I first met Yashy many years ago at an event and we immediately hit it off. She’s one of those people with whom the conversation just flows. Juggling a full-time job, a successful blog and motherhood, here she was giving me the scoop on the best restaurants in the city, while telling me about her upcoming mini-getaway to Belgium with her husband, kids in tow. At the time I could barely manage a trip to the zoo with my own three monkeys let alone a long-weekend in London. I was in awe that she had managed to keep something of her former self in tact: her wanderlust. In fact, she had infected her husband with it and lovingly brainwashed him over time into doing what so many of us only fantasize about: they pulled up the stakes while the kids are still young and are travelling for 148 days. Together they are blogging about their adventure and capturing beautiful images that they share on Instagram for their followers.
With the theme for the month being travel, Yashy’s story is perfect to serve as inspiration. Sure, maybe a 148 day trip is not in your cards, but she and Chris stopped dreaming and started doing. So, whatever “it” is for you, travel, fitness, learning a new skill, dedicating time to a hobby, it’s possible to do it, but without taking the first step, it’s never going to happen.
Plenty: I feel like you did what so many people dream about. You actually pulled the trigger! You packed up, put your life in the city on hold: your job, your home, the day-to-day and with your kids in tow embarked on the trip of the lifetime! What was “it” that gave you that final push? What was the spark that separates you, a “doer”, from those of us who are “dreamers”?
Yashy: Honestly, it was my husband, Chris, agreeing to the ‘crazy idea’ I had been telling him about for the last 6 odd years. Growing up I moved every couple of years and having lived in Toronto for 12 years in the SAME building was a very scary realization. He was gaining independence in his consulting business, I was willing to let go of the cushy 9-5 income to rely on my consulting funds to help us stay afloat and the kids were still young enough that no one would knock down our door demanding we send them to school, so we thought “Let’s DO IT!”. We just closed our eyes and jumped right into making it happen.
Plenty: There is no way it was easy to just press pause. The planning stage must be critical to the overall success, especially when children are involved. What advice would you give to anyone wanting to carve out a trip like this for themselves with their family?
Yashy: We honestly didn’t plan much. We agreed to explore the idea around September 2016 and thought we’d leave right after Christmas but a trip ‘back home’ to Sri Lanka got delayed and so we didn’t clean up our house until January 2017. We thought we’d get our house rented in a week but it actually took two months! We only bought our tickets on March 28th for an April 5th departure, which is when we realized we were heading to Spain! My advice is to figure out what you want from a trip and know what works best for your family. For us, it was the spontaneity of it all. After living a schedule-filled life, this was liberating (though not the most budget friendly!). We also knew that our kids were used to travelling on a monthly basis and would be completely okay in us packing up and leaving. I might also mention that our circle of close friends and family were very supportive. Yes, even the grandparents were onboard despite missing out on the face to face time.
Plenty: I have been following you on social media and your blog so I know there have many awe-inspiring moments on this trip, where you sit back and say, “wow, I can’t believe we’re doing this!”, times when you see incredible things and experience something truly unique with your family. Tell us, what is something that stands out as truly special?
Yashy: That first week was really surreal. We had left cold Toronto and landed in hot Malaga and I remember just watching the kids play with our home exchange family by the beach and though “holy crap…we’ve done it!”. Moments like these have been happening throughout and it’s not always at fancy spots as one might imagine but more during intimate moments like when the kids are lovingly playing with each other leaving me to my antics or when Chris and I haven’t spoken with a native English speaker in over a week. It’s the quiet moments when I actually have some time to reflect – because, we might be away from home but we’re not ‘really on vacation’. Life as usual continues- refereeing fights between the kids, work, preparing meals e.t.c. Add to it the need to research EVERYTHING (where can I find diapers? Can someone please tell me where I can get my face threaded? Why is sunscreen so darn expensive here?), time is still a precious commodity.
Plenty: But let’s also be real for a moment – and I give you kudos, you are very real – there are some challenges to this kind of adventure too. Parents can relate to wanting to rip their hair out at being with their kids for 24/7, and you have no support network with you on this trip. There is no extended family or sweet babysitter waiting in the wings to take your children from you so you can indulge in some kid-less date-night fun. How do you manage this?
Yashy: This is probably the toughest part and we knew this before we left. Initially we were hoping grandparents and friends would link up with us and that we’d be able to sneak out for a date night but our lack of planning meant that only my brother managed to meet up with us and that too, just for 4 nights where we all wanted to hangout together in Berlin. Needless to say, there’s been loads of yelling at the kids (and many threats issued) and no date nights. We haven’t been in one place long enough to trust a foreign sitter either. So, we do the usual, we enjoy craft beers and wine, ensure the kids get time at the playground and countdown the hours until they go to bed so we can watch some Netflix! See, I told you – life as normal!
Plenty: What are some of the other challenges that you would say you’ve come up against that you didn’t necessarily foresee?
Yashy: Oh man. There are so many learnings and at the end of the day, I suppose many will say that it boiled down to our lack of planning but I recently wrote about the truth of long term family for us and it was easy to put down my learnings. We’ve been living like the locals because we partnered with a home exchange company and so it has been great that the kids have access to toys and that we get to shop in the local hoods but we didn’t anticipate how different some things are; would you like to share one long pillow with your spouse? How so many live without TVs and fans. How we would have to research every little thing. How much more some things cost in Europe (but wine and cheese are SUPER cheap so that makes it all better)… the list goes on. Basically, I’ve come to realize that I LOVE MY CREATURE comforts… I am originally Sri Lankan and grew up in the Middle East and South Asia so I know how life can be different in Asia (one of the reasons we opted for Europe) but I didn’t really anticipate how different it would be in Europe as well. We’ve rolled with things of course, because that’s what travel is all about, but it doesn’t mean that I can’t whine once in a while, right?
Plenty: When you are travelling and seeing all of these new places and experiencing different cultures around the world, what are you thinking? What comes into your mind when you look at your children’s faces take it all in? Some would argue that they are too young to benefit from a trip like this, but what does it all mean for you?
Yashy: I didn’t think they’d remember much because they barely remember what we did in November but we’ve been awed when our 5 year old is able to remember the many homes we’ve stayed at, the friends she has made and things she has done. Watching her independently ride a camel through the Sahara Desert or when the shy girl made friends on a train between Berlin and Amsterdam, I see how much she has grown and how much she has benefited from a trip like this. She may not know how to read but we’ve been able to bring her out of her shell a fair bit. My 3 year old is becoming a food lover before our eyes and watching some footage from July for a recent Vlog made me crack up at his food thoughts. Watching their reactions makes me laugh or raise my eyebrows and I imagine that’s exactly what my parents did when they trotted us around the world when my brother and I were growing up.
Plenty: I have to ask . . . I didn’t want to ask, but I have to. What’s next? How do you follow up an adventure like this?
Yashy: What’s next? TORONTO LIFE! We miss that city so much and can’t wait to be back and return to “normal life”. We’ll continue to travel monthly and enjoy the city life as we encourage young parents to maintain their pre-baby lifestyle (with modifications of course!). Perhaps entire summers away might be the balance we need. Who knows, right?