The road winds around the mountains of the Gold Coast Hinterland and I feel the strain of a busy working week twist off with each bend.
I’ve been like a kid at Christmas all week, counting down the sleeps till we leave for our weekend getaway to Binna Burra in the Lamington National Park. Time has been teasing me with its endless stretch.
I’ve been craving the open road, getting back to nature and spending quality time with the kids again.
Savannah has been asking me every 10 minutes if we’re there yet and Kalyra is whining about being bored. My stomach starts to churn. Memories of the same whining torture as we travelled around Australia hit.
Tell me why I’m traveling with my kids again?
I get asked all the time by parents how I can handle traveling with kids so much.
Don’t they drive you crazy? Isn’t family travel too hard? What about all the stuff you have to take? You must be so organised. I don’t think I can cope.
I can’t just storm off when the kids annoy me like I did to Craig down a dusty African road because the tyre on our run-down pickup fell off in mid-drive. I can’t let exhaustion and frustration get a destructive hold on me.
You need far less than you think when traveling with kids and I’m definitely not organized. As you can see by our attempts to hike to the top of Mount Kosciusko in this photo.
Kalyra is dressed more for the catwalks of Paris than a walk to the roof of Australia – in snowy and windy conditions.
Traveling with kids is NOT always like you see on those happy snappy brochure pictures (just like those baby nappy ads).
I keep traveling with my kids because these are only small inconveniences that happen on the way to something far more valuable.
Change your perspective
Does traveling with your kids stress you out?
Thoughts of being cramped up with the kids in a car, or a plane, and traveling with them 24/7 make you feel ill. All that family travel planning and preparation without even knowing if you’ll have a great time when you finally arrive in your destination.
Family travel is not as hard as your freaked-out fears tell you.
You’re possibly judging it from that of living a normal parenting life. It’s draining and hard and you DREAD the thought of that coming into a holiday, which is meant to be light, relaxing and fun.
When you travel with kids, all your pre-conceived notions of what a holiday means are smashed and that can be hard to handle.
Simply change your perspective. Think of the rewards, not the challenges that family travel brings.
I have a glaring newsflash for you:
PARENTING IS HARD!!
Period. No matter where you are!
It’s the most exhausting and emotionally draining thing I’ve ever encountered.
I have a deep love for my children, but there’s only so many times you can ask them to help you, manage hair-brushing tantrums, or trip over plastic toys that just grow out of thin air before you start questioning why this was never in the brochure and how were you even sold into this dream?
My normal-life afternoon is usually filled with under-breath mumbles, “If I see another freakin plastic bit lying on the floor I’m going to have an adult tantrum. I’m bringing in the plastic bag and throwing everything in the bin.”
I’m a huge believer that the way you start your day sets the tone for the remainder of it. That’s why I start mine devoted to me. It might seem a little selfish, but if you are a mum (or just have a heartbeat) I urge you to do it. A more Zen You means happier children.
That’s what I tell myself every morning and as I finish my meditation I feel wonderful and ready for an amazing day.
And then freakin rush hour starts.
Time for breakfast. Let’s get dressed. Have you packed your bag? Let’s get dressed. What do you want for lunch? Let’s get dressed.
Savannah has a tantrum because she wanted peanut butter sandwich for breakfast, not toast. Even though she calls it toast. Craig, why don’t you understand what women are really asking for? Toast not cooked is a sandwich in Savannah’s world.
“Kalyra why haven’t you brushed your hair yet?”
Meltdown number two, which usually ensues in a battle between the both of us and a lot of frustrated tears. Kalyra’s anxiety sets in because she’s going to be late for school, even though we’re never late. We all end up tantrumming out the door.
I need a shot of vodka come 9 am.
Spending time with the girls in the afternoon is minimal because we’re rushing to swimming or drama lessons or I’m preparing dinner and cleaning the mess in between requesting repeatedly that they help me do the same.
I pause amongst the food prep to reflect.
I’ve barely seen my kids all day. I am losing touch with who they are and their zany personalities. It seems like all we get now are butting heads, anxiety, and a whole lot of mess. Weeks disappear into a blur of sameness; I have no clue what we’ve done and how the days slip by unlived.
I serve up dinner excited by the chance to talk about their days. Neither of them wants to eat because I cooked the food and it’s not good.
I fall in a heap of tears into my wine glass.
Please tell me.
What the hell is easy about that scenario???
NOTHING. It’s freakin hell. That’s when I mumble a different tune,
“Fuck this I’m going traveling again.”
Am I escaping from parenting hell by doing so?
No. That’s always going to follow you around.
What I’m running to instead is to fill the moments in between with profound and joyful memories.
Here’s why family travel is worth the challenges
- You live life on your terms.
