Advice On Quitting Your Job To Travel The World
Explorer in Residence, Graeme Bell, on how he and his family left the rat race behind to embark on a seven-year intercontinental adventure of a lifetime.
I sat in my Land Rover, stuck in Cape Town traffic. Another torrid day in the office under my skin, trapped in a sea of metal built for mobility but going nowhere. I drove that same Land Rover from this port city to Dar es Salaam my wife and children by my side trusting me completely. For six months I had been liberated, I had been the man I was born to be. The sun set over a horizon I longed to chase while exhaust fumes filled my lungs. I remembered the freedom of the open road; the daily, tangible, difficult reality of Africa, I remembered the Mozambican virus which had wracked my body, I remembered our children swimming blissfully in Lake Malawi and I remembered the ice cold beer I had shared with new friends in the Zambian bush. We had returned from that journey cloaked in dust and a film of joy, all too soon washed clean from our skins by the arduous monotonous demands of civilized life. “Damn it, Luisa,” I remember saying. “Let’s go to South America.”
It took almost two years to extract ourselves from the real world, to remove the straightjacket which we had once willingly worn and worked to wear. We sold it all – the business, the cars, everything except that with which Luisa could not part. We removed the children from school, canceled the debit orders and prepared the Defender for the journey across the Atlantic. In November 2012 we escaped on a jet plane and arrived in The New World.
The Defender joined us in Uruguay and over the next two and a half years we circumnavigated South America, gasping in the beauty of the tips of the Andes, soaking the moisture of the Amazon jungle and shivering through the gales of Patagonia. The vehicle broke, we ran out of money, we faced down government thugs in Venezuela and fell deeply, madly in love with a continent which we would call home tomorrow – if there were not entire continents still to explore.
Slowly, day by day, we transformed as if from a cocoon, we grew and broke and were reborn under a blue sky. We were reinvented, I as a writer, my wife as a photographer and our children as free spirits. We were no longer South African, or rich or poor. We were stateless, free agents of the universe, limited only by our imagination. And the fuel in the tank.
Our first book paid our way through Central America to Alaska and back down to Mexico. We needed a break. The road teaches but also takes, living in a tent loses it lustre after four years, you need to stop, think, re-evaluate, plan. In Mexico’s San Pedro de Martir mountains we again changed – from travelers to professionals, eager to learn and teach and grow and achieve the impossible. Six months after working day and night on new projects we emerged from our seclusion with our second and most commercially successful book, ready for the next stage. With our own hands we converted the Land Rover into a globe-roaming super camper, capable of providing shelter and protection and the ability to travel to even the most remote corners of the planet. We have never before worked as hard.
We again crossed the Atlantic and soon found ourselves on the winter shores of the Mediterranean, the snow falling while I wrote my third book, cosy in the camper, Luisa working tirelessly to deliver our story to a new market, becoming a filmmaker while the children prepared themselves for the world.
Crossing into Asia our son chose to become a man, choosing that it was now time to meet the world on his own terms, he is ready to make his own mark and we are delighted that we have filled him with a courage and curiosity which cannot be contained. He is preparing to head off into the world while we continue to discover our own until he returns, understanding us better than he could have before. He stayed with us as we drove from Europe to South Africa via the west coast and now we are preparing to return to the northern hemisphere and complete our true circumnavigation of the planet.
The future is our own and we will write the story.
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