T minus 3 days – the fears before going on a family sabbatical

A 3 month trip away is exciting. Very.

Yet it would be odd if we had no apprehensions before uprooting our family and spending 24 hours a day with each other in overseas lands with different climates, political systems and billions of things that bite and sting you (the insects, not the local tourist industry).

So here are some of the anxieties, most of which i think are natural:

  • Getting ill. If you take 4 people from South England with mediocre immune systems and ask them to go tropical for 3 months, then of course they are going to get ill. That is a given, so the issue is ‘how ill?’ and ‘do we need professional medical help?’. We are taking a standard First Aid kit and I’m about as qualified to administer medical treatment as I am to act as the officiating priest at the next Royal Wedding, so wish us luck. The wife is tougher and less squeamish.
  • And if we get ill, we get ill.
  • If we have to come home then we’ll lose a fortune on the pre-booked hotels and flights and the kids will have to pay us back later (that’s a joke). Insurance is a whole separate topic.


  • Being safe. Aged 19 or 20 I didn’t think about this, but strangely enough when you have two little people dependent on you, plus a husband or wife, you think about it more.
  • The first thing to be wary of is confirmation bias – the tendency to focus only on information which supports your theory or anxiety. So people who are scared of cycling will focus on the number of deaths and ignore the number of safe journeys.
  • So in that respect we try to be balanced. We’ve read all the Foreign Office advice on each country. It is normally very conservative so factor that in.
  • Brazil – various friends who are Brazilian or who have lived them have all said the same thing: “Be very careful in Brazil, particularly in the large cities.” A bit like the residents of J-Burg, they all have a story of someone being mugged. They advise:
    • No jewellery at all, not even cheap stuff
    • No watch
    • No cameras
    • In fact, try not to have a rucksack if you’re walking around
    • Take a guide
  • ‘This is just like downtown Soho in London on a Friday night’, I hear the cynics respond. Much of it is common sense and we have hired guides for our time in Rio. This is against the grain for us – what sort of moron hires a guide? – but done in the interests of safety.


  • Not getting on. Probably my greatest fear, as I know that getting ill is part of going abroad and being safe is our prerogative.
  • But getting on with each other. 7 days a week. For 13 weeks. That is a different task, a challenge to our family dynamic, our patience and our compassion.
  • ‘You’re lying on a beach for 3 months, of course you’ll get on’ is the retort and that is fair. The point being for les enfants their enjoyment will be governed not by how much time they spend with their parents, but whether they find other children to play with.
  • Ultimately this is our responsibility as parents. To ensure the kids enjoy the trip, as if they don’t, then we won’t and it could end up as the world’s most expensive argument, raising money for airlines and hoteliers across the world.
Spiders and the fear of being bitten while travelling abroad.

Spiders and the fear of being bitten while travelling abroad.

  • Being bitten, stung or infected by some very interesting animal. Apparently you find these things less curious once you’re writhing in pain screaming for the antidote, wishing you’d paid attention to that David Attenborough show 15 years ago.
  • As a family, we are all pathetic when it comes to insects and this will be another challenge: can we become slightly less cosseted in our existence? Or will we be screaming for the 10 year old daughter of the villa / lodge to come and deal with the spider / snake / flesh-eating tapeworms.

One thought on “T minus 3 days – the fears before going on a family sabbatical

  1. Well done Channers. Very exciting. I will be monitoring your progress with great interest. My early critical feedback is… not so many bullet points.. more shots of pints in the departure lounge.. Have a brilliant time. X


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