‘Are we there yet?’ How we survived a ten hour road trip with two small children.

Have you ever travelled with small children? I am sure you have your share of travel horror stories. My family (husband, toddler and a 6 month old) recently took a two hour domestic flight that left us scarred. My very energetic toddler would not sit down even for take off or landing. My husband had to physically restrain him, which earned us disapproving stares from fellow passengers. At the end of that flight, my partner and I were not eager to get on another flight. So, when we decided to head to Byron bay, which is about an eight hour drive north of Sydney, we decided to turn it into an adventurous road trip and I am happy to say it was a success. How did we do it?

 Plan for rest and break periods:

Ten hours is a long drive for anyone. For that reason, we decided to break up the trip and do it over 2 days. We picked a halfway point, a city we had never been to, where we would spend the night and have breakfast the following morning. While this allowed us to have a break, it is also a great way to discover new towns you would not otherwise visit.

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Half way point. A stop over at Yarralen retreat in the town of Yarrahapinni NSW.

Do most of the drive while the kids are sleeping.

This does not have to be for the whole trip, but for the majority of it. This is something we learned when we travelled with our son across Tasmania and New Zealand. Our trip to Byron bay started on a Friday evening. After picking our boy up from day care, we drove through the city to a park where he got to play and we had a picnic. This allowed him to burn off some energy and we managed to skip the evening rush hour traffic. After the picnic, we changed him into comfortable sleeping clothes, put him back in the car seat where we let him have a few toys to play on his own. Within an hour, he was fast asleep. The infant was easy, nurse, change and back in the car as well and she was out within minutes. That left me and my husband, our favourite playlist and the open road. Five hours later, we were pulling up to our accommodation for the night. Luckily, both kids transferred to bed easily and our heads hit the pillow before the latch on the door clicked. The next morning, we woke up , had breakfast, explored the town for about an hour or so, then went back to the  car for the rest of the Journey. Travelling at night when kids are asleep is convenient because you can cover long distances without having to stop.

Activities and Toys:

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Stickers are great for entertainment. 

Since the second part of the Journey was during the day, it was entertainment and snacks to the rescue. Though I am still learning, this is what worked. I placed a bag of toys that my son had selected within reach and I let him be. I find that if I don’t initiate any interaction during this time, he can entertain himself for longer periods. I also placed a few snacks in the bag. Glad to say, this kept him quiet for over two hours! The infant was happy to gnaw and coo at a toy before falling asleep again. ‘Are we there yet mummy?’, it was time for a short break. We picked some lunch to go, and we went and sat at a park.  My son got to run up and down the park, his sister did some tummy time, got changed and nursed and the driver and co-driver got to stretch their legs. After about an hour, we were off again. ‘Almost there son’.

Something to watch:

Sitting in a car for a long time is hard for an adult, let alone a super energetic toddler. For the good behaviour and patience, we allowed my son to watch something during the last leg of our Journey. Who did we call upon? Moana of Motunui.  For a bit over an hour, Moana and her island family entertained our son, and since this is a rare treat, he gave it full attention. When the credits rolled, we had about an hour left to our journey.

Interactive Games:

This I saved for last. Experience has taught me that engaging in conversation too soon  can backfire. It can be a green light for a lot of complains and whining. I allow as much time as possible for daydreaming. When there was only about an hour left, I engaged him in a game where we had to spot different coloured vehicles. By the time we spotted about the hundredth red car, we were pulling into our final destination ready for check in!

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Though my artistic skills need work, this drawing brought much joy to this little boy.

By sheer luck, the infant was very content and low maintenance during this trip. I am aware that this will change and the next road trip may not go so smoothly. For now, I consider this a win! Next road trip is in December. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hike number ten! What we have gained so far.

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Hike #10!

This past weekend marked out tenth hike since we started getting out to explore the great outdoors. When this tradition started, it  was out of necessity. Our two year old son was having a hard time adjusting to a new sibling, a move to a new apartment as well as change in structure at his daycare. The days were long, with many tantrums, lots of frustration and second guessing my abilities as a mother. I knew my son needed reassurance, I knew the tantrums were a way of him communicating his anxiety and angst; yet, I still found myself getting angry and cross with him, punishing him and then feeling guilty.

