Hi and welcome to our Where in the World page. This page will give you some information about how our family started traveling. Below is an overview of the four key overseas family travel journeys that assisted us in taking the leap into backpacking for the entire 2017 year around the world with our family.
These smaller, still slower family journeys taught us everything we needed to know to get started with long-term travel and inspired us to keep believing it could be done. I suppose you could view the time period of 2012 to 2016 as the apprenticeship years and 2017 is the journeyman year.
Vietnam: The First Family Travel Backpacking Trip
The cute slogan for our 2012 Vietnam backpacking trip was 5 weeks + 4 kids + 3 overnight trains + 2 parents (phew) = 1 family’s idea of a travelling adventure!
On 4 July 2012 we and our four daughters – Charlie (11 years), Ashley (10 years), Billie (8 years), and Dacey (6.5 years) will board a plane to Vietnam for our first backpacking trip. Beginning in Hanoi in the north, we’ll make our way down south to Ho Chi Minh City via trains, buses and cars. Call us inspiring, call us crazy…we’re probably a good mix of both.
We’ll embark on a journey that will change our lives as a family and as individuals forever. We will trek up to the hill tribes of Sapa in the north where we will be staying with families in their stilt hut homes and canoe under limestone caves out in Ha Long Bay.
We’ve planned to stay at an orphanage in Hue and visit a children’s blind centre in Ho Chi Minh City to help in any way we can. Since Vietnam does not have human services; the poor, sick and disabled children, unfortunately don’t have access to financial assistance or professional intervention. The workers at the orphanage and blind centre take care of the children as best as they can.
The two places we’re visiting need to pay for bills (electricity, phone, water), maintenance, workers and educational materials to name just a few. They are constantly in need of money, but somehow they still manage with very little. We are going to raise money for them right here in the Macedon Ranges and use 100% of that money to purchase things that the children need while we’re there.
We are also going to ride elephants across a river, lie on the white sandy beach at Nha Trang and swim in the warm waters of the South China Sea, visit museums about the history of Vietnam and that infamous war and we’re going to crawl within the Cu Chi tunnel network made famous by a tragic war.
But the ultimate aim of taking our young family backpacking is to not only to explore the rich Vietnamese country and culture, but also to give our four privileged Aussie ‘millennium’ children the opportunity to experience the world outside of their classroom. They will see and experience first hand how millions of people live in the world – a vastly different life to the one that they know here in Australia. I hope it will give them an insight into who they are so that they can choose to be compassionate, open, motivated global citizens.
Welcome to our journey.
Meet Our Family In 2012
Charlie is 11 years old and is in Grade 6. She loves cooking (especially desserts), netball and boys (a recent addition)! Charlie’s favourite netball positions on the court are Goal Shooter, Goal Keeper and Centre. She cooks the best ever baked cheesecake (thanks to a Donna Hay recipe) and delicious Citrus Syrup Cake. Charlie is looking forward to staying in Hoi’An where she is hoping to get some clothes made out of silk including her grade 6 graduation dress.
Ashley is 10 years old and is in Grade 5. She breathes, lives and dreams netball. Her favourite positions on the court are Centre and Goal Attack. She plays in two netball teams – her school team U11s and Gisborne Representative U11 team. Ashley has the neatest handwriting so she’s been designated to postcard duty. She’s delighted that Vans shoes are made in Vietnam, so she plans on buying a pair. Her one, big challenge while we’re over in Vietnam will be to go without a hair straightener for 5 whole weeks.
Billie is 8 years old and is in Grade 2. She’s the artist and the nature lover of our family. She loves painting, drawing, reading and making things out of old boxes, glue and staples! She has a natural ability to see the wonder in the little things all around that most often we overlook. She loves climbing trees and making cubby houses. She is very excited about sleeping in an overnight train and a house on stilts.
Dacey is 6.5 years old and is in Grade 1. Dacey is our energized battery (which will be quite interesting in the wee small hours on those overnight trains)! She just doesn’t stop moving or thinking, so we’re hoping that will fit right into the trekking arm of our trip. Dacey loves singing, dancing, dress-ups and cooking. She is looking forward to eating the Vietnamese spring rolls and Pho (traditional Vietnamese noodles) dishes. But in reality, she really has no idea what it’s going to be like in Vietnam. She’s just happy if we’re all together.
Meet the parents – Steve and Lisa Cole
The instigators of this crazy-inspiring-family-family-adventure trip to Vietnam. It all started back in 1999 when we were on our adventuresome 2-month honeymoon in South East Asia. We spent only 2.5 weeks in Vietnam but the promise was made: if we ever had children we would return to Vietnam. So here we are in 2012, about to embark on our family’s life-changing backpacking journey.
