I’m Ben. I like cycling, ironing, all sorts of music, puzzles, big landscapes, and beer.
I will be driver, trivia specialist, and city navigator. When I’m at work, I’m a manager in a large telecommunications company.
I’m looking forward to seeing new places especially on the Silk Roads, spending a lot of time with my family, and getting really good at UNO. I hope that the trip gives the whole family an ability to react well to adversity (though not too much adversity) and teaches us about similarities and differences.
I’m not looking forward to family fights on station platforms (or anywhere else), not being able to find somewhere to eat or sleep, and rodents and insects.
So here we were feeling all “ready to go” and “we’ve got this”, when we heard that our ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam has been cancelled.
The very first thing we have booked has already been cancelled. Fair enough – there is going to be the mother and father of a storm this weekend – and crossing the North Sea then would have put our consitutions, and possibly minimal packing, to the test.
The alternative we have been offered is a sailing on Wednesday evening, which doesn’t work for a number of reasons –
We have paid for our accommodation in Amsterdam
We have tickets for Keane the night we arrive
We have tickets for Anne Frank’s house the next day
Our lovely friends who are staying in our house are expecting to move in on Tuesday
So, we have accepted the challenge, and will be leaving home a day before we expected. We have booked the Eurotunnel, which is not going to be wind-affected. We will stay with Granny in Essex on Sunday night, and get to The Netherlands for Tuesday via France and Belgium on Monday.
Some sleep-overs will be cut short, a nice evening with friends will have to wait half a year, and it is a very good thing I didn’t go to the Calcutta Cup.
The answer is different for each of us, and again is a mix of planning and taking opportunities when they arise. Harriet will probably write about her situation soon, so I will concentrate on mine.
What’s going on?
I have worked for a large UK telecommunications company for over 15 years, starting back in my early 30s (not the early ’30s). I’ve worked in a number of different roles in that time, and I’ve been doing what I do now for almost 3 years. I manage a contract which builds fibre broadband infrastructure to places it wouldn’t normally get to without government assistance.
It has been one of the best jobs, if not the best job, I have done. It has been successful, and inspiring to see how the impact has transformed people’s lives. I work with a great team, both within my company and the government partners working on the programme.
This will change at the end of this week, when I leave my job, and step into an unpaid unknown. Not completely unknown, of course. There has been a great deal of planning about the next six months, after all! But in terms of how I will earn money once I return, I have no concrete plans.
So why did I chose to leave such a successful and rewarding role, and a steady job, working with people I like? Here are some of the reasons:
This is the right time for the trip, not just for the Olympics, but also for the children. They are old enough to enjoy it, remember it, get lots out of it, and not miss any important exams.
A combination of factors at work meant this was the right time to move on. The contract I work on is coming to an end. The company is going through some restructuring which would have meant compromises for how I work. We had explored the idea of a sabbatical, but that was not at all certain, at least in time for the planning we needed to do, and the timing of the trip. And I’m the sort of person who prefers to leave a party when it is still good, so it is time for a new challenge.
I suppose the main reason is that I prioritised going on a family adventure over career development at my current employment. I really am leaving to spend more time with my family.
I’m not particularly afraid about the next steps in the world of work, but I really don’t know what sort of work it will be. I would like to think that I could get another role within another big company on my return; after all, today’s job has been successful and at least I’d get an interview or two from people asking me about Tweed to Tokyo.
In terms of career development, I am also pretty confident that Tweed to Tokyo will give several examples of business-friendly terms to discuss: planning, budgeting, logistics, international customs, people management, risk management, leadership, negotiation, all that…
But I might decide that that sort of salaryman role is not for me. Maybe I will open a sushi restaurant in the Borders, or start to make cheese, or import Japanese whisky. Maybe we will think that Kyrgyzstan, or Hungary, is the place to be and start the process of emigration.
While these are all things that I have thought about, however fleetingly, not to mention unrealistically, I expect the reality will turn out to be something different. The six months that we have will give me some headspace to think about it, and to get my head around not being in today’s job. Part of the planning has been to give both of us some adjustment time when we get back too.
I’m writing this now on the early train to Edinburgh, on my way to another train to Glasgow, for my last work trip there.
Whatever is next I do feel I’m not going to miss the 05h58 from Tweedbank.
Last year I read an article telling the incredible story of the Savitsky Collection at what is now the Nukus Museum of Art.
In short, Igor Savitsky was a wealthy Muscovite Russian who over a period of years amassed a stunning collection of Russian avant-garde art during the 1950s, in particular buying and collecting works by (and from) dissident artists who had been banned by Stalin, and taking them to Nukus, in what is now Uzbekistan, far from the watching authorities in Moscow and even Tashkent.
