So, we’ve been back for about 4 weeks now and I’m writing this post from the couch of Erica’s parents’ house (our current home) reflecting on 2016. We finished our trip in the snow of Colorado and the fun of LA. You can check that out here ohtheplaceswearegoing.com/2017/01/17/colorado-dumps-while-la-pumps/
2016, WHAT A YEAR!, I think Ez described it best when she said ‘it was just like every day was a Sunday’. Sundays you usually have 2 parents at home, often have a fun family day out, maybe eat some good food or even an ice cream. Well, we’ve just had 311 of those in a row! When we first told family and friends we were going to travel the world with the kids for a year I think most thought it wouldn’t eventuate. Either that or they thought we were a cheeseburger short of a Happy Meal. Reflecting now, it was the best year of our lives and something we wouldn’t have swapped for anything.
It’s true, after a couple weeks back it feels like we’ve been home for ages, just with thousands of amazing 2016 memories. The girls have been pretty funny since we’ve been back too and are relishing having family and friends so close. After being home 4 nights Piper said “I’m bored of eating at home, can we go to a restaurant?” So we did. Then I told Piper we were going for a few days down the coast and it was a bit of a long drive. Her response was “but I don’t want to leave Australia yet!”. Also, she’s already told us she wants to go to Japan in the school holidays. I think we are going to have to temper those expectations.
So, here are the stats of what we did on our family trip of a lifetime.
81 different beds
12 hire cars
9 football games
800 ice creams (possibly slight exaggeration)
10,138 blog views (and counting)
We’ve had a few questions from family and friends since returning (we really did this time, I didn’t just have to make them up!) so I’m going to answer some of the questions including going through our best parts of the trip.
Did we achieve what we wanted to achieve? – In short yes. We survived and are still married! Our goal at the start wasn’t so much about seeing amazing places (which we did), it was more to do with having a year as a family. It also wasn’t about trying to see an exorbitant number of cities or countries. We wanted to take our time and ‘live a little’ in many of the places we visited. E.g. we had 2 weeks in Buenos Aires, Barcelona, New York and a month in the Greek Islands to name a few. Like many dads (and mums) my Monday to Friday used to see me leave home before the girls were awake and often arrive home around dinner/bedtime. 2016 I saw them for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Let’s just say I know them pretty well. We discussed travelling Australia for a year but thought we would enjoy exploring some new places, but we liked the idea of exposing the girls to different languages and cultures that would have a significant lifelong impact on them (Australia next year maybe?). It was amazing seeing the girls embrace local cultures and make new friends from all over the world. I wanted them to appreciate that we are pretty lucky so it was great seeing them wanting to hand out our gifts to the local kids in Cuba or now being able to sing happy birthday 5 languages (4 more than dad!).
Weren’t the kids too young to remember it all? – Possibly (for Evie in particular), however that’s not really the point. Children don’t remember every time you read to them when they were little or took them to the playground. But you still do it because it shapes the way they grow and develop. Travel instils a sense of fun and adventure into their lives. It opens their eyes to different cultures and lifestyles, and different ways of viewing the world. We are already telling each other stories from our travels and the kids remember certain places and people in the most vivid details (Evie said when in the city the other day “these tall buildings remind me of New York). Hopefully we can keep those memories alive. There will also be 10,000 photos scattered around the house to constantly remind them of what we did…so at least they can pretend like they remember it!
What’s it like being back? – It’s good. Maybe there would be some serious post-holiday blues if we returned in the middle of winter but we’ve arrived in time for summer with plenty of fun and catch ups with friends. We bought a house (sight unseen) whilst we are away. We are now eagerly awaiting the moment our tenants leave so we can move into our home. I drive past daily and yell obscenities out the window to help speed up that process. A couple of friends have commented on how relaxed we are or how chilled the girls are and it’s true that we didn’t have too many stressful moments in 2016. The most stress was deciding which flavour of ice cream to eat, whether to sit window or aisle or who was going to be on top (I mean bunk beds obviously).
