We’re at the halfway point of our trip and have survived being ‘on the road’ for almost 5 months! To mark this special occasion, the Brooks family share their thoughts on travelling life, so far!
What are the 3 things you have liked BEST about our exciting adventure?
Ruben (aged 10)
- I really enjoyed having Christmas in Australia! It was doubly exciting because we were in a different country and we had lots of family around that we hadn’t seen in ages.
- I really enjoyed the day in Kaikoura, New Zealand, where we all went down to a pebble beach and discovered hundreds of grey seals spread across the rocks and shore line. I thought that was AWESOME as we were able to get really close up – probably within about 6-10 feet. There were so many!
- I also had a brilliant time at the trampoline park in Bali. Even though I had really bad aches and pains the next day from all the jumping, bouncing and acrobatics, it was really fun.
Rosie (aged 7)
- I loved our trip to Waterbom, Bali! Waterbom is fun because it has lots of high waterslides which are super fast and loads of fun.
- I also really enjoyed our visit to the Butterfly farm in Auckland. I loved seeing the butterfly room and having the butterflies land on you- as long as you kept really still.
- The Petrosains Discovery Centre in Kuala Lumpur was also such good fun! There were lots of things to see and do. We could touch lots of things and take part. We were there all day and I didn’t want to leave!
- Firstly, I have enjoyed spending time getting to know my family better. Rosie has a brilliant sense of humor and will always make me laugh. She is incredibly brave and when riding on motorbikes, she’ll turn the throttle to go faster or almost fall asleep doing 80kph down a main road. She is unfazed by any creature and can make friends with any child from any country. Ruben has shown me his incredible creative side, English and Maths skills. He has read about 4 books on the trip including Goodnight Mr Tom (going through NZ), Ratburger and Gangster Granny (going through Australia), The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (down through Thailand) and is now getting through Life of Pi. Ruben has turned out to be the adventurous eater on this trip and is willing to try anything once. He had Dim Sum in Bangkok, Durian in Bali and Jellyfish in Penang, to name a few. April I’ve always known to be a great organizer, but she has read through and filled out so many forms to get us from country to country. Considering she’d never ridden a motorbike before this trip, she has successfully managed to carry a child around Koh Samui and Koh Phangan without so much as a scruff, scratch or burn. Even riding back across Samui at night she took in her stride. Super awesome wife. Like Ruben, she is also the first to try any new food and she can negotiate 60% off almost anything in a market!
- Secondly, I have enjoyed the food. Everywhere we have been from Western countries like NZ and Australia, to Thailand, Malaysia and Bali, food is the one constant key to the day. Without food we all get grumpy. You can’t live off bread and biscuits from the 7-11 so we’ve always needed to find some real food. Doing this we have discovered really great small restaurants, cafés and street food. Fast food like McDonalds is everywhere and we have been forced to buckle on occasion when nothing is open and it’s late or something. But the small places are almost always cheaper and fresher. It’s made us all try new foods and not be tied down by the same meals we ate back home.
- Thirdly, the actual travelling and moving on somewhere new part. The thought of seeing and exploring somewhere new; showing the kids another culture and new foods. Feeling the heat when you step outside an airport or arriving in the centre of town or city and figuring out where to go next. It can be stressful, but it is an adventure after all.
- I have really enjoyed having a very relaxed daily schedule. The only fixed plans we have are on travel days with flights to catch or a ferry crossing, and sitting down most week days to do schooling with the kids. Everything else, like when we wake up, go to bed and what activities we do- we just plan along the way, depending on how we feel. I like this way of living!
- I love the fact that despite being far away from home, we have stayed in touch with our family and friends. In fact, being away has made us appreciate those we love even more, because they have taken the time and effort to message us, stay up late to FaceTime and Skype chat, send us much loved treats from back home and read our blog! I cannot put into words how much this means to us.
- Its been great fun arriving in a new city / area / country and exploring! We love getting to know the local people, finding good restaurants, happening upon a brilliant local activity, discovering a famous landmark!
What is the one thing that has surprised you the most since being on this trip?
Something that has surprised me most is that we have got on very well together, especially as we have often had to share a room most places we have stayed. I am also surprised how fast this trip has gone, because it seems only yesterday that it was November 2014 and we were leaving the UK at Gatwick airport!
The golden orb spider which we saw in a web by the side of a track in Ubud, Bali really surprised me! The spider had golden stripes on its legs and was probably the size of my dads hand. It also spins a yellow web. So cool. It was the biggest spider I have ever seen!
How well the kids have coped being away from home, friends and western cuisine. Some of the places have been a culture shock for April and I, yet the kids have just carried on as usual and absorbed the change. Plus, on transit days, where a 6-7 hour transfer is pretty common, they have just got on with it. I checked our fight details yesterday and the part of our flight home from Bangkok to Dubai is 7 hours. Kind of a short hop really. Shame!