Steve is an old hack at backpacking. He’s been everywhere man! He’s quite versatile too – sliding easily from backpacker shorts to 5-star suits. He has a desire to appreciate every beer in the world and is therefore looking forward to his 25 cent fresh beer in Vietnam.
Lisa loves change and different experiences, so a Vietnam backpacking adventure with four kids in tow, living out of a backpack for five weeks is kinda right up her alley! Always pushing the boundaries of what is possible, Lisa cannot wait to stay with the kids at the orphanage and accompany the workers on a shopping spree for food, clothes, medication and lots more of the basics with the money raised from the Six Backpacks fundraising effort.
It’s an unknown how she’ll manage the 24/7 living arrangements with the kids for 35 days in hot, humid conditions. But time will tell. It always does.
We live an amazing life with loving relationships, happy and healthy kids, a safe and secure country on our beautiful little acre patch in Australia. Our intention of going on a family backpacking trip like this is two-fold. Not only do we want our kids to have a memorable family holiday together, but also to return from Vietnam looking at the world with different eyes.
Donating To a Good Cause
If you would like to help us raise money for the orphanage in Hue and the children’s Blind Centre in Saigon, we would welcome you to direct deposit your contribution into the bank account below. We will take all the money raised to the orphanage and blind centre and purchase what the children need with their workers.
If you would like to follow Six Backpacks blog and Facebook page, you can be kept up to date with new posts, photos and video and actually see where and how your contribution has made a difference to these children in Vietnam.
Our family’s goal is to raise A$
1, 2, 5,000*. So stay tuned for tally updates on Six Backpacks Facebook page. (* we’ve had to increase the fundraising goal as we kept reaching our goal!)
x The Cole Family @ Six Backpacks
Myanmar (Burma): The Second Family Travel Backpacking Trip
We’re off on another family travel backpacking trip, and this time we’re heading to mysterious Myanmar (Burma). We depart 7 September 2013 on a four-week backpacking and exploring this recently opened-up country. Our four daughters are ultra-excited, knowing what backpacking is all about since travelling throughout Vietnam last year, but Myanmar will be a real test of travel tenacity for our family.
Myanmar has just opened its doors to the world and to tourism, and consequently is 20-30 years behind Vietnam in regards to its infrastructure, accommodation options and mass tourism industry. And that’s just how we like it!
We will start our journey in Yangon (Rangoon) the old capital city and make our way north and follow a loop around the cities of Inle Lake and Mandalay then board a ferry and meander down the Ayeyarwady River to the temple central city of Bagan, then return to the old capital of Yangon (Rangoon). From there a short drive to the beach area on the west coast of Myanmar called Ngapali Beach (busy) or further south Chuang Tha Beach (not so crowded) in the Bay of Bengal.
I’m a lover of books, and so I also collect books along the way. This family adventure could be an opportunity to take a train east from Yangon to Moulmein where the likes of Joseph Rudyard Kipling wrote Road to Mandalay (which was the only city in Myanmar he actually visited). The main pagoda, I’ve read on the ridge overlooking this city, is the setting for his poem Burma Girl. George Orwell also spent time in this city and wrote Shooting an Elephant which was an experience he had while a police officer in the city of Mawlamyine/Moulmein.
The other city I would love to visit, but will not be in 2013 is Myitkyina. This city is located further north of Mandalay in the Kachin State and unfortunately there is much civil unrest in this area. But the city itself has an amazing colonial history and to this day still has cinderella-style carriages operating within the city as its mode of transport.
We plan to make a difference in Myanmar (as we did in Vietnam last year) and visit a Parish Priest who assist the very poor families in and around Yangon as well as an orphanage just outside of Mandalay. Our fundraising effort will be led by the four daughters – Charlie (Year 7), Ashley (Grade 6), Billie (Grade 3) and Dacey (Grade 2) within their school communities and sporting clubs and will involve selling silicon wrist bands with a message supporting the orphans of Myanmar. The needs of the orphanages in Myanmar are just as needy as those in Vietnam, maybe even more so since the country is one of the poorest in South East Asia.
PS if you have t-shirts or shorts that are in good condition and would like us to take over to hand out to the orphans please let us know and we can make room in our backpacks to make this happen.
