Courtney Adamo

When it comes to inspiration, you could compare Courtney Adamo, mother of five, to a super-charged bolt of lightning. I adore her spirit! Motivated by their children's education, Adamo and her husband Michael made the momentous decision to uproot from their life in London in order to travel the world and immerse in culture and nature. Here, at their new base in Australia, the author of travel journal Somewhere Slower and co-founder of Babyccino Kids, shares her thoughts on motherhood and a few secrets to entrepreneurial success 

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  2. Photographed by BRIDGET WOOD 

  3. Interview NATASHA INCHLEY

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T here is so much to admire about your world and the way you are raising your five children. I am deeply envious! When you look back, it must have been a daunting decision to take a year off to travel from your base in London – what was the tipping point, what gave you the courage to take the leap? 

I have always dreamed of taking a year off to travel with my family. Even before I had children, I knew it was something I wanted to do. I have always loved the idea of travelling and introducing the chldren to different people, places and cultures. I’ve also always been attracted to a simple, bohemian lifestyle – barefoot children and carefree adventures. I shared my dream with Michael when I first met him, and it was a subject that came up in our family practically on a weekly basis.

After 12 years in busy London, we were at a point where we started considering a life in other places. Would we be happier living in the countryside? Would life be easier if we lived closer to family? Instead of making a big move straight away, we felt like it was the right time to take a year off and to explore different parts of the world, hoping it would inspire a different way of life moving forward. We also hoped it would give us answers for how and where we would want to live after our travels.

While the family gap year has always been a dream of mine, it was actually Michael who suggested the idea. We were lying in bed one night debating the same old question about where to live and he just blurted out the suggestion of selling our house and travelling for a year. I sat straight up in bed, asked him to repeat himself just to be sure I had heard him correctly, and then started squealing with enthusiasm. The next day we called the real estate agents and put our house on the market.

In terms of having the courage to do it, I have to say this wasn’t an issue for me. I was just so excited about the adventure ahead and so eager to spend a year with my family, that any worries, doubts or what-ifs didn’t really hold any weight for me. Of course we had to make some big sacrifices – taking our kids out of a school they loved, selling a home we had recently renovated, and leaving promising work opportunities behind – but once we put those hurdles behind us we felt liberated and ready for the journey ahead. 

And in the beginning, how did you transition your children – both logistically and emotionally – from the routines of London life to the unknowns of traveling the world?

With our eldest aged 10 and our youngest nearly three, it just felt like the right time for our family. Easton was still a young carefree boy, happy to be with his family and play with his siblings. School was not too demanding or rigorous yet. It felt like the perfect time for him to take a year out of school and be away from his friends. Marlow, at three, was also at a good stage because she was no longer a baby, we didn’t need to bring a buggy or a travel cot, she no longer took naps and could be flexible with her sleep schedule. So it really felt like our kids were all at the right age for an adventure like this. Also, we had travelled with them quite a bit, so they were fairly adventurous and experienced. Logistically, it was easier than it would seem. I think the most difficult transition for us was embarking on the homeschooling journey and the many initial hurdles we had to overcome.

How has your journey changed your family’s way of life for the better? 

We all learned so much from our adventure. We gained a new perspective on our world and the different cultures, people and places in it. We were lucky to make so many friends all over the world and we now feel a deep connection to all the countries we visited. It is so liberating to have this connection to other places and people – to not feel anchored to one specific place or one way of life. If you mention Uruguay, for example, the kids have a visual in their minds, they can remember the foods we ate and the friends we made, they can remember riding horses on Martin’s ranch and catching fish in a little tin boat in Jose Ignacio. They remember how much they loved it, and it doesn’t feel like a far-off distant land. I love that our children now have these tangible memories and that the world doesn’t seem as big or unknown.

 We also learned how little we actually need to be happy. We each spent a year living out of a small suitcase, wearing the same few outfits on rotation, sleeping in rented beds with just a few personal possessions to hand, and yet none of us missed the things we left behind. The kids spent a year without any toys, apart from the few items they could fit in their backpacks, yet they managed to play all sorts of imaginative games, staying entertained and happy all year long. It wasn’t easy to part with the things we thought we needed, but it was very liberating once we did. I hope we can always be reminded of those simple, happy days. I don’t want to go back to needing and wanting stuff in my life. Collectively, I think we will all look back on that year and feel it made us an even closer and stronger family. We have happy memories that will last a lifetime and a renewed outlook on life that will hopefully shape the way we will live and the values we will hold most dear.

Your children’s education is obviously a priority – what has been the greatest joy in watching them grow along the way?