- You can choose to rest when you see the kids are tired.
- You can work around everyone’s likes and moods.
- There’s no box of should, musts, have to, and needs suffocating you.
- You spend quality time with your kids.
- There’s no freakin toys and accumulation of useless junk piling up around you (I’m banning the plastic bits along with budgie smugglers).
- There are fewer demands on your time like social events, kid’s parties, swimming lessons, drama etc.
- Speaking of drama, there are no endless playground social dramas.
- Conversations are no longer about the goddamn school friendship dramas.
- There’s more laughter and ease.
- You have exhilarating adventures together – like today we’re doing a 165m flying fox over the rainforest canopy together.
- There’s no TV withitss sneaky manipulative ads and depressing news flashes. (Although we do love X-Factor).
- There’s more fun and adventure.
- You experience life rather than trying to learn about it through text books and irrelevant exercises. Travel gives you a deep knowing.
- You have freedom.
- You’re learning to adapt – to go with the flow, to throw out rules and routines, which only build up walls that tell us we can only be happy and manage if everything is structured in a certain way. What happens when it doesn’t? It won’t because life is a constantly flowing source of energy, it cannot be contained or controlled. So when it wants to tear down the walls it will and then what?
- You get to know and fall in love with your children. They’re not just little beings that you have to somehow manage and work a life around without needing to swill a vodka every hour.
- Everyone gets to express their personalities without judgement. We see that with our daughter’s drama classes she was enroled in. Kalyra is a hilarious actress. She puts on her own performances and vlogs and hosts her own show. It’s delightful to watch her do it around the campfire and completely express her personality. When she took the classes it was gone. She was frightened of saying the wrong thing, not being cool enough, and not doing it how the teacher said because that was the right way.
- You’re out of the freaking controlling box. Like the school demanding to know why Kalyra was missing school today. My text reply: family commitments. They always come first.
A morning tone defined by our desire
It’s now the morning after our drive up to Binna Burra.
It’s quite different to our regular morning. Savannah is still sleeping. I’m writing in the quiet calm just before I head off to yoga class with views of the valley. (the girls ended up joining me #bliss #love)
Kalyra has her sketchbook and is sitting outside sketching the forest. She can name the trees she’s drawing as we did an incredible walk through the rainforest yesterday with ranger Dean tasting bush tucker, learning about vines, and walking from a rainforest into a Eucalypt forest.
She now knows the difference because she experienced the change: in temperature, in canopy coverage, in plant type.
She’ll never get that knowing from a book.
Craig and I watched in awe as they soaked up every word from Dean and stood in awe, like me, at how nature works.
How the grass bush grows it’s leaves to be smooth when you run your fingers down it one way, but spiky when you run them back the other way. It’s to keep the pademelons from eating their fruit. They want the birds to eat it because they’ll spread the seeds further.
“Mum, that’s so awesome.”
How cool and perfect is nature?
WOW and LOVE enhanced through family travel
That’s why I overcome the pain and challenges of traveling with your kids.
It has way more WOW and LOVE moments in between the parenting challenges. There’s more connectedness to each other and to life. We feel our bonds grow stronger with every step into the forest.
Yes, the tantrums are still there. They arrived at the 4km mark of our 5km hike. I thought about deleting this post as it was all a lie – travelling with your children sucks!
But, then I reflected on our morning: yoga together, purposeful conversation over a slow breakfast, creating videos together, laughing on the walk (before it turned pear shaped).
And then in the afternoon came a filling up of awe as I watched Savannah’s fearlessness riding the flying fox with me and Kalyra’s enthusiastic determination to hit bullseye on her first game of playing archery. This is who my children are.
That crazy meltdown in the forest was sandwiched between sooooo much goodness.
It didn’t stress me out or make me feel like a failure as a mother, which is how I feel most of the time when I’m trying to cope as a parent in a normal-life setting.
I’m not saying it’s a good idea to pack up your entire life and hit the travel road full-time. That does bring an extra layer of parenting challenges like home-schooling and living together full-time.
It might not be the path you want to walk. And that’s ok. Whatever that path is for you, find time to fit in more travel with your kids. Weekend getaways and longer short-term adventures. Even just travel in your own backyard.
Start off slow. Go to the edges of your comfort zone. Give up the worry of getting it right and the fear that you won’t cope. Go with the flow and just enjoy doing something different and fun with your kids.
Yes. Routine and structure kind of slips away when you travel, but that’s the beauty of it and it’s where you’ll find a lot of ease and fun. It’s actually easier than trying to fit into the rules.
If you plan and prepare for it correctly, it won’t be hard at all.
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This is what I believe and what my advice is to any parent that expresses their concern to me that travelling with their kids is too hard:
Why do you choose to do it regardless?