Andre and Becky Baldeo took their two kids aged 12 and 10 out of education to begin an 18-month global odyssey across 13 countries in Asia and South America – dubbing it the trip of a lifetime.
They may be jobless and broke, but Andre and Becky Baldeo have absolutely no regrets.
The adventurous couple and their two kids are just back from an 18-month global odyssey that set them back a whopping £65,000 – but they’ve had the trip of a lifetime.
Stocks trader Andre and personal assistant Becky quit their jobs, took Rico, 12, and Tiana-Mae, 10, out of school and began the jaunt of all jaunts by buying a one-way ticket to Borneo.
It was the start of a monster 51,000-mile journey across 13 countries in Asia and South America, taking in 48 cities.
They stayed in hotels, youth hostels and even jungle lodges – all a far cry from Andre’s old life in the unassuming North London suburb of Enfield.
Christmas was in Tokyo, and other highlights saw them hiking in the Andes, peering into volcanoes and exploring the Amazon rainforest.
The highs – literally – were many, including scaling 13,500ft Mount Kinabalu in Malaysia, tackling the Lares Trek to Machu Picchu in Peru and parasailing in Colombia.
There were stints working as volunteers too – on farms and at animal sanctuaries. And Andre, 45, and Becky, 44, home-schooled the kids along the way.
Now back home they say the experience was worth every penny – albeit tough at times and “draining”.
Andre says: “It was time for a change and I rehashed one of my lifelong dreams to Becky – to travel the world and experience as much as we could as a family of four. I wanted to show our children there is more to life outside of suburbia.
“It was completely life-changing and incredibly inspiring but the scariest thing I’ve ever had to do.
“We broke down all the security we had at home and literally gave up everything.
“I do feel proud to have done it and it is the best £65,000 I have ever spent.
“We now have the most amazing memories to keep for ever and nothing will change that. I gave up our family home and I don’t regret it for a second.
“It was the trip of a lifetime and coming back home has been very strange. It’s going to take a while for us to get used to normal life again. I know when on my deathbed, I’ll have a head full of amazing experiences and memories and won’t have any regrets to what we sacrificed to make them happen.”
Andre lived and worked in London as a trader for nine years, where he met South African Becky. They moved to Cape Town in 2007, had kids and lived a comfortable life, with Andre on £35,000 a year. But in September 2016, he realised he was tired of “going through the motions”.
He felt the family was in a “9 to 5 working life rut” and wanted to broaden his kids’ horizons so they could “learn from the world around them”.
He explains: “It hit home how we have to make the most of our lives. Working long hours in front of six monitor screens, studying graphs and looking at news can become lonely and extremely depressing.
“It became suffocating. We needed a change, to do something different.”
His “you only live once” philosophy was tragically endorsed by the news a close friend back in the UK had been given just weeks to live with a brain tumour.
Andre set about an 18-month plan, selling up in Cape Town and putting the family belongings into storage. With no idea how long the trip would last, they boarded a one-way flight to Sarawak, in Borneo, in April 2018.
The family stayed in jungle lodges and bamboo huts as they set their sights towards Mount Kinabalu, then headed for the Philippines.
Next up was Thailand, Vietnam and Japan – where Andre dusted off his football boots and volunteered as a coach at a local academy. “We lived with a Japanese family who had three small children,” he says. “Food and board was provided in exchange for our help – me coaching football and Becky helping around the house. Christmas was in Tokyo with an old friend of mine and his family from Enfield.”
In February the family headed to South America, spending five weeks in Colombia working at a foundation with local children.
After two months they flew to Ecuador for three weeks exploring volcanoes, the Amazon and the Andes. The last leg of the journey took the family to Peru, Bolivia and Chile.
Andre says the highlights of South America were a three-day, 40km hike in the Andes mountains to Lake Quilotoa in Ecuador, and visiting the Inca city of Machu Picchu in Peru.
Their last calling point was San Jose in Costa Rica, where they boarded a plane back home to Cape Town.
Andre says: “A lot of people think that this way of life is glamorous and essentially a glorified holiday.
“But it is very difficult being together, just the four of us 24/7. No one gets any personal space.
“I packed my running shoes, so thankfully I got away for some time alone a few times a week. Becky’s guilty pleasure was her hair straightener – but she has only used them once!
“To be honest, living out of bags, having cold showers, long bus journeys and constantly moving and not having familiar surroundings got draining.
“But the amazing experiences that we had cancel out the negatives. We have a different outlook on life now and we are all better people for it.
“We met some incredibly poor people and have taken so many life lessons out of it.”
The family now rent a home while they get back on their feet and Rico and Tiana-Mae will return to school soon.
They’re a bit behind. But they’ll get top marks when teacher asks for an essay on “What did you do in the holidays?”
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