Mothers who complete the Game Changers programme often talk about how this course is about so much more than just work. It is about reconnecting with what makes you happy, figuring out where you want to be in life when you might be feeling lost or stuck in a rut, making exciting (and sometimes also scary) decisions about what should happen next for you and your family. In this Game Changing story, Charlie describes going travelling with a family. I’ve got such admiration for this change – she runs her own business, is present for her family and following a long term dream, which is hugely inspirational.
Tell us a bit about you and your story…
My name is Charlie, I run my own online wedding business which is in its 11th year, and I’m married to Nick and we have two daughters who are 5 years old and 18 months. I am currently travelling full time around Europe with my family, working along the way.
I never started my business to be a business. I created it from an idea I had, and something I became passionate about. Initially I taught myself Dreamweaver to make a website, and I did it all in my free time. Over the years it grew to the point where I didn’t have enough free time to give to it, and so I quit my job and gave it 6 months to see if I could make it work.
Here I am 11 years later still running it. Having my first daughter changed everything. I suffered a mixture of PTSD / PND after the birth and felt like I was losing my business and my identity. I went from such an independent daily life as self-employed, to having a tiny baby whose need trumped everything else. It was very hard.
Five years later, and we made this huge life change to spend more time together as a family, and are travelling fulltime. With Nick around 24/7 and not working, I am slowly getting more time to work. I have changed so much though, and I am still working out how I want my business to run for me, to find my place in the industry, and in an online world that has changed unbelievably since I first started out.
What brought you to doing Game Changers?
The Game Changers programme came along at the right time in my life. My eldest daughter was no longer a baby and I had more freedom with my time, I was unsure if I wanted to continue on with my business or what direction to take it in, and I wanted to rediscover what it was I was really passionate about.
What has happened since?
It has been 2 years since I did the Game Changers programme, and I am still running my business, and have another daughter. My family in particular has made a big ‘game change’ – we gave up our life in England to go travelling full time in an old motorhome around Europe.
I think at the time of completing the Game Changers programme it gave me a renewed sense of enthusiasm for my business, it provided me with a group of women (who were also mums) for support in a similar place in life. It gave me time to reflect and reminded me of the need for time to reflect going forward.
The tools and learnings that I took away have been slow burners, in that I dip into them as and when I need them. I didn’t make any drastic “overnight” changes but what I learnt is always with me, and is there in the moments when I need it.
The programme is a wonderful opportunity for mums to get back some much needed time to reflect on ourselves, our needs, our desires for our careers, all within the safe space of a group of like-minded women who are also mums. I remember being in this group of inspiring women, who were mums like me, but realising that we were there for us, not our children. So much of ‘mum life’ can be going to groups for your babies, and you meet other mums, but the Game Changers was about us as women. There is something really special about that.
What prompted or helped you make the decision to go away?
Both Nick and I had felt a sense of something not being ‘right’ with the way we were living our lives for a while. He wanted a career break to spend time with our girls and give him time to think about what he wanted to do for the next part of his life. I wanted time together as a family, to have an adventure and put myself out of my comfort zone – to take risks (I’m not a risk taker). We felt like we were just rushing along and needed to give ourselves a different environment to re-evaluate.
We left without much of a plan, other than knowing that we were going to start in France and that we wanted to see a stage of the Tour de France. After that we went into Italy and Slovenia, then back into Italy and France. As time has gone on we’ve tried to be guided by our intuition, and this has meant we’ve greatly deviated from where we thought we were going. We thought we were going to spend the winter in Greece – instead we’re looking after a small farm in France! I always planned our holidays meticulously, I wanted to know where we were staying, what we wanted to see, but living and travelling in this way has allowed me to get comfortable with not having it all planned out.
I’ve written more about this on our travel blog (details below) for anyone interested.
What have you learnt along the way?
I have learnt so much already in these first 5 months and most of it was probably things I wasn’t expecting. There have been a few key things:
Firstly, before we left I felt like time was running out (perhaps something to do with hitting my mid-30s??!) and that I needed to make my dreams happen now. Since we left on this adventure I have come to realise that I don’t need to do everything right now, that life is more broken up into parts. Previously I wanted to go make that big life change dream happen right now, that if I didn’t it would be ‘too late’. Now I feel that perhaps that’s not what’s right for our family at this moment, and that Nick and I can always do these things in the future.
Secondly, I have realised how much I value connection with other women at this point in my life. I have greatly missed my support network of women back in Manchester, and it’s completely changed my view on what I thought I wanted for the immediate future.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I think this journey is helping my husband and me to feel more at home with uncertainty. Eckhart Tolle wrote “When you become comfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life. It means fear is no longer a dominant factor in what you do and no longer prevents you from taking action to initiate change.” We are discovering exactly this.
I’m not sure what I’d say to others considering doing something similar – there are many families dreaming or planning long term travel, and all have very different reasons for doing so. Some are planning a career break or a gap year; others are committed to moving abroad to start a new life. We didn’t know what we wanted other than to hopefully change ourselves and our direction in life. So, if that sounds like you, I’d say keep talking about it with your partner. Talk and talk and talk until you reach the point where you either have to never talk about it again, or you get on and make the first hard step to making it happen.
What advice could you give to other women who were considering making a Game Change of some sort?
I don’t know if I have any advice to give, we are all so different and individual, and our experiences unique. For me, I knew deep down I had to make this difficult game change – of uprooting our life and family and putting myself out of my comfort zone. So perhaps my advice to other women is make the first hard step, and then keep taking them, getting you closer and closer to that final moment. For us those steps were my husband quitting his job, us handing in notice on our rented house, selling our cars, and so on. Every step that committed us closer to the end goal was so hard and often painful. We questioned it all the way until we did them.
Finally you reach that moment – for us it was leaving our home to stay with family while we finished our motorhome renovation, and then secondly leaving on the ferry for France. But really you are just at the beginning. So for anyone else considering a game change, I would say keep taking those hard steps, and become comfortable with uncertainty.
And finally, where can we find out more about you and your travels?
You can follow our travels on Instagram @babybusadventures where we share our experiences as honestly as possible. We also write a blog about our travels here – which is a mixture of posts from the heart about how difficult I’ve found it all, travel posts about the places we’ve visited, and tips for family travel in a motorhome.