Hello from Adelaide, a beautiful city in Southern Australia. After spending almost two weeks in the Australian Outback, we flew due south to this southern charmer. A much lesser known city than Sydney, Melbourne, & Perth, Adelaide came on the map for us while we subscribed to National Geographic traveler back in 2016. We received an issue featuring this lesser known Aussie city and really thought it was worth a visit. It did not disappoint.
We collected our luggage, got our rental car and drove off to our AirBnB rental. Adelaide reminds us a bit of California - a dry temperate climate, beautiful and wide beaches, gentle rolling hills, and a vibrant hip wine country. Our house was located only 1 mile from the beach and that’s what we did for the first two days - turned ourselves into Aussie beach bums :) The weather was amazing, upper 80’s, little humidity and sunny. We visited 2 of Adelaide’s more popular beaches, Brighton & Semaphore. Brighton is a beach town all the way, with a cool vibe on their main street with bars, shops, and surf gear. Semaphore is more laid back with huge dunes protecting the shore. The water is super cold, it has just turned spring here, but I think its probably cold year round. We learned later in the week. . there was a great white shark sighting off the coast of Brighton and a Kayaker had to be rescued!!!! Yikes!!! We would hang out at the beach for a half day, playground hop with the kids (this city is super family friendly- they even have an app to find a playground near you), played in the garden around our house and embraced the Australian “no worries” lifestyle : )
We celebrated Mila’s 2nd birthday on October 17th and as a tradition, we took her to the beach. Her first birthday was spent in the Florida Keys. We got her a chocolate cake and some donuts and once we brought out the cake with the candle, she got super scared…finally Mila is scared of something! It was so cute to watch Leo being super excited for her. As soon as she woke up in the morning he started to sing her Happy Birthday in english and polish. We absolutely love watching him being a wonderful and affectionate big brother. He truly understands the role of being an older brother and takes his “job” super seriously. As a present, we got for Mila a Paw Patrol coloring book and both the kids got into it.
So my one childhood friend is running a company in Warsaw called “Mama w Formie”. She asked us if we would be willing to do a live video on the company’s Facebook page and of course, we agreed. One hour before going live (it was 7:30 pm here), we lost power. The owner of the house informed us that the main switch at the electrical box broke and most likely, we would not be having power for a day or so. Of course it had to happen on the day that we needed it the most! Luckily, we were able to connect to the Internet via data and did a super chaotic live video surrounded by flashlights, candles and solar lamps from the garden : ) We did get power back after midnight : )
The following day we woke up to much colder weather! The day before we were at the beach, sunbathing and swimming in the ocean. That morning the temps dropped to low 50’s, and it was windy and rainy. After breakfast we decided to go visit the city. Since both Leo and Mila love riding the train, we drove to the local train station and headed towards downtown Adelaide. First, we went to see the famous Central Market and it was wonderful. This place has been named one of the best markets in the whole country of Australia. You can buy pretty much anything there; fresh fruit, veggies, grains, homemade sauces, bakery goodies, meats, cheese, seafood, truffle oil (we tried it cooked with mushrooms - whoa what a difference!!!) and many more. There are plenty of cute and cozy coffee and food cafes, where you can enjoy a delicious meal. We actually tried a bowl with spicy cauliflower, pumpkin risotto and beetroot with lentils - it was heavenly and full of flavor. We spent there a good three hours, walked around, tried unique bites and shopped. After the Central Market www.adelaidecentralmarket.com.au, we headed downtown and enjoyed a stroll through the main streets. Leo and Mila started to get tired which meant it was time to go back home…We took the train back and as soon as we arrived at our cottage, we all took a looooong nap. Although, we enjoyed being in the city center, there is something calming and relaxing about living in the suburb right next to the ocean…
