As news of our plan to travel out of Australia with our young family spreads from family to friends and acquaintances, one of the questions most commonly asked is “How did you choose Sri Lanka?” “Because we love it” I lamely reply. The truth is, up until writing this down, I have not had the time to articulate the exact reasons why we chose Sri Lanka other than it feels right for us as the place to start our adventure as a family of 5.
In summing up…it’s the vibe, and…no that’s it…it’s the vibe. I rest my case. (Dennis Denuto, The Castle)
Our first experience in Sri Lanka was as a young couple returning from London to live and work in Darwin in 2011. 2 years later (5 years ago now!) Adam and I decided on Sri Lanka as our honeymoon/babymoon destination because we trusted that our then growing family would be in good hands there…and this has not changed.
Our starting destination had been a source of deliberation over the past year, popping up in snippets of conversations captured during bath time, dinner, family gatherings. We discussed the pros and cons of places we were familiar with: Argentina, Colombia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Japan, India, Spain; and those that we weren’t: Indonesia, Malaysia, The Philippines. For every family the pros and cons list will differ according to your values, family circumstances and age of your children.
Adam and I decided on Sri Lanka…because we trust(ed) that our … family would be in good hands there
Here is a summary of how ours went and how Sri Lanka became our top choice as a jumping off point;
Lifestyle: In this we considered the Climate, Pace of Living, Population Density, Variety of Destinations (Beaches, Mountains, Cities, Rurality, Temples, Wildlife), ease of Travel and Transport Connections.
Culture: On the most part the main factor is that the culture values Children (and most do!). We currently deem ourselves as Agnostic but Buddhist philosophies sit well with us, more so in the past 2 years as we have explored and dappled in semi regular meditation and teachings by Tara Brach.
Familiarity (ours and therefore confidence in tackling with 3 kids under 5): We love travel, the adventure, the unpredictable nature and thinking on the spot when plans fall through, however, when you have 3 kids under 5 in tow…It is probably going to be a smart more to limit the unpredictable (at least for the first few weeks) and start on familiar ground. If we are relaxed and confident our children will fall in step.
Safety: low (comparatively) violent and petty crime rates and health safety (hygiene). No parent would willingly put their children into a hostile or frightening environment or one where their health would be at risk. It was important to us to consider both these points quite seriously in our decision.
Cost of living: a huge factor for us…we want to maximise the amount of time we can “afford” to be away from our home and careers whilst being able to enjoy the creature comforts and luxuries associated with a lower cost of living. For us, luxuries include a beer with dinner, a pool more often than not (something we have found is a necessity for travelling with kids), air-conditioning and the odd splurge on western food!
Healthcare: Often an afterthought as an independent adult, forefront when travelling with young children. Both of us have experienced medical care in developing countries, international health clinics are a great resource, public hospital standards can leave a bit to be desired (especially in regional Turkey – see our future post on Adam having his Appendix removed in Cannakale!). This is why we have spent so much time researching the best travel insurance for Australian Families travelling for more than 6 months in Asia. (See our future post on travel insurance)
Proximity to Australia (in case of emergency): We want to know, that if needed, we can board a plane and be home basically within 24 hours if the need arises. We love our family, friends, community and although we have no concerns about relationships being affected by our absence of 12 months, we want to feel that we can be there for our loved ones if something arises.
At this stage our plans for how the year will look is very much open…quite like a choose your own adventure book
With all this in mind, and weighed up… Sri Lanka came out on top, closely followed by Vietnam. We are planning on venturing further afield and may explore Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Japan… the list goes on. At this stage our plans for how the year will look is very much open…quite like a choose your own adventure book… some options as we see it currently are:
Basing ourselves in Sri Lanka for the year – and exploring Asia on short “holidays” from our base.
Spending 3 months or more…or less (or thereabouts) in 2-4 different countries.
And even popping to Eastern Europe for the June July period to mix things up….
How would you decide on what to do? Do you plan as you go like us when time is not a factor…or do you like to know each detail beforehand?