Our three most frequently asked questions:

1.  Your children aren’t wearing any shoes… (Most common in Germany and phrased more as an inquisitive statement). 

Yes our children aren’t wearing shoes and that is because they don’t want to and we don’t feel it is an important battle ground to die on. As one of our Spanish friends in Berlin phrased it they are, “salvajes de la carretera” (wild things from the highway). After 2 and a half months of cycling and camping we  are all a little rough around the edges and not wearing shoes is just a part of that. I think there are also some sort of cultural differences at play as well which we haven’t quite got to the bottom of.  

The staff at the Berlin Zoo found it particularly strange.



2.  How is it that your daughter is able to miss so much school?

This is a puzzling one for Europeans as they face strict rules in relation to school attendance and large fines if they don’t comply. This is true in Australia also but for some reason going overseas is considered a valid enough excuse to take one’s child out of school for large chunks of time. 

We feel that the learnings that both our children have had during our cycle journey have been far more valuable than what can be achieved in a classroom. 

Pouring over the map in the campground. They both have a good sense of where we are and where we have been.

Covering a bit of the year 8 History syllabus

Interacting with some old stuff on the side of the road

In the Roman city at Xanten, Germany

Vincent enthusiasts

A little intimidated by the world’s tallest dinosaur skeleton at the Berlin Natural History Museum

 

3.  Did you bring your bicycles with you from Australia or did you hire them here?

While this is a rather boring and inane question it tends to be one of the first things we are asked when people find out we are from Australia. 
The answer is yes. We box up the bikes and check them in as luggage on the aeroplane. Most airlines accomodate bicycles as part of ones baggage allowance. I should probably dedicate an entire post to this one day as we have been transporting bikes on planes since 2004 and have a large amount of accumulated knowledge. 

Somehow we manage to box up all of this and get it on a plane!

Arriving in Amsterdam with all our gear

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Our Journey so far. 

Well we aren’t particularly diligent at blogging this trip. We have only posted once so far and we have had 900km worth of experiences to tell! It turns out that cycle touring with two children leaves little time for much else. It is also a telling fact that while we have seen scores of people cycle touring, we haven’t met any other family with small children who are on a long tour…

Happily, despite being all consuming we have been having an enriching time. As each kilometres clicks by we seem to draw closer as a family. 

Our cycling has taken us down the length of the Netherlands, through the Ardennes region of Belgium, Luxembourg and we are currently cycling along the Moselle river in Germany. From here we intersect with the Rhine and follow it back into the Netherlands. 
Some Highlights 

  • Spending windmill filled days with Jonny, Helen, Henry and Bella. 
  • Riding the roller coasters at Efteling, the oldest theme park in Holland. 
  • Bicycle paths in the Netherlands. How every country should be!
  • Picking wild blackberries
  • Hugging calves and hippopotami

 

  • The most incredible cave system we have ever seen in the Ardennes, Belgium. 
  • Walking on the moon at the Euro Space Centre in the middle of a forest!
  • Paddling in the village water fountain (upsetting a few oldies) 
  • Multi generational cycle touring when Mic’s parents joined us for a week. 
  • Spooky tunnels in the ramparts of Luxembourg city
  • Cycling up a hill to Cochem Castle everyone told us was impossible!! 
  • The hidden castle – one of the few castles in Europe Napoleon didn’t conquer because unlike us he couldn’t find it!
  • Being a spectacle that gives people something to stare at! Yes, we are a bit of a travelling circus 😉 

Up close and personal with my unfounded fears

We suffer more from our imagination than from reality – Seneca

As everyone around me at home in Newcastle could attest, I suffered greatly from nervous anticipation before this trip.
There were so many unknowns.
Our young kids are growing and developing at such a rapid rate that their needs and desires appear vastly different from one trip to the next. Leaving me with a different set of challenges to problem shoot. 
It was only a few weeks before leaving that I managed to quell my fears and embrace the excitement of an awesome opportunity! None of the ‘problems’ had been solved, none of my fears had been eliminated, but I had prepared as best I could. 