Day 4 in Adelaide brought us back to the hiking trails. We drove to Cleland Park www.adelaidehills.org.au/attractions/our-favourites/mt-lofty-summit which was the starting point of our hike to the Mount Lofty Summit (710m above the sea level). The whole hike was about 8km so not too bad. We passed a few waterfalls and spotted plenty of colorful parrots. As I was trying to snap a picture of the passing birds, our camera completely gave out on me : ( We had to rely on the phone but that's not the same. It was kind of a sad moment for me. I’ve snapped over 15,000 pictures and really loved the quality of pictures I was getting. It’s the Panasonic Lumix LX-10. But the lens and shutter will not open and says system error : (
We passed many people as well as a group of elementary students who were hiking as a part of school activity - how cool is that, I love the idea of taking the classroom out of the school and teaching the kids out in the open nature. In Australia, all kids wear uniforms (regardless of private or public) - boys have shorts and polos while girls wear cute uniform dresses. I admit that I am a big fan of that dress code. The last kilometer of this hike was crazy, straight up the mountain! I mean crazy! It literally felt like climbing the stair master on the highest level. I really don't know how Leo managed to finish it. We were all breathing heavily - except Mila of course, enjoying her ride on Rick’s back. After two hours, we reached the top and the views were pretty sweet. You could see 360 panorama views of Adelaide and the ocean. We set on the edge of the lighthouse at the summit and enjoyed the beautiful scenery. Leo and Mila kept chasing birds and climbing trees, what else is new :-) The descent felt like a little spring since we were going down at a very fast pace. Even Mila decided to participate in it. She kept chasing Leo the whole time. This gave Rick a little break.. . he admits she’s getting a bit bulky on his back! When we got to the car it was close to 4 pm and we were super tired, especially our legs. We headed home and enjoyed some delicious homemade grilled black bean burgers :-)
The next morning we needed to buy a new camera. We drove to a store called "The Good Guys" (Aussie’s version of Best Buy) and went on a hunt for a new camera. One of the salesman, a super nice guy from Russia, was a huge help to us. He did photography as his side job and knew a lot about different types of cameras. He also mentioned that we should contact Panasonic and since we have a 3 year warranty, they should be able to fix it for us for free here in Australia. We bought a Canon EOS 5600 DSLR. So now instead of going on another hike we are drinking coffee and learning about our new toy.
Our last day in Adelaide, we spent in Wine Country! There are 2 distinct regions of Adelaide for wines the McLaren Vale & Barossa valley. We chose McLaren Vale since it was closer and had a ton of kid friendly wineries. It's was only 25 km from our house. It reminded us a bit of the Napa Valley. First, we stopped at a cute winery/brewery called Red Poles www.redpoles.com.au. Overall, alcohol (beer & liquor) is pretty pricy in Australia, for example, for a six pack you pay close to $25. Thank goodness for wine though :- ) You can get a bottle for $5. Aussie’s will tell you, just stick to the wine. We were having a craving for a beer though so we decided to do a small tasting. It was OK, nothing out of this world, just an average beer taste. I guess thats what we get for coming to wine country and ordering a beer!
There are several kid friendly wineries in the area so after the beer tasting we decided to go to a wonderful place - Gumtree Winery gemtreewines.com. This winery is situated on the hill, overlooking the ocean and grape fields. They also had a playground where the kids could play as well as plenty of sheep, how cool!? Of course Leo and Mila, as soon as they saw the playground they sprinted there. There were plenty families with kids of all ages so right from the beginning we felt super comfortable and relaxed. We did a tasting and then grabbed a bottle of red wine and a cheese platter and enjoyed stunning views and some partial alone time. The terrace were we set was facing the playground and sheep so we could easily keep an eye on our kids. Leo and Mila absolutely loved petting the sheep and feeding them. Leo was super concerned when the sheep was not eating, he was so cute about it :-) They made a few friends with the local children, together they rolled down the hills, chased each other and took a shot a cricket. Towards the end we started a conversation with two couples who were sitting next to us. Super nice people with whom we shared a good laugh. It was definitely a fun day not only for the kids but also for the parents :-)
And just like that we finished another week in Australia. Adelaide a cool city, definitely has a nice mix of things to do; beach, hikes, wineries, and city vibe.
