Writing Mum: Alice Griffin – Tales from a Travelling Mum

meandboo_spain Your Name and Age: Alice Griffin – 33

Tell us about your family:

I am married to Scott – 36. We have one daughter, Isabella, who is 2 ½ and a dog, Milla. We suffer from consistently itchy feet and almost two years ago made the decision to sell up our life in a UK city, give up our main source of income and head off on an open-ended road trip. We wanted to travel for travel’s sake, but we also wondered if there was a different life for us out there.

We had the most amazing experience travelling through France, Spain and Portugal. We lived in a rural village in the Andalucian mountains, met people who live in yurts in Portugal, made hay on a small horse farm in SW France and worked the land/cared for animals at a vegetarian hotel and restaurant in Normandy, France. However, after more than a year on the road in our camper (living in houses at points along the way) we decided that actually we loved our home country more than we thought, but realised that we wanted to explore different parts of it.

We returned to England this summer and have settled in North Yorkshire, which is stunning. We live on the edge of the Moors famed for their wildness and vibrant purple heather and we are not far from the rugged coastline. Our new ‘settled’ life here in England has so far been wonderful. We’re not sure if this is to be our permanent base forever, but we’re certainly enjoying finding out.

We do however continue to suffer from itchy feet and are currently planning a road trip around Eastern Europe and Scandinavia in 2010 … only this time we will know when we’ll be coming ‘home!’

Tales from a Travelling Mum
Tales from a Travelling Mum
Can you explain about the concept behind your new book?

Really this book ~ Tales from a Travelling Mum ~ is a travelogue about the trips I took with my family during the first two years of my daughter’s life. I am a long-time lover of more independent travel and prior to having Isabella I travelled a great deal and also worked as a researcher for a tourist guide. When I married my husband and had our daughter I didn’t feel that I wanted this fundamental part of who I was to change as everyone predicted it would. After a bit of consideration I thought what the hell, I’m just going to keep on travelling. Isabella had her passport photos taken at 2 weeks old and we started out with a mini road-trip to France at 8 weeks, a Greek island at three months, Norway at Eight and then when she was a year old we headed off on our open-ended road trip. Weaved in with this personal story is advice for other parents about travelling with a baby/small child.

I guess that aside from simply narrating my own thoughts, feelings and observations of travel around France, Spain, Greece and Norway, I wanted to show other new parents that travel does not have to stop once you have a baby. Hopefully – maybe – it might inspire others to adapt travel to suit their own budget/lifestyle and keep exploring!

There is an overall feeling of independent travel, but equally I hope that my story might simply be a good read for those taking an all-inclusive break – with a few tips thrown in for good measure.

Alice and FamilyWhat job did you do before setting off on your travels?

Over the years I have worked mainly in a marketing environment as a graphic designer and copywriter. In between jobs I travelled and wrote about my experiences. Occasionally I managed to get bits of my writing published, but mostly not (!) and then in 2002 I landed my dream job travelling and writing tourist information for a travel guide.

By the time we left on our big road trip in 2008 I had been working freelance from an office/shed in my garden for two years doing graphic design and copywriting for corporate companies, as well as freelance articles for any magazines that would let me. I chose to go it alone because I knew that when I had my daughter I wanted to continue working, but be able to fit it in around being a stay-at-home mum so I left my full-time copywriting job, took a part time job in a shop and built my freelance business up bit-by-bit.

When Isabella was born I had a few good and regular clients and was able to manage successfully the balance between having a new baby with keeping my business going. I would save all my phone calls up for when she napped, work late into the night on design projects and keep up with email correspondence whilst nursing. It was hard work, but I wanted to be with my baby and equally did not want to give up work, which I thrive on.

What preparation did you do before setting off on the trip – both for work and for the family?