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Getting through obstacles.

The idea of getting out and hiking was something I had been thinking of for a while, but I kept coming up with reasons why we could not do it just yet. I had a newborn, we were still settling in to the new place, it was too cold for my newborn, and so on. Then one day, when I was at my wits end, I decided to get everybody out of the house and I picked our first hike. A short 3 km loop that took us through bush land and small creeks and thus, started the journey of a thousand miles.

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“follow me mummy”

Ten hikes in, and these hikes are what gets us through the week. Though the initial goal was to get my son out of the house, I have seen so many more benefits;

  1. Hiking has brought our family closer. We now enjoy sitting around the table and discussing where to go next. We look at maps, descriptions of the hikes and pick one that suits us. This has made for some lovely evenings.
  2. We have seen so much more of the state of New South Wales just from going on hikes. Sydney alone is surrounded by beautiful national parks. You only have to drive a short distance in any direction and you are bound to find yourself in a park waiting to be explored.
  3. My son is calmer, and even looks forward to getting out. Outdoors, the rules are less and the space is vast. We tailor our hikes to suite my son and any friends he may bring along. We go at his pace and cover short distances to avoid fatigue and irritability. Adult supervision is still key but out there, we let him explore, throw, collect, dig etc. Its his playground.
  4. My son is a more confident and an agile hiker. For an almost three year old, its interesting to see how much his coordination has improved. This has in turn made him a more confident explorer who is able to assess the hike and determine what he can do on his own and when he needs help.
  5. We now have conversations about preserving and respecting the nature we so much love. Being out in nature has given us an opportunity to teach lessons about empathy, responsibility and respect. We stress the importance of leaving a place better than we found it for those who may come after us. Even though he is still young, I believe that its never too early to start teaching basic morals and values.
  6. Stronger friendships. Through our Instagram account, we have had other families ask to join our hikes. We have also met new families along the way. The hikes have allowed us to form new friendships and solidify existing ones.

Hiking as a family has done wonders for us. I am there for encouraging anyone reading this to get out and wander. Whether its in your neighbourhood or you travel away from home, the benefits are immeasurable. The hardest part is making that first step out of the door, and once you do, it will be hard to look back. Happy hiking!

What lies beyond the hill.

On paper,  she has the perfect life. She lives in a nice city, has a good job, is surrounded by family and friends. Her love life is one that is envied. Yet, with all these things going for her, deep down she feels like there is something missing. There is a world out there that is calling her name, waiting for her to explore it. She feels like she is standing at the bottom of a hill, looking at the peak, wondering what lies on the other side. So one day, she makes a big decision. To leave all that is comfortable and familiar, and find out what lies beyond what the eye can see. Its not an easy decision, but somehow deep down, she knows its the right one.

After a lot of internal anguish, she starts the process of letting go of what she has known her whole life. She turns in her resignation at work, gives her partner the ‘its not you its me’ speech as Fergie’s lyrics to “big girls don’t cry’ echo through her head. Her family is hesitant to let her go, but they are supportive. She does not have a specific plan. All she knows is she needs to leave and head somewhere. Maybe from this new place, she  can think more clearly, see the future with a different set of eyes. Maybe even find a greener patch of grass. From this new place, she can feel alive again; and who knows, maybe after she has seen what is on the other side of the hill, she will return home and fit right back in like a missing part of a puzzle.

Sitting at the airport, she stares down at what years of her life  have been reduced down to. Two large suitcases and a carry on bag. She looks at the ticket placed between the pages of the lonely plant that her brother gave her as a partying gift.  She knows where she will be spending the next couple of nights, but beyond that, the rest is uncertain. She smiles at the thought that she is both nervous and excited. Her flight starts boarding. She looks back and gives her family one last wave. She can tell her mother is besides herself, but she is hiding her pain. During their chat the night before, she showed her how to use Whattsapp and Facetime. She even opened an Instagram account for her so she can follow her daughter’s adventures. She gets the urge to run back past security to give her family one last hug. She can see them blowing kisses and her father mouths the words ‘we love you’.