We got to talking one night about our trip and both Rick and I came to the conclusion that the main factor that allowed us to go on this world adventure was not money or thorough planning. Yes, these were very significant steps in the process of making our dream come true. However, this trip happened because of Leo and Mila and their amazing ability to adopt to new environment. They are such amazing travel companions, can easily find themselves in completely unfamiliar situations and make the best out of it. Yes, they cry sometimes and give us a hard time (welcome Mila to terrible 2s!) but honestly, we have no right complain about it. Hopefully, they continue this behavior for the rest of our world adventure!
Add On Story: After our new camera purchase, I left completed dissatisfied with the picture quality I was getting. So the day of our departure, we went back to The Good Guys, returned the Canon, and ended up walking out with pretty much the exact same camera that stopped working, Panasonic TZ-100. Its literally the same camera just a different name in Aussie. And I’m back to being a happy photographer : )
After our adventure in Uluru, we drove back to Alice Springs, where we rented a house for 6 days. We were feeling more than happy once we arrived at the destination and finally had some space, ah! The property where we were staying was super nice and specious, with a wonderful swimming pool and a tennis court. The first two days we spent relaxing, catching up on sleep, getting back on a healthy diet and working out. We also had 1 week worth of laundry to do and while doing that, we almost flooded the whole house! The laundry room had a hose that needed to be left outside when the washing machine was in use. Leo was playing downstairs and riding on a skating board and needed some space. Naturally, the hose was in his way so he moved it back to the laundry room…we did not noticed it. When I went back to get the clothes out of the washing machine, I had water up to my ankles…of course Leo did not realize what he was doing and it was not his fault at all…however, we were super embarrassed and very grateful for wonderful hosts, who did not make a big deal out of it. That was not the end to our mishaps…that evening while Leo and Mila were taking a bath, without us seeing it, they put a ton of soap into the tub. We had no idea about it. Rick decided to also take a bath and wanted to run the jets…well, within a minute the whole bathroom was covered with bubbles!!!! The foam started to come not only from the tub but also from the pipes coming out of the bathroom floor. OMG, we did not know where to start the clean up, hahaha! People say small kids, small problems, big kids big problems and I seriously don't want to think what type of issues we are going to run into the future : )
After a few days of complete laziness, we decided to venture out and see what Alice Springs had to offer. We took the kids to a local playground, city center and the library where we were able to gather more info about this city. We went on a short hike to Standley Chasm, which is a part of West Macdonnell National Park. The MacDonnell ranges run 400 miles through Australia’s central outback and form many cool gaps and gorges. One of the most famous spots in effectively known as “The Gap”, where the ranges part ways as you enter the city of Alice Springs. At the end of our hike to Stanley Chasm, your greeted by a narrow gorge and 2 huge boulders. The sun only enters the gorge from 12pm-1pm and we timed it perfectly to catch the changing colors of the gorge with the sun beating down. The hike was pretty short, only 3 km and since we still had plenty of energy left, we decided to join up with the Larapinta Trail, a 224km hike along the mountain range. We hiked a small portion where we climbed to a summit of the mountain and could see a panoramic view of the whole range. It was pretty sweet view and we were glad we did it. It’s funny because we have read so many stories about the poisons snakes here and other lethal species, that now, we are constantly making sure that Leo and Mila don't touch any bushes and don’t pick up any rocks. We were even warned by our host of a King Brown Snake spotted on their property about a week ago, sometimes you wish you didn’t even know this stuff because it led us to constantly worrying about where Leo & Mila were and making sure they aren’t getting into anything. Something as simple as the shed where the tennis rackets were at, double checking to make sure no creatures are there to meet you. Normally, we’d just let Leo go to the shed and get a racket, but now you have to go with him and look out for him. It’s not an easy task with our two little wild rascals, they just want to play. It definitely exhausted us through out the week, but we are trying as hard as we can to let them play while looking over their safety.
