New Home and a Return to School
There’s been a lot shifting under the surface with the Makepeace Family over the past few months.
I’m sure thanks to COVID there is a lot of shifting in your life as well. Soul searching, big questions, little answers, tentative steps forward as you shift through the soil to find the more fertile regions.
Planting is what we have been doing. Learning to let go of the old and embrace a very new.
For us, that has been a disconnection to the old ways of traveling – full time and on a whim to a more structured, settled life.
That is a new home, traditional schooling, and structured travel.
As with all new chapters of our life, we embrace it. Life should never be about standing still and doing what you’ve always done just because you’ve always done it.
It’s about evolving as YOU evolve. Aligning with your desires and needs as you move away from what no longer fulfils you to that which does.
It’s okay to change. It’s okay to reinvent. That’s the most powerful lesson that travel has taught me – whether I am roaming or not.
At all times, I have the power to change myself into a more improved version and I can adapt my external circumstances to fit. I don’t have to adapt myself to fit the external circumstances.
Well except for carpool. That’s the only thing in my life right now I can’t control.
We’re thrown into this alien world of school drop off and pick up now as Kalyra and Savannah have started traditional school after 7 years of full-time family, full-time travel, and homeschooling.
Savannah has never been to school. Kalyra only for a total of 2 years in Australia in Kindergarten, 2nd and 3rd grade. Many have asked questions, so I decided to write a long overdue update sharing all our major life changes.
To be honest, I don’t write this kind of posts anymore – our life family updates – because I feel no one reads them any longer. The blogging world has changed so much since we started in 2010, updating you with content that holds no “long term” value becomes too cumbersome to produce and then too difficult to get in front if you with all the algorithm and inbox restrictions.
So instead, I share little snippets on Instagram, Facebook, and email, hoping you may at least see something.
Some things need greater elaboration so I can dive into the nuances and the reasons for our shifting sands.
Uprooting and planting new seeds
This unusual year we have all faced is one that has caused so much loss for so many reasons.
I’ve let go of a lot of toxicity in my life – my mind mess, relationships, work that’s dragging me down – so in that regard it’s been a blessing.
But cleansing brings a lot of stress, sadness, and introspection – some things you may not wish to see or confront but it’s only in doing so that we get to change and reinvent.
I know the pandemic has given so many blessings to pursue passions and hobbies, connect more deeply to those they love, and feel like they have taken control of their life (which we love hearing)
However, that was not our experience, simply because that was already our norm. So COVID was a complete severing of everything that gave us meaning, purpose and joy.
For 23 years travel has been at the center of our life. I only know myself through travel, so without it, my identity was in crisis.
On top of that was the fact that our business is in travel – an industry I thought was pretty secure – and overnight it had been decimated.
COVID was suffocating to me and stole so many moments of vibrancy and celebration that my soul craves.
That doesn’t mean I couldn’t find things to bring me joy – I always do that. Nor does it mean I couldn’t find the power in it or the simple blessings – I always look for them.
But, it caused us to lose more than we gained. Well maybe. We’re starting to pop out of the down cycle now so can see the good in this period of transformation.
It did cause us to reevaluate, reinvent and reconsider how we are and how we can exist without travel.
We’ve found that with our new love and commitment to being part of this Raleigh community and sharing it through our new This is Raleigh blog, social channels, and the podcast.
It’s so much easier to have a niche business centered around a small geographical audience with a lot less competition. The algorithms don’t matter as much now just our story, useful content, and ability to connect more deeply to community. It’s so much easier to just drive down the road to have an experience, get some photos, and then create a story!
We just cannot wait to see where it goes in the future. (and that does not mean the end to this travel blog)
During COVID, we finally received our green card – after 17 years of hoping, dreaming, searching for solutions, and then implementing the miracle path we found. (But no celebration party yet)
Buying a Home in Raleigh (deep roots planted)
The Green Cards were leading us to our next ultimate goal – buying a house in Raleigh. We had to wait for our Green Card so we’d be permanent residents and have a better chance of getting financing with favorable rates.
