Friday, October 28, 2011

The end of the road

Last night I said goodbye to one amazing lady. My gran was such a vibrant, independent person, who did what she wanted, how she wanted, and always encouraged me to do the same.

She was ahead of her peers in so many of her attitudes, it was a breath of fresh air. When we talked about moving to America, she was right behind us. When we moved to Sydney she actively encouraged us to go, casting aside her own desires to have us nearby, then flew all that way, twice, aged 86 and then 87, with somewhat limited mobility, to visit us, and follow her natural wanderlust.

While the last two weeks, sitting vigil by her bedside as she slowly slipped from us has been possibly the hardest thing I've ever done, I am so grateful that I could be there to give a little back to the lady who has given me so much. I'm relieved that I was in the UK to rush to her on that Sunday night, when she could still talk a little, thankful that the path we have chosen in the last few months put me close by, and afforded me the time to sit with her, and hold her hand, and remember and remember and remember - I think it must be fate.

And while that gave me the time to wonder what we are doing, swanning around so far from our loved ones, it afforded me yet more hours to remember how important it is to follow our dreams, because life is precious, and every experience is there for the taking, but you need to grab it by the hands and run with it to make it happen.

So now, when we continue on our travels, after all the official business has been taken care of, I know that your adventurous spirit can come with us gran, instead of being bound by a body that got weary before that amazing mind was ready to.

Thanks for all the inspiration, and the memories gran - it's been fantastic. And I won't say rest in peace gran, because while I hope you're at peace, I also hope you're kicking your heals up with all those you held so dear, having new adventures and making memories in a beautiful hotel in the sky.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The best laid plans are those that you can change

The way I see it, you get two types of people in life; the ones who like to plan, and the ones who don't. Often it seems that the ones who like to plan and the ones who don't have any desire to struggle to function within the same space. Our little family of three are definitely down to the wire last minute decision makers. We don't like to plan, and doing so often causes us more drama than just kicking back and deciding on the day.

But with this new travelling lark we've come to accept that at times it makes more sense to plan a bit, here and there. We booked flights to Singapore for next year while they were on sale, meaning that we can afford to sit in the slightly comfier (premium economy) seats. And we booked our ferry to Spain for this coming Friday a few weeks ago, so that we could have a comfy and spacious cabin rather than spending 25 hours in a reclining seat with a grumpy toddler climbing all over us.

My beloved Gran is still very sick. Every day we are told that the next 24 hours are critical, and we wait with baited breath and hang onto every tiniest glimmer of hope. When it comes down to it, as excited as I am about our new travelling life, right now I can't imagine anything worse than hopping on a ferry and going away from here. I want to be in the UK, more so than I have wanted in years and years, I want to be here for whatever the next few days/weeks may bring, to support my parents, to encourage my gran, to do whatever needs to be done.

So I called up Brittany Ferries and pushed our booking back. And I have to say I was super impressed with how fantastically easy and low cost it was, so hurrah to Brittany Ferries. And of course, being the wonderful person that he is, Mr Traveller is taking it all in his stride too, and we are taking our travel plans one day at a time. So watch this space...

I'd love to hear from anyone else following a travelling lifestyle who has changed their plans at the last minute. How did it work out? Did you blog about it? If you did, please share a link to your post in the comments below.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Home is where the heart is

My 90 year old gran, who is very dear to me, collapsed at the weekend. My dad and I raced the 3 1/2 hours up the motorway to be by her side and hold her hand and we're still here, waiting for any sign of improvement, along with other members of our family who we have called to come since, as the prognosis is not good. The next few hours are critical, but so far she hasn't responded to the drugs they've given her, and they've been unable to stabilise her.

I'm eternally grateful that I'm in the UK right now, that I'm not in Australia, debating whether I'll get here in time, like my Aunty is in America, or halfway round the world and out of communication.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Eden Project, Cornwall, UK

We're spending a few days in Cornwall, visiting The Nephew who's just started uni in Plymouth, which also happens to be Mr Traveller's birth town, so given a few days spare before the littlest hobo's hospital appointment, it seemed a perfect opportunity. We're staying in the little coastal village of Mevagissey, which is close to the Eden Project, an eco visitor attraction and educational charity.