During the hike, a couple from Melbourne informed us that the famous Ghan Train was stopping for the day at the Alice Spring train station and since Leo loves trains, we had to go and see it. It was the longest train we have ever seen. It had 38 wagons and was 902 meters long - crazy right! This train travels from Darwin to Adelaide (from north to south of Australia) and the whole journey takes about 4 days. The craziest things is that the tickets costs almost $2,000!!!! We’ve heard its a super comfortable way though to experience the Red Center and take in the spectacular scenery without having to drive. Leo was in heaven when he saw this massive locomotive and very upset when he learned we were not there to board. We told him the tickets were sold out : (
We ended the night by visiting a local night market in the center of Alice Springs. It happens once a month and was fairly small, about 35 vendors selling food, art work, jewelry, clothes and other goods. We grabbed our blanket and made a picnic - dinner out of it. We ordered pizza, hamburger (grass-fed beef -delicious!) and Korean pancake (fried dough stuffed with veggies - not so good). We also played a little ping pong game and just people watched. Alice Springs is a very small city with a population of 24,000 people. It’s a land of the Native Australians, where you can encounter many of Aborigines, however, you can easily see that even this part of the world has been overtaken by Western man.
For the last several nights, Mila has been waking up at 3 am staying up for a good two hours. She seems to be restless. Since we are all sleeping in the same room, none of us are getting a good night of sleep. We planned on going on a long toad trip - 130 km one way to hike and swim in Olmeston Gorge but since we woke up super tired, we decided to stay in town. Right after breakfast we went downtown and climbed to the highest point of Alice Springs - The Anzac Hill. It’s a site of traditional Aboriginal and European historic significance, a strategic point in times of natural disaster and a war memorial. Anzac Hill is a sacred site for the Aboriginal people. From the very top we enjoyed a panoramic view of Alice Springs, the MacDonnell ranges and everything around it. We sat down on the bench and enjoyed a nice breeze. We had to cut this experience short since Mila kept eating everything that she found on the ground - either she was super hungry or wanted to prove to us that you can consume tons of rocks and not get sick from it. The rest of the day we spent back at our cottage, napping, playing tennis, basketball and swimming. Rick and I definitely have taken a liking to tennis. The court is in pristine condition and it was easy to “lock” the kids in the court while we played. We actually carried out a full set, and well we won’t tell you who won but it fueled our competitive spirits : ) Its a great sport and one we both think we want to pursue whenever we “settle” down.
Another sleepless night for mom & dad, Mila had a difficult time sleeping. Hopefully it's just a phase that will go away soon. Since we have not visited a swimming spot yet, we decided to take a drive to Ellorey Creek (about 1 hour drive from our house). It was probably the longest drive ever since Mila cried pretty much the whole time. As soon as we made it to the destination she was completely fine. It was a very nice gorge, surrounded by red cliffs, trees, and dead quiet. I was terrified of going into the water...it was very murky and I’ve read enough about wild species in Australia : ) They say that most of the crocs live in the salty water but I wasn’t interested in taking any chance. There were a couple of people swimming but the spot wasn’t crowded at all. Surprisingly Leo and Mila were not interested either, we just skipped rocks into the water, played with sticks, and snapped our usual family photos. We did not stay there for a very long time as honestly, we were all kind of bored. Once we got home, Leo went to help the owner weed the garden, its awesome to see him garden and help out, grandpa would be proud of him! Rick, Mila and I went back to play tennis. Rick thinks he’s the second coming of Roger Federer now. His new name is Hermie Federer…I told him he needs his bank account to call himself that!!!
Our stay in Alice Springs was probably a bit long. Luckily, we had a great property and hosts and even took up a new sport! You can hike and see the city in 3 days and I guess after seeing Uluru and it's unreal surroundings it is hard to be impressed by something else. Honestly, the best way to explore the Outback in by RV. There are a ton of things to do, but we found the driving distances to be way to far for day trips. We missed out on King’s Canyon (Aussie’s Grand Canyon) and Devil’s Marbles - both 5+ hour drives from Alice Springs. It’s one of those things Rick & I would do but way too aggressive with the kids. I guess we’ll have to come back : ) Nevertheless, we explored this region quite well. It was a new experience for us, visiting the desert and its landscape. After a while we started to miss the freshness and the sounds of the ocean. Tomorrow, we are flying to South Australia and the city of Adelaide where we’ll spend a week and gear up for our road trip along the Great Ocean Road!
