The Joys and Struggles of Exploring Australia with Young Kids in Tow
As we settle into life as a family of four with baby Ty I’ve invited a few fellow travelers to share some of their stories. Up first was Nancy Vogel from Family on Bikes sharing her tale of traveling to Ethiopia with her 6-week-old twin boys. I am now thrilled to introduce you to Amy and her nomadic family who are traveling around Australia in an RV. Amy regularly tackles the ever-present question all parents of young kids face- how do we still do the activities we love with babies and toddlers in tow?
“Mummy, you look like you are having another baby,” my six-year-old daughter Lucy said to me yesterday. I had just changed into my bathers ready to swim with my husband Jarrad, and our four kids aged three, six, nine and ten at a dam we’d found in a little, out-of-the-way place. It’s stinking hot, and even though I normally don’t swim, I was venturing into the water. I choked, and Jarrad doubled over with laughter. Long before I’d thought of anything to say in reply, she had run off chasing her toddler brother through the water, both giggling as water splashed all around them in the heat.
We couldn’t possibly have another baby though. Since 2009, we have lived full time in our RV traveling around Australia. A baby just couldn’t fit in to that sort of lifestyle. Or, well, could it? Our youngest, Edmund, celebrated his first birthday the same month that we started traveling. Lucy was four when we left, and has now reached the grand old age of six years (though has not gained any diplomacy with each passing year).
In the time that we have traveled, we have walked around the base of Uluru, through The Olgas, and around Kings Canyon. We’ve floated down gorges. We’ve spent all of winter free camping near a ski resort to go skiing each day. We have flown over the famous Lake Eyre in flood in a helicopter, and swam with sea lions and tuna fish. We’ve explored ruins, cemeteries and ghost towns, visited zoos and museums. We camp in the middle of nowhere often as well as in beautiful coastal locations, deserts and national parks; all of this with four kids in tow. So, am I really sure that a baby doesn’t fit into our lifestyle?
Well, to some degree they do, and they don’t. There have been some activities that we’ve had to modify, or only some of us did. There have been compromises, and changes, or assistance given.
Since Edmund was only one when we left, he has always had to be in a sling or a backpack when we’ve gone on family walks. For family bike rides, he’s been in a baby seat, or lately towed along using a tandem like-system called a trail-gator (it’s a bar that lifts the front wheel of his bike off the ground, and allows him to be towed along). Most difficult of all about going on bush walks with this particular toddler is not the fact that he has to be carried. It’s the fact that while he is being carried he has unlimited access to my camel bak (a backpack with a bladder with two litres of water in it and a drinking tube). The little munchkin will often drink all of my water in the first hour.
Edmund was not impressed with our trip to the snow. The kids were aged 8, 7, 4 and 1, when we spent a winter near the Mt Hotham ski resort in the southeast of Australia. The older three kids all loved it! Eight-year-old Peter and seven-year-old Susan thought it was fabulous and loved it from the first minute. Then-four-year-old Lucy was just as enthusiastic, though took a bit longer to get the hang of it. We paid for quite a few days of ski school for her, so that she could improve her skiing and manage to keep up with her older siblings. It had the added benefit that she thought ski school was just the best thing ever. In Lucy’s eyes, the perfect day meant going to ski school. That was actually what she chose to do for her fifth birthday – to spend the day at ski school.
Edmund, however, was not so enamored with the snow. He hated the cold wet feeling. He hated watching his older siblings do something that he couldn’t join in with. He missed having his three older siblings around while they were out skiing with Dad. Edmund couldn’t seem to rejoice in having Mum’s undivided attention, he seemed only to wallow in self-pity at not having the company of his brother, sisters and father. Toboggan rides left him a screaming mess, and making snowmen and snow angels only seemed to upset him further. He spent most of that winter snuggling up to Mum doing what he liked best … breast-feeding, while Mum sung nursery rhymes.
Australia’s famed dry salt lake, Lake Eyre, has filled only three times since it’s discovery by Europeans 150 years ago. Last year while flooded, we visited the lake, and wanted to fly over it. Jarrad took the older three kids on the helicopter while I stayed behind with toddler Edmund. It was partly because there wasn’t enough room on that particular helicopter, but also because we didn’t want to pay $400 for him to go on the helicopter at age two. We also didn’t think he would cope with the noise. I, however, was bitterly disappointed at missing out. Turns out that we should have re-evaluated our decision to let six-year-old Lucy go on the helicopter, too. She was so bothered by the noise and wind that she buried her head in her knees and went to sleep. I guess not to many scenic helicopter pilots could claim to have had many people fall asleep on their flight.
Activities like swimming with the tuna and sea lions were much more successful. Both Edmund and Lucy were enthralled by the animals, and just watched and watched. They loved feeding the tuna, and Lucy got in the water holding tight to Dad. Edmund sat in the shallows with me while the sea lions swam and played all around us, loving every minute of being so close to the graceful sea lions.
There are definitely some things that we have to moderate or do differently, help out a little one or two, or sometimes for one parent to stay behind while everyone else does the activity. Generally speaking, though, we can travel just fine with a toddler and preschooler. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if I was as pregnant as little Lucy seems to think I look. At least if I was actually pregnant, I wouldn’t mind being told I look pregnant!
Amy and Jarrad are traveling around Australia in an RV with their four children ages 10 and under. Since 2009 the family has traveled through six of Australia’s eight states, having a definite preference for rural and remote areas. They enjoy traveling to out-of-the-way destinations, and rarely have an actual plan for where they are going to head next. They share their travel stories at Livin on the Road and photography at Wandering Photographer.