May 2017 Expat Update

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May was such a whirlwind that other then our fantastic trip to Queensland, I can hardly remember what else happened.  May marked our 8th month in Melbourne and I can truly say that each month we feel more and more settled into our life here.  So much so that it feels weird that we head to Canada in a couple of weeks.

If you missed our April update, check out what we got up to last month.

Queensland Holiday

Cape Tribulation and the Daintree Rainforest

Paul had worked right through Easter and although we had a quick trip up to Sydney, we didn’t get a chance to have a proper holiday.  We had been wanting to take the kids up to the Great Barrier Reef in far north Queensland for awhile and decided to get away for 10 days in May.  We took the kids out of school, which is so fantastic because it wasn’t busy or expensive.  Being a teacher in Canada, we never get to travel outside of school holidays, so this was a real treat.

Our primary goals were to escape the chilly Melbourne autumn weather and take the kids to the Great Barrier Reef.  However, there are so many things to do near Cairns and we ended up with an action packed holiday.  We had booked two nights in the Daintree rainforest at Cape Tribulation, to be followed by 7 nights at a resort closer to Cairns.

I am so glad we had those days in the rainforest as it was definitely one of the highlights of our trip.  The resort near Cairns was beautiful and luxurious, but I absolutely loved our rustic backpacker style cabin in the rainforest.  I picked our accommodation, Cape Trib Beach House because of the cabins located right on the beach, nightly bonfires and traveler’s restaurant.  It had exactly the vibe I wanted and I loved mixing with other travelers from around the world.  We enjoyed relaxing by the small pool in the jungle, playing cards in the restaurant, and meeting other families and travelers at the bonfires.

It reinforced to me what is important when we travel and although luxury is nice, it isn’t us.  Instead I prefer unique and intimate places to stay.  I love sharing travel stories about far off countries and not so much chatting about the latest restaurant or trendy paint colour.

Our cabin in the rainforest

So obviously we loved where we stayed in the Daintree, but we also loved exploring the area.  There are some great attractions and we loved zip lining through the canopy and tasting exotic fruits.  But, some of the best things were walking the beautiful beaches where the “Rainforest meets the Reef”.  You can’t swim because of the crocodiles, but the beaches are pristine and almost empty.  We did some nice walks through the rainforest and found a few swimming holes that we got to enjoy all to ourselves.  I think what I enjoyed most about the area was the off the grid feeling, away from mass tourism.  The small eco-hotels, lack of internet and closeness to nature appealed to me.

Ella and I all ready to zip line

In fact, the lack of internet was one of the things I liked the most about our time up there.  It reminded me of our time spent sailing in the Bahamas where we could occasionally get internet by hoisting our phones up the mast to get a signal.  I find that our use of the internet has unintentionally increased so much in the last couple of years and even though we try to regulate it, not having it available is the best remedy.  I felt a relief to not feel compelled to post photos all the time and check emails and relished living in the moment.

I have been playing around with the whole serious travel blogger thing and having to be constantly connected and constantly engaging with the world is something I don’t want when travelling.  I want to travel for the experiences and not merely to document a place for the rest of the world.  We are definitely trying to find the balance in the whole travel blogging world and it is certainly one of my concerns with pushing the blog forward.

Read our full post of the amazing things to do at Cape Tribulation and the Daintree.

Exploring the rainforest

Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef

After our great time in the rainforest, I was so sad to be leaving the jungle and descending into the mass tourism that is Cairns.  However, between seeing the Great Barrier Reef and all the other great sites around Cairns, that thought melted away.  We stayed in Palm Cove, just north of Cairns in a beautiful resort, Sea Temple.  We had a 2 bedroom apartment with kitchen, while still having all the amenities of a resort.

I haven’t completed our Cairns blog posts yet, but we had an action packed week.  We got to learn and see both the salties and freshies (crocodiles) at Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures.  We learned more about aboriginal cuture and rode on an Army duck vehicle in Kuranda.  Another day was spent relaxing on the fringing reef island, Fitzroy Island near Cairns where we paddle boarded, kayaked and visited a turtle rehabilitation centre.  We loved spending any of our spare time at the awesome Cairns waterfront and esplanade.  The city has done a fantastic job at making this area a gathering spot for both locals and visitors.  Since there really isn’t a beach in Cairns, the man-made pool/lagoon is fun for kids and adults.

Army Duck rainforest tour

A great day at Fitzroy Island

Of course the big attraction was going out to the Outer Great Barrier Reef.  We had done this years ago as backpackers, but were eager to take the kids.  They had become amazing snorkelers in the Bahamas and were excited to get back at it.  We were lucky enough to go out twice to the Reef, once on a small group catamaran and once to a moored pontoon with a larger company.  You can read our full post of doing the Great Barrier Reef with Kids.

Don’t they look cute in their stinger suits?

Family shot at the Great Barrier Reef pontoon

We love snorkeling!

Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef

Many worry that the Reef is dying, but we saw lots of healthy coral and marine life.  The kids were amazing little snorkelers, diving down to get a better look.  The vastness of the Reef is incredible and we were blown away by the amazing service on both trips.  Lots more posts coming on our trip to far north Queensland, but I better move on or this will become a novel.

Paul’s Birthday

We celebrated Paul’s birthday low key at home right before our trip.  He realized we are now entering our “late 30″s” – oh my!

Happy birthday to Paul!