Prior to setting off on our big trip we sold our house and in the months between moving out and leaving, we lived in our camper on the drive of Scott’s parents’ house!    We wanted to get used to living in such a small space and find out what we needed and this seemed as good a way as any – we were essentially living in the camper, but with the luxury of a house on the doorstep. In addition we had to sort out all of our belongings and pack up everything that was not essential to our new life on the road, and put it into storage.

With regards to work, my husband gave up his career as a printer one week before leaving and I made steps to take my freelance business ‘on the road’ from the moment we left our house. I had a satellite Internet system and during the three months that we lived on the drive of my parents-in-law I fine-tuned how I worked between this connection and Internet cafes. It was quite hard to get used to, but we managed!

How did you fund the trip?

We had a small pot of savings that we earmarked for the first few months on the road, but mainly I supported the venture by continuing with my freelance work via my satellite Internet connection. It was pretty difficult at times, but it kept us ‘living our dream’ and that was just brilliant. We also lived in certain places for free in return for Scott giving his time to help with land, animals, house renovations etc.

What was your biggest challenge on your travels? How did you deal with it?

Rain! Living in a small confined space with a baby and dog is difficult – not least when the rain was relentless and we were stuck in said small space trying to live, cook, entertain Isabella and our dog; me trying to work on the computer. I think we got through it with sheer determination and a good dollop of positivity! Ultimately we knew we wanted to be doing what we were doing so we just worked through any long rainy days cooking, playing games and reading together. In fact these ‘bad times’ were actually truly bonding experiences.

In addition working on the road was undoubtedly a challenge. I worked freelance for a big company in London and kind of hid from them the reality that I was working from a camper whilst wearing my shorts! It was kind of like living two lives; one side of me was talking PR on the phone and the other was heading towards a completely new kind of life. I started to get frustrated with these polar opposites but in the end the gods intercepted and due to the recession earlier this year I lost a big chunk of corporate work, which pushed me towards leaving it behind completely and concentrating solely on writing.

They say things work out in the end and I believe this to be true.

And what were the best things?

Undoubtedly we had the most wonderful time being together as a family. Seeing new sights, sharing experiences and just soaking up every part of life. We slowed down and started to really consider what was important to us in life – this has been an ongoing change. We also loved meeting new and inspiring people, finding out about different ways of living and exposing Isabella to lots of different faces and places.

What have you learnt about yourself as a mother and as a writer during your travels?

I am not sure what I have learnt most about myself as a mother, but I know that I have learnt that being a mother is a great gift and that having the time during my daughter’s early years to be near her and be close to her is what is most important to me. Yes I work and I can’t spend every waking second with Isabella, but due to the nature of my work and the life choices both myself and my husband have made over the last couple of years, we have allowed ourselves the experience of spending precious time as a family. This is as important, if not more, than I thought it would be. However, in the process I have also learned that just because you are a mother you don’t have to change yourself completely. I believe part of the joy of having children is to raise them in the knowledge of who you are as a person.

As a writer – simply that suddenly it all makes sense. I have always written, for as long as I can remember, but I was kind of lost as to where to go with it. Since making the decision to leave our old life behind I have not only found the time, but also the inspiration to develop my writing more and I hope that this is just the start of my writing journey.

Going out on a limb you always wonder if it’s the right thing to do but for me there is no better thing to do than what is within your heart. Being with my family, travelling and writing – these are what are real to me and (mostly!) I’m just so glad that I follow my heart and not my head.

What advice would you give to someone else wanting to travel with their family?

Do it. Life is too short to waste time wondering.

Seriously, if you want to travel as a family then simply make a plan that suits your timescale, your commitments and your budget and just go for it.

When we sold up and headed off on longer travels many people thought we were more than a little mad… but life has a funny way of kind of leading you on other roads. I don’t fear change; I embrace it. Whatever happens it will always lead to something else and I never want to live my life wondering what would have happened ‘if’ … the day I don’t follow that if, is the day I will feel that I’m not really living.

Your website link: www.alicegriffin.co.uk You can buy Alice’s book, Tales from a Travelling Mum, from Amazon, for £9.99

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