Us as individuals
I hail from the magnificent seaside town of Porthcawl, South Wales, home to the legend that was ‘John the Song’ (RIP), Europe’s second biggest caravan park (when I was younger at least) and last but my no means least what I believe is the biggest Elvis festival outside of Memphis.
After the usual shenanigans of adolescence, when I reached 18 and was in the position to map out my future career pathway, I decided a gap year would be for me. My parents however feared I’d sail off into the foreign sun and fail to return, so off I trotted to university to study Computer Studies with French. I didn’t even own a computer at this point, and needless to say I failed miserably for two years, whilst enjoying all of the other aspects of student life. I did my fair share of partying, and after realising unloading lorries probably wasn’t the career for me, I headed back to Wales, for a period of unemployment and inner contemplation about where on earth my life was heading.
It was after watching Comic Relief one year that I approached a careers advisor, stating I wanted to study International Development and help save the World. I graduated form Swansea University in 2006, and completed these studies whilst living at home to avoid the temptations of student life that had swallowed me up first time around! The first summer break also provided me with my first backpacking experience- a month in Thailand and a month in Bali.
During my final year, for my dissertation I carried out a community development project with Quest Overseas in Kenya- this was to change my life and be the start of a three-year love affair with Africa, a vibrant continent full of life which has provided me with so many memories. I was fortunate to become an overseas project and expedition leader for the organisation upon graduating, and led groups carrying out community work in Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi. Grass roots development was my passion, but I was then provided the opportunity to lead expeditions, and this lead to further incredible experiences, from diving with whale sharks off the Mozambique coast, to having bananas swiped right out my hands by mischievous baboons whilst on Safari in Botswana.
One of my last trips was a three-month project starting in Malawi, and Rachel was one of the group members fortunate enough to land herself with me as their leader. My first memory of Rachael was being chastised whilst partying into the early hours of the morning on the first evening of their arrival, with my finger ablaze with burning sambuca, and Rachel demanding she just wanted some sleep. Despite initial concerns that Rachel was going to be some straight laced, boring Boris, I am pleased to say that she certainly knew how to party as hard as the best of them, and we racked up some impressive beer consumption upon the shores of Lake Malawi. Little did I know then that she would end up being my partner of 11 years (and counting), my best friend and mother to our two amazing cubs.
I’m from Kingston upon Hull originally, but moved to London when I started at Kingston University to do English Literature and Drama. I always knew I wanted to travel and somehow I’d managed to convince the uni to allow me to do my second year as a transfer in upstate New York. It was my first big, long, trip alone and I loved it! Whilst there I traveled around on their greyhound buses visiting Boston and Toronto.
When I returned to London, I knew I had been bitten, bitten hard by the travelling bug and so I got on and planned my next trip which was a month long trip across Europe on an inter-rail pass. We (an ex boyfriend (we’ll skim over that) and I covered 10 countries and a lot of miles in those 31 days! It was a brilliant adventure and only made me want more!
Once I graduated I started looking for a job, I had no clue what I wanted to do or be. I had chosen my degree because I loved the subjects, I never had a career in mind. Although as a child I would often role-play being an air steward, my favourite scenario was dealing with tricky customers and my dad happily obliged demanding more tea and snacks! This notion must have stuck somehow, and I saw a vacancy for cabin crew for British Airways and I had a light bulb moment – wouldn’t this be a great way to earn money AND travel the world. So without really thinking anything of it I applied, got it and before I knew it I was on my first flight to Krakow, Poland!
I loved being Cabin Crew but I really felt something was missing – I was yearning for a longer trip and especially wanted something with a bit more meaning. That’s when I started looking into Gap Years, although technically this was now becoming a career break! Anyway, long story short after much research and fundraising I decided to go for it and went on a 6 week volunteer project to Malawi combined with a 6 week expedition in March 2007. This saw me learn to dive in Mozambique, see the Big Five in Tanzania, trekking in Swaziland, do adrenaline sports in South Africa, sleep under an unpolluted night sky in Botswana and bungee jump off Victoria falls in Zambia! It really was the adventure I’d been looking for, I made a great friend on the trip and the two of us went on to travel across North India for a month before returning to London.