We started off on the right foot by buying our tickets online, which gave us a 15% discount, and hobo went free as an under 5. I was fretting about having to print tickets if we bought online, but you just have to give them your reference number when you arrive to receive your tickets. Our second bonus was on arrival when we realised that the one day tickets we'd bought actually gave us entry for a whole year. I'm not sure that we'll be in this neck of the woods again in the next 12 months, as is possibly the case with the majority of their visitors, but what a great way to give your visitors that warm fuzzy feeling that they're getting something for nothing.

The project is contained within an old clay mine, and you enter at the top of the pit, with a view down to the biomes in the valley. It gives you a strange perspective, looking down from there, the biomes look quite small and the walk down looks like it would only take a couple of minutes. In reality, there is loads to see on the way down through the óutdoor biome' and my guess is that we spent about 45 minutes meandering down the hillside, and probably would've taken longer it it hadn't been for the necessity of a nearby loo for a recently almost nappy-free toddler. For those who don't want to or can't take the walk down (or back up at the end of your visit!) they provide a land train which takes just 2 or 3 minutes.

There are two indoor biomes: Mediterranean and Rainforest; the rainforest biome is by far the largest of the two. As well as the three biomes are the Core, which is considered the hub of the Eden Project and I found it to be the area that contained the most information, the stage, where they host a variety of concerts and events, and while we were there they were also constructing the ice rink for the winter season. There is a large grass covered link between the two indoor biomes, which also houses toilets and some really tasty food outlets.

The Rainforest biome made me homesick for Australia and made me keen to continue on our travels, it was also very hot, and having come in from the conservative October Cornish climate we found ourselves stripping down to t-shirts and wishing we hadn't worn jeans, so come prepared.

Walking around, it felt like there was loads to see, but not always loads of information about it... there were signs and descriptions but often we found that we had a lot of questions that were unanswered... although some of those questions (such as how do they power this place then?) were answered when we arrived at the Core. Other things we may have missed in the way that you often do when a small person with busy hands is in your party.

There are several food outlets at the Eden Project, and I was delighted to see that they didn't offer the usual chicken nuggets/burgers and chips that are so often the only option at these sort of attractions, but tasty, freshly prepared (you could see the chefs making everything from scratch) wholesome offerings that were really well priced and kept us grazing all day!

All in all we had a good time, and I would go back. We all enjoyed ourselves, learn a thing or two and were glad that we'd chosen to spend one of our Cornish days there. We were there for approximately 5 hours, although at approximately 55GBP it wasn't the cheapest day out. If you had the opportunity to go back at different times of year on your free ticket for a year it would be well worth it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

England v Australia

Every few days we have the England v Australia vote... just like they did on 'A new life down under' but without the tacky signs to hold up and mostly without the whining pleas from well meaning family members. Where will we live when we've finished travelling. make a snap decision and give a straight answer, where do you feel like today?

In the beginning it was very clear cut; I felt like I'd had Sydney torn from the very depths of my heart without really wanting to wave it goodbye, but my mum had cancer and I just wanted to get 'home'to her. Mr Traveller was well over corporate life, desperate for a change, and couldn't wait to leave behind the every day reminders of what, at that time was the possibility that our little daughter was facing a life threatening illness. My vote was ultimately, all being well down the line, Sydney all the way (I always was rubbish at those one word answers anyway...). And he was very firmly England. A week or two back in the UK and we were wobbling all over the place, Australia, England, Australia, England Australia England, changing our minds eight times a day, agreeing, disagreeing, bribing and compromising. Then we went to Ireland and that became Mr T's new homeland of choice, whereas I'd finished wobbling and as the health of our nearest and dearest began to gently improve, I  accepted that it  may not have to be Sydney, but my heart did still lie in Aussieland. And that's by and large where our votes currently reside on the average day, for this month at least.

