Sarah Drummond has more stamps in her passport than most people. Born in New York and raised in Southeast Asia (thanks to her father's job), the 28-year-old knew her way around dozens of international airports before she knew long division.
On her third visit to New Zealand, in 2008, she fell in love with Josh Drummond (now 31), a Temuka-born builder. Fast-forward five years and the couple were based in South Canterbury, raising daughter Lena, paying a mortgage and, they say, in "survival mode".
"We were living pay cheque to pay cheque, working our asses off to pay the bills and constantly exhausted," says Sarah. "We knew we were privileged to have a roof over our heads and food on the table but we weren't moving forward at all. We knew we had to make a big change in order to live the life we wanted."
Naturally, the adventure-loving couple's minds went to travel. And not just a two-week holiday. "We wanted to travel long-term and be thrown outside our comfort zone, for our daughter to see and experience different cultures, languages and people," says Josh.
The Drummonds are part of a growing number of New Zealanders following the ultimate dream of chucking in the 9-to-5 to travel overseas for an extended period.
Burned-out by long hours and long commutes, they're giving work pressures, exhaustion and suburbia the middle finger as they skip off into the sunset.
Sarah hadn't seen her family for two years, so they decided to spend a month driving a campervan though US national parks, starting in LA and finishing in New York, before spending a month doing the same in the UK. When Canvas caught up with them, they were house-sitting in Spain for a month, before ticking off Scandinavia, Slovenia, Croatia, Italy and, eventually, Asia.
The couple financed their eight-month adventure by sub-dividing their Timaru section and building a smaller two-bedroom house, into which they moved after selling the original house.
Time was on their side regarding their daughter's education, as Lena turned 5 just after the family left New Zealand in April. They decided to "world school" her.
"Lena has learned so much more than we could ever have imagined," says Sarah. "At every national park we've been to she's learned about the local flora and fauna and how to respect the world around her. We also encourage her to read and do maths, and she's learning Spanish."
Exciting experiences aside, Josh says opting out of the rat race for a year has allowed the family to connect with each other and the people they've met along the way. It's also helped them to embrace a more minimalist lifestyle, something they started doing before they left New Zealand.
"At home we got rid of everything that didn't have a purpose or wasn't a necessity, which felt great," he says. "We've taken that to the next level on our travels, and realise that all we need we can fit into our backpacks."
In fact, the couple's escape has given them a vision of how they want their future to look. "We may need to come back to our home base to work and get back into the daily grind so we can save for the next great adventure, but we're hoping to eventually work digitally so we can travel for even longer," says Sarah. "Our goal is never be scared to change our lives if we get stuck in a rut."
WHEN PEOPLE ask Kim Black where she's been for the last eight months, the 34-year-old asks if they want the long or the short answer.
Since leaving New Zealand in January, Kim, her husband Paul and their two children, James, 10, and Emma, 7, have visited 12 countries, from Borneo to Italy. They've eaten wild cherries in France, fried crickets in Cambodia and salted cod in Portugal. They've slept in more than 60 hotels, Airbnbs and campsites, even an ancient monastery.
For the Blacks, it started with the realisation they were driving more than 1100km a week, Kim commuting from their Upper Hutt home to her central Wellington job as Funding Manager for Parents Centre New Zealand, Paul to his quantity surveyor role on the roading developments north of the capital.
"I was spending two hours a day in traffic, and it was more like three hours for Paul," says Kim via Skype. Over her left shoulder, Italy's Lake Garda glitters in the late summer sunshine.
"We were earning a good income but our after-school costs were significant, although sometimes we had part-time au pairs, which gave us more flexibility. We often wondered why we were working so hard to pay other people to look after our kids."
Although the couple counted their blessings — a new house, trips back to the UK to see Paul's family every few years — they weren't happy.
"We realised if we didn't make a change, we would continue in the same way, at least until the kids left home. We were exhausted and it wasn't a sustainable lifestyle."
