Category Archives: Preparing for travel

Making the decision to go – is it the best or worst decision you could make?

Packing up home, leaving your city/country, saying goodbye to family and friends to head off for an indefinite period of travel….. is this really the best or the worst decision you could make for your family??  Will it be something that your kids will  love, hate,  hold against you forever, or never want to return home from??

Will they grow up to be scared of change, or embrace new situations and opportunities?  Will they never want to leave home again (e.g. not even when they’re 40!) or will they be on a new world adventure before they hit puberty??    Will it make them smarter, brighter, the next Nobel peace prize winner,  or will it completely confuse them…    And most importantly, will there be more or less tantrums…!!!!

What about the impact on your family as a whole?  Will it turn into a nightmare holiday or the cherished experiences of a lifetime?  Will you want to kill each other or grow closer as a family?  Will you leave only to return in a week, a month or never??  Will your kids adjust, enjoy, find playmates, rekindle old family ties and friendships when you return or will these special relationships be lost forever??   Will it be the best of the worst time of your life??    And most importantly will your relationship survive??

All these questions and more have entered my mind at some point.   My biggest concern was losing those familial connections…  I grew up without cousins, aunty’s uncles etc. because my parents migrated from Italy to Australia and a big expanse of ocean filled that gap. Having said that, I have spent lots of time visiting family in Italy and I know that these relationships can still exist – living in the same street or even country doesn’t  necessarily equate to  great family relationships.

I don’t know the answers to any of these questions and that’s okay because it may be that we will experience some of all of the above…

What I do know, is that whatever  experiences my children have, whether positive or negative, these will  all be life experiences that we are undergoing  together as a family… I also know that we can contribute positively to those experiences by the way we as parents deal with any of the challenges and learnings we face….I also know from travelling overseas previously that relationships especially important ones can last the distance, and we have a lifetime to nurture these.

Don’t fool yourself, the primary reason your travelling is for you.  This is yours and hopefully your partners desire – it doesn’t mean it may not become your children’s though..  Ask your kids initially – before leaving home, and they’ll probably say that they are quite happy thank you very much, hanging out at their local park/playground/home with friends and playing with their toys etc….

So why do it??  Exactly, my son’s question “Why?”

When faced with this question, I paused for a moment… how to  explain that this is our choice….  not one forced upon us through circumstance, hardship (as my parents had done), a new job or re-location.  We are  actively choosing this even though we have no idea what’s in store…crazy when I stop and think about it sometimes!

As simply as we could we spoke to him about wanting to spend time together as a family, sharing something we both enjoy with our boys, seeing and experiencing the things that we often only read about in a book and  giving examples from our past travels such as meeting people that are our good friends today.   Travelling  gives us family time, helps us to teach our son about the world by experiencing it first hand, and who better to do that then us his parents.. So, be prepared for THE question…. WHY??   What possible playground, park, friend, toys etc. could be overseas that aren’t at home (and please don’t use Disneyland!).

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what was left of our furniture

We thought we had considered both the emotional and practical needs of this big life transition for our kids.  While we had not booked tickets until a month before departure (all dependent on the sale of my husband’s sole trader business), we did begin to prepare about 6-8 months earlier.   We organised  a big house clean up, a garage sale, charity donations, ebay sales  etc…..  Although we  spoke lots about it part of me was probably still unsure whether this would actually ever eventuate….

My son had coped well with this process so far,  better than we thought – he chose what toys to take, what toys to sell, what toys we could pass onto family and friends, what to pack.  He was better at letting go of our “stuff” than I was… He went with his dad to take his special packed boxes to storage to see where our things would live while we were away.   Even when the house was mostly empty except for some kitchen wares, our bed, and a few last boxes, my son still seemed okay.

What we didn’t quite anticipate was his reaction when the last bit of furniture left the house and we were leaving to live at our granddad’s house….. Suddenly seeing the house empty and having to leave, was  very emotional and overwhelming for him…..   We could’ve kicked ourselves for not giving more thought to this “finality”  as for the two of us it was just the last of the practicalities.

We returned a few more times to the empty house and our son soon lost interest in coming back to the house.  It meant that when we were overseas the return to home or his room, (which was now occupied with other people), didn’t quite have the same appeal.

The best thing we did was not go straight from leaving our house to the airport and on a plane!!  That would’ve been utterly disastrous…. We spent a week at  our granddad’s house so that we were still in a familiar space even after saying goodbye to our home.   A week later, after our last goodbye’s to family and friends, we boarded our flight with our two young boys, headed for Santiago Chile.  Tired, excited, nervous and barely believing that we had made it this far….

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The mother of all checklists

imagesCA1RG92QThe do list before heading overseas

I have to admit, I love check lists. I love writing them mainly because  I like to see all those ‘things to do’  summed up in a few practical words and partly because I’m a procrastinator.  Having made a check list I feel like I’m halfway there to getting the jobs done….!  However, what I find the most satisfying is  drawing a big bold line through each one – mission accomplished….(until the next one..)

