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A Travelling Family

by Emily Parks

What made you decide to pack up the family and embark on overseas travel?
This is the question we are most often asked, and unfortunately, there is no one easy answer or one special moment that finally convinced us to sell most of our things and jump on that plane.
I think it came down to desires that had been in our hearts for many years, a desire to figure out what we were giving our life to, as cheesy as it sounds, to figure out our purpose.
Over time it is easy, and natural to get into a routine and rhythm in life. And we were in it, family, jobs, bills, church, social commitments, sporting activities. Our life was filled to the brim with so many amazing people and projects, but we were doing all these things without any vision. We needed to take time, to step back from what we assumed we should give our life to, to actually make space and time to really connect as a family and dream for our future.

How long have you been a “travelling family” for?
We have been on the road since December 2017, though our travelling looks a little different than most Instagram family travellers as we tend to stick in one place for some time. During our first year, we travelled to Hawaii, Nepal, England, Switzerland, briefly in Hong Kong and then back to NZ. This year we are based in Hawaii studying the Bible, and we are back and forth to NZ (…and potentially a couple of other nations are on the cards).  

Do you have other families you look to for inspiration?
Honestly, the Bucket List Family has it figured out. Paid to travel. The dream.
I also love following Practising Simplicity who is currently travelling and home-schooling around Australia in a Caravan.

Where have you been/what has been your favourite adventure?
I think the biggest adventure would have been Nepal. It is so vastly different to life as we have known, in literally every sense. It was beautifully stretching for me personally being there, there is a reality to living in an undeveloped country with kids, but we learned so much as family. That trip really marked us in the shaping of our core family values. The adventures aren’t really comparable to anything we have experience as a family before either!
Also, Vevey (in the French part of Switzerland). Things were getting tight money wise, and living and eating in Switzerland is no joke. Especially when you are not making money in their currency. I was on Air B&B trying to find our next stop. I found the cheapest apartment for our dates in an area nearish to where we were headed and booked it. Expecting average, we arrived and it was literally so beautiful. It had a room for the kids, with toys and they were in heaven. It had views of the lake from our bedroom window. It was within walking distance to the lake and to the town. It sometimes is the simple things, like having rooms with doors, or a kitchen with appliances and an oven that make life on the road a little sweet. 

How do the kids cope with your lifestyle?
Our kids are legends. If your kids aren’t into life on the road it would be horrific. I was intentional in setting up a few routines with the kids specifically around sleep that have made this possible. I think we have been on around 20 flights since we started and both the kids have slept on every flight except two. Practically it looks like:

  • I bring their own little pillow and blanket and teddy that they sleep with where ever we are; plane, house, stroller, airport etc. 
  • We took a Phil&Teds travel cot for Mika so that where ever we were she had a consistent sleep environment 
  • Where ever we are, we follow our same family rhythm and as much as possible always have naps (they both sleep in the stroller if we are out and about) 
  • Our expectations for travel are different. We think ‘tour de playgrounds’ rather than visit every history museum and read all the displays (we will do this when we are on the other end of child raising). 
  • It usually takes them a few days to settle into a new country, but I have never heard them complain, never wish to be somewhere we weren’t. They do ask for people, family from back home or people we have met along the way to come to where ever we are. 

Is there anything you would change? What are the positives/benefits?
No, a lot of people would look at our life and would say we are being irresponsible, getting behind on the acceptable timeline of job success or number of houses to own. I just know that I will never look back on my life and think, dang, I wish I took fewer adventures. Or shoot, I wish we didn’t spend so much time as a family while our kids were young. I feel like if we had stayed, I would regret not going.
If it’s in your heart to live differently even if it’s just for a few weeks, be courageous, step out of your comfort zone.
Watching our children blossom in so many new places has been such a gift, they are gaining confidence to connect and celebrate with all different kinds of people, cultures, religions, and places. These years are so formative in the shaping of their character, and I can only hope that their lives will be known for loving the ones in front of them deeply, seeing a need and being provoked to action.

What are your top tips for families wanting to travel?
1. Discuss your expectations/goals/no comprising parts so that no one is disappointed or feels like their travelling dreams and expectations aren’t being met. Set achievable travel goals. Don’t try to do it all, it won’t be fun.
2. Get good insurance. (We have lost suitcases and had hospital stops and without good insurance, it would be SUPER stressful and expensive).
3. Pack light; remember you have to carry whatever you bring, plus children. We felt deep regret taking so much stuff through London. The underground transport is amazing, but it doesn’t always have elevators which means carrying/pulling everything up and down stairs.
In your light packing, set aside space/arms for a travel stroller (take the Otto), travel cot, a couple of familiar toys/books.
4. Establish and keep some kind of normality/rhythm to your days. This will help your kids to thrive wherever you are and lessen the jetlag; because even if the environment is different, there are still many consistent things that make them feel secure.

You were recently gifted an Otto – thoughts on the stroller for travel?
This was such a treat. ANNNND WE LOVE THE OTTO! Up until now, we have checked the large stroller and had Mika walking or in the carrier. It worked, but honestly, this time, travelling with the Otto was a game changer, especially for me. No more up-down-up-down shenanigans, or her, tired lying on the floor. I could strap her in, give her snacks and toys and she was happy. I will never go back to travelling without it.
We took it right to the gate, then put it in the overhead locker above our seat, so easy. Then had it going through customs (which if you’re going into the USA takes so insanely long). I recommend it on all the Family Travel Facebook pages because it honestly makes travelling less stressful. Here in Hawai’i, we live in a loft, which basically means, minimal space for storage. The Otto folds up so small and fits in the gap under the staircase, yet both my 2 and 4 year old fit comfortably in the seat. So, my thoughts are this: you’ll have no regrets. 

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