The hardest thing to do was to choose a different mindset. I had to believe that it would all work out (one way or another), because otherwise my brain would melt from anxiety. So I did it. I chose wanderlust, enthusiasm, and I harnessed my adventurous spirit.


And here we are doing it! We have cycled 141km! Not much, but for us it’s proof that we can do this thing!

From Amsterdam to Rotterdam we are finding our systems and rhythm. Things will get easier and easier as our strength increases and we truely get into the groove. 

Of course (predictably) none of my fears were worth worrying about… 

  • How would Basti (super active 3 year old) go sitting in the bike trailer?…. totally fine
  • How would Amaya go on her attached bike?…. also totally fine! Sometimes she pops into the trailer.
  • How would she go missing school?… mixed bag, but now that school is back she’s a bit smug about not being stuck in a classroom!
  • How would I go towing the trailer?… so far so good… although currently a bit slow due to a wicked cold!
  • Etc 😜

Maybe I’ve just been incredibly lucky, but a lesson I have learned time and time again in my life is that when you try something tricky/challenging/seemingly impossible often people appear who help you. This time our friends who live in Amsterdam, Henny and Cor helped us enormously. 😌 We are so completely grateful!

Henny and Cor rode with us from the airport to their house boat and then helped us find our way out of Amsterdam

They also generously let us stay on their house boat while they stayed on a neighbours boat. The fun bit was climbing over 5 other boats to get to theirs.

Amaya and Basti loved the adventure of living on a boat!

So, this far it’s working out. Amazing! And despite being sick, I’m relaxed and enjoying it. 

Now I need to take what I’ve written to heart so the next time I don’t suffer greatly all over again! Maybe Seneca can help me again… “He who is brave is free.”

Our Summer Cycling in Europe

So here we are again leaving our comfortable, predictable middle class lifestyle and opting for a much more challenging one with many unknowns. 

The plan is to fly to Amsterdam and spend 3 months cycling around Northern Europe. We have worked out a vague route but it is more of a sketch than anything. 

Sebastian (3) will assume Amaya’s old position and ride in the trailer, while Amaya (6) will ride her own bike with the possibility of attaching it to Mic’s bike when she is tired. 

This is the first bicycle tour we have done with two kids so we have absolutely no idea how it will go. We are just looking forward to spending time with our children, sharing new and rich experiences, meeting interesting people and riding our bicycles. ​

All packed up! A good feeling !

Diaries. They love looking back on their diaries from backpacking South America. Exciting to imagine the stories that will be told.

Amaya’s new bike!

Is travelling with kids actually worth it?

Backpacking in South America isn’t easy at the best of times. Long bus rides, limited food options, lack of readily available information, logic defying systems and rapid fire Spanish.  Add small children to the mix and a whole lot of other issues emerge; can we access food that they like? How do we cope with Jet lag? Will they be safe? Will they get sick? Will we get sick? How will they go on the buses? Can we carry all the stuff including camping gear? Will we get robbed?

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A local bus that we caught with a lively group of Argentinean backpackers – it was an incredibly rough and curvy journey and Amaya was quite sick.

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We spent most nights camping which the kids absolutely loved!

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A nice quiet moment!

These concerns (and more) probably contribute to very few families choosing to backpack South America. In 8 weeks of travelling we didn’t meet any other foreign families with children as young as ours (1 and 4).

So is it all worth it? Worth the difficulties, the expense, the risk, the opportunity costs? What qualifies as “worth it”? Worth it for whom? The adults or the children?

Really, this question is impossible to answer… There have certainly been some intensely stressful moments, but these have been offset by moments of pure joy.  Amaya and Sebastian have been exposed to different places, cultures, languages and people. For a time they have become nomads – roaming the lakes and mountains of Patagonia. They are on their way to becoming truly global citizens, with an amplified outlook, comfortable with different viewpoints and ways of life.

And while there were tough moments, there are tough moments at home too. Parenting is challenging! For us it is about choosing to really grasp hold of those magical moments and let them form our narrative of this experience.

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Enjoying the view from our apartment in Santiago

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Amaya posing as a statue in the Belles Artes Museum in Santiago

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An experience to treasure as a family!