30-something digital director Matt Risley explains why – even though he’s now in a position to have kids – he’s pausing parental responsibility for now, to make travel his priority
Not to get all ‘Richard Curtis Movie’ about it, but there are certain life markers we can all relate to.
The first time you fall in love, the first time you fail hard, the first time you achieve more than you ever thought possible. But while there are universal emotional moments that everyone will experience, there are a host of moments you’re expected to experience, including (but not limited to) getting a ‘proper’ job, buying a house, getting married, and – top of the pressure-y list – having children.
Yet as I approached my 30th birthday, I realised I was nowhere close. A writer (sorry, Mum and Dad), who’d just been made redundant, and whose long-term relationship had broken up, I was a human car crash.
Fast-forward five years later, and while most of the above has righted course, and I’m now in a position to have kids, I’m no closer to actually doing so.
Travelling has played a big part in my desire to press pause on life’s conventional path, and right now I couldn’t be happier. To quote the Fresh Prince, ‘here is a story all about how my life got flipped-turned upside down’…
Back during redundancy-break-up-gate, I had a real ‘when life gives you lemons’ decision to make. While I didn’t quite go ‘full Beyonce’, my lemonade moment came in the simple choice to take stock of the change, and head off travelling on a solo adventure that would give me space, time, and enough new experiences to look at my life anew.
Read more: The truth about being single in your 40s
Those two months taught me so much about myself, and most importantly, the things that make me happy.
Take away the stresses of societal expectation, what your peers are up to (or, more specifically, the hilariously curated life everyone chooses to show on their social media), what your family think is best for you, and professional FOMO, and then replace them with fascinating new friends, experiences that’ll stay with you for a lifetime, laughter-filled spontaneity, and dazzling cultures, sounds, smells and sights you never thought possible, and everything starts to refocus.
I’m not going to lie – returning to ‘normal’ life was a tad discombobulating. But by holding onto the memories of my adventures, I started to care less about the things I’d stressed so much about in the past.
Over the last few years, over half of my close friendship group have had children. While everyone’s experience is different, general rule of thumb is that those who truly wanted kids for their own personal reasons are happier than those who did so because they felt it was the right thing to do.
There’s value in everything, and the reality is that human nature is inherently grass is always greener, no matter your situation. My ‘settled’ friends are envious of my travels, while I can feel envious of the love they have for their kids.
But then that’s the other thing no-one really talks about – I may not have had kids by the age of 34, but I still have all the time in the world. I’m very aware that my biological clock may not be ticking as much as a woman’s, but we’re lucky enough to live in a world where we all have options beyond the standard pregnancy route.
If your core focus is raising a child and giving them a good, happy life, then adoption, IVF and fostering are all equally as valid. I met one woman travelling who was in her early 50s, single, and about to embark on IVF treatment as soon as she returned home. She’s living her life on her own terms, and choosing a path that works for her. And she’s all the happier for it.
Each time I travel and meet people like her, and experience things outside of my norm, my horizons broaden a little, and along with them, the expectations I put upon my own life.
Pressing pause on having kids so you can travel isn’t saying ‘never’. It’s just saying that right now I’d prefer to spend my downtime jumping out of planes, swimming with sharks, drinking margaritas as the sun sets, meeting people from different cultures, and leaping into every life opportunity with none of the parental responsibility.
All life experiences that I think will make me a more cultured, empathetic, happy, and wise parent than I would’ve been five years ago. Well, that is, if I actually have kids.
Live for travel with these three brilliant adventures
Tube down Palomino River in Colombia
… in the depths of the jungle wilderness. Plus, discover Medellín, “city of eternal spring”, kayak across a reservoir and learn to salsa over rum-tasting in Cartagena.
Join a walking safari in Tanzania
Witness uninterrupted views of the wildebeest migration on Flash Pack’s Tanzania adventure
Spot Africa’s wealth of wildlife up close with a dawn bush walk across the open Savannah and see the impressive wildebeest migration. Follow up with bucket-list game drives and a dreamy day’s sailing around the island of Zanzibar, and you’ll be set for life.
Island-hop the Philippines beaches
Spend two days glamping on a secret cove in the Bacuit Archipelago, with a private chef and beach barbecue at the ready. Then, quad-bike your way across the Chocolate Hills and go paddle-boarding down Loboc River.