Day 0 | Melbourne, Australia |18 Dec 2016
Planning and Organising for Long Term Family Travel – Not for The Light Hearted
Departure Week – Ground Zero
It’s finally happening – we are up, up and away on a 365-day long journey (no fixed return date yet but sometime in Dec 2017) which is being planned as a mix of travel + family + adventure. The two adults of the family (ie. Steve and me) are ecstatic as we have parked our busy, demanding working and home lives on the shelf for an entire year to go off and explore the world with our four daughters – Charlie (16 years), Ash (14 years), Billie (12 years) and Dacey (11 years). I suppose you could say we are having a type of gap year a little late in life! The girls are a less overjoyed about the year of travel ahead. Their concerns lie in three fundamental places: missing their friends, not having internet connection, and hanging out with their parents all the time. They describe this year away more like a prison sentence than an epic adventure. The thoughts of prison and adventure will hopefully amalgamate, and we hope everyone will be changed, transformed, and have special memories of the places we visit, the experiences we undertake, and the people we meet along the way.
But there is no going back. We six backpackers will board an Air Asia plane at Melbourne International Airport early 19 December 2016 looking clean and crisp. Looks can be deceiving though as Steve and I are ready to have a breakdown at our first stop, Langkawi Island. I don’t think we realised just how crazy busy we were leading up to departure day. The time demands of working right up until departure, the organisational requirements from getting backpacks packed for six people to packing an entire house of stuff into a shed took us to limits of patience and resilience not seen before. There was also communicating with banks and credit card suppliers that we would be withdrawing cash in countries we would not normally access, asking for spare credit cards in case they get chewed up by atm machines. The experience was like living on the cusp of two worlds: the more we packed our normal life away into boxes, the more we felt closer to our new nomadic existence. It felt a lot like purgatory – we were neither here nor there, but we were involved in both hectic and uprooted worlds simultaneously.
We left our home in Riddells Creek a week prior to departure, and tenants moved in. Our final week in Australia was spent at my uncle Ric’s home called Harpsdale and his partner Andrew. It was great to have a place to stay where all of us could exist and wait out our time until we left. Leading up to the day of departure, we frantically searched with fingers crossed (for months) for a new loving home and family for our pets. It took some time, and we had to keep thinking there was a family or two or three out there who would love to take on our 2 dogs, 1 cat, and 2 budgies for a year. But we did it, amazingly…all of it. And with a sigh of relief, we farewelled Australia for a year of backpacking.
Extra – if you wish to read some of the dramas we experienced getting out of the country, then continue reading below. If not, keep reading out travel stories day by day.
The rehoming pets drama
Our pets have been re-homed for just the year – 2 King Charles Cavalier dogs, 1 unfriendly (we prefer to call independent) cat, and 2 budgies to willing supporters (which we are so grateful for). Dacey’s three hermit crabs died pre-moving out of our home, and we buried them after a small service and gathering in our back yard. For such a pet lover, it has been hardest on Dacey to say goodbye to our pets for such a long time.
The packing our house up drama
The shed is full. All our stuff is stacked from floor to ceiling; the majority in some orderly fashion. An old second car was the last item of our normal life to enter the scared storage space and a tarp pulled over it. Close that door and let me not have to think about our stuff for a whole year already! I had started to despise the stuff we had collected and owned in our home. Dealing with it was beginning to be a real turn off. We had forgotten some items that were required on the trip like my orthotics for my foot! They’re sitting snugly in my red leather boots which are stored somewhere in a cardboard box in the shed, and a camera battery recharger…sitting in one of the many plastic containers along with all the other device connections that no one in our family ever seems to know what device they belong to.
The 11th hour backpack drama
And then there was an eleventh hour backpack zip malfunction that caused us stress. The zipper that connected the small to the large backpack was broken. Kaput! And Steve had only booked plane tickets with one checked in luggage bag weighing 20kg and under. We had no access to other backpacks stored in the shed at this late hour. All we had at my uncle’s place was a bright pink suitcase on wheels. It would have to do.
The smashed screen on MacBook Pro drama
My MacBook Pro was sitting in my backpack that I placed on the main table when we first arrived at my uncle’s place. Safe and sound right? WRONG! My youngest daughter Dacey, for some reason, decided to place her bulging backpack onto the table and then slid it off. Yes she was tired, and it had been a long 10-hour day of final packing and cleaning of the house. Unfortunately, the bag with the MacBook Pro was dragged with Dacey’s bag from the table, and it dropped onto the polished concrete floor. The screen was smashed. I was about to lose it, sort of did, then didn’t. I think I was too drained at that point. Accidents happen right?
We visited Apple at Highpoint, arrived at opening time with everyone else already waiting. We were told a 4-hour wait to just get a quote on the damage. And then they couldn’t guarantee parts would be available in time before departure day. Apparently when you smash the LCD screen on an Apple lap top, the whole part is replaced and costs about $900! Apple Melbourne advised us to get the lap top screen fixed at Apple in India. They’d do it on the spot probably! We were travelling to Mumbai, but in the meantime I couldn’t use my computer. The screen was black.
Steve called around and found a store in South Melbourne that sold a separate screen that would plug into the USB port of the Mac and work as a screen off the broken Mac. Done! I won’t mention the drama in getting the Mac software up and running, but we managed it.
The carry-on luggage only drama
My grand idea of carrying just 7kg of carry-on luggage was hatched after listening to a New Zealand family’s podcast interview. They too had four children and went away for an entire year. If they could do that we could too! It would simplify the luggage process for us all! We had previously travelled overseas with larger, and heavier backpacks. The more room you’ve got, the more it would fill up with stuff that really no one needed. No checked in luggage – yes let’s do it!
I think it was 70% effective. The ineffective part was the arrival of two large wire bound books delivered to our house days before leaving. The kids are all studying their 2017 year levels via Distance Education and our eldest is studying Year 11. These books were for her – as they are transitioning from paper to online (but haven’t done so completely just yet!). We didn’t know they were coming, and as we forlornly looked at them, a quick decision to take a larger backpack and check it in was decided. So a quick trip back to the shed, a rummage through boxes and Steve grabbed the first one he could. Of course we didn’t look at the zip. Who would?
We had read another blog that described a great way to pack minimally – pack three of everything: one to wear, one to wash, one to dry. A kind of rotating scheme of clothes. Somehow the three of everything sounded easy and minimal, but it wasn’t. Each of the kids’ carry-on luggage ballooned out and we worried about the weight restriction now on them. Stress was building. I repacked, taking things out, putting things back in the nights leading up to departure day. Once I had it sorted, that’s when I called Steve and said, “Houston we have a problem with a f%$#@!* zip!”
Eat. Sleep. Wake up to an alarm telling us to get on that plane and get the heck out of here!
See you next year Australia.
PS Thanks to all our family members for coming along to the airport and waving us goodbye. We had tears saying goodbye, but as soon as we started moving towards those international glass door, they somehow sucked us in and we were gone…
I waved goodbye on my tippy toes until I couldn’t see them any longer.