The African part of the trip was an organised thing through a Gap Year company so our group had two leaders – one called Chris and the other was supposed to be a girl called Tiffany, it turned out for some reason she couldn’t make it so Giles was flown in at last minute from Kenya. I can still remember the first time I saw him shouting at us all to get our attention from up the stairs in this tiny airport in Lilongwe, I can’t remember what he said but it made us all laugh - I knew then that he was going to be trouble....
I still find it remarkable now to think that he was never even meant to be on that trip but somehow there he was and now almost 12 years on we find ourselves living in Eastbourne with two gorgeous boys.
Life before children
After finding each other in Africa and despite our obvious chemistry, although we kept in touch we did kind of go our separate ways. I went to Tokyo with aforementioned ex boyfriend, something to this day Giles doesn’t let me forget. But he can hardly talk as he had already accepted a year long contract back in East Africa! However, before he departed we met up over Christmas 2007 and rather romantically, over a fish bowl of cocktails, in a hipster bar in Hackney, Giles told me he loved me. I of course was sure it was the beer talking but he was adamant. And before I knew it I’d traveled to Wales to meet his mum and he’d arranged our first official date, which was a whole weekend in Hastings (don’t ask – apparently he’d googled it and read that it was the new Brighton!). We laugh about this, now that we find ourselves living in Eastbourne!
Anyway despite feeling the same (I’d already ditched the boyfriend) I insisted Giles still go to East Africa as he really wanted to, but after a couple of months he declared he was coming home and was going to move from his home in Wales to be near me, in Shoreham-by-Sea. And there he was, by Christmas 2008 we were renting our first home together in Eastbourne, of all places!
Of course our love of travel only seemed to grow as we grew together – our travels have been eclectic if nothing else! We have done new years in Morocco, I’ve experienced chicken pox in Bahrain (meeting Giles’ dad), we’ve camped for a week in the Isle of White (in a very tiny tent), we’ve explored our very own London town living it up in the Mayfair Hotel, we’ve eaten until we could burst in Rome living in a friends apartment, we’ve backpacked through South India and Vietnam for weeks on end and of course our trips to Glastonbury, were, well a blur!
In between all of this we have been working/training full time, I obtained a Masters in Social Work and Giles specialised in working with dual diagnosis (substance misuse and mental health) in the voluntary sector. As well as that we had a very dodgy period of living in a horrible house share for over 2 years, giving up our beloved first flat, in order to save up a deposit to buy our own home, which we finally achieved in 2012.
Life with children
Somewhere along the line having settled into our little home by the sea we decided it would be a good idea to start a completely new adventure of growing our family. After a good while of trying I first got pregnant in 2013, but our excitement quickly turned into despair when we miscarried early on. We kept on trying and finally got that all important blue line once again in August 2014. We were so excited but naturally cautious – Cub No.1 was due to arrive on 23rd April 2015. I was one of those annoying people who had an easy pregnancy, aside from the expected huffing and puffing and insomnia I loved being pregnant.
We both loved preparing for our new arrival, we read the books, did a hypnobirthing course and an NCT course. We planned for a natural, water birth at home. But Cub No.1 was already showing signs of his independent, unique nature. The 23rd April came and went, 3rd May came and went with not so much as a twinge. Although there was a lot of twitching from the hospital staff who were becoming increasingly agitated at our refusal to consent to induction. We had done A LOT of research about the risks and benefits of induction and we felt very strongly that we wanted to avoid it – especially if nothing was actually medically wrong other than the fact I’d gone past my due date which was the case. So we waited and we waited – confident in our decision and trust in our baby and my body – we waited some more and finally on 16th May he decided to make his entrance into the world. Twenty three days after my due date. Things didn’t quite go to plan as he decided to come face first so he was born in hospital in Hastings, but all was well.
And there it was our most amazing journey yet, had begun.
Once we had Cub No.1 we knew that was not the end of this particular adventure, we knew we had to try our very best to give him his very own travel companion. And so we were back at the baby making business and to our surprise I got pregnant much quicker then expected exactly one year on from conceiving Cub No.1. But it turns out we had established a pattern, and so miscarried for a second time. But as before we got pregnant again in 2016 and Cub No.2 arrived safely and perfectly in the birthing pool, in our lounge, on 5th October 2017, just a mere 11 days after he was due. Cub No. 1 was super keen to meet his new travel buddy and woke at the exact moment his baby brother was born and came to meet him when he was just a few minutes old – it was a perfect moment and we will never forget it.
And that’s how we became One Family Four Backpacks.