Cambodia: The Third Family Travel Backpacking Trip
We are a very fortunate family. I have a wonderful and loving family and I have an extended family who want to spend time together…overseas! This occasion was all about family. We spent time with both sides of our families in sunny Thailand and adventurous Cambodia. My parents had been contemplating an overseas family holiday for a little while. There are 11 of us – 2 grandparents, 4 parents, 5 grandchildren, and numerous soft toys! It takes time to wrap your head around the planning of such an epic trip and its cost. But they did it and we travelled to Phuket, Thailand for two lovely weeks with my parents for some R&R staying at a 5-Star hotel just outside of Phuket City. But if you know us, we are not the 5-Star kind of family.
We couldn’t go all the way to South East Asia without venturing into some backpacking lands. So our family (the six of us) added another two weeks to include a trip to Cambodia. We invited my Andrea (my sister in-law) and her two boys (our nephews) along on that trip and we started in Siem Reap. It was the first time they had been to a South East Asian country. So the family dynamics changed in Cambodia – 3 adult parents, 3 teenagers and 3 tweens. It was one of the best experiences we’ve had overseas – backpacking around Cambodia for two weeks staying in dorm accommodation in Siem Reap and exploring and getting lost in the Angkor temples, a homestay in Kampong Cham and playing soccer in the torrential rain with the local kids, hitting the restaurants in Phnom Penh and coming to terms with the devastating experiences of the Killing Fields and the torture and murder that occurred at the S21 Prison.
We travelled around to Cambodian cities on buses and made it all the way down to the southern coast to a lovely little nook of a place called Kampot (they make lovely tasting pepper there) and we also made it way up north to Battambang (where we took a ride on the Bamboo Train which they told us was being decommissioned next year).
We have plenty of wonderful stories and experiences to relive and share over a Christmas get-together including a difficult hike where we overcame our phobia of spiders, hired motorbikes and cruised around towns, took in the rich history, and enjoyed the Khmer food each and every day. It was amazing. Would do it again in a heartbeat!
♣ Phuket Thailand R&R – 26 June to 11 July 2015
♣ Cambodia Adventure – 11 July to 26 July 2015
India Solo Trip: The Lisa-Only Female Travel Backpacking Trip
How does solo travel, female solo travel fit into this preoccupation with family backpacking travel? Somehow!
Throughout 2014 I went back to university and studied a Graduate Certificate of International Studies & Politics. The four subjects to gain the qualification are meant to take just 6 months to complete full-time, but I’m on the slower road taking on one subject a semester while also working and being mum.
One day on campus I walked past a flyer that called out for students to apply for an opening as an overseas volunteer coordinator in rural India over the summer period of January 2015. So I applied. After an interview for the role, I was called back and informed that I had been offered the role. I was ecstatic.
We worked everything out. On the home front Steve could cover most of the school holidays with the girls with some help with grandparents, and on the work front I negotiated some time off without pay. Before I knew it, I was booking my solo flights to India. This trip was to be the second of my solo trips away from my family. The first was a trip to Europe in 2006. Due to having four children in five years (in my late 20s and early 30s) I was never going to get a chance to experience a Contiki tour. So at the tender age of 33 I traveled alongside a bus full of young-party-goer-20-somethings to Europe for 3.5 weeks. If I could do that, I could do India. I was going to be away from my family for 42 days in total this time.
I spent the first few days in the captial city Delhi, and then organised a tour for one week to travel the infamous northern Indian golden triangle: Agra to see the Taj Mahal, Jaipur celebrating New Years Eve 2014 with samosas and a Kingfisher (after going without alcohol for an entire year), and Ajmer/Pushkar (for a ride on a camel in the desert). I traveled with an Indian driver Ravikumar or Ravi for short. Ravi had moved to Delhi for work. He worked as a driver for a couple of years in the sprawling city of Delhi in an attempt to make more money. He left his family in the countryside – his wife and two young sons – to try and offer a better life for them. On this golden triangle circuit I also traveled on the massive Indian rail network, missed a train, waited for a train, caught an over night train. The delay – six hours!
I departed Delhi and flew down into central India to a place called Aurangabad where I was to start the four-week immersion program with nine Melbourne University students. We all met at the airport and were transferred to Buldhana by drivers Sagar and Sam. It was here that I immersed myself into the diverse Indian culture and fell in love with it.
And it is in Buldhana where a small piece of my heart remains. I yearn to return to be with my Indian family and introduce my Australian family to rural India.
♣ Delhi & Northern Golden Triangle – 28 December 2014 to 4 January 2015
♣ India 2015 Volunteer Immersion Program – 5 January to 5 February 2015