I can’t take much of the credit for the homeschooling because Michael took on the biggest tasks with teaching while we traveled. Having left his job when we left London, he had more time to devote to the teaching – and truthfully he is the more patient one. Homeschooling certainly proved more challenging than either Michael or I anticipated. Our eldest, Easton, responded really well to being taught by his dad, but Quin and Ivy, both great students in the classroom, were more difficult to get to focus and teach at home. It’s also challenging to teach three students at the same time when their levels are so different and they each have different areas of need. We slowly got the hang of it though, and it was extremely rewarding to watch them learn and progress. I would even dare to say that their progress was more noticeable than any other year in traditional school but of course, through our travels, they were lucky to experience so many different and important life lessons that can’t be taught in the classroom. It was such a joy to watch our kids discover new places, meet new people, learn new languages and cultures. (I’ve written a long and detailed post about this on our blog for those who may want more details about homeschooling, lesson plans and resources). Now that we are settled here in Byron Bay, the kids have all transitioned back into school quite easily. After being homeschooled for 18 months, they were keen to be back to an environment with other children, to make new friends and enjoy the social aspects of the more traditional schooling. I was so proud of how easily they all slotted back into their new schools. I think it’s a testament to our travels and to all their experiences of meeting new people and becoming confident individuals that they were brave and excited to start at a new school and meet new friends.

Can you tell me about your home in Australia – what makes it so special?

We live in Bangalow, a small and super charming town just 15 minutes from Byron Bay and the ocean. We love the community here, and the fact that we can walk to town for a coffee, the children can walk to school, and we can send kids to the grocery store if we run out of butter. We live on a hill and look out over rolling meadows and palm trees; we can watch the sun rise in the morning, and our home catches the breeze when the wind blows. We’ve lived here for nearly a year and really love it, but it’s a rental and we are hoping to buy our own place soon. It will be nice to create our own space and be able to incorporate styles and decor tips we’ve picked up along our travels. We’d like to steal style notes from Casa Lola in Brazil, for example! 

You have such an entrepreneurial mind – how have you continued to challenge yourself while on the road?

It wasn’t always as easy as I had hoped to work on the road, but somehow I managed to work remotely nearly as effectively as before. I suppose the enormous benefit of running an online business is that you can do it from anywhere in the world. On our travels, I tried to wake up a couple of hours earlier than the rest of the family every day so I could get a head start on work. It helped that we had a schedule where the kids were sleeping in quite late every day, so I had a few hours in the morning to power through emails and work. Michael did the majority of homeschooling, so sometimes I was able to squeeze in work time while he taught the kids. It was a bit of a juggle, but somehow we made it work. 

My business partner and I also managed to write a children’s book during our travels. I remember having Skype calls with our publisher from a bungalow in Sri Lanka! As long as I have my computer and access to WiFi, I can continue to work and challenge myself entrepreneurially, though admittedly finding reliable WiFi during our travels wasn’t always easy.

How do you unwind in those rare off-duty moments? How do you recharge?

After watching from afar for the past couple years, I’ve recently started surfing and I really love it. It’s so nice to paddle around in the waves all on my own without a baby in my arms or another child needing me for something. There is something so meditative about being out in the ocean and it’s so nice to have that time to switch off a bit. And talk about feeling recharged! I finally see what all the fuss is about. I also really love yoga, but I’ve been less good at carving out time for that lately. 

What is the greatest lesson you have learned from your children?

To slow down and squeeze more playtime into our day.

And what values do you hope to instil in them?

I have always told my kids that the most important thing to be is kind. I don’t care if they get straight A's or if they win their running race or if they can sing well or surf well, and so on. The most important thing for me is that they are kind to everyone. I also try to teach them that it is just as important to be interested as it is to be interesting. I’d love for my kids to be as eager to listen and learn from others as they are to share their knowledge.

What is your secret to creating idyllic family environments on the go?

Keep things simple and natural. Don’t overdo it! 

Looking back, what are you most proud of?

I’m proud of how close my children are and how well they play together. Of course they have their moments when they argue – and nothing frustrates me more – but in general, my kids are such a tight unit and really love each other so much. We’ve been really conscious of preventing sibling rivalry amongst our kids, and it’s such a joy to watch them grow up as close friends who genuinely care and want the best for each other.

Lastly, your most humbling parenting moment?

The birth of our baby Wilkie was a moment where I felt both humbled and empowered. I gave birth at home surrounded by all of my other children and it was incredibly humbling to watch my children experience childbirth and the emotions that came to each of them as they watched their baby brother enter the world.