So we are three months in and missing people and work back home now! We hope that footy season is ramping up and distracting people from the deteriorating weather. Adam is keeping a close eye on footy scores – both Minyip Murtoa and Essendon.
We’ve travelled through Sri Lanka to Bangkok and now in Taiwan. We’re sorry to those that don’t frequent/relax/addictively check instagram, for our lack of written updates on our trip.
We’ll address those questions in our heads (so surely yours):
- What have we been doing?
- Why Bangkok and not elsewhere in Thailand?
- Why in god’s name, Taiwan?
If you are truly interested in our weekly doings and mindsets, please do feel free to join tho’, you can find us @thesmalllane. (What we do like about “insta” ourselves though, is it does have a unique ability to capture to essence of our travelling experience, in a way that is often hard/time-consuming in words. Pretty handy for us after chasing little kids all day. What we don’t like about insta, is the addictive nature of wanting to know others stories, and the impact on this on us, as you know, the “grass is always greener”. We’re here to tell you that it’s not really, it’s pretty green in Taiwan, but no greener than Horsham. It’s just another part of our journey with our not-so-little tribe!)
The Sri Lanka tragedy
Also, up front, we are shocked by the happenings in Sri Lanka, and I think that Waleed’s article in The Age is a really excellent description of our feelings towards the attack. That is, that the attacks in Sri Lanka don’t immediately make a lot of sense in terms of why they happened there, given the past conflict has been between Buddhist and Hindu religions, with a distinct lack of absence in Islamic-Christain conflict.
What we do assume though, is as Bali and France have now worked through, the terrorism will have a major impact on the ability to tourists, and particularly families in choosing Sri Lanka as a destination for exploration. We only hope that the Sri Lankan government is organised, transparent and hard-lined enough to re-establish the safety of the island nation in quick time. We also wish safety and security on all the people we met over there, we’re sure that those feelings are severely tainted at the moment.
So, our journey has thus comprised of:
- Sri Lanka from Jan 15 – March 22 (10 weeks)
- Bangkok from March 26 – April 5 (2 weeks)
- Taipei, Taiwan April 5 until now
Some questions arise? What have we been doing? Why Bangkok and not elsewhere in Thailand? Why in god’s name, Taiwan? All good questions, thanks.
What have we been doing?
Well, we have spent a proud 3 months now spending a uniquely intense amount of time with our 3 young daughters. It’s been uniquely satisfying, and uniquely difficult at various times.
We have visited major hospitals in each of our countries we’ve travelled (Evie – dehydration (Matara and Colombo); Evie – split eye (Bangkok); Etta – suspected broken leg (Taipei)). Difficult.
We’ve met some amazing travelling families such as the Storms aka @globetoddlers and have some great connections that will endure post this trip. We’ve been on elephant safaris, to the top of little Adam’s Peak (it may have been Kilimanjaro) to look over the Sri Lankan valleys and towards it’s coastline, we’ve drunk excellent Melbourne coffee in little surf villages (thanks to the world of global entrepreneurship) and swam with turtles.
In the middle of all this is the time we get to spend with our girls – which is primary to our focus – and this is often were both the joys and challenges lay. (Surely there’s no joy without some sort of overcoming of odds/trantrums.) Like at home, we have the tears, the exhaustion and the sickness, but the beauty/difficulty of this year, is that is all we have, nothing else to focus on, which is nice. We hope it’s planting some pretty beautiful seeds for our future relationship as a family.
The girls are certainly closer, and Evie (at 15 months) is catching her sisters in being able to interact in their games (she is always the baby in their Mums and Brodders game, but I’m sure she’ll get a go as Mum or Brodder in coming years). Etta is developing a sense of confidence, which at times topples over into boysteriousness. Isabelle is a dreamer and a perfectionist and somewhat hot-headed/stubborn and given her two parents, it’s probably not going to change, despite our daily discussions. Mum and Dad are tired but happy and proud parents. We choose to do things slowly and include a morning coffee (always) (sometimes 2) (or 3). It’s the small things in life.
We are also lucky to have family and friends bumping over, and will continue in coming months. We particularly appreciated the 2 weeks with Lisa’s parents, Ian and Kath. The girls very much appreciated the 1:1 time with their grandies, and we loved having the adult company and the odd babysitter as well!
Why Bangkok and not elsewhere in Thailand? (I mean, the beaches, c’mon.)
Soooo…. we went to Bangkok as a starting point to head to Chiang Mai for a few months. Yeh, great plan that was.
We really wanted to slow and settle somewhere for us as a family, and there are many expat families / digital nomads doing such (and therefore heaps of stuff to access as a family). The slow down would have served two focuses, less travel = less exhaustion; save some money to get through the year.
