fact that it was so peaceful and clean.” And Tessa’s favourite country is Ireland. “She loved the green and how it felt calm yet wild.”
Of course, there are still many more ‘favourite’ destinations to find and savour. The family’s journey continues.
Follow Liz and her family’s story on their family travel blog, It’s a Drama.