She is next to board. She fights the tears stinging behind her eyes and puts on a brave face. The attendant hands her back her paper work and wishes her a good flight. She takes a deep breathe and steps forward, knowing there is no turning back. She knows that tomorrow she might feel scared, doubtful and lonely. She knows that she will have days when this may seem like a bad decision, but like her family said to her, she can always come back home. So, on this sunny day, clear and blue skies, her heart threatening to pound through her chest wall,  she takes one last breathe and lets it all go, and soars to great heights.

 

 

 Talk of a hike with breathtaking views!

If you are familiar with Sydney, you are aware of all the beautiful walks and hikes that are only a short drive from the city. My young family started exploring these walks a few months ago and it has made for a very interesting winter. To paint the picture, we are a family of four. My husband and I, our almost 3 year old son and our five month old daughter. These hikes started as a way of getting our very energetic boy outdoors, after all, he is up at 6 am everyday! They have now become something we all look forward to each weekend and are hoping to keep up for a long time to come. I will write about all the walks in good time, but today, I cover a hike we did this weekend.

Chowder bay to Bradley head. This is about a 5 km hike return (back track). Note that you can extend this hike by starting from Balmoral beach and walking all the way to Taronga zoo. We choose this hike because it ticked all the boxes we consider  when hiking with a toddler.  Easily accessible, not too difficult, great views and less than 5 km return.

If you do a search on Google maps, you can see that the walk can be accessed from different points. We started from Clifton gardens.  Once you walk past the beach, the track immediately takes you into some bush land. From here, you can catch glimpses of the ocean through the tree branches. Further down the track, views of the Sydney harbour and all her glory come into view.

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The walk is nicely shaded by all the trees ensuring that you don’t get too hot or sunburned. Along the way, there are all sorts of native birds and plants. My son was able to walk the track easily as its flat enough to allow him to cover a  lot of distance without tiring. Half way along the hike, at Taylors bay, we stopped for a picnic and were joined by some Kookaburras who were happy to pose for a picture.

IMG_20170819_192827_095Things to note, like with every hike, we took basic precautions. Had enough food and water, (5 km is nothing but if you have ever been around a hungry toddler, you know food is a must!) we also checked the New South Wales national park website to ensure that the walking track was open on the day. As this is Australia, snakes are everywhere. There were signs along the track with details of the snakes found in this particular area, some poisonous some not. I am happy to point out that we did not encounter any. At the end of the hike, as we have done with any hike that has taken us through bushland, we checked my son for ticks  just as a precaution.

This hike is great for everyone. Its for families looking to enjoy the outdoors with their children, visitors to Sydney looking for a short hike with breathtaking views, or any Sydneysider looking for a good relaxing walk. Its guaranteed to take your breathe away!

We love sharing our hiking experiences with other young families.  Please let us know your favourite hikes in Sydney,  or share how you hike with children in different areas of the world. We hope you follow our blog for more hiking stories and tips. We look forward to hearing from you.

Why we need naysayers in our lives.

Tackling a new venture can cause a lot of anxiety.  Its easy to be filled with self doubt and worry about what people will think of you. This is made worse by people who tell us that our idea or plan will not work. They question our abilities, explaining that whatever it is we are about to embark on, someone else is already doing it. Its easy to let these people get in our heads.  They make that self doubt even that much more louder, and in the end, our idea never takes off. We let it die before it even began. What is even more discouraging is when the naysayers are our loved ones.  People who we thought would throw all their support behind us. They know as well enough.  Our drive, our unrelenting spirit, and yet, they question our ability to carry the new idea through.  Frustrated and defeated, we give up.
What if we handled naysayers differently? What if we looked at them as friends instead of foes?  How you ask? Listen to their reasons why they think you cannot do it. Do not take it personal, but use their lack of confidence in your abilities to leave no stone unturned. Take their reasons why they think you cannot do it and work even harder. Show them that any good thing takes hard work, time and perseverance.  Do not let them get into your head and kill your dream. Keep that fire burning. And when you finally accomplish what you were aiming for, look at them and smile. Thank them for asking the difficult questions, the questions that allowed you to look at things from a different angle, the ones that allowed you to better your product or methods,  the questions that helped you turn a why into a why not!