By Rebekah Scanlan
A single mum is travelling the world with her nine-year-old TWINS on just SIXTY POUNDS a day, after booking the trip on a ‘whim’ when she was diagnosed with MS.
Lara Flanagan, 45, from Tenterfield, in rural NSW, blew her $6,000 (3,500 GBP) savings on round the world tickets for her, and kids, Archie and Larissa, then sold their belongings – including her business – to fund their backpacking adventures.
After gaining control of the condition, which had left her with debilitating fatigue and nerve pain, through special wholefood diet, Lara decided ‘life was too short’ and booked the spur of the moment trip.
The trio have spent the last nine months in the US, Costa Rica and Italy, living off a tight budget and finding cost-effective ways to travelling, such as house-sitting and work exchange programs.
But while Lara admits she doesn’t get much ‘adult conversation these days’ she thinks their impulsive escapades are the best thing they’ve ever done.
She said: “Being diagnosed with MS at just 41 was a real shocker.
“I’d not long been single and was busy trying to start a new life for me and the kids.
“To not be well physically and told I might end up in a wheelchair, was devastating.
“After a tough 12 months, I got the condition under control and realised life was too short. I wanted us to live and share something amazing together.”
She added: “I’d travelled overseas when I was younger and I knew that experience was what I wanted more of for us.
“Still, I never imagined we’d end up backpacking around the world.
“I’d been on the phone to a travel agent discussing a short holiday, when she mentioned there was a sale on round the world tickets.
“I booked them on a complete whim and didn’t sleep for two days after.
“We left a few months later and haven’t looked back since. This has been the most enriching experience for us all.”
Since departing in July 2016, Lara, has been trying to give Archie and Larissa, a genuine experience of each country they visit.
She said: “We’re living off just $100’s a day, which when I think about, is amazing.
“Back in Australia, you’d struggle to survive on that but we’re managing fine, even with my special dietary needs.
“Before we left, I sold of most of what we owned, including my car.
“I even sold my cake making business as I just didn’t feel connected to it anymore. It’s definitely been worth it.
“Now everything we own fits into our backpacks and we find ways to live cheaply such as house sitting. It’s been really liberating. ”
Despite loving the traveller life, Lara is the first to admit that the kids initially struggled with it.
She said: “I don’t think they really understood the enormity of what we were doing.
“Our first day, our flight was diverted to Washington instead of landing in Dallas, and we ended up spending the night in a train station.
“Larissa was in tears, asking me what I’d done.
“Thankfully, things have picked up since then and we’ve found our rhythm.
“We prefer to really immerse ourselves in the local culture and don’t do a lot of tradition sight-seeing.
“Most days, we go for long walks and get lost exploring the area we’re in.
“I’m always trailing behind the kids and even joke that wherever my twins go, I’ll follow them.”
The sentiment even inspired a touching series of photos, documenting their adventures, with Lara seeing the world from behind her two kids.
She said: “The photos are a really lovely way of capturing our travels.
“I just love looking at the world with my two babies in it. It seems really fitting to me.”
While they’ve been exploring the world, the kids have been enrolled in a distance learning program, but they will eventually have to return to school.
Lara said: “I’ll be really sad when our adventure comes to an end, but I know they’ll have a lifetime of memories.
“They’ve learnt so much about life at such a young age because of what we’ve been doing this last year.
“I think they’ll be stronger, well rounded kids because of this experience as they’ve been exposed to so many challenges and cultures.
“We’re heading to Thailand and Cambodia soon and then we have to head back to Australia.”
She added: “I don’t think this will be the last of our travels.
“Larissa and Archie are already trying to convince me to buy a campervan once we’re home so we can travel Australia.
“I’ve spent $32,000 on our globetrotting adventures so far, but I think it’s been worth every cent.
“We’re so much happier living life like this.”
Where they’ve travelled:
July 16 – Providence Rhode Island, where they went to baseball and visited Narragansett Bay.
Aug 16 – House sat in New York, visited Statue of Liberty, got lost in Central Park, and explored Highline and Greenwich Village.
Sep 16 – Stayed with friends in Princeton, New Jersey and Washington D.C.
Mid September – Travelled to San Jose, Costa Rica
Stayed in Monkey Beach cabins in Cabuya where they lived very simply and visited the isle of the dead
October – December – Stayed in Atenas, where they volunteered at a local community centre teaching English to young kids
December 16 – went back to the US for winter where highlights included trip NYC to go ice-skating and see Christmas decorations and experiencing snow.
January 21st 2017 – They took part in the International Women’s March
Jan 23rd left US for Italy, first stop Rome – where they visited the Colosseumn, Roman Steps, St Peter’s and ate pizza and pasta
Feb – Naples, Matera, Lecce, Gallipoli, exploring Lecce old town, Amalfi Coast and Florence.
March – now Uzzano, Tuscany, Italy. Where they are doing a WorkExchange, working with a family to teach English conversation practice for the kids.
23rd April – 23rd May – Thailand
23rd May – 22nd June – Cambodia
22nd June – 22nd July – Thailand again