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December is probably the hardest month of the year to be living overseas. While Christmas and New Years are such special times, we certainly felt the loss of being so far away. You can read our November Expat Update here.
The end of the year is always a time to reflect back on the year and we have really grown into our life here in Melbourne. At this time last year, I am not sure I really thought we would still be in Australia in a year’s time. Such was the depth of my homesickness and unhappiness. Fifteen months into our life in Australia and I can honestly say we feel so happy and settled with our new life. I mentioned in my post last year how happy I was to see the kids settle so quickly into their lives here, but I can’t believe the growth we have all experienced this year.
We have friends, we have become a part of the school community, we know our way around…all of which makes the thought of leaving so soon hard. We have had so many wonderful trips near and far in 2017, from Japan to Papua New Guinea to Canada and exploring around Australia. You can read our full Year in Review post with all of our favourite memories and experiences of the year.
- 1 December Highlights
- 2 2017 Blogging Reflection
- 3 Top Instagram Posts in December
- 4 Posts Published This Month
School Break Up
December is the end of the school year in Australia, making in an especially busy month. There were lots of school assemblies, concerts and special activities happening in addition to the Christmas “silly season”.
Christmas in Melbourne
While we may not have the winter temperatures, Melbourne does put on a pretty fun Christmas. We spent a day visiting the Christmas festivities in Fed Square, seeing the Myer Christmas window and the Gingerbread Village. Last year, we wrote a whole post on Christmas activities in Melbourne and all the fun things to do.
The kids were super excited that our little elf Jackie, made it over to Melbourne again. It definitely feels strange to decorate for Christmas in the warm weather and it is something I don’t think I would ever get used to. We did feel a little bit like we were “faking Christmas”, but it was still a fun time of year.
Peninsula Hot Springs Day Trip
One of the advantages of blogging is that we are occasionally hosted by attractions and Peninsula Hot Springs invited us for a visit. These hot springs are located just over an hour from Melbourne and offer so many bathing pools. We were a little worried about taking our kids to such a tranquil spot, but it is very family friendly. Ella stayed back in the city for her dance rehearsal while we enjoyed a relaxing day soaking in the springs.
Ella’s Dance Recital
Ella has taken three dance classes this year and it was great to see her end of year recital all come together. She worked really hard in the last few weeks getting prepared and she did really well. We couldn’t take any photos during the show, but we do have some of her in costume.[easy-image-collage id=7786]
Since we didn’t have a lot of weekend commitments in December, we used the opportunity to get away twice for camping weekends. We skipped off the last few days of school before Christmas and headed up to Mount Buffalo National Park where we stayed in the amazing Lake Catani campground. Camping out beside the lake reminded us of Canada, except the trees were snow gums. We did lots of great hikes in the National Park and spent some time in the cute town of Bright. We even managed to see 3 highly poisonous snakes on our hikes, which made us very careful wading off the trail.
We headed back to the city for Christmas day and then headed away camping again, this time to Cape Conran on the coast. This was recommended by some friends and it was a great find. It was full of families that had been camping there for decades and offered up nice large sites. The beach was awesome and we saw more Aussie wildlife (goanas and an echidna).
Christmas Day was just our immediate family and the kids were as excited as ever to wake up and see what Santa had left them. We were able to connect over Skype with lots of family, which made us not feel so far away. We had a lovely Christmas dinner with Paul’s co-worker and her family. They spoiled the kids and us with a great dinner and it was pretty nice to be able to walk to the beach afterwards.
Being 16 hours ahead of Toronto, we get a head start on New Years here in Australia. This year the kids wanted to stay up to midnight and we figured why not. Melbourne lights off their fireworks from 22 locations in the CBD and are best appreciated further out where you can see the whole display. We had some sleepy kids the next day, but they enjoyed being up to officially ring in 2018.
Outdoor Movie Night
When summer comes, outdoor cinemas pop up all over Melbourne. Our local council does some free ones and it is such a nice way to spend a Saturday evening.
We got a notice that Gavin’s Cubs group was going ice blocking for their year end activity and had no idea what to expect. We were told to freeze a very large block of ice. Paul got right into this and we had a massive ice block in our small freezer for a week. The day came and they sit on the ice blocks and slide down the hill. It is like tobogganing, but you bring your own snow. Quite an interesting Aussie thing to do!
Putting in the Miles
We have been doing some local hikes with our neighbours in the last few months and this month the kids tackled 16 km at Lysterfield. It is amazing how much less they complain when they hike with friends. We are hoping to trek in Nepal in the next year and this is great training.
We had the good fortune to be given tickets by friends to go see children’s author David Walliams. If you have kids and your kids haven’t yet discovered David Walliams, run out and get his books! He is super entertaining in person and every one enjoyed hearing him read from his books and talk about life as an author. Paul was a bit star struck as well, more notably for his role on Little Britain and Britain’s Got Talent.
2017 Blogging Reflection
Not working this year and having all three kids in school has allowed me to put a lot of time and effort into this travel blog. There have been many moments when I wonder why I am wasting so much time on it. But there are three things I need to remind myself of when I have those thoughts.
- You have the time! If I didn’t have the travel blog to focus on, I am not entirely sure what I would do each day. The blog has been my work for the year and even though it doesn’t pay me anything, it has been something to call mine.
- You love travel. I love talking travel, researching travel, reading about travel…you get the idea! Working on the blog has allowed me to spend time on that passion and make connections with other like-minded individuals.
- You have learned a lot! Through the process of taking the blog to a more professional level, I have had to learn website design and programming skills, digital marketing skills, social media management and so many other things. It is only by talking to others that I realize the depth of knowledge I have acquired in the last year, all self-taught. So while the blog doesn’t earn me income, it has taught me a ton of new skills that I can use in the future.
I need to take the time to celebrate the blog successes I have had. I have worked on collaborations with a number of brands, had articles featured on Travel Alberta’s website and many large travel blogs and even did my first freelance writing work. In November, Lonely Planet selected our Travel More with Kids post as one of their best family travel articles of the month, which was a huge thrill. I am still not sure what direction the blog will go in, but it definitely keeps me busy.
Travel blogging is a very crowded space and I am not sure I want to have the pressure of documenting all of our travels. It takes a ridiculous amount of energy to make sure we take certain photos, get blog posts up in a timely fashion and do real-time posts to social media. I fondly reminisce about the trips we went on where we didn’t have to bother with any of that.
Top Instagram Posts in December
Note: this last one was clearly not taken in Australia! It was taken by my brother in the Canadian Rockies.
Posts Published This Month
- Phillip Island: More than Penguins
- 8 Great Ocean Road Highlights
- Expat Life: Being a Trailing Spouse
- Our 2017 Year in Review