Colin Poma-Young sold his successful York bakery, house and car to go travelling to Malaysia with his young family. Catherine Scott reports.
Selling your business, house and car to go travelling may sound quite extreme but when you also have two small children the decision sounds even more crazy.
Well that is exactly what Colin Poma-Young and his wife Heidi have done. They are currently travelling Malaysia with their two children Alda, five, and Hamish who will be three on Monday.
“Heidi and I have always loved travelling and we were determined to continue our passion for it even though the children had come along,” explains Colin. “We didn’t want to wait until they were older and we didn’t want having young children stopping us from doing it. Hamish may be a bit young to remember it, but Alda will remember the experience and it is the first of many adventures we have planned as a family.”
Alda is home educated – or ‘world educated’ as Colin refers to it, and so he believes that the experiences both children are getting on their travels far outweighs anything they may be missing in mainstream education.
“We decided a couple of years ago that we were keen on home education. We went to look at series of school and found two or three possible options we would be happy with but when we sat down and weighed everything up for her we decided that home education was the best option at the moment. Travelling is a great education and we are part of the World School Movement.”
The ‘world schooling’ phenomenon is driven by a growing number of parents with a desire to spend a greater amount of time with their children, escape the pressures of work and discover new cultures and lifestyles.
“However it does dawn on me sometimes that I think she is having this amazing time being in Malaysia, but for her it is just running around a park,” admits Colin who, with wife Heidi, set up Dough, the popular Italian-style bakery in Easingwold and York from scratch, after a time travelling in Italy.
They moved to Yorkshire from Glasgow in 2010, both to study for a Masters – his in ecological economics and hers in health psychology. They sold the Easingwold shop in 2015 and in September last year, decided to go on the road.
“We always knew that we wanted to do a ‘big trip’ ,” says Colin.
“But we had to decide where to go. We love Asia and we wanted somewhere that was truly multi-ethnic.”
The next decision was it had to be somewhere where the sun was shining the majority of the time and the cost of living was cheap. They toyed with Mexico, but Malaysia won out.
“I’m a planner,” admits Colin. “I don’t like to leave the house without knowing exactly what I am doing.
“I like an itinerary, but my wife is very different – but together we form quite a good balance.”
And so six weeks ago the Poma-Youngs left their comfortable lifestyle behind and set off on an adventure of a lifetime. They have spent the last six weeks travelling in Malaysia and have now moved onto the island of Borneo where they will spend three weeks before heading to Singapore for nine days and then home.
But this is no five-star tourist holiday. The family have been using local buses and coaches to get around, although this in itself has its own challenges when travelling with small children.
“They are a lot more relaxed when it comes to things such as car seats,” says Colin. “It is just a different culture to ours and that has been a bit of challenge.”
The heat is another aspect that they are all coming to terms with.
“It has been up to 37 degrees in the shade with high humidity and we are doing a lot of walking, although I do sometimes take Hamish on my back and we do have a pushchair. That is quite hard on the children, who get tired quite easily. We are having to learn to take things steady and understand when they get a bit crotchety that they are tired or hungry.”
But food is another challenge.
“We haven’t got the perfect children who will eat a big plate of salad, but we are lucky that both like rice and noodles and they are adapting to the change in diet quite well. In fact my daughter is quite happy having noodles for breakfast,” says Colin.
Another area of concern when travelling far afield with children as young as two has to be what happens if they fall ill.
“Healthcare was something we really did look at and is another reason why we chose Malaysia for our first trip. It has relatively low rates of malaria and has pretty good healthcare.
“We are very careful about where we go and we don’t take any risks. People did say ‘what about terrorism?’, but if you look on the Foreign Office website it says an attack is imminent here, so really you just have to dig a bit deeper and be careful.
“The children do get a lot of attention but it has all been positive and none of it threatening in the least, although they are getting really fed up with people wanting to take photos with them, although not everyone takes no for an answer.”
And for Colin it is much more than just an extended holiday.
“We are sure this is going to be the first of many extended trips, but more than that it will give us time to look at our options and see if we can develop a career.” Colin is writing a blog of the family’s adventures at www.ourtinycorner.com
He says they do intend to return to Yorkshire on August 16, although if an opportunity arose during their trip their plans could change.
And they are already planning their next big family adventure.
“My family do think we are slightly mad – it did come as a bit of a shock to them, but not a surprise,” says Colin.
Kuala Lumpur, seeing the Petronas towers, enjoying the big city, walking with monkeys, and getting over the jetlag and acclimatising to the heat.
Then south to Malacca, a historic city with a famous street market.
Crossing the country all the way over to the east coast to Cherating, a sleepy beach village, for two weeks.
Kuala Terengganu to see the street art and get to grips with the food of Chinatown.
The Perhentian islands, with their crystal-clear water and coral beaches.
Kota Bharu, ‘the first disappointing place, but one of the main reasons we came’.
Kuching, on Borneo.