We were over beaches.
Unfortunately, Chiang Mai from April – June is potentially in the top 5 most polluted cities in the world. There was a mas migration of expats moving down to the beaches, and those that were staying were getting quite sick/house-bound. We surprisingly decided to give it a miss, which threw a spanner in the works. What the heck were we going to do. (We love a loose screw, and this one was a big one. Weather and pollution is now in the top few criteria of our future travel. See the AirVisual app for pollution in your future destination of choice!)
We were over beaches. That was number 1. We’d spend 10 weeks on Sri Lanka’s sublime coast line and not being surfers/beach people at heart, we (read: the girls) were over it. So that, and extreme inland weather conditions, ruled out almost everywhere else in Thailand worth its salt (and sand).
Why in god’s name, Taiwan?
So we started a look, put out a call. And got a couple of responses. The one that stuck was Taiwan from a fellow family traveller, Evie Farrell (aka @MumPackTravel)
Taiwan is a land still notionally/officially attached to China, albeit a very unique island of its own and one that has a growing sense of separateness from its mainland “owner”. It was small (smaller than Tassie – our scratch map at home isn’t going to look that great at the moment!), which meant easy to get around, it’s weather looked sublime (read: 21 C not 34 C) and we had seen a Netflix foodie series that we remembered showed its amazing food (one of our top criteria). So… here we are.
And here we are. It is 3 years away from being ‘that place’ that Lonely Planet notes is a must-go. Go early. It turns out its a ripper country to travel in. You can ride a bike around it in 10 days (it’s a thing). It has mountains (hundreds of them), it has hot springs, and some amazing coast and culture. Taipei (it’s capital) is wicked. It’s also great for kids, super clean, friendly and green. Ticks all round.
So like the cats that we are, we landed on our feet. Stanley Wang, one of Adam’s fellow Teach for Australia alum, is currently here working for Teach for Taiwan and has had an array of amazing day trips / food visits planned for us. He was definitely a travel agent in a former life. He sorted us out with the best suburbs to seek out an AirBNB and we have sorted one for a month, that allows us to walk to 4 children’s parks all within 400m from our house. We have a foodie street literally 40 metres away (including the infamous stinky-tofu) and a list that fills 2-3 pages in our journal of “things to do” over the month. It’s going to be hard to leave.
Oh yeh, and “things” still happen. We ‘let’ Etta fall from a set of monkey bars and she has potentially broken her leg (google: toddler fracture) that currently isn’t showing up in xray, but her noticable limp, daily irritableness and fading super-cat-speed (Ref: PJ Masks) suggests otherwise. We will keep you informed, but thank god for good insurance!!
What’s to come?
Oh yeh, and we will mix things up in the coming few months.
Also, we’re thinking that moving back in October might do us just nicely (rather than January)
We just don’t think we can manage another 6 months in Asia based on the weather over the entire region from June – September (read hot, humid and wet almost everywhere) so looked into the potential for Europe…. We have already seen Issy’s eyes light up at the prospect of the Eiffel Tour (Miraculous: Adventures of Cat Noir and Ladybug (series) and Ballerina (cartoon movie) inspired – both on Netflix) and London (Paddington 1 and Paddington 2 – do yourself a favour), and really it is about enjoying the time with them (and a little bit the food, ok then!!). So, here we come Berlin baby in July post Vietnam.
Also, we’re thinking that moving back in October might do us just nicely (rather than January). That’d be 8.5 months, quite a satisfying number we hope for this venture.
That way also, we get Issy back a few months before school begins also, something she’s really excited about and already access to her little friends and play dates.
No doubt, it’s hard, being away, being together, being without support, being without work/daycare/community. But it’s a challenge that we know has benefits and will look back on with fondness and pride. And it’s a pretty great short term experience / mini-retirement / gap year that we will never forget. Adam already wants to learn Mandarin, he’s that enamoured with the culture in Taipei.
So what we’ve learned
So, we’re learning:
- Not everywhere has Vegemite (Adam sourced some at the local Australian consulate in Taipei – he was that desperate! Apparently the Director there keeps some in reserve on his desk, for times like this.)
- Climate is important, particularly for long breaks, with kids: Asia is super hot! Good on anyone cut out for long term travel / expat living in the region, particularly with kids.
- Self care is equally important away, as at home. We’ve burned the candle for a week early in our Taipei stay and it left us buggered and struggling with the kids. We’re slowly back on track with reluctant social media and alcohol restrictions in place in the short term.
Shoot the questions our way, we’re happy to answer!