What’s next? – Piper has already picked up her school uniform (she looks bloody cute) and will tell everyone how excited she is to go to school next year! Piper may be that annoying kid at school who starts every conversation with ‘when I was in Cuba…’. I will definitely be that annoying adult! Evie is ready to tackle preschool with her new backpack although I think she will miss her big sister a lot in 2017 (Piper is probably happy for the break). As for Ez and I we are still working that out. The great news is that Ez will be starting her photography business with gusto in 2017, specialising in light inspired family photography. Contact her at ericamassingham.com or flick me an email. Me, who knows. Excited about a new challenge in the travel industry, that will hopefully sort itself out in coming weeks (insert amazing job offer here) but we’re still currently enjoying ticking some things off our ‘back to Australia list’.
And the big one – What was our favourite place? Really, it’s like asking what was your favourite day last year, or what is the dumbest thing Donald Trump has said? We’ll get a big fat splinter from sitting on the fence so below I’ve listed some of the best and worst places we visited in 2016. Remember, we were travelling with two small children so our take on things may be a little different.
Best Beach – This is a contentious one, as we visited so many beaches in our year. For me it was Rio De Janeiro. There is something quite alluring about beaches that have football, volleyball, cocktails, Brazilian bikinis and waves. Did I mention Brazilian bikinis? We stayed at Ipanema and checked out the city beaches of Copacobana, Ipanema and Leblon as well as venturing out to the locals beach of (can’t remember name!). Not far behind were the stunning waters of the Greek Islands (Ez’s favourite) and Mexico. Worst – Cornwall, UK. In the middle of summer the water was still as cold as an Eskimo’s mother in law and was full of English people in wetsuits.
Best Food – As a total cuisine we can’t go past Greece. Whilst admittedly our kids are great eaters anywhere, Greece is a great place for kids (as well as adults!). Veggies grown on the family farm, seafood straight from the fishing boat, a huge variety of meats, cheeses and wine made by a guy in the village. Italian food is always good but after a few weeks of pasta we were ready for a change. This trip also made us appreciate the quality of food we have back home. Probably more importantly the variety if food we have. Oh, how I craved some decent Thai food! Without doubt the best steak I’ve had in my life was from this small restaurant in Bariloche, Argentina. Take me back! Worst – A hard one. Maybe Argentina? They do steak, ice cream and empanadas really well but that is pretty much it. Denmark also had an $18 hot dog!
Best Road Trip – An absolute standout was our 2-day drive over the Andes Mountains from Salta (northern Argentina) to San Pedro De Atacama (in northern Chile). Llamas, vicunas, giant cactus, salt flats, a border crossing at 4500m, a maximum height of 5000m (yes metres, not feet) and a little bit of altitude sickness made this one of the most memorable parts of our whole trip. It was amazing! Worst – I was a bit disappointed by some of our road trips in California. I had envisaged cruising along the coast with beach views from every angle but in reality it is a lot of 5 lane highways with more exits than a drug den.
Best Sights – It’s just got to be New York, New York. We spent two weeks here and everyday was a full one with so many things to see. Parks, museums, markets, sport, attractions, food…you name it we did it! Something for everyone (the kids and my parents loved it too!) Worst – Copenhagen. We got pretty poor weather so the harbour wasn’t at it’s finest and the Little Mermaid was, well…little.
Best Streets – If you want to spend a day walking the streets I can’t split Barcelona and Venice. There is something around every corner (we literally ran into a human tower one day in Barca), while continually loved getting lost with the 400 bridges in Venice! Worst – Costa Rica. Deeper potholes than a Bagdad dirt track. Potholes 1, my tyres 0.
Best Public Transport – I think you appreciate it more if you don’t live there but London is such an easy city to navigate as a tourist. Tube, train, buses, Uber….and it helps that some people speak English if you get lost! Worst – Brazil. The buses took twice as long as they should in Rio and in Sao Paolo they had a hop on hop off bus. The only problem was they had a total of one bus, so if you hopped off you had to wait for the full circuit (about 3 hrs) to hop back on.
