We speak to the mother of four about Instagram fame, wanderlust and living a more simple life
It’s a warm, early summer’s day in London when I arrive at Courtney Adamo’s house for our cover shoot. Even though it’s only mid-morning, outside the air is already thick, the humidity wrapping the city streets like a damp blanket. However inside the terrace house, which Courtney, her husband Michael, and their brood of four (Quin, 10, Easton, 8, Ivy, 6 and Marlow, 2) currently call home, all is cool and calm. The Primrose Hill location is only a temporary residence, but it is airy and inviting – leafy house plants and woven baskets piled with children’s toys fill the corners of the white rooms, while ceramics and cushions in earthy tones are scattered stylish about. Soon though all these things will be packed up, given away or put into storage because Courtney and her family are leaving London. The 34-year-old co-founder of the popular children’s shopping portal Babyccino Kids and her husband are embarking on a global adventure with their children, a journey that will take them in a giant loop across the world.
It’s a trip Courtney has always wanted to make. “When I was quite young the family living next door to my grandparents did it. They had three girls, and they came back with the most incredible stories and photos. I have always admired them for doing that – you know [we grew up in] small town America where no one ever leaves the state let alone country! So it’s always been at the back of my head,” she explains. However Michael (who was also born and raised in the US) took some convincing, in fact it took him twelve years to come around to the idea. “Last year we were lying in bed having the same conversation we’ve had a thousand times before. Then he just looks at me and says ‘You’re right, let’s go travel the world for a year’. I literally had to turn the lights on and was like ‘Are you serious? Look me in the eye! I’m not letting you get off the hook. Shake my hand! Sign this!’ she exclaims.
You can forgive him for being hesitant. To make the trip possible they have had to sell their house, he has quit his job, and they have had to take their children out of school for a year. However for Courtney, the sacrifices they are making to enable their trip will be more than worth it. “I’m just so excited to slow down and spend time with my kids. Time when I’m not rushing them and I can really listen – not just nod my head and walk into the other room – but ask them a question and continue to encourage them to engage with me. Sometimes I feel that life is so busy we’re forgetting to really enjoy it. This is your one life you get, it goes so quickly.”
They start their trip in South America, journey to New Zealand and Australia before flying to Asia, then travel back to Europe for a road trip across the continent. The grand scale of their travels is enough to spark curiosity, but that fact that is being undertaken by a clan who has been labelled by the press as “Britain’s most stylish family”, has created interest to the level that the announcement of their trip was covered across several pages of a national broadsheet.
It’s easy to see why the public are so enamoured with Courtney and her family. Scroll through her Instagram account (@courtneyadamo) and you’ll find snap after beautiful snap of her impossibly adorable children dressed in chic matching outfits, enjoying ice-creams, making pancakes or running through fields of flowers in London parks. And then there’s Courtney herself, a sweet, doe-eyed beauty with a relaxed, bohemian style, who is so fresh-faced it’s hard to believe she is a mother of four.
It’s an idyllic depiction of family life which has developed a huge audience (115,000 Instagram followers and counting). “It really started as a way of sharing photos with my family and being able to see their photos as well and it still is that. When I get comments from my family those are my favourite – that’s why I still do it. But obviously now it’s turned into more than that; it’s a tool for our business. And it’s been really great for me professionally.” However with admirers come detractors, as Courtney experienced when her account was disabled by Instagram last year after she posted a picture of her daughter Marlow pulling up her shirt, exposing her bare belly. The storm of publicity that followed (which involved a successful campaign to reinstate her account) still makes her visibly cringe.
“I really felt so exposed because I didn’t choose to be this Instagram campaigner, and even now sometimes I’ll go to events and they will introduce people and even with all the success that I’ve had with my business, I’m still introduced as the woman who had this controversy on Instagram. On the other hand, my skin has thickened so much and has made me realise that you’re never going to please everybody. As long as the people who I love in my life think what I’m doing is fine, then it’s fine.”
Plus, as she readily admits, motherhood isn’t all pancakes and matching pyjamas. There’s a reason Instagram has filters. “I post one or two posts on a good day so you’re not seeing a lot you’re just seeing a very small glimpse. I’m not inspired to take out my phone and take a photo of when the kids are fighting with each other or when there’s like a huge mess or when one of them is like in the ugliest pyjamas we own,” she explains. “It’s a reminder of your happy moments.”
As well as a visual diary, she will also be writing about their travels for a book that she is planning to pen while they are abroad. While she is planning it to be an observation of how different families live in the regions they visit, it will be more than just a story of fulfilling a sense of wanderlust. “I think it will be a personal journey of having stepped off this treadmill in London – slowing down and the way we’re choosing to live this year.”
In her pursuit of a more simple life Courtney is ironically leaving behind the very envy-inducing existence that made her a subject of fascination in the first place (her former kitchen alone is the subject of ceaseless blog posts). However she couldn’t be happier about their imminent departure. “I think it’s so much more fun travelling with your kids because you see it from so many different angles. They grow so much because you’ve given them that time. Just to see the world through their eyes is so cool.”
As we step outside into the sultry afternoon heat to say our goodbyes I have one last question to ask – where next for this free-spirited family? “I really doubt it will be London because once you deliberately slow your life down, I’m not sure you’d choose to go back to the fast-paced life. I think it will probably be a step back but we don’t know where or how,” she says. With an ending yet to be written their adventure is bound to be all the more exciting.
Words by Amanda Woodward-Brown