But of course, it came during the pandemic when our travel business imploded.
We were devastated, especially with the thought that we had to start all over again to make that dream happen after years of hard slog. It was snatched away just within arm’s reach. We were heartbroken and just too exhausted to come up with a creative solution.
One thing I’ve learned from this (actually it’s a frequent lesson in my life):
Don’t just ASSUME. Always ask. No matter how uncomfortable the conversation. Get the real facts, not what you’re thinking to be true in your limited mind.
A few months ago, we noticed the Raleigh real estate market going nuts. When COVID first hit, we thought it would slow down the real estate market so our timing into buying a house after it was all over would be perfect.
But it went the other way – not just in Raleigh but all over the world. The Great Resignation has happened as people started to learn what we’ve always known –
You can live and work from almost anywhere and craft your life so your external circumstances fit with what you want, not the other way round.
Prices were going up and we saw ourselves getting priced out of the market, especially after our finances turned COVID sour. Again, our dream getting further smashed into the ground.
Knowing Raleigh and the steady growth it has always had, and the expected growth coming, we knew that, while the market may slow a little, we don’t feel it’s going to burst in the future.
It’s an underrated market that has topped almost every list of best places to live (here’s why we love living in Raleigh). The word (sadly) is now out, and people are moving in droves, have been for years, and will continue to do so.
Apple and Google are moving here, as are other tech companies, and it’s becoming more and more of a tech, startup kind of place. Raleigh even held up quite well during the GFC in 2008-10.
If we couldn’t get a house now, maybe we never would. Our lease was coming up to expire in October and we did not want to;
- a) move into another rental
- b) renew our lease for another 12 months.
This dream of hours to own a home in Raleigh has been too much of a long-term yearning to wait any longer. After years of nomadic life, the girls really wanted a home of their own and we wanted to give it to them. We haven’t owned our own home since 2002. It was time to lay proper roots.
So, I asked the question I should have asked 12 months ago, “Why don’t we just ask a mortgage broker and see if we can get a mortgage? You just never know.”
My entrepreneur friend, Emily Grey from The Flourish Market had just gotten a mortgage through broker April Blackwell, a legend who understands entrepreneurs. If you don’t realize, it’s not easy for self-employed people to get financing!
We reached out to April and shared our story and financial situation and how dire we thought it was. We were comparing it to the year before COVID when we were flourishing. She wasn’t sure if she could help but said she’d take a look at our books.
After a few days she replied, “You guys! You didn’t do so bad last year. I can get you a loan.”
That evoked the same reaction as when our lawyer sent us the one-line email. “We did it. You got the Green Card” Stunned surprise followed by tears of joy and relief.
So, despite being the worst time in the history of buying a house around the world, we decided to jump right in and compete with HUNDREDS of people (60 people per day are moving into the Raleigh area), and the lowest inventory in Raleigh’s history to buy a house.
We’ve never been one to shy from a challenge!
We dove in as quick as we could. We had several buying agents we wanted to interview but decided to avoid that overwhelm after the first three and went with Kelly, a Carolina girl with years of experience in the Raleigh region and this crazy market.
Like April she was awesome. We were house hunting straight away putting in offers with 30 other people and getting rejected. It was completely stressful, and I was ready to pull the plug.
It was not so much losing out on homes we loved, but dealing with this weird unknown market where appraisals don’t even matter, and people are offering $100K over asking price, and sometimes all cash offers. There was no benchmark to guide you with offers.
Our extreme second offer of $75K over asking price for our dream home wasn’t even enough to land the deal. I didn’t think we could compete and again our dreams were dying.
I also did not want to have to go so much over listing price and put ourselves in financial distress.
We learned quite quickly that our dream home was not going to happen and we’d have to make some sacrifices. Right now, we want to just get into the market and have a home to live in with the girls for the next few years. We can always reassess later and maybe go for that dream home.
So, we found our next best house and put an offer in – choosing to not go too extreme with our over listing price offer. And it was accepted.