After a redeye flight from Bali, we arrived in Darwin, Australia at 5 am, cleared customs, checked into the airport hotel, and immediately fell asleep. The next two days were spent catching up on sleep and relaxing by the pool. We spent a half day driving around Darwin and visiting Mindil Beach. Australia has many similarities to the USA. Obviously, English is the official language, the cuisine and infrastructure is very similar, prices are about the same and the overall size & climate resemble much of the USA. It does feel much more laid back and relaxed, and we constantly hear “no worries” phrase from all of the locals. We will be spending the next three months in the land of Oz and cannot wait to explore this beautiful country. First up is a trip to the Great Outback and the one and only, Uluru!
Uluru or Ayers Rock is located literally in the middle of Australian desert. In order to get there, we took a flight from Darwin to Alice Springs (2 hours) and then continued on a 5 hour road trip. We were originally on a 6am flight but the morning of, we found out via email our Virgin Australia flight was canceled and we were put on a Qantas flight, leaving at 8:40 am. What was cool is they gave us $60AUD towards breakfast at the airport because of the cancellation. So we relaxed for a bit, ate a nice breakfast, and arrived in Alice Springs at 11 am. After collecting our luggage, we got our rental car and drove straight to the grocery store to stock up on some necessities (around Uluru, there is only one grocery store and honestly, we have heard from lots of people, to be prepared for a road trip through the desert). The drive from Alice Springs to Urulu was something we have never experienced before. Driving through the Australian Outback, its just you & the open road. No exits, no gas stations, no cell reception, literally no cars, just you and the open road…and it felt amazing! Since Leo and Mila had an early wake up call, they pretty much slept the whole time. We decided to drive straight through without stopping and made it to Ayers Rock Resort around 5pm. Since Uluru is a very remote place, there are 5 accommodations that are owned by the same company. You can pick from a simple campground, lodge, hotel or two upscale resorts. We booked 3 nights at the lodge as it was the only vacancy and quite frankly, the only budget friendly option. Below is the picture of our lodge…pretty basic right? Well those 2 bunkbeds cost us $150 a night!!!! Felt a little like college life again with shared bathroom and kitchen facilities. The hotel was over $300/night and the resorts over $600/night. At first, we were a bit intimidated but after the first night, we got used to it and treated this adventure like a camping trip : ) After dinner we took a short walk to the lookout area and saw the one and only magical Uluru…after seeing it, we could not wait to explore this Wonder of the World.
Surprisingly, we all slept very well in our lodge. Or we are still so tired to even think about our sleeping quarters. After breakfast, we packed our car and drove to the Rock. Its difficult to describe the beauty and magic of this place. It is such an iconic symbol. Uluru is located in the heart of Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park, which was 10 km from our lodge. The drive towards the rock is one I’ll never forget. The shear size and beauty, changing colors with the sun & clouds, was simply amazing. Uluru is a place of timeless folklore, over a million years old, with rich culture and great spirituality. For the longest time I have dreamed of seeing this place and could not believe that it was standing right in front of me. We decided to hike the base trek, walking around the entire rock - about 14 kilometers. Mila was a happy camper enjoying this adventure on Rick’s back, while Leo once again completed the entire hike. He found sticks along the way and used them as his hiking rods. When we started the trek, the weather was perfect - mid 70’s and cloudy. As the weather changed and the sun came out at different times of the day, the colors of the rock would change, from pink to blood red to brown. At one point we entered one of the rock’s many gorges and experienced a bit of water running down the rock into a collection area. We captured some amazing photos of the reflection of the rock on the water. There are 3 huts around the base of the rock for breaks and to get out of the blazing hot desert sun. We consider ourselves to be super lucky as we were 3/4 of the way into our trek, it started to rain and the color of the rock became a little blue - unbelievable. They say that only 2% of the visitors in Uluru witness rain, as we’re in the desert, but we got rain & even an late night thunderstorm every night. We considered ourselves lucky as I couldn’t imagine hiking in 115 degree weather. It was something we are never going to forget - probably one of the most amazing places we have been to. We finished this walk in 4 hours and decided to continue our family adventure. . .ON THE SAME DAY!