It is exactly the sort of place I would love to visit for all sorts of reasons.
I was given 3 lovely mugs from a National Gallery of Scotland exhibition of Russian avant-garde art for my 21st birthday. It is a fantastic story, and it seems like it was just the sort of place we should visit, if we are close. And why wouldn’t we do it as part of the adventure?
But here’s the thing. When Igor Savitsky took all that art far away from prying eyes, he did an extremely good job…
It turns out it is really difficult to get to Nukus and it really is a long way from anywhere else we are planning to visit. We want to stick by our no-flights-except-home rule, and this means trains.
There are 2 trains a week from Tashkent, and they take between 18 and 22 hours, depending on the route, which is fair enough when you realise that Nukus is over 1100km from Tashkent (about the same as Paris to Vienna). The days they go are not particularly convenient, and there is no child-bribing water-park, or even anything else at all, worth going to see in the surrounding area.
We could go, but it would mean missing out on some of the great Silk Road cities – Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand – as our arrival into and departure from Tashkent are fixed. That’s a lot to sacrifice for a few hours in the company of an amazing art collection and many more hours on long trains.
So it was with regret that we ejected (nuked?) Nukus from our itinerary last night.
Over the last six weeks or so, we have taken huge steps towards making what was a pipe dream into a reality. Among other things, our first 100 days or so are almost entirely booked, we have tickets for various exhibitions and concerts, and we have shiny Chinese visas in our passports.
I am very excited.
In the words of Primal Scream, just what is it that I want to do? We want to be free to do what we want to so, we’re going to have a good time, and we’re going to have a party.
I also know that my expectations about the trip, the children on the trip, and me on the trip, are wildly optimistic. I will not get fit in 10 minutes. There will be times we will be lost, tired, bored, resentful, angry, disappointed and bicker with each other. We will miss opportunities. We will waste time and money. I will not become a perfect parent who never screams “STOP SHOUTING AT YOUR SISTER!”… Well, not immediately anyway.
We have also been writing lots of lists including kit, things to sort before we go, places to visit when we are on the road, and a long list of “things which are free and cheap, for the days when our weekly budget is gone by Tuesday morning.” Any hints and tips gratefully received.
Lots of the things on the to do lists are now ticked, which is exciting, but we do seem to add to them almost as quickly. We’re using various shared apps, in particular Cozi and Workflowy, though probably not getting the most out of either. We have a big paper file too with all sort of sections, now bursting at the seems.
Our goal is to do at least one thing every day for the trip, though often this ends up being more than one thing. My task for the day is to ring the Mongolian embassy in Paris (obvs),and Harriet has also rung our home insurance people already. We also got the children to download Cozi, GoogleTranslate and What3words, which will help with our Security Protocol, which is a grown up way of saying “what to do if our children get lost while trying not to look like that Picasso painting”.
We’ve come a long way from the pipe dream. There’s a long way to go yet.
We are going to Japan. Overland. [yadda yadda yadda list of countries]
Why are we doing this?
Lots of reasons. It’s an adventure and it could be fantastic. We’re doing it for the children to give them a window onto the big wide world. And for ourselves for the same sort of reason. There’s an element of educational FOMO in terms of the wider world experience and wanting to improve on what they might be missing out on.
What are you most looking forward to?
In terms of places: the ‘Stans and China. But in terms of feeling I think the headspace. The press the pause button on the daily race of work and taxi driving and the house and the grind.
I expect having to readjust when I get home. The post holiday feeling will be quite extreme after six months.
What will you miss about home.
My bed. Privacy. We’re going to be very much on top of each other.
Are you worried about anything?
Yes. I’m worried about catastophes: illness, security, the car breaking down (or an accident). I’m worried about things back home requiring our attention or intervention. Some of those things could be really horrible. I’m worried about losing children and I’m worried we could potentially fall out and alienate somebody in the family.
How do you think you will change?
I would like to come back healthier in body and mind. With a plan for what I’m going to do next.
Who do you think is going to be best at eating new things?
What skill do you have that will be most useful on our trip
An ability to think on my feet in challenging situations.
What will you struggle with?
Arguments, whinging, I think there are places where the language barrier will be difficult. And how much freedom to give the children. Budgeting. I don’t want to be responsible every hour for everybody’s entertainment.
And how are going to try and get over that?
Trying to anticipate and plan for as many situations as possible
We are the Campbells. On 9 February 2020 we left our house in Scotland (in a small town on the banks of the River Tweed) on our way overland to Tokyo for the Summer Olympics. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic we are currently on lockdown in France, still hoping to reach Tokyo, though not for the Olympics. You can find out more about us by clicking here or on one of the links above.
Where we are
Where we’ve been
Click here to get all our posts emailed direct to you!