A COUPLE of newlyweds went on an epic £13,000 ‘familymoon’ – taking their son and dog to celebrate abroad after their tied the knot.
After their nuptials in May 2019, Ross and Sarah Barrett packed their bags and set off on the two year adventure of a lifetime.
Renting out their cottage in Devon to tenants for £800 a month, the couple, their son Riley, now five, and their black Labrador Maui took off in their camper van.
Since bidding farewell to their loved ones, the family have been all across Europe, visiting France, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Turkey and Bulgaria, to name a few.
Now back home in England, the family plan to ditch their old lifestyle altogether with the goal of embracing their new nomad style of living permanently.
Ross, who previously worked as a Royal Marine Commando, said: “Every day was an adventure, it really was.
“Every time you opened the door of the van, you’re in somewhere different, you don’t know what is going to happen.
“We decided we wanted to go on a big adventure and we also wanted to spend some quality time together as a family, that’s what inspired it all.
“Our slogan became ‘every day is a Saturday’ because we got married, quit work and rented out our cottage to spend quality time as a family by enjoying every day like it’s a Saturday.
“It was a big decision because obviously I had a secure job with a secure income and to then stop that when you have outgoings as well is quite a big step.
“We rented the house out whilst we were gone in order to fund it all. We set the ball in motion, I put my notice in and we tied it in with after our wedding so we went on a two year honeymoon!
“Everyone thought that we were mad and that we wouldn’t last more than a few weeks. Their doubts did worry me a bit, it made me question if we were doing the right thing, but then every time I looked at our figures, I thought it’s going to work.
“It did question us but two years later, everyone can see the benefits and we’ve absolutely loved every minute of it. It’s the best decision we could have ever made.”
Sarah added: “They all said why are you doing this, you’re mad! Ross is leaving his job, what are you going to do?
“I think they thought that we hadn’t thought it through. Our van is super, super small – it’s literally sleeping space, you have to cook and shower outside.
“My sister gave us six weeks and then she thought we’d be home but it’s the best thing we’ve ever done, especially with the pandemic.
“We would have just been stuck at home and instead we’ve been gallavanting across beaches all to ourselves!”
It was a big decision to quit my job, but in hindsight it was the best thing we could have ever done. Adventures before dentures
Incredibly, the Barrett family were able to afford their adventure by simply renting out their cottage to tenants for £800 a month to fund their travels.
Their income of £800 covers all of their outgoings, including their phone bill, van insurance, vehicle tax, fuel for the van, food, ice cream, beer, wine, washing and the occasional AirBnB.
They had already purchased the camper van back in 2014, paying £6,000 for the vehicle, and their tenants cover the household bills for the cottage.
After getting married in May 2019, Ross and Sarah sailed on a yacht for two weeks and attended Glastonbury Festival before setting off on their family-moon in July 2019.
Packing their lives into a camper van, the Barrett family set off on the adventure of a lifetime in July 2019, starting in Saint Malo in France before moving onto the Pyranees then Spain.
They returned to France for Christmas then headed to Portugal, followed by Gibraltar and then Spain again where the pandemic hit, forcing them to endure lockdown for three months staying with Sarah’s friends.
Following lockdown, they returned to England via the Pyranees and France to wait out the hot summer months of July and August before heading to Switzerland for September 2020.
Reaching Italy just as their lockdown in the second wave came into place, Ross and Sarah rented an AirBnB for another three months of restrictions.
In a stark contrast to other Brits experiencing lockdown, they enjoyed empty beaches and exploring sea caves on their giant paddle board that can fit the entire family on including their dog.
Keen spearfisher Ross caught their dinners most nights along the Mediterranean coastline and even wrestled a two foot octopus that fed the family for three nights.
His free fishing almost ended in disaster when he caught several Salema Porgy fish for lunch, not realising they were hallucinogenic fish.
Ross said: “I didn’t know what they were, but they were plenty of them down there so I thought I’d catch some for lunch.
