29 Jun Mum quits job to travel Europe – now she lives mortgage-fre…
A family who quit the city life to travel the world have revealed they now make thousands from their campervan – and have never been happier.
Young mum, Jennifer Constant, was inspired to give up her day job in 2016, after the birth of her son and the Brexit referendum.
The 33-year-old said she and partner, Terry, who worked in logistics at the time, felt inspired by the idea of moving away in search of more family time, which their 9-5 jobs made difficult.
With their toddler, Ethan, in tow, they sold their £310,000 four-bedroom Bristol home, packed everything into bags, and hit the road.
Jennifer, a former fundraising director, now says she’s earning double than she previously did – thanks to an idea she founded from her motor home.
Jennifer Claire Media is a digital marketing agency for wedding professionals.
Along with her three other businesses, it’s now set to hit a six figure turnover and has more than doubled her previous salary.
The entrepreneur, who is currently juggling housesitting with staying with friends and family and has not paid rent for two years, said: “Sometimes I have to look back and pinch myself. I can’t believe what an amazing adventure this has all been.”
“We have faced a little criticism, with people saying we’d come home broke or burn through our savings, so I was determined to make my business a success.
“We’re also often asked what the point in taking Ethan travelling while he’s too young to remember is – but we remember and that’s important, too.
“We remember him taking his first steps in Portugal and saying his first word – ‘wow’ – as he looked at a sand dune in France.”
After meeting as students at the University of Portsmouth in 2003, Jennifer and Terry bonded over their love of travel – embarking on a huge backpacking adventure around 36 countries when they graduated.
Once back in the UK, they married and settled into their respective jobs, working hard to save for a house.
“We both worked really long hours,” said Jennifer. “I’d be up and down on trains from Bristol to London every week and Terry was out most of the day.
“Everything changed when we had Ethan in November 2015, though. We weren’t single people anymore. We were a family.”
Jennifer took maternity leave when Ethan was born, but could not go back to work on a part-time basis, so found she had to pay hefty nursery fees once she and Terry were back in full-time employment.
She continued: “We were paying almost £1,000 a month in fees, and Ethan was in nursery from 8am to 6pm, which was just horrible.
“From the outside, our lives were perfect. We had great jobs, a beautiful house and lived in a really cool city – but inwardly, something just wasn’t working.
“We were barely seeing each other, and it felt like we worked and worked just to pay the bills.
“Then, one day in 2016, I turned to Terry and said, ‘What are we doing?’”
Spurred on by the Brexit referendum to scope out potential places in Europe to one day live, Terry and Jennifer decided “virtually overnight” to completely transform their lives.
Putting their house on the market, they sold it almost immediately, swapping it for a motorhome they bought at a convention in Norfolk.
“Though we took a lot with us on our travels, we sold a great deal of possessions too – basically everything except keepsakes and memorabilia,” Jennifer continued. “The way we looked at it, it was just stuff. We could rebuy anything we missed as we went.”
Hitting the road in January 2017, Jennifer, Terry and Ethan, who was then just one, began in Spain, before travelling through Portugal, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, Slovenia and Italy.
Mostly “wild camping” – stopping anywhere they liked the look of rather than sticking to ready-made sites – they were spending around £600 a month on petrol and food.
While it was far less than they had needed to live in a house, Jennifer still worried about blowing all their savings, so began thinking of ways she could use her skills to become an entrepreneur and start her own business.
A new venture
Having previously worked as a celebrant – someone who performs a ceremony – her first venture was to set up The Celebrant Directory.
The idea was for it to be a one-stop shop for ideas, inspiration and information about celebrants available to perform various different types of ceremony.
“There was nothing out there that was dedicated to marketing celebrants and helping people get a really personalised ceremony,” she said. “I pretty much founded The Celebrant Directory in libraries across Europe, as we travelled.”
Successful enough to secure the family a steady stream of income, Jennifer then moved on to launching an entire digital marketing agency.
Using WiFi where available, internet cafes, libraries and a dongle she bought to provide internet to the van, she worked on her business venture in the evenings while Ethan slept, before taking off for another day of adventure in the morning.
“I still wanted to have adventures and not to get too bogged down by work,” she said. “Van life doesn’t always make things easy, though.
“I remember once I blew my Mac charger, so had to get one posted to an Air B&B and go and pick it up, as there was no other way of getting it to us while we were on the road.”
As well as wild camping, the free-spirited family also started house-sitting, blogging about their adventures as they went at Travel As They Grow, which amassed two and a half thousand followers.
Jennifer added: “I’d recommend anybody do it, as an amazing way of travelling for free.
“We stayed in incredible places. Last Christmas was spent in a nine-bedroom…