‘Straight Outta Suburbia’ – leaving the bubble of a suburban life to explore the world
Hello Andre, Becky, Rico and Tiana! Tell us a little bit about yourself!
We are the Baldeo’s currently residing somewhere in the world!
I’m Andre born and bred in north London (Swiss and Guyanese heritage), my wife Becky from South Africa and our children Rico G and Tiana Mae. We lived in Cape Town for 10 years prior to embarking on this journey in April 2018.
How did your travel project start?
Our decision to travel was based on a culmination of things. Over the last few years we felt progressively unsafe in South Africa, crime constantly rising. Despite having a beautiful home, we had to live with an electric fence around our property, bars on our windows, security cameras, and alarms. It also got to the point where we couldn’t enjoy the simple pleasures in life like hiking or mountain biking without watching our backs.
There was a small window of opportunity to embark on this journey and it was now or never.
Exploring the world and offering our kids the chance to experience other cultures and lifestyles had always been a dream of ours, but picking the right time to do it was pivotal. If the kids were too young they might not appreciate the gravity of what we were doing, and if they were too old it would impact their schooling too much. There was a small window of opportunity to embark on this journey and it was now or never.
In 2016, I flew over to the UK to be with a close friend of mine during his last days. He’d been diagnosed with a brain tumor two years prior and was sadly losing his battle. Seeing him on his deathbed in the hospice and watching his three children come to visit him made me realize how temporary life is and that it really needs to be lived to the fullest. A few months later, after a few glasses of wine one night the plan to sell up, travel and explore the world was hatched by my wife and I.
Where did the journey bring your family?
The decision was made to combine our travelling with some volunteering work to give us a different perspective and also some unique experiences.
We left Cape Town at the end of April 2018, and our first stop was the island of Borneo, in Malaysia. It was quite a shock to the system leaving the South African autumn and arriving in the hot humid jungle.
We spent around a month exploring Borneo, from the islands situated off Kota Kinabalu to the cooler climbs of Mount Kinabalu and the intriguing jungle of the Kinabatangan river.
Two weeks were spent on the island of Palawan in the Philippines, before heading to Tioman Island off the east coast of Malaysia to be part of a Turtle conservation project. That was followed with another volunteering project this time at an ‘animal welfare sanctuary’ on the mainland on Malaysia. We’ve also spent time in Thailand and Vietnam and recently Japan.
Could you tell us about one of your nicest memory? or one of your favourite place?
As you can imagine there have been so many amazing memories from our trip so far.
One of my fondest, was scaling Mount Kinabalu, with my son Rico who is only 11. Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain in Malaysia, standing at an impressive 4095M. It was a 2 day /1 night hike; the first day we hiked to the base camp, and the following morning was a 2 a.m. start to hike to the peak. It was very cold, dark and slippery and my son was suffering due to the thin air. I asked him several times if he wanted to turn back, but he persevered and made it to the summit. He received lots of kudos and high fives from other hikers by being the youngest on the mountain by far. It was a very special father and son moment.
Being out in nature is always a happy place for us (as long as the children aren’t hungry!) Snorkelling together in the beautiful aqua marine waters off Tioman Island every day after our work at the turtle conservation volunteering project was magical.
During the first week of our trip we hiked in one of the rainforests in Borneo. It was a very humid day and we were drenched with sweat, but after a couple of hours to our delight we found a clearing with a beautiful waterfall. At that moment the skies opened and the rain poured down. We all stripped down to our underwear and danced about – it was very liberating!
What is, for you, the real meaning of travel?
I believe the true meaning of travel is to experience the real essence of the place you are visiting. A lot of people just want to get to a place to take an iconic photo. I think it’s important to know some history about the area you are visiting and more importantly the people that live there. Obviously that isn’t always possible if you’re just on holiday or only have a short time somewhere. Sometimes the camera has to be put away, and you need to take a deep breath and visually drink in your surroundings.
Children grow up far too quickly and once they hit their early teens all they want to do is be with their friends, and us parents are no longer cool to be with. Use this opportunity when your kids are young to create a lifetime full of memories.
What do you usually put in your baggages?
For us, packing is a serious business as our lives are contained in backpacks! We have fine tuned what we carry since starting out on our journey. The basics are clothes and medicine, and because the children are homeschooled, school books and materials. I initially brought my big SLR camera, but realised it was too big to carry about and posted it back to my parents. An essential item in my bag is a pair of running shoes – as keeping fit is essential for me. The kids have a few small toys with them, and Becky’s luxury item is her hair straighteners!
We each have a large and small backpack. Within each large backpack are packing cubes which are brilliant, although trying to fit the cubes in is sometimes like a game of Tetris!
What do you think about the traditional tourism? Resource or exploitation?
It really depends on how it is managed. A lot of places solely rely on tourism, but it is how it is managed that is important. Some tour companies blatantly exploit the areas and communities they are visiting and local people and animals aren’t shown much respect at all. The companies that you book tours with need to be researched to see what they put back into the communities they are visiting and if they also enlist local guides. It is important as a tourist in someone’s village or home to try and engage with the locals. If you want to take a photo ask their permission, what seems like a great photo for you might be an intrusion on someone else’s privacy.
What about the negative sides of travelling with the family?
I must be careful what I write here, as my family will read this!
To be honest I think all of us would agree it is quite intense being together 24/7. Most of our accommodation on our trip has been in rooms that have two beds, so we really are living out of each other’s pockets. Somehow we’ve made it work, but going forward Becky and I have agreed to have more days when we each take one of the children and go and do separate things.
I go running to get some space, clear my head and gather my thoughts. It’s an essential part to my day otherwise I really would go insane!
On the positive side, we have made amazing memories together and are a very close family. We have funny stories and amazing experiences to look back on that will last for generations to come.
Would you recommend your experience to other families?
This lifestyle certainly isn’t for every family. The intensity of being together 24/7, the hours spent looking for accomodation and planning trips, homeschooling the children and being on the move take some getting used to. But overall the good outweigh the bad. If we were back in Cape Town we’d still be on the hamster wheel in the same formulaic life. Here everyday is an adventure and an opportunity to broaden our minds.
What do you think about slow travel?
I think one thing we have learned from our 8 months on the road is that we have travelled too fast. Despite it being a once in a lifetime opportunity it is impossible to see everything. The kids also like some stability whilst travelling and it’s nice to be able to unpack your bag and hang up your clothes and enjoy a home cooked meal opposed to eating out all the time.
A message you’d like to leave to the readers
The bonding and the memories that you will make with your children are priceless. I know it is a cliche, but children grow up far too quickly and once they hit their early teens all they want to do is be with their friends, and us parents are no longer cool to be with. Use this opportunity when your kids are young to create a lifetime full of memories.
Learn more about the Baldeo nomad family:
- Blog: http://www.
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