No going back - a long life on the road

Deneice Arthurton

On her death bed Deneice made a vow to take a year off and travel. Little did she know she would still be travelling eight years later.


In 2002 my life changed. It was the year I feebly cheered on the high speed efforts of my hospital gurney pushers as the Grim Reaper gave chase.

Oddly enough it wasn't the prospect of death which terrified me it was simply this – I wasn't done yet.

Departure timeDesperately seeking more time

My life was rich with gifts some people never get to hold, even for a second. i had a wonderful husband, Chris, a loving family, a much-loved, vocational career as a gymnastics coach, and a pretty little cottage in the Norfolk countryside; but in my heart were dreams I hadn't dare explore.

Fearful, I prayed hard to the gods of second chances, promising if I survived this things would change. I would make every minute of every day of my life count for something.

Luckily for me the Grim Reaper ran out of puff and the gods of second chances still had some vacant spots that day. As I awoke from my emergency surgery, I was convnced 'saved' was stamped on my mortal records.

From dream to nightmare

Coming face to face with your own mortality turns everything on its head. All that was once important ceases to have any significance, as suddenly all the values and goals you have hold dear, all your life, crumble to dust to be replaced with urgent desires.

A feeling that is highly disorientating and excitingly liberating. But I had litte time to dwell on dreams, I had a business to run and 200 children to teach.

A year before, my business, Breckland Forest Gymnastics Club realised its dream, moving into its own premises. The result of working through several nights along with an incredible band of parents, converting an industrial unit.

Then one morning, the pain I had been ignoring for a while, refused to go away. The thought crossed my mind that I might be miscarrying. Sadly, I was on the right lines, it turned out my pregnancy was ectopic – considered life threatening at eight weeks and I was 10 weeks, thus my race with the Grim Reaper.

Time for a radical change

After the surgery, Chris and I lost no time in putting my almost-deathbed vow into practice.

We sold our house, gave away my business and all of our possessions retaining only that which could fit inside the camper-van we had bought and which would be home on every return to England.

It was time to go adventuring and explore the world. But once again, before we set off I had another ectopic pregnancy and no chance of any future pregnancies.

Bewildered friends and relatives gathered around us, exchanging concerned glances that said, "They'll get over it," as we gave away our furniture, TVs, other electrical goods and clothes. We put items that would be too expensive to replace into storage for a year, just in case.

Many put our 'madness' down to overwhelming grief at the childless future we now faced.

Then there was the heartbreaking decision to let go of our respective vocational careers.

I had worked hard for years to build my Gymnastics business, and success was around the corner. And Chris had finally landed the long term contract as conservation warden he'd been dreaming of.

The only way for I could feel right with myself and my decision, I viewed as an abandonment of people who loved and believed in me, was to give away my beloved gym club to someone whose work ethos was the same as mine.

The result, my fifteen minutes of fame as local TV and radio stations got hold of my story - that of a woman giving away her£50,000 business.

Looking back the overall picture was one of a half-crazed woman shrouded in grief, making mad decisions.

Chris and I had no idea whether the life we were envisaging for ourselves would work. What if we struggled to be around each other 24 hours a day? What if travelling didn't suit us? What if we got home sick?

Anywhere and everywhere

Initially our travelling funds came from the sale of our cottage, which meant we could start our travels anywhere. Chris and I had never had much money in our lives, vocational careers tend to be poorly paid, so faced with such vastness we took a pin and with eyes closed stabbed it into a map of the world.

The pin made a little hole in New Zealand, so we tucked our surf boards under our arms and feigning nonchalance, but secretly terrified, set off to conquer the world.

Deneice and Chris in the New Zealand home

Picture above: Deneice and Chris in their New Zealand 'home.

Next month Deneice shares her experiences from eight years on the road with husband Chris. If you can't wait, you can visit Deneice's-blog to read about her travels around New Zealand.

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