“They had little yellow stripes down the side, they were beautiful. I brought them back and said I’ve got us lunch. Sarah asked me what they were and I said I didn’t know.”
Sarah said: “I said let’s google them because I want to know their name. Luckily, we did and it turned out they were hallucinogenic!
“I thought oh my god we nearly ate them – I was just about to feed them to my poor son!”
When they left the AirBnB, the kind hearted owner made sure they wouldn’t forget him in a hurry when he gifted Riley a GOLDFISH as a goodbye present.
Sarah said: “He told us he had a present for Riley before we left, and we thought it would be a football or bucket or something.
Ross said: “Then he comes out with a real live goldfish in a bag! We thought what the hell are we going to do with it, we’re in a van, there’s barely enough room for us in there!
“Obviously, we very politely accepted. It would have been rude to reject it, I think he’d have been offended and we didn’t want that.
“We got him a glass jar and took him with us! We took him to the beaches, he saw four different countries, we’d get him out to see the sights wherever we stopped.
“Sadly, he got a tumour in his side which exploded and then the next day, he was upside down. It was a sad day – Goldie the goldfish is no more, rest in peace!”
Sarah added: “We had a little ceremony for him in Bulgaria, sent him down the river and out to sea, bless him.”
With only three months in Europe left before Brexit and another lockdown looming in Italy, the family made a run for Turkey.
Sarah said: “Turkey was the best country we went to. It was unspoilt and amazing.
“I had no idea there were wild tortoises in Turkey! We were randomly walking down a beautiful path to a beach and there were suddenly beautiful tortoises just cruising along.
“We had to stop the car probably about four times for Ross to get out and help move the tortoises across the road so we could leave!”
Ross said: “One of my favourite things was swimming with dolphins in Turkey. It was my birthday and Riley and Sarah were by the side with the dolphin guide.
“Due to the pandemic, it was just us there so what would normally be a shared session with five or six other people, I had to myself with Riley and Sarah on the side.
“Riley was throwing balls to the dolphins, they were dancing with him and giving him kisses. They even sang happy birthday to me with Riley and Sarah, it was incredible!
“As the dolphins hadn’t had as much human interaction as they should have, they asked if we could do it with the other pod of dolphins as well! We really benefited from the pandemic there.”
After two months in Turkey, the family went to Bulgaria followed by Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy and finally France where Ross and Sarah celebrated their wedding anniversary at Lake Annecy.
They visited the Dune of Pilat in France where Riley sand-surfed on his bodyboard across the tallest sand dune in Europe.
Ross said: “Riley gained a lot from this adventure, both educationally and in experience being around different cultures. He was learning by doing, seeing, touching rather than in a classroom.
“His geography is amazing, he knows all the countries. His grandma and grandad bought him a European puzzle map that he puts together and points out all of the countries he’s been to.
“He knows how to say hello and thank you in every language from every country we went to. For an experience, it’s really been second to none.
Sarah added: “He can tell us which countries he liked, what he did in them, and it’s just so real because he’s actually lived it, he’s not looking at countries in a book.”
The Barretts returned to England in June 2021 to wait out the summer months again and will be heading off on year three of their adventure in September.
Sarah’s sister Jules, who has sadly been diagnosed with terminal cancer, has also bought a camper van and will be joining the family on their adventure with her partner Will and their dog Taffy.
With no plans to return to their old lives, Ross and Sarah have fully embraced the nomad lifestyle and can’t imagine the adventure ending.
Ross said: “It is weird being back in England – everyone drives on the wrong side of the road!
“We get to catch up with friends and family which is important, and then we’re off again at the end of September heading for Croatia.
“We’re home schooling Riley at the moment and have no plans to change that – we love our new lifestyle and he’s learning so much through our adventures.
“It was a big decision to quit my job, but in hindsight it was the best thing we could have ever done. Adventures before dentures!”
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