We drove to another spectacular place - Kata Tjuta, also know at The Olgas or the sister mountains to Uluru. As we were approaching this spectacular range, we experienced some heavy rain which made this place even more stunning. Kata Tjuta means “many heads” and have over 40 mountains as part of its range. Since it was almost 5 pm, we decided to do a shorter trek to the Walpa gorge, which was about 4km in total. As we walked through the red surface, we were in awe of its beauty. How is it possible that in the middle of nowhere there is this stunning place - its so remote and isolated, you kinda feel as if you are at the very end of this world. We even joked about it and said that we were waiting for an UFO and aliens to come and take us away :) We finished the day with a beautiful sunset at Uluru’s viewing spot. It was an unforgettable day and even though we were exhausted, we could not wait to wake up and do it all over…
The following night I woke up at 4 am covered in sweat and feeling very strange...I really needed to go to the bathroom and on my way there I literally though I was going to pass out...fortunately, many people were already up and getting ready for the Uluru sunrise so I thought to myself, in the worst case somebody will help me out :-) Luckily I was able to make it to the bathroom and back to our room. When I woke up around 7:30 I felt a bit better but not well enough to go on a long hike. We planned on going back to Kara Tjuta and completing the Valley of the Winds hike (around 8km). The weather heated up quite a bit - 90s and sunny. We decided to take our time and simply go with the flow. After breakfast we took kids to the playground and walked around the Ayers Rock Resort. Honestly, the campground was much nicer than our lodge, much more family friendly, very clean and well organized. If we ever come back to this region of Australia, we will definitely pitch a tent stay there.
Since it was our last day at Uluru, I decided to suck it up and do the hike. After lunch we drove back to the stunning Kata Tjuta and headed towards the Valley of the Winds. This hike was considered difficult with a distance of 7.4 kilometers and we were a bit worried about doing it in the middle of the hot day but there was no turning back. They even close this hike off if the temperature reaches 36C or 98F. There’s a huge solar powered sign at the beginning of the hike letting you know if its open or closed. I guess there is the reason why this place is called Valley of the Winds since you constantly have some type of the breeze - and honestly, that wind literally saved us! The hike was beautiful, leading us through a Valley surrounded by gorgeous red rocks. It felt as if we were walking on a different planet, Mars perhaps :-) We had to cross water streams, climb up the red rock, trek through narrow pathways filled with trees and witness breathtaking views of this magical place. At one point in the valley, between these behemoth rocks, we screamed at the top of our lungs to catch the sounds of an echo. It was funny to see the kids trying to scream, of course when you want them to yell, they are reluctant to do so! It was such a diverse hike with contrasting landscapes, a mix of up, down, and sideways climbing. Once again, Leo kicked ass trekking like a pro and climbing onto everything that came in his way. A few times, I felt light headed and very weak but then I looked at Leo and thought: " if this crazy 5 year old can do it without complaining so can I". We drank plenty of water and made several stops to catch a break and take it all in. It was such an awe striking hike that we’ll cherish for a while. On our drive back, we experienced another rain storm and a small rainbow stretching right next to the red rocks. Another wonderful family day spent in the Australian outback.