Thankfully while we might not be too aligned on the location as yet, at least we're in harmony on the shape that we'd like our lives to take. And for now that's all that matters, because we've still got a whole host of places to visit, lands to fall in love with, and without a doubt circumstances to encounter and overcome. With that in mind it's with absolute certainty that I can say that we'll be changing our minds another thousand times yet.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Stuff... oh, stuff

Before we left Sydney we carefully considered what to do with our stuff - keep it and store it or sell it and start afresh when the time comes to settle down somewhere. What we eventually agreed was that we would sell most of it - mostly ikea furniture anyway, so we could probably buy new for not much more than the cost of storing it and transporting it to wherever,whenever that may be. we kept hold of a few things, mainly personal stuff like photographs and memories, and our dining table and chairs which we both felt bizarrely attached to, although now I do question whether it was really necessary. We had our things transported up to Brisbane where they are nestled safe and dry in my brother in law's garage until such a time that we might need them, or he might need the space, or move to a house with a smaller garage.

The beginning bit was easy, sofa, beds, desks, washing machines, whatever. Then some more challenging decisions - the Littlest Hobo's baby clothes for example - hanging on to them because we remembered her being tiny in them or just in case we just happened to have another child and then that other child just happened to be a girl all seemed too remote a reality to keep hold of them so we selected a few particularly heart-string-pulling pieces and either sold or gave away the rest. Deciding what to put in those final few suitcases which came with us though, that was painful. We ended up packing  and re-packing right up until the very last minute, leaving a mess of confusion at my mother in law's house after taking things out that seemed so important at the time, but in reflection, three or so months later, I can't even remember what they were! Apart from the sat nav... we ended up buying a new one not long into our travels. We boarded the plane 18kg overweight, and with bated breath, but I'm glad to say we didn't get charged on any one of the three flights. 

Last week we went for our first trip to a motor home sales place, to do a bit of research about exactly what we want to be in once we arrive back in antipodean lands, and I found myself thrilled at the idea of cutting down again and living in that small space with maybe half of what we have with us now. And yesterday, suddenly realising that in 2 weeks time we'll be leaving the comfortable base of my parents house that we've been relying upon for the last few months, and only what we can stuff in our car can come with us down to Spain, I opened my wardrobe and wondered why on earth I had brought with me half the things I did. The local charity shop will be very pleased with me in the not too distant future.

And then there's the small matter of toys. It was The Littlest Hobo's second birthday 2 weeks ago, and an excellent excuse for a huge party to catch up with loads of friends. We considered stipulating no presents, but that just made me feel like Scrooge McMum, and asking for money instead of gifts at a small child's birthday would've just been downright crass, and besides all that she loves all the little plastic fiddly things and crafty stuff etc that make excellent presents for kids birthdays, so we decided to just go with it. And, being surrounded by so many gorgeous friends and family, she received loads of lovely gifts which she is in heaven playing with. I don't want to sound ungrateful, we really are, we have some gorgeous friends who were so kind to our little hobo. But it's drawing near to the time when we'll have to  make the Europe trip cull, and as the new year draws we will be making an even stricter selection ready for our flights down to Singapore. 

On the plus side, given that there's so many things that we want, but don't want to haul around the world with us, I have no qualms with sticking anything that we treasure but doesn't make the A-list into a box or two to store in some currently unsuspecting relative's loft until such a time that we are ready to pick it up and drive it to our English country cottage, or pay some extortionate amount of money to ship it down to Oz, or wherever else we stumble across on our travels and deem suitable to set up our next home.

Writing this post has been enlightening; going through the editing process I started to question whether we're thinking like travellers yet. Right now it's more of an eager anticipation than a burning reality, although there has been a definite shift in the way that we approach each purchase as a family, we still buy some thing that we won't be using/consuming immediately and can't won't take on our travels. It's a change of attitude that's taking a bit of getting used to!