Check lists seem to become even more important once you have kids.  Being able to remember what it is your meant to be doing  (did preggie brain ever go?) and  getting to finish what it is you started  doing can take days, months or even a lifetime.

Check lists make multi tasking easier   e.g. …I need to go  to the shops to get some milk..let me see if there’s anything else I need while I’m there… yes of course… I can   book some plane tickets, organise my banking, sort out travel insurance and get a couple of jabs…… now there’s efficiency for you…!!

So you can imagine my check list of things to do before leaving on an extended and indefinite time overseas… My life was one huge check list made up of several smaller ones…  such as:

  • Preparing our home for rent
  • Packing up our life and belongings –organising and spreading our stuff to be stored   amongst helpful family and friends, and getting rid of lots of stuff – garage sale, charity donations and  passing on some good stuff  to our family and friends
  • Travel related; insurance, tickets, vaccinations, international drivers licence, passports for kids, buying any items needed for our travels, research
  • Tax and other paperwork: wills,  redirection of mail (organised mostly e-statements), closing/opening accounts, power of attorneys etc
  • Miscellaneous… anything and everything else..including getting a vasectomyI have to admit that even with a check list, I forgot a couple of very important things…

INTERNET OVERSEAS BANKING

My husband and I hold accounts with two different banks.  When I went to talk to my bank about going overseas not much happened..  They  were too busy oohing and ahhing about the trip to  offer me any real advice or assistance.  And I was too busy  telling them all about it that I didn’t do enough asking…  I’m sure they noted a few things like – so and so is going overseas so don’t put a stop on her account when she uses an ATM somewhere in South America, and they probably highlighted our account as a possible  mortgage default risk.

However, I wasn’t offered any thing useful to potential problems like.. ..what can I do when my SMS security code fails because Chile is NOT one of the 200 countries my phone network offers  international roaming  to.  My husband would like to think I was multi tasking on my “bank visit” day appointment due to my lack of success…  See scenario.

 

HIS Bank                                   vs                                         My Bank

Gave him a security key tag                                                I was still on mobile phone sms setting  to provide him with a security                          I couldn’t change anything online with code accessed anywhere in the world                   contacting the bank first

Bank offered travel card  for reduced fees                My bank didn’t have such a thing

So my trip so far has been spent telephoning or  skyping the bank every time I need to make a change online, e.g. add a payee, change my transfer limit, change my withdrawal limit, do an overseas transfer etc… it has been so frustrating and an immense pain in the butt, especially as my account had most of the initial funds…

Some things to check: usability of your cards overseas, expiry dates, bank charges/fees, any minimum balances on accounts, travel cards on offer, set up of overseas bank transfers, security codes for online banking. 

example of bank fees (in Santiago):

travel card: $2

$16.95 (from one bank – didn’t tell you beforehand)

$6.00 (santander – confirms with you first)

MOBILE PHONE

 

I didn’t really want to take my phone as the whole exercise of going overseas is to leave the consuming consumables behind, but I did, and I even organised international roaming… Unfortunately not even the customer service person checked to see whether the countries we were travelling in was on their provider’s list…so my phone became pretty useless quickly.

imagesCAOW12VQCARDS

Don’t be shy about bringing bank cards.    Between my husband and I, we brought several different  cards: mainly debit cards including a travel card each and credit card each for emergency’s.   Always useful  in case one card may not work, you lose your purse or there is a delay in transfer of funds.

TRAVEL INSURANCE

Sounds like a gimmick or an advertising line… but I wouldn’t travel without it…we organised medical cover only, everything else is replaceable..

TRAVEL VACCINATIONS

The list is endless.  You will be recommended lots of   vaccinations.  Your doctor will probably make a schedule that’s longer than your own check list determining which vaccine goes with what  and how many doses are needed and how far apart these need to be.  In some countries they may offer a vaccination service on arrival but I wouldn’t rely on this!   Give yourself time to get these vaccinations done (not in the last week of departure!) especially with kids as you may not know if there is a delay reaction/fever etc for the younger ones..

Its your choice (hopefully an informed one) about which ones you chose to have. Some are essential (e.g yellow fever) others are worth researching what the  risk factors are.. e.g. pneumonia and rabies..  We discovered that anti rabies vaccinations are readily available in some of the countries we would be travelling in.   Most vaccinations are available to infants, although our son was too young to receive the  typhoid injection (need to be over two years).

SAYING GOODBYE

Organising a farewell or goodbye is probably the nicest and most important of all the above… and most importantly its the easiest… choose a location, send a text to everyone with a BYO picnic message and turn up!  I’m not so great with group farewells and it may seem like another thing to organise but its well worth it and lots of fun for you and your kids to have one last play and RELAX…. Instead of running around for one more afternoon with check list in hand, do some sitting around and socialising instead… and if it hasn’t been crossed off the check list yet – RUB it out!!!!