It all worked out perfectly in the end.
Our house has our absolute non-negotiable features – great location, in a forested neighborhood with a large backyard and trees. The bonus is our beautiful screened in porch.
The best thing is our house has been so well looked after. So much that the inspector said it’s one of the best conditions he’s looked at, even more so than new homes!
We’re loving the more we look at it and can see clearly how the perfect solution for us arrived.
Even though it’s move in ready, we’ll be doing a bit of renovation to make it our own. We’re going to share more of that part of our lives on social and on This is Raleigh.
We’re almost all packed and ready to move this weekend. I just hope this is the last big move we do for several years.
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Free from the Striving
It’s such a weird feeling right now. To finally feel settled. To not be striving towards the next best thing. To have a 17-year dream realized and I can now dust off my hands and say we are done.
I feel like a world of expansive opportunities opened up for me and I’ve realized how much of my mental, emotional, financial, and physical resources the perpetual striving for that dream has consumed.
Now we just need this darn Covid to go away for good so we can have all those parties we dreamed of in our own house. We’ve missed entertaining!
And we so want to throw a massive Green Card celebration party – recognizing all the years of hard work it took us to get there and all the people that helped us along the journey. If only those people from overseas could come. Maybe we can ZOOM them in!
Now to the next big life change:
The girls enrolling in traditional school
Like buying a house, we did plan this before Covid. But it wouldn’t have worked out anyway with the whole virtual learning. The girls were doing that with their online school anyway, so it was for the best that we stayed that way for 2020.
We had already planned for the girls to return to school when Kalyra started high school, which in America is grade 9. We knew learning would then move more towards college and life preparation. I didn’t feel confident or adequately trained to teach her myself during high school years, or be responsible for implementing programs at home.
We also knew that high school is when friendships become the most important. They’ve always been important, and the girls have easily made friends while we’ve traveled but now, we’re planting roots, it’s important for the girls to form long-term friendships.
It’s not that we couldn’t have done that homeschooling, but we found it so much harder, particularly for Kalyra’s age, and especially locked-down during COVID!
Meet ups only happened sporadically, which made it difficult to form connections and finding the right age group and gender was tough. Plus, Covid took it all away as we couldn’t do any extracurricular things or meet up with other people anyway.
Since the girls started school, they’ve already got hang-out dates, birthday parties and are forming friendships. It’s just so much easier when they are thrown into a room of similar aged kids. There are challenges to it of course and the bullying, isolation aspect of it is still very concerning.
I sobbed every day of the first week of Kalyra starting school as I knew how tough it was for her as our shy child. I wanted to protect her from the hardness of it.
But the hard is what allows our character to step up and shine. My role was to step back and support that.
She was starting at a high school where most of the kids knew each other as they went to the same middle and elementary school. That’s a tough tight circle to crack.
The first week was hard, but she bravely put herself out there and made it work. Now it’s starting to open up for her with new friends and clubs and she’s enjoying her classes and teachers.
I can really see just how much travel has helped her. She can’t see it, but I sure can. She’s brave and flexible and highly adaptable.
She’s also a great student which takes off some of the worry and pressure. She is such an organized and independent learner, something her online-school helped train her to be which I am so grateful for.
Savannah is our social butterfly, so she is buzzing with the joy and high energy of being around lots of people at school. She really needed that extra stimulation and is thrilled. She does not want the weekends to come and asks to be dropped off early every morning. We just hope that enthusiasm lasts!
Both girls are focused on getting good grades and come home each day and take care of their homework without being asked. We’re so proud of them both.
And it gives us a lot more to talk about at the dinner table! I love hearing their stories from school.
One thing we know for sure, we are going to miss hanging out with these two all day and being able to go on fun adventures whenever we want. But we will adapt and thrive, as it’s what we’ve always done!
We had a lot of stress trying to get them in the school we wanted. We decided that due to their unique experiences, a smaller school would help them feel not so overwhelmed.
America is the land of endless options, including education.
