One of the founders of the beautiful online children’s marketplace, Babyccino Kids, Courtney Adamo also captivates the imagination daily with a dreamy Instagram presence. But in maybe her most inspiring move to date, Courtney and her husband, Michael Adamo, have sold their house, packed up their belongings, and pulled their four children out of school for the year to travel the world. More than only experiencing new places and people, the Adamos hope that this year of travel as a family will help them to find a slower pace of life. I recently had the chance to ask Courtney a few questions about their year of travel and what a simple life looks like to her.
Erin: You’ve written that before even having children of your own, you imagined a life for your family that would be full of “exploration, discovery and – most importantly – one where living simply yields the greatest riches.” What did you imagine simple daily life looking like before you had kids? Is your life now what you imagined then? How is it different?
Courtney: My four siblings and I grew up on a farm, some distance from the nearest town and even our friends. We spent a lot of time running around together, dreaming up fun ways to keep ourselves entertained. We didn’t watch TV—we couldn’t even if we wanted to because we didn’t have cable—and we spent a lot of time outside exploring nature. I always knew I wanted to have a big family and I suppose I’ve always wanted to give my kids the same type of carefree, imaginative childhood that I had. I imagined a simple, creative, and happy home where family came first. I never imagined I would raise my kids in the middle of a bustling city, nor did I foresee all of the amazing places we would get to experience together. Even still, I see my kids enjoying a childhood very similar to my own and I do my best to keep them curious, imaginative and outdoorsy. Erin: In an effort to finance your trip, you sold your beautiful North London home and a fair amount of your belongings. Other things you tucked into storage. The question of what to do with stuff is a big hangup for a lot of people. How did you decide what to sell (or give away)? Did you use any guiding principles, or just a gut check? How did you decide what went to storage for your return?
Courtney: I’ve never been a clutter bug or a collector of stuff, but of course, when you have four children, you naturally end up with a ridiculous amount of belongings—the beach umbrella you use once or twice a year, the rollerblades your kids desperately wanted for Christmas, the picnic set, the snow boots, the pogo stick, etc. When we started to comb through our cellar and cupboards, I couldn’t help but feel disgusted about all that stuff we had acquired over the years. I had a strong urge to get rid of it all!
We decided to only keep the stuff that was meaningful to us—the sentimental things that couldn’t be replaced—or the stuff we were 95% confident we would use again. It wasn’t easy and I’m sure when we pull it out of storage we’ll question some of the decisions we made. In any case, we gave a lot of things away to charity shops (about a half-dozen minivans full), gave many things to friends and sold some of the bigger/nicer things on eBay. We kept our 1950s piano because I love it and know it will be difficult to replace. We also kept our paintings, art prints, and our pottery and sculptures. I kept the nicer table linens and bedding, but gave away the rest. And of course we kept all our family keepsakes, like the children’s artwork, photos and journals. Erin: You’re documenting your travels on a blog called Somewhere Slower. I love the idea that you’ll be traveling not only to experience the habits and customs of other places, but that this year will also be a kind of journey to a different mode of life for your family. I’d love to hear what you expect that a typical day might look like for you guys on the road. How does this differ from your daily routine pre-departure?
There was a moment earlier this year where I was driving the kids home from school. My mind was distracted with the stress of a tight deadline and a hundred other things on my to-do list. My children were taking turns telling me about their day at school and I drove the whole way home nodding my head and pretending to be listening, yet not absorbing a word they were saying. That night after they had gone to bed, I felt guilty that I did not give them enough of my time or attention. I should have been listening. I should have encouraged them to tell me more. This was not the type of parent I wanted to be.[Cont.] Our hope for this year is not just to travel around the world with our kids, but to slow down the pace of our lives. We plan to maintain a familiar routine in each place we visit so that the kids feel grounded wherever we go. We will prepare breakfast together as usual, and then spend the next couple of hours focusing on home schooling and learning. After that, we can explore the area and our surroundings. We will still give the children chores—setting the table, making their beds, washing their dishes—but we’ll try to incorporate the things that are new or different about our location into their chores. My hope is that each day will feel slow, like a weekend day back in London, as opposed to a work or school day where everything is a bit rushed and hectic. We are hoping to live a life without urgency where we can really take in everything as a family—maybe even get a bit bored.Erin: For some folks travel feels like the opposite of simple; all of those tickets and routes and accommodations to figure out. Do you guys have everything planned in advance, or are you making your specific itinerary plans as you go?
Courtney: It’s true. Travel can be the opposite of simple. To make sure we didn’t find ourselves in that predicament, we decided to limit the number of stops and to stay in every location as long as possible, from 3 weeks to nearly 3 months. We want to settle in and get a glimpse at what life is like in each place we visit.
With four kids, we had to do a fair amount of planning of course, but there was no way we could work out everything in advance—plus we wanted to leave some room to improvise. We had to book our flights and commit to a route, but the ticket we’re on is free to change dates. That means if we love somewhere we can stay longer.
We’ve booked accommodation in many places but we still have some to sort out. As exciting as it would be to fly by the seat of our pants, we don’t want to end up somewhere with no place to sleep. What we haven’t booked are the daily activities or adventures. We’re leaving those until we arrive at each destination. Erin: Whenever I return home from a trip, I find myself integrating bits and pieces from the journey into my routine. When I lived in France for a year after college, I took long evening bike rides and upon my return, I tried to continue the ritual, to bring a little of my experience home. What do you think you’ll bring back with you from a year on the road? Do you think a year with less stuff and more adventure will shape your new routine when you return?
Courtney: We definitely hope to come back with new practices and a new perspective on life. In just our first few months we’ve learned how little we need to be happy. Each kid has just one small suitcase of clothing and a backpack full of their personal things, mostly books and journals. They’ve learned not to ask for new toys or souvenirs as it’s impractical to carry them, but also I hope they’ve learned to be content with what they already have. Michael and I are learning these lessons too. Living out of a small suitcase and wearing the same things almost everyday, you really realize how non-essential a diverse wardrobe is.
In general, I hope the kids will come back more worldly and mature. I hope they will really see their place in the family and work hard to keep the family unit strong. I hope we will have learned to listen and communicate better with our kids, and that we will all have grown and benefited from all this time together.
+ Hear more from Courtney on her blog, Somewhere Slower.
+ Keep up with daily adventures at @courtneyadamo.
The Simple Matters Series is inspired in part by curiosity piqued while writing my book of the same title. I wanted to know what simple matters were for other folks. And why simplicity mattered to them in the first place. My own story comes out on January 12, 2016. It’s available for pre-order right this way.
Photos courtesy of Courtney Adamo.