I have been surprised how challenging I have found home schooling the kids! Getting them to actually sit down and concentrate for a period of time, when you’re in an environment which has many distractions is no mean feat! Also, to find a selection of resources which will make learning fun and interesting is a full time job! There is so much available – especially online; it’s just quite a task to find the resources, check they’re suitable and make them relevant and interesting. I also underestimated how useful it must be (sometimes!) to have a group of peers working through the same tasks, to keep each other motivated and to help each other out, etc. I think the kids have missed this too. Of course, we have learnt lots by being outside our home ‘classroom’ too and I guess I shouldn’t underestimate this. Aaron and I both have felt we owe it to the children to keep on top of the their academic studies, so that when they return back to the traditional school environment on our return, they’ll hopeful slot back in and not have to catch up. We have always had a great relationship with Ruben and Rosie’s brilliant school back home and I know when they return to full time schooling when we’re back in the UK, I am going to appreciate the teachers input and hard work even more!
Tell me two things you have learned since we have been travelling?
I have learnt a lot of cool Maths tricks to solve fractions questions quickly (like calculate 5/6 of £141) and have also read some great books like Goodnight Mr Tom. I have also learnt lots of life skills and my self confidence has grown by communicating with people in different countries who don’t speak English. I looking forward to learning more things when we travel on through Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.
I learnt to try new food! I especially like Indonesian food. Its so yummy. Also, I learnt to tell the time on my own, it really is easy.
The first thing I have learned is that Kiwi fruit aren’t actually originally from New Zealand. They are from China.
I have learned that I don’t need so much stuff. We have lived out of the same backpack-sized suitcase for almost 5 months! We have worn the same clothes and I have worn very little make-up and no jewellery. We have watched very little TV and had no magazines. Apart from food, we have bought very little. On seeing all the lovely things we could buy, we have always asked the questions: Do I need it? Do I want to carry it in my pack for the next 3,4, 5, 6 months… ?! Apart from new flip-flops, a bikini, new shorts and some small toys for the kids, very few other other things have passed the test. Instead, we have spent our money on days out, good food and exciting adventures!
I am also in the process of trying to live more mindfully. That is, the art of living in the moment. Appreciating the here and now. People who know me well know that I am a planner. I always like to know what is happening next. What will we be doing in 6 months time? What is the next step on the career ladder and what do I need to do to achieve that? Where will we being going on holiday next summer? Who will be cooking Christmas dinner this year (when it’s only July!)?… Part of this is because I like things to look forward to – I think everyone does. And also I enjoy planning and organising. But partly, for me at least, this is about escapism from mundane, everyday, hectic living. However, as the famous quote goes, ‘life is what is happening now, whilst you’re busy making other plans’. It’s taken this trip for me to fully appreciate that. To try and avoid thinking about the ‘what ifs‘, and ‘maybes‘; and instead concentrate on the wonderful life here in front of us. It’s not always easy. It’s been a struggle actually. But I am learning and enjoying the process.
When we return to the UK in August, what will you miss most about our travelling lifestyle?
I am going to miss being mostly super relaxed and being able to get up at 8:30 every morning, especially as I am going into high school when we get back and will need to leave the house at 7:45am every day!
Meeting lots of new people and hearing about where they are from. Whilst making a cup of tea in The Travel Hub (Kuala Lumpur), two guys were sat talking about some pictures on a laptop. As I sat and waited for the kettle to boil I got talking to them. One of the chaps was from a small village in Japan and he showed me the spring photos from his village. They were straight out of the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon film; just beautiful. The other chap there was Hungarian, I think. We talked about places we’d been and are going to. The young Japanese guy was on his way to Perth in a couple of weeks, so I gave him some tips from our experiences in Australia. The old Hungarian chap, who is the spitting image of Einstein btw, then pulls out some sweet sesame rolls and offered us both one. They were delicious.
So over the course of a kettle boiling, I had met two really interesting people from opposite sides of the world discussing places to explore. The world isn’t too big to go and see, you just need to make the time to go. You’ll meet some great people along the way. That’s what I’ll miss.
Arriving home, I think I’m going miss the simple lifestyle we have enjoyed on this trip. It’s difficult to maintain that back home, when you have a mortgage to pay, a car to run, work to do and stuff to buy. But I don’t want things to go back to how they were before we left; often hectic, materialistic… I want this experience to change our life and impact on the future. I really hope it does. At the moment, I’m just resisting thinking too much about the changes we might want to make to our life when we get back to the UK. I’ll leave that to when we’re actually home, because for now, we still have Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, north Thailand and another 5 months to enjoy!