There are magnet schools, charter schools, public schools, and private schools. You have to be organized and prepared as they all have different enrolment periods, student caps, and zoning restrictions!
Through not knowing we missed the enrollment periods for several of the schools. The public schools in Wake County are generally pretty good compared to the rest of the USA so we knew from that aspect we didn’t have to worry.
Thankfully, at the last minute we randomly found a small, reasonably priced private school structured around efficiency and affordability. I was drawn in by their focus on classical learning, character development, and community service.
In order to graduate, the high school students have to do 100 hours of community service by 12th grade. We absolutely love this, and Kalyra has already started with weeding at Raleigh City Farm and creating empathy cards for those in the community needing a positive boost.
We also love that they have uniforms and are a year-round calendar, which is the same as what we do in Australia.
We much prefer having the more frequent breaks through the year. I think it’s better educationally and the kids don’t get so exhausted. They have 9-week terms with 3-weeks break in between, and a five-week summer.
For travel lovers like us it’s perfect as we get more frequent vacations at a time when everyone else is at school – hello cheaper prices and less crowds.
We knew it was the perfect school for us, but numbers were completely maxed out due to so many families moving from public over to private because of Covid. We couldn’t even get on the waiting list.
Then a miracle happened. They decided to open a new campus for K-5. That meant Savannah could get into that one. Since she got in, Kalyra got sibling privileges for enrolment at the high school. There were still no openings, but she moved up the waiting list.
Then three weeks before school was due to start, we found out Kalyra got in. I cried with relief. We were all stressed about her having to go to the massive local high school with thousands of kids.
We still had about 6 weeks of her course work from her online school to do so I stopped working to help her finish. It was hugely stressful. 8th grade sucks!!! I’m so glad I am no longer in school. But I am well versed in American history now and feel confident I will pass the citizenship test.
Having to knuckle down and do that work meant we missed out on all our summer plans for beach trips and camping!! We’re hoping we can do that on our September break.
What does this mean for travel for us now? Is it over?
Travel has been our life since we were solo travelers. Long before kids, with kids, and will be long after. Our mission is to show you how life can evolve as you do.
We’ll be making it work in a different way – we’ll be short term travelers coming home after to a place we love.
Now that we have settled in Raleigh with our new business that we love, it makes better sense of how we want to craft our life moving forward.
None of us want to travel long term anymore and haven’t for a long time. We realized on our RV trip that it was no longer working for us. We wanted the stability and structure and the freedom to align with other important values like connection and community.
We’re actually enjoying knowing our set school breaks each year and being able to schedule things in advance. It’s fun and exciting and the planning and organization helps you feel more connected to the travel experience.
For the rest of this year, we will be focused on US travel and hopefully plan for European travel next year (London, Paris, Ireland and Greece high on our priority list. Even though we are fully vaccinated, we do not want to deal with the uncertainty and hassle of international travel right now. Plus, the prices seem particularly bonkers at the moment.
We will finally be able to use the massive amounts of miles and points we have accumulated for international travel. We hope to share lots of tips moving forward on making travel fit this kind of a lifestyle.
Craig and I will also be taking more solo trips whilst the girls are in school. It will be lovely to travel solo and share those different stories on the blog. Given we are a travel blog; we do need to find ways to keep the content fresh and so this is one way we can do that.
It’s a fun new adventure and it starts with me going on a 9-day tour next month in California! Stay tuned for that one. I miss the family already!
We have a crazy month ahead as we move into our new home and start our birthday celebrations. All our birthdays are within one month of each other starting with Savannah on August 30. She will be having an Escape Room party with a few of her new school friends.
You can follow along on Instagram and Facebook as well as join our email community as we dive deep into this new, strange but wonderful world.
Really who knows where it will lead us? We are open for anything!
Thank you to all for being part of our journey for so long now and sticking with us through the good and tough times. We appreciate you and hope we can continue to help you see the joy in travel and living a life that thrills YOU – not what others think you should do.
Comment: What has shifted for you during this past year and what new roots you are planting?