New Year, New You. That’s the mantra that many people around Portsmouth will be adopting as they stumble bleary-eyed into 2016 after a fortnight of overindulgence.
January is seen as the time for making changes, many of which are forgotten about come February. But Helen and Jamie Lockhart didn’t need to make a New Year’s resolution to change their lives and those of their children.
One of our favourite journeys was the high speed train from Madrid to Barcelona. It wasn’t the cheapest but it was an experience travelling at 300kmph, and of course there was seeing dolphins while taking a water taxi in BelizeHelen Lockhart
Last year, the couple sold the family chip shop in Leigh Park and took their sons Louis and Max out of school so they could travel the world. And three months later they haven’t looked back, travelling across Europe, the US and spending Christmas Day on Coogee Beach near Sydney.
Helen says: ‘It was still very busy, but the atmosphere was electric and the beach itself is much smaller than Bondi. We even saw Father Christmas do a fly-past in a police helicopter. The boys loved being able to spend the day in the sea among thousands of people in Santa hats.’
The Lockharts have set up their own website, 2point4trek.co.uk, to document their travels, and the accompanying Facebook page has over 1,000 likes.
On the blog, Helen, 32, describes herself as ‘a born travel junkie’, who was bitten by the bug after going on school trips abroad, and Jamie, 48, travelled the world as a touring magician before taking over the reins of his parent’s chip shop.
After years of running Cheeky Chippy in Middle Park Way, Leigh Park, Helen says the time was right for their current adventure. ‘After running the business for 15 years and realising that life is short, we decided to sell up and grab the chance to travel while we could,’ she says.
By selling the family business, renting out their home and using personal savings, Jamie and Helen got together enough money to make their year-long travel plans a reality.
The next hurdle was their children’s education. Under strict new laws introduced in 2013, Helen and Jamie could have faced fines of up to £2,500 and three months in prison for taking their sons out of school.
Instead, the couple have decided to teach Louis, 10, and Max, six, themselves during their journey.
‘Due to the regulations surrounding term time holiday, we would only have been able to travel for six weeks during the summer holidays without incurring penalties,’ says Helen. ‘This was a big factor in our decision to take responsibility for the boy’s education and deregister them from school. We can now give them the opportunity to learn from experience as well as from a text book.’
And with two thirds of their trip still to go, the Lockharts have already crammed a lot into the experience.
So far, they have been to Paris, Marseille, Ibiza, Madrid, Barcelona, Madeira, Belize, Miami, Houston, Los Angeles and Sydney – and to travel between these places they have used almost as many modes of transport.
Helen says: ‘Two vehicles really stick out. The first was when we sledded down a hill in Funchal, Madeira – it was a wicker sled with waxed runners being pulled down a hill by two men in straw boater hats. It’s an old tradition in Madeira.
‘The other was using a golf cart in Belize and traversing lakes to get back to our accomodation, 10 miles outside of San Pedro. Both children thought we were lucky to survive the journey back!’
She adds: ‘One of our favourite journeys was the high speed train from Madrid to Barcelona. It wasn’t the cheapest but it was an experience travelling at 300kmph, and of course there was seeing dolphins while taking a water taxi in Belize.
Helen says that picking their favourite destination so far is ‘an impossible question to answer’.
‘All the places we have visited have been so different so it makes it hard to compare. For a city, Madrid was stunning and very vibrant. We stayed with Spanish friends and it really made the experience.
‘For beaches, I would have to pick Ibiza or Nelson Bay in Australia, which has gorgeous inlets with over 100 dolphins living in them.’
She adds: ‘In the Belizean jungle we had the opportunity to explore Mayan ruins and caves, and then there are the Blue Mountains just outside Sydney which are jaw-droppingly amazing, with huge waterfalls and views for miles.’
The quartet have been able to squeeze in so many locations because they haven’t planned ahead. While this might sound like madness, Helen has a method. ‘We decided to travel without a plan so we weren’t tied to somewhere we didn’t want to stay or so could stay longer in a place we’d fallen in love with.
‘It also means we can take opportunities as they arise – like housesitting or bargain flights or accommodation.’
The question is, where are they going to find themselves next?
‘To be honest we’re not sure where we’re going to be; we’ve got a rental car and are currently in Port Stephens [in New South Wales] but hotels and hostels are so busy that we’re going to take our chances and camp along the coast towards the Gold Coast and Brisbane.’
One thing is certain though – the experience has brought the family together.
‘We are learning about each other’s personalities and what makes us tick,’ says Helen. ‘It’s definitely reaffirmed and strengthened our relationships.’
And while they may be on the other side of the world, the Internet means that they are never more than a Skype call or Facebook post away from contacting friends and family in Portsmouth.
For Helen in particular, the 2point4trek page has been a way for her to mark her travelling memories.
She says: ‘I’ve always been interested in travel blogs but mostly we wanted a record of our travels that we can look back on in later years – plus it’s something other families can look through for advice or inspiration.’
As well as a virtual scrapbook, the page has also served as – wait for it – a coffee machine.
Helen says: ‘Our friend Roy Charles said that friends and family may want to donate money to keep us travelling and that he’d seen a page called Buy Me a Coffee, which we could put on our website.
‘People can donate $2 to us, the equivalent of the price of a coffee, to keep us going in more ways than one.’
With another nine months of globetrotting ahead of them, Helen and Jamie will need all the caffeine they can get. That is one New Year’s resolution they won’t be making – or breaking – in 2016 as they continue their adventure of a lifetime.