Why do you travel?
At different times in our lives we travel for different reasons and needs. To take a well earned break from the daily stress of life, to do something so different to take us out of our comfort zone, to learn more about ourselves or challenge our pre-conceptions and cultural beliefs by experiencing different cultures or to re-connect with our loved ones by enjoying time as a couple, family or friends.
For us, we had two key reasons why we were doing this gap year around Australia but we didn’t voice it or embed it enough into how we travelled with our kids in the first four months of our travel. What resulted was stress, short tempers and strained family relations punctuated by beautiful scenery and occasional fun. This may sound familiar to some. I never found it restful or stress free taking short holidays with the family and then we decided to do it for 12 months…who was I kidding?
At four months in, we almost pulled the pin. Waz and I sat down while in Tasmania to evaluate our trip so far and made a few changes in the way we travel which now 2 months down the track have made travelling with kids around Australia what it should have been like all along.
Here’s what we implemented:
- Don’t try and see everything. Kids aren’t interested in a culinary and wine tasting tour of the various vineyards and food destinations across our many foodie regions like Victoria and Tasmania. They aren’t that interested in the beautiful vistas like Wineglass Bay and the 12 Apostles (the former required a lot of bribery to complete the walk), and not even that excited to see emus, kangaroos and koalas in the wild (once you’ve seen one it seems to lose its appeal…I on the other hand felt like a big kid). They want a playground, to play with other kids or a beach or even a muddy puddle, a place where they are free to roam without us barking orders like “be careful, not long now, walk faster”. So now we don’t see everything, we pick key landmarks, we stop for lunch at a park with a playground, we do more kid friendly activities – without it costing the earth.
- Stay put longer in one place. As a couple or even when I travel alone, I’m used to going from one place to another in quick succession. As we have been travelling with kids, we would camp in a place usually for 2 nights before moving on. But our kids get unsettled and a little insane with the constant on the go pace we set. Now we just base ourselves in an area for about 5 days and day trip out to the places we choose to visit. We try and get back early afternoon so the kids (as well as us) have a chance to unwind. We also choose places that have large open spaces that are safe for them to run around, scooter and bike and/or have playgrounds, like regional community recreation grounds, which are very cheap and quiet and seem to attract nice campers. This has made a huge difference and it also means less pack-up and pack-down for us too.
- Take time out for us. It seems obvious to state this, but if you don’t allocate the time it wont happen and the result is that you spend every waking minute with your family except when you’re on the loo, and as much as you love them it makes you bonkers. Now we try to carve out an hour each day individually to do something productive for ourselves, exercise, read, go for a walk. This is definitely helping with one of our two goals for the trip – to heal ourselves from the stresses of the past few years that individually and collectively we faced through business, work, and health – and to get out of our heads and be present.
- Afternoons are for family. This was our other goal for the trip; to get out of the mundane and unhealthy habits as a family we have gotten into and spend quality time together. That means no being on our devices or not present with our kids. It means that we play, cricket, cops & robbers, LEGO, Uno, whatever, we all participate. It’s definitely helped me connect with my inner-child and also see our kids in a new light and appreciate the ingenuity of play.
- Evenings are couple time. Phones away, kids in bed are the times we get to talk properly and relax and learn about what we hope to do next, our hopes for the future, adding more to the list of places to see or things to achieve or even to watch a bit of Netflix when in internet range.
We are definitely in a much better place today, there’s less yelling, less anxiety, the kids are calmer, we are happier. We are instilling healthy habits which makes the next six months of travel one to really look forward to, but I am sure now that we seemed to have learnt what works for us, that its going to go way too fast.