Having met at a backpackers' hostel in Melbourne, the couple love to travel and longed for a holiday that wasn't shoehorned into two weeks. They figured if they sold their house, they could spend a year or so travelling.
"We had significant equity in our house that we felt we could use a portion of, with enough left over for a deposit when we eventually come home. We could have rented it out but this change was about getting out of a rut and having a house to come back to wouldn't have given us the push to make a complete lifestyle change. We wanted to be free of financial commitments to give us a total break from our old life."
The family left New Zealand early this year, spending three and a half months in Asia, travelling through Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Borneo, Bali, Malaysia and Singapore. Next stop was the UK, where they bought a car. They have since driven through Spain, Portugal, Italy and France.
DAYS ON the road follow a similar pattern: a leisurely breakfast followed by sightseeing, a siesta during the hottest part of the day, school work, a swim and dinner. The couple's desire for flexibility means they swerved around Correspondence School and online learning programmes for the children in favour of "world schooling", like the Drummonds.
"We believe the world is our children's classroom, that they learn from the places we visit and the people we meet. We've deliberately picked locations we can learn from," says Kim.
The kids also have maths, science and English workbooks and do homework every day.
"We don't believe our kids will be behind when they're back in the school system, as we've kept up their studies. Travel has also been fantastic for exposing them to history and the arts, as well as all kinds of people, cultures and languages, which they've quickly picked up."
Kim isn't sure when they'll be back in New Zealand but says the odd bouts of homesickness, illness and family friction aside, the journey has been overwhelmingly positive. "We hope the kids have learned to want less stuff and to value experiences over possessions. We've met so many incredible people and seen so many amazing things, we have absolutely no regrets."
IT'S A chilly 8C in Auckland but Pip Patterson is flicking through photos of her family — husband Chris and sons Ty, 12, and Jake, 11 — surfing in Costa Rica. "What I wouldn't give for some of that sunshine now," she laughs.
Fatigued by the pressures of running a law firm (Chris) and losing both parents in quick succession (Pip), last December the family rented out their Grey Lynn house and moved to the tiny town of Santa Teresa, in southern Costa Rica, for 13 weeks.
"We'd seen a documentary a few years ago about a career-driven person who, instead of waiting until retirement to explore the world, would work three years then take a year off," says Pip, who left the wine industry in 2014 to nurse her dying mother.
"That sowed the seed for our adventure, but Chris wanted to be totally off-grid, where he couldn't be contacted by phone or email so he could focus on why he was escaping — to live life in the moment, research a novel he's always wanted to write and experience what a different culture could bring to our lives."
The only fly in the ointment was Chris' legal practice, which he'd never been away from longer than two weeks. But preparing staff and clients before he left worked well.
"Not having any income for 13 weeks also meant we had to rent out our house and find a home for our dog Lexie, who ended up going to Central Otago to stay with Chris' dad. She spent her days chasing rabbits and having a great time."
Costa Rica fitted the couple's desire for a developing country that was safe, as well as having an interesting history and natural landscape — and good surf.
They found a house to rent and spent their days surfing, with Pip taking up yoga, and Chris working on his book and wildlife photography. Their son Ty joined the local football club, so the family often travelled with him to games.
"We also did a lot of exploring, walking in national parks and animal-spotting, including seeing toucans and sloths in their natural habitat. We off-roaded in the quad bikes we used to get around, visited wildlife refuges and practised Spanish with the many friends we made."
Because they returned in mid-March, their sons missed only six weeks of school and neither has had trouble catching up. "We discussed it with their schools before we left and they were supportive of the global learning the boys would do on the road."
Despite the 34C temperatures, a few close encounters with scorpions and a higher-than-expected cost of living, which meant they had to watch their budget closely, the family had an incredible experience, one that has rubbed off on them.
"We were both tired and stressed before we left, but this experience taught us that life is to be lived and work is a means to live, not the other way around. We've already started planning a trip back to Costa Rica next year, and maybe a six to eight week stint in Africa the year after."