You might think we are all hunky dory living on top of each other in a small tin can 24-7. That we are like the Brady Bunch, minus five children.
Nothing could be further from the truth at times. Last week I was washing my face and Dave was trying to brush his teeth. Over a tiny sink the size of a small bowl. Queue smacking of elbows and banging of heads.
I was grumpy and tired and I told Dave, “Get out of my WAY!” Then I near-kicked him (not really, but I felt like it!)
Yep, sometimes living on top of each other in a confined space has its challenges.
House sitting to give each other space
We’ve just begun our first house sit on this stint of our trip and it has been wonderful to settle into a home for a couple of weeks.
We can go an hour or two without seeing each other in the house, I can work at a proper desk with two monitor screens (winning!) and Ruby has her own bedroom to sleep in.
One way to avoid cramped spaces on a long road-trip with your family is to house sit as much as you can.
Many think it’s impossible to house sit with children (I initially did!) but even though we have been rejected for quite a few housesits we’ve applied for, we’ve also been approached by other families wanting us to look after their abode.
I guess if you already have children then you don’t mind other kids in your home.
Hot tips: We use Aussie Housesitters and Mind a Home, but there are plenty of housesitting sites out there. Browse them and see if there are any sits that appeal to you before signing up.
Once you’ve joined, spend a lot of time working on your profile. Think of it like a resume. Include lots of photos of you with animals, and testimonials. Videos work a treat too, so people can really get a feel for what you’re like. We even created a quick website for our house sitting applications.
Check out our tips for creating a successful housesitting profile.
Problems of travelling with family… aka travelling with kids
In many ways, travelling is harder with kids
I might be stating the obvious here – travelling with Ruby is harder than travelling as a couple.
Before, I used to go off with a friend I’d made on the road and leave Dave to his devices all day. We’d both get a break from each other and do something we wanted to do without a second’s thought.
These days, our breaks have to be carefully planned.
I organise what I can do with Ruby while Dave’s off having some time out… actually, I also organise what Dave and Ruby can do together so I can get some time out! This might be visiting a play centre, going to the park, rhyme time at the library, playgroup or visiting a local animal farm.
Each town we go to, I research things to do for kids in the area, so that Ruby can continue to have fun things to do and be stimulated in different environments.
And then when it comes to leaving the caravan, we need to pack snacks, nappies, hat and sunscreen… the list goes on. If you’re a mum, you know what it’s like. None of this changes when you’re travelling. In fact, sometimes I feel I have to be even more organised.
Having Ruby sometimes also limits what we can do. We have to do less on our days out so she doesn’t get too tired, and we no longer go out at night.
How to travel with family – some tips
What we quickly realised when travelling with Ruby is that our travelling style needed to change. We travel more slowly – not that we’ve ever been into fast travel – and don’t do long road trips. The most we’re in the car is about four hours at a go.
Every place we go to we try to stay at least a week. Travelling periods take an entire day, so it’s best to stay awhile in each place otherwise we simply get sick of packing to go and setting up when we arrive.
We also continue to stick to a routine while we’re travelling. It helps keep all of us sane and Ruby from losing it. She has a bath at 5:30pm every night, we eat dinner at 6pm, she has stories at 6:40pm and is in bed by 7pm. She normally wakes for the day at 7:30am and then we have breakfast as a family before leaving the caravan at about 9:30am.
I also plan each day, even if it’s a very loose itinerary. This will include exercise for Ruby of some sort, so that she gets tired out. Whether it’s going for a walk (where she uses her scooter), visiting a playground or going to an animal farm – we need at least one activity to tire her out and give her some fresh air.
Travelling can get lonely, yes even when you’re with your family
For some reason, I’ve found this trip lonelier than when it was just the two of us travelling.
Having a child can be a great ice breaker for meeting people, but it can also make socialising more difficult.
We can’t simply go out in the evenings with new-found friends, as we won’t have a babysitter. Being away from my friends has made me realise what great friendships I have back home and has made me miss my friends even more.
I think that when you become a parent you grow a community of new friendships around you. These friendships become very meaningful when you experience parenthood together. It’s made me realise how special my other ‘mum’ friends are. I miss them!
I also have missed my parents and in-laws a lot – that extra family support is so brilliant when you have kids. It’s true what they say – it really does take a village to raise a child.
Conquering the loneliness
I’ve actively put myself out there to starve off the loneliness. I always seek out the local playgroup, and go along and have a chat with other mums. We mix with other parents in the caravan parks, which is easy to do at the playground. This is another reason why I like to stay awhile in each place – it allows us the chance to connect with other people.
We have also booked Ruby into day care for six weeks while we’re in Adelaide. It has given us a chance to have the extra support of caring for her, while allowing us to work. Both Dave and I love working (albeit just three days a week!) and day care gives us this nice balance while we’re travelling.
Ruby also LOVES day care and was asking to go… so who are we to deny her?
Travelling isn’t stress free
It might be easy to think we spend our days relaxing on the beach (and yes, sometimes we do, I admit) but I must admit one of the problems of travelling with family is the moments of stress.
One of our biggest worries is safety. Because we have no fenced in outside space, as soon as Ruby steps outside of the caravan we have to be vigilant about where she is at all times. There are constantly cars driving by and caravans being parked, so we need to make sure she is safe.
Once she was found playing on the road just outside of the caravan park when I took my eyes off her for two minutes. Gave me the fright of my life – thankfully the caravan park owner spotted her and brought her back to the van.
Now I always enquire about our campsite before we move the van in. How close is it to the playground? (It’s best to be within viewing distance.) How close is the main thoroughfare of the park? (I try and get a site as far away from this as possible.)
Another constant worry is that we’ll run out of money. We nearly left on this trip with enough savings to get around Australia for an entire year but having to upgrade our vehicle put a massive dent into our savings and now we only have enough funds to last half a year.
But we haven’t given up on our dream to travel for a full 12 months, which is why we often need to think about how to make money.
We are plugging away at our business continually, and hope to come back with some savings. We are trying to avoid returning flat broke and having to start from scratch. This adds to our stress at times too.
How do you relax on a family holiday?
If you are travelling long-term with your family, it’s VITAL you give each other a break every now and again. Dave and I try to do this at least one day a week. Even if it’s just for a few hours, take a chance to read a book in a café, go to a yoga class or for a walk, or just do something on your own.
It can be very intense living on top of each other, so if you find you’re snapping at one another, it might be signs you need a break.
It’s not one big holiday
At the beginning of the trip, we were acting like this was a massive family holiday. We bought coffees every day and didn’t do any work. We had to adjust this way of thinking quick smart, otherwise our savings wouldn’t last!
Now we see our trip as our lifestyle instead, and have reigned in the budget. Taking back control of our spending has helped with the stress I mentioned above. We track all of our expenses on the Trail Wallet app – which we’ve been doing for years – and it helps me to stick to our budget of $4,000 a month.
And of course, when we are travelling slowly and housesitting, we are able to reduce the fuel and accommodation costs each month, which helps!
The joys outweigh the problems of travelling with family
You might think after noting all the problems of travelling with family, that sometimes I’m not enthusiastic about this trip. But you’d be wrong.
We do LOVE this life. But I just wanted to be honest about there sometimes being downsides to living in a tiny home for such long periods.
Don’t get me wrong – there are SO many things we love about this journey, but like anything in life, it’s not without its challenges.
However, there have been absolutely no regrets so far, and the good times have certainly outweighed the bad. We really looking forward to seeing what the next nine or so months brings and what places our adventures will take us!