Mother’s Day

We were in Cape Tribulation for Mother’s Day, which was a really memorable way to celebrate the day.  Ella and I went zip lining through the canopy as a special mother-daughter outing.  The kids showered me in little gifts that Paul had hid in the suitcases.  Their school does a neat fundraiser called the Mother’s Day stall (all Aussie schools have these) where the kids bring pocket money and can pick out various little gifts for Mom.  Paul gave Ella $25, so she made sure to spend it all and I ended up with quite the deluge of gifts.  Gavin’s Cub Scouts had a Mother’s day night prior and some of the gifts I received there were Gavin doing my nails, doing my hair, serving me tea and giving me a massage.

Celebrating a memorable Mother’s Day on holiday

The Mother’s Day stall fundraiser at School

My pedicure at Cub Scouts

What the Kids Got Up To

Gavin got the opportunity to play at halftime during an AFL game at Ethiad Stadium through the Auskick program he does on Saturday mornings.  This was a really cool experience for him to be out on the big oval and we are becoming quite the AFL (Aussie Rules Football) fans.

Gavin playing at halftime

Ella had the school x-country event and did a great job running the full 2 kms.  Sport is really important in Melbourne and a big part of the school curriculum.  They are now training for “Aths”, which in typical Aussie slang is short for Athletics (Track and Field).  There are 21 ice rinks throughout Australia, with a couple in Melbourne.   Ella attended a friend’s skating birthday party and she was really excited to brush up on her Canadian skills.

Ice Skating in Australia

Ella at the X-country Meet. She really doesn’t run that ackwardly!

Miles has a busy social life with lots of play dates with his best mates from school.  He has an absolutely fantastic teacher this year that has cultivated a wonderful and cohesive class dynamic.  I am continually impressed with the sense of community that is created at the school. The regularly scheduled coffee mornings for the parents in a class, catching up with other parents at drop off and volunteering in the classrooms are all great ways to get connected.  It has been so nice to get to know the other prep parents and form our own little class community.

My Days

My days are really full with volunteering three times a week at the school, attending School Council meetings, squeezing in trips to the gym and chauffeuring the kids around to play dates and after school activities.  I love the opportunities to help out in Miles and Gavin’s classes and observe the similarities and differences in approaches.  When we first arrived, I wrote a post about my Aussie School Impressions and after six months at the school, another post is due.

The blog also occupies a lot of my time and that is something I am really struggling with.  I feel a bit lost about my voice on the blog and feel like I am trying to write for too many different audiences.  I miss the days when I just wrote in this type of style about how I am feeling and our trips in travelogue style.  I am now trying to organize my posts in a way that Google and other travelers might find helpful, but at the risk of not being true to family and friends that have always read the blog.  I know eventually I will find my way and figure out how to balance my voice on the blog.  However, I spend so much time on the blog which currently isn’t transferring into increased page views or a larger audience.  The family travel blog space is extremely crowded and I am not sure I want to sacrifice the time necessary to have a chance of making it in this space.

On the positive side, our trip to Cairns was the first time we pitched to collaborate with tour operators and received a number of attractions and tours FOC (Free of charge).  This definitely felt good to see some benefit from all my time on the computer.  We received about $1,500 in complimentary activities, including two Great Barrier Reef trips.  Be assured that everything I write on the blog is our honest views and recommendations, even when receiving complimentary tours.

I also had a great opportunity to guest post on one of the largest family travel blogs out there, Where’s Sharon.  My post is a really detailed guide to visiting Kerala, India with kids.


Do you follow us on Instagram?  Instagram is my favourite social media platform and I love looking through the amazing photos on it.  However, it does give me a big case of wanderlust when I see all these incredible places I want to visit.

Here were our highest engagement posts from May:

Up Next

It is hard to believe that we fly home to Canada in just over two weeks.  We are so excited to catch up with friends and family and enjoy Canadian summer.  Our schedule is filling out nicely and between summer camp, cottaging, and lots of catch up visits, it will be a wonderful trip.  The kids and I are first arriving in Calgary to see Grandpa Jim and Anne and spend some time in Canmore with my brother and his family.  Obviously we love seeing them, but we also get the added bonus of 10 days in the Banff area, one of the best areas of Canada.  From there we head to Ontario for a month.  On our way back to Melbourne, we have a holiday in Japan scheduled.  It is a pretty epic trip.

After that, our plans are pretty fluid.  For September/October school holidays we are exploring a bunch of options from road tripping the Outback and Uluru to a cruise to Papau New Guinea to a jaunt to Vietnam.  Who knows where we will end up!

Obviously we don’t travel nearly this much when we are home and I know that it probably looks like we are constantly travelling while we are over here.  Our perspective is that we have two years to make the most of our time here and explore as far and wide as possible.  We are sacrificing financially to allow us to do these great trips, but we always try to travel as budget consciously as possible.

Last year I took Ella to Canmore in May to meet our new niece and I spontaneously booked a seat sale for Gavin and I to go to Singapore for a week in November.  When we were in Nicaragua, we met a mother and teenage son who were on a trip together and I loved the idea of traveling with each kid on their own.  Singapore is fairly expensive for a whole family, but it will be a great trip for the two of us.

As always I have written way more then I planned to, so hopefully some of you made it to the end.  I always enjoy writing these monthly updates and the freedom to write in a less structured way.  Next update will be from Canada!

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