Best Kids Playgrounds – Known for having some good ‘Men’s playgrounds’ Amsterdam was fantastic for public parks and kids playgrounds. We would cycle on a bike (with the kids in a box on the front) across the city to find the best park of the day. They have so many cool and different places for kids. There was even one whole park dedicated to building your own cubby house, complete with free timber, hammer and nails. Special mention to the timber slippery dips and overheated steel swings of Argentina for the worst!
Best football (soccer) game – For the atmosphere I can’t go past my visit to La Bombadera, the home of Boca Juniors in Buenos Aires. It was f**ing crazy! I felt like the stadium bounced the whole game. South American football games are the bomb. Special mention for total experience was the FA Cup final at Wembley, where we wined and dined like rock stars pre-game. Worst – For game quality the 0-0 Chilean derby was a dog. Less shots on target than the JFK assassination. I didn’t really mind though as at one stage I thought I may not make it to the game alive! The atmosphere was still electric.
Best Accommodation – As I mentioned earlier we stayed in 81 beds throughout the year. Everything from converted horse stables and Mongolian yurts to an apartment on the Grand Canal in Venice. For pure location aside we probably can’t go past our fishermans shack on the island of Milos, Greece. The water literally lapped against our fence. There were so, so many amazing places (look out for the Dummies Guide to Air Bib blog to come).
Worst – The western wagon near Zion National Park, Utah. It was a novelty and the kids loved it. When we first rocked up we thought it was pretty cool (which in normal conditions it was). However, as the thunderstorm rolled in and the temperature hit 0 degrees, our little canvas roof and lack of warm clothes created a night we won’t forget (for all the wrong reasons).
Best People – We met great people in every country that we visited. Relatives and friends aside the genuine warmth of the Cuban people was amazing. Grandmas in South America (yes all of them) were just beautiful with our girls. The Greeks are just well, Greeks (I mean that in a good way). Worst – Frenchies. We’d gone from the warm family hospitality of South America and even Spain to France, a country not known for their grandparents. Eating at restaurants would see some dirty glares towards our well-behaved children. We did still meet a couple lovely Frenchies at our Air bnb in Provence.
Kids Favourites – Pinning the kids down to their favourite place is as difficult as watching a blind dwarf trying to slam dunk. The best thing about the kids was that they never once wished they were somewhere else. They never ever said things like ‘I wanna go back to…’ In all seriously they loved it all (or at least they would find something great in anything). Maybe if they were a little older they’d be harder to please but they seriously loved everything from staying in horse stables, Disneyworld, Edinburgh festival, an overnight ferry to Croatia, swimming with turtles in Mexico, a football game in London….you name it, they loved it.
Favourite Road Trip Song – So over the course of the year Spotify really kept us going. There’s not one song that defines our year however a playlist that summarises our year. I apologise for our choice in music but all these songs had some sort of meaning throughout the year. On Spotify titled ‘Big Big Holiday’
1.Photograph (Ed Sheeran) – The song used to put the kids to sleep the most. Sorry Ed
2. I Go To Rio (Peter Allen) – Unsurprisingly, the girls sung this non stop in Brazil.
3. Cheerleader (Félix Jaehn Remix) – Piper’s favourite song played on repeat throughout Argentina. Kill me now.
4.Bills (Lunchmoney Lewis) – Evie’s favourite song played every second song on repeat throughout South America. Kill me again.
5. Ho Hey (The Lumineers) – Played in a restaurant on the first night in NYC. Then the next restaurant and the next restaurant. It just kind of stuck.
6. Little Talks (Of Monsters and Men) – Piper was called up by a busker to help out singing this on the street at Edinburgh during the fringe festival. She rocked it!
7. Empire State Of Mind,Pt. II (Alicia Keys) – After hearing the line in this song ‘in New York, there’s nothing you can’t do’ Piper asked if you can go to the toilet in the street. When she saw a man (question mark on gender) dancing at an intersection in just his leather undies she said “see, you can do anything in New York”.
8.You’ve Got a Friend in Me (Gipsy Kings) – The girls would sing to practice their Spanish, it’s also from Toy Story 3.