I don’t know if you can see we have expectations on this trip about the places we’ve seen but hands down Uluru exceeded our wildest expectations. We knew it was going to be an unforgettable experience but what we saw there was a real dream come true. We have never felt more isolated from everyone and everything, you are truly in the middle of no where. But it was one of the best feelings ever. Honestly, we contemplated coming here because its really expensive; the flight is overpriced, the rental car is double what you would pay in the city and of course the overpriced lodging but because of it, we were able to spend all day outside, in the Australian outback, enjoying a piece of nature that still marvels us. We are all tired, sleep deprived and very sore but our hearts are full of joy and gratitude for being able to come to this place and experience one of the best moments of our lives.
Exhilaration & exhaustion, excitement & frustration, happiness & joy for the little moments, lots of laughs, hugs, screams, cries, and boo boos (I think we’re out of the large pack of Band Aids we brought with us). Those are some of the thoughts that pop in my mind after spending 5 months as a stay at home. . .I mean road warrior dad.
When I made the choice to cut ties with a 14 year career as PNC Bank, I honestly had no reservations at all about my decision. I knew I wanted to spend more time with my kids, and there was no better opportunity to do so than right now. If there’s one thing I learned while employed at PNC, through their early childhood education program, Grow Up Great, is WE (parents & guardians) can have the biggest impact on our kids lives’ before they hit the age of 5. Leo is 5 & Mila is 1 about to turn 2, and the chance to be by their side, teaching them about different cultures & cuisine, introducing them to new people & places, climbing mountains & building sandcastles together, and of course playground hopping with them was something I wanted to do. It has been such a joy to watch my two rascals grow together since we’ve hit the road. They may not remember every journey or destination we’ve taken them to, but they know mommy & daddy are by their side, giving them lots of love, compassion, confidence, and discipline.
As all moms & dads know, parenthood comes with plenty of highs & lows. One day your kid is the perfect child, eating their breakfast, putting their dishes in the sink, getting dressed on their own, brushing teeth, playing nicely, and going to bed with out a fight. Except when you turn the clock and the next day they do none of that. I’ve had both glorious moments of proud daddy, and rough days where you just want a break from your kids.
I’ve watched my son, Leo start to come into his own, maturing and developing more independence each day. He’s always been a mommy’s boy but he’s been asking for daddy time more & more. Whether it be zip lining in Switzerland, building sand castles in Corsica, throwing him around in the pool or looking for tigers & bears in the Thai jungle (Jungle Book is far and away our most watched movie, we all love it!), its been so much fun to watch him ask daddy to come & play. We’ve embraced rocks, sticks & twigs as our toys, building houses, airplanes, you name it. At first, it was all unconventional for me, I thought play time was kicking the soccer ball in the back yard, teaching him to shoot hoops or watch him hit a baseball from a tee but what I’ve learned is its his world for play time, not mine. What I may have enjoyed as a kid, he wants to do something completely different. And it is perfectly ok.
Mila is my travel companion. She’s on my back in our Osprey poco carrier for most of our journey so we share a ton of moments together. Whether its hiking in France & Switzerland, horseback riding in Italy, walking the streets of Bangkok & Kuala Lumpur, or jumping through the puddles in Uluru, we’re defined by that bond of being together and chatting away the day. I not only get a great workout with her, but she’s always in my ear, telling me when she see’s a bird, spots an airplane in the sky or tells me the moon is coming up. She talks up a storm. She’s quite the character now, dancing, laughing, and already cutting jokes. Her personality is shaping as she hits 2 years old. I’m amazed at her vocabulary and ability to pick up on things so quickly. She’s been a tremendous influence on Leo as he has struggled at times with speech and communication. No question since she was born, he has matured and become a great big brother.
Fatherhood from the road presents its own quirks. There’s very little routine, but we’ve embraced it. Some things haven’t changed like bed time Dr Suess stories, but many other simple things have. Sleeping arrangements change from week to week as we move to new places. Sometimes Mila is in a crib, other times she’s in a bed with Gosia or I. What will bath time look like? Do we have a tub or shower? What types of foods are available to us and what are the kids willing to try? How far can we let them run & play without feeling their safety is at risk? What makes it so enjoyable is we’ve made the entire adventure a game for both of them and they love it. They get so excited to learn when its time to move to a new house. They ask if we are taking an airplane, taxi, train, or car to get there. Does the house have a pool? They enjoy finding out who is sleeping where, what games may be available to them, searching for the nearest playground on our walks, and finding new and exotic wildlife. They are constantly asking questions and have embraced their change of scenery every week.
