Wanderlust / wɒndəˌlʌst / – noun, the desire to travel far away and to many different places - and something which links our family inextricably.
Since the arrival of Zeb our eldest son in May 2016, we’ve continued our passion for exploration unabated. A week in France at 6 weeks, a tenth of his life under canvas by 10, sampling pinxtos in San Sebastian at 6 months and spending his first Christmas on the beach in Cape Verde. We projected the optimistic air of carefree singletons - until three weeks island hopping around Croatia with a 1 year old almost broke us. Zeb managed a couple more lazy weekends in San Sebastian and Jerez, Christmas in La Palma before his brother Oz arrived in July 2018. We decided we'd learnt from the first time thus Oz only made it to Menorca at 8 weeks. Together the boys have since racked up trips to Tarifa, Tangiers, the Western Algarve, a month in Fuerteventura (best not spoken about) and Boa Vista, amongst numerous other gallivanting trips clearly intended to satiate some sort of parental wanderlust.
Discombobulate / dɪskəmˈbɒbjʊˌleɪt / verb, to confuse, or disconcert, upset, frustrate - and possibly the word of 2020.
In February as the UK faced an emerging virus it knew little about, Katherine was busy managing her cluster of speech therapists at Guys and St Thomas’, whilst I grappled with whether to proceed with our education charity’s showcase event scheduled to take place in London's Olympic Park on Friday 27th March. On 6th March, reluctantly I took the decision to abandon the event and on 23rd March Boris Johnson imposed the most severe national restrictions since the Second World War.
For the next few weeks we occupied a life which felt somewhere between the inside pages of a dystopian novel and a film set in the deserted streets and parks of a post-Apocalyptic London. Like everyone we muddled through, distracting ourselves from the emotional rollercoaster by keeping busy. I led a national campaign lobbying government to amend its furlough scheme to better serve charities whilst Katherine trained to be redeployed into hospital should things worsen. Days became a constant juggle keeping two under 4s occupied whilst maintaining some semblance of home working - punctuated by daily coronavirus news briefings from Number 10 which painted a bleak, confused, and oftentimes frightening picture. As each day passed we became increasingly disheartened - we felt like poor parents, bad managers and even worse partners. The lack of exercise coupled with a deteriorating diet (dubbed the lockdown look) left us appearing and feeling pretty rubbish.
There were of course moments of sunshine, quite literally. The weather was second to none and we constantly gave thanks for our little patch of green in Brockley which transformed seamlessly into sporting arena, theme park, campsite, music festival, outdoor office, beach, BBQ zone several times a week as dictated by the kids. On the last Sunday in April, perhaps to avoid the reset of the garden from campsite to aqua park for the third time, I ventured into a deserted London to collect the post, bike, and check the charity’s premises.
The dawn of a Smug new brand
Zeb’s birthday was the following week and he’d asked in that heartbreakingly innocent way which only kids do - whether he’d be having a party and if he'd see his friends from nursery again because of the virus. This made us sad, but it also made Ed determined to make the ‘new norm’ less intimidating for little people. I’m not sure exactly what happened on that journey to London, but Ed came back buzzing, incoherent and determined to launch some sort of social enterprise which made wearing face coverings fun. It was Sunday 26th April. On the 4th May 2020, Zeb turned four (with no friends present) and Smug was born.
Smug kept us busy, along with our day jobs and the boys who were at home 24/7. Looking back it actually kept us sane - giving us routine, focus and it was fun. Perhaps it was this renewed sense of purpose and energy that led us to talking more about what we valued in life, what we wanted for each other and our family. Over many late nights, often with a glass of wine, we revisited excitedly conversations about affecting positive life changes. These seemed to gravitate around foreign lands, near to water, in a climate which would expose the boys to different cultures, food, language and experiences. We’d always said we would spend a period overseas before secondary school and had been exploring locations which might be viable but never had any formal criteria. Now we think about it, the things that bubbled to the surface as being important were finding a place where:
The boys could be outdoors and free – yes Covid and lockdown emphasized the importance of this, but for many years Ed and I had watched with mild envy as children ran freely across the plazas of Spain, the traffic-free streets of San Sebastian, the beaches of Portugal, in ways we just couldn’t mirror in London
We would be exposed to new language – both to stretch ourselves as adults and build early linguistic confidence in the boys
Our lifestyle would be simpler – we realized in London how fortunate we are but how we also accumulate a lot of ‘clutter’ in our lives - both physical and mental which is just noise
We would appreciate our surroundings – what it means to have food, water, shelter, play, relationships - valuing the things that matter most
We could work and sustain ourselves – Covid afforded opportunities related to normalisation of remote working, use of technology - but we still needed to be productive
Adventure and experiences could collide – unleashing that wonderful sense of curiosity and exploration innate in all children, satiating our wanderlust - and critically Ed’s need to windsurf, kite, fish and do anything aquatic.
For us, one place ticked all these boxes and we kept circling back to it, night after night. Cabo Verde. An archipelago of ten volcanic islands, situated 600km off the coast of Senegal, 1500km south of the Canary Islands. Uninhabited until discovered by the Portuguese in the 15th Century and now home to just over half a million of the most vibrant souls on the planet. Its strategic location mid-Atlantic has placed Cape Verde on the map of many an intrepid traveller - colonized by the Portuguese, ravaged by privateers and pirates, a gateway for African slave traders. Cape Verde’s rich and colourful history gives rise today to one of the most developed and democratic nations in Africa. A place which we will call home for the next year.
Blog /blɒɡ/ noun a regularly updated website typically run by an individual or small group.
We’re not writing this to create FOMO, travel envy or death by photo. If you want that, head to Instagram. This is for Zeb and Oz. Far more than words and images, this will be a repository of experiences and memories which they create and own.
Morabeza / mɒrəbeɪzə / adjective a Creole word with no direct translation to Portuguese or English. It simply characterises the essence of being Cape Verdean - namely an open spirit, welcoming, hospitable, relaxed.
Morabeza from Cape Verde - Ed, Katherine, Zeb and Oz.