9. Stolen Dance (Milky Chance) – I played this song a lot on road trips and without fail every time Ez would ask who it was. Proof reading this she just asked me what song is that!
10.California (Thad Blake Mix) – Cali road trip, just to remind us where we were.
11. Walking In Memphis (Marc Cohn) -Is there any other song for Memphis? Just like the lyrics said we had the catfish on the table and we walked with our feet 10 ft off of Beale
12. Guajira Guantanamera (Compaq Segundo) – Drinking mojitos in Havana listening to the ‘tourist song’. Ahh the memories
13. Are You With Me (Lost Frequencies) – Drinking Margaritas listening to the Mariachi band play in Mexico. We did. Ez felt it the next day
14. Duele El Corazon (Enrique Iglesias) – I think was playing in nearly every bar we visited in Latin America
15. Sun Goes Down Ft Jasmine Thompson (Robin Schulz) – The sun went down plenty of time in the Greek Islands. A lot of times with a beer in hand.
16. Can’t Stop The Feeling (Justin Timberlake) – Yes we saw Trolls near the end of the trip and Piper just belts this out loud and often! Her version is cute but horrendous.
17. Renegades (X Ambassadors) – Slightly rednecked Americano for when we were cruising the highways with the pick up trucks
I need to make just a couple thank you’s. First and foremost to Piper and Evie. Hopefully when you read this in a few years you will forget all the jokes at your expense throughout the year. Piper – we left with a timid little 4 ½ year old and returned with an adventurous 5 ½ year old going on 600m ziplines in the Costa Rican jungle.
Evie – left as a little troublemaker that had just turned 2 and returned as a big troublemaker now 3. Just kidding (sort of). Evie has spent 1/3 of her life travelling the world. In 2016 (Including Oz) she slept in 84 different beds and ate at restaurants in 20 different countries. She was a little champion who has a great sense of humour and the ability to cry or laugh at the drop of a hat.
Our girls are adaptable and I’m so proud of them both. They find awesome in the mundane and can entertain themselves with the simplest things (they still won’t throw away an old cup or toilet paper roll in case they can make something out of it. The joys of travelling light). They are beautiful little souls who I am incredibly in awe of. Piper could make a friend with a blind sloth while Evie just loves her big sister. Did I say they’re beautiful!
Ez – I think it took us a little while to get into our groove and realise what made each of us tick. Ez, loves the wide open sights and spaces of the countryside whilst I loved the hustle and bustle of cities. Once we realised that travel was a breeze. She is a fantastic mum and such a low maintenance wife (not many would be happy spending their wedding anniversary in caravan park in Utah eating takeaway pizza for dinner). I love you more than the day we left so that certainly says something.
Some big thanks you to our new friends we met along the way (especially those who invited us into their homes)
Our new Brazilian family – Tony, Adriana and family in Rio De Janiero
Our old Brazilian family – Ketty, Robbie, Eleni, Felipe and Stephanie in Sao Paolo
Benny, Airlie, William and Sebby in London
Chiara, Jared and Ariana in Nashville
Constance and the A’Becketts in LA
Our mates who made the trek to see us – Sandgrens, Boscos and Huddo
Our folks of course who seemed to understand why we wanted to do this from the start (I also think they quickly realised they would ‘have’ to travel to meet us along the way too). They supported us the whole way, skyped us repeatedly and made us keep blogging as ‘everyone’ was waiting for the next post. And they managed to get through the year missing their grandkids like crazy.
Also, thanks to you for following or reading these blogs. I know I talk a fair bit of dribble sometimes but many of the comments and emails we received throughout the year made it feel like we were doing something special and that it wasn’t just our two mums reading! (Hi mums).
That’s pretty much me signing off. Are we going to do a trip like this again? Probably not to the same extent. I just hope we have instilled the beauty of travel into our children from an early age and they continue to explore the world as they grow older.
If anyone reading this is thinking of doing the same with their kids and has 1 million questions, please feel free to drop me a line. I do love talking about our trip so would be more than happy to share some of the finer details.
Either respond through the blog, send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or give me a buzz +61405089722