Speaking of sleep, I’ve had more sleepless nights over the last 5 months than I had in the last 5 years with my kids. It’s not due to an uncomfortable bed or new setting but the fact I’m sleeping next to Leo or Mila almost every night. There’s only been a few occasions where we’ve had enough beds that they’ve slept on their on. They toss & turn all night. At midnight, Mila wakes up and wants to play peek-a-boo while I’m just trying to get shut eye. I wake up tired & exhausted but then I have Mila leaning her head on my shoulder or arms wrapped around my neck and Leo half smiling in his sleep and my fatigue goes away. Its a small moment but one we share.
I’ve always considered myself a pretty good listener, but listening to your kids and understanding their emotional behavior is vastly different than listening to your corporate clients’ request. They are at that stage where they ask a ton of questions. They say there is no stupid question in the work world so you have to apply that same logic to your kids. Taking the time to get down to their level and answer their requests is something I enjoy. I hope it’ll go a long way down the road when real “teen” issues come up. I want my kids to know they can share anything with dad.
I’ve learned the true definition of a backseat driver. When your on the road over 12,000 km with your kids, you not only get Siri telling you to turn left, but Leo & Mila repeating, “Daddy turn left, daddy turn left”, until I actually turn left. Sometimes I turn right just for fun to see if they have their directions down : ) Of course, now I’m on the left hand side of the road in Aussie, so having 3 navigators, plenty of 4*4 range rovers and some interesting looks from the locals as I get acclimated to the opposite side.
I’ve learned the true meaning of patience. I’ve always been one to want to just get things done, move on to the next job or task, and keep moving. But I’ve slowed down a bit on this trip (just a bit). Sometimes you just have to move at your kids pace, letting them have a little fun. Things like making a mess with their dinner because their learning to feed themselves, or taking 20 minutes to get our clothes on in the morning because Leo takes forever. I think he asks me 15 times if he’s got his socks on right, but we’ve come a long way since the beginning of the trip, where he refused to put his socks on his own. I try my best to let them work out of their tantrums versus screaming and yelling back. Its tough, I definitely lose my cool from time to time but when I stay calm, the situations tend to work themselves out. I’ve learned to let them attempt to fold the laundry, knowing quite well I’ll be refolding everything 3 times before it gets done. I want my kids to make mistakes and learn from them. I always thought you had to parent your kids to walk in a straight line, but I think we need to let our kids zig-zag as things don’t always move straight ahead.
I’ve learned to watch them grow and enjoy every moment of it. They are only 5 & 2 once. They are so different. Every kid is different. Letting them be who they want to be, as long as their safety is not at risk, helps set off their creative imagination. I’ve watched Leo climb trees and pick up lizards, Mila eat rocks, spit them out when I see her, and then try and put them in her mouth again. They’ve learned to build things with sticks, get their hands dirty in the mud, try new foods (albeit they rarely like it) and run around the house 100 times screaming “The Bergens Are Coming, The Bergens are Coming” (Trolls)
Finally, I give a standing ovation to every single stay at home mom and dad out there. It is not easy to be around your kids 24/7 with little adult interaction. It is a tough sledding. From time to time, I miss water cooler talk and just hanging out with the guys. I do get frustrated and sometimes want to lose my cool. Your on the clock every minute. We’ve had plenty of tantrums, vomits, daddy I want this, daddy I want that moments. But I know “staying” at home isn’t going to be forever. So, I’m doing my best to live in the moment, stay calm through every interaction, enjoy every second, and give them constant love & affection. Hugs are free and they are abundant to my kids. Time is something that we do not know how much we have and getting the chance to spend this time together with my wife & kids is priceless.