Today we have been in Melbourne exactly two months. Usually I am complaining about time going by too quickly, but in this case the past two months feel like so long ago. We are settling in here. I have been open about the struggles and difficulties I have had settling here. I have also had lots of time to think and reflect (probably too much time!) about why I responded the way I did to this move. In the end I think it comes down to not one factor, but many. My expectations of this experience as opposed to the actual experience is probably one of the largest factors. How I envisioned living in Australia was probably a lot more exotic than it actually is. That isn’t a bad thing but at the end of the day we are living a very similar life here in Australia to our life in Canada. This is something that I have had to adapt to. It is one big adventure, but not in the way I imagined. It is not like living on a boat for 5 months or backpacking through India. There is also an element of identity in all of this as well and who do we see ourselves as and are we being true to that? I have felt so lost the last month+ but I am slowly crawling out of the funk I was in. I still have down days but I have lots that I am looking forward to over the next few months. With Christmas coming and preparing for our weekend camping trips, I have been busy. I am better when I am busy; I am happier and have purpose when I am busy. I have started to do what I do best: dream and plan. The whole housing decision did not go the way I wanted it and I am working on forgiving myself for making that mistake. This is an uncomfortable feeling for me and I am working on being gentle on myself. I am working through regret – another feeling that I am not comfortable with. The type A, perfectionist, planner in me struggles with mistakes and regret.
I was feeling pretty low at the end of October. Feeling regret about our choice of neighborhoods and feeling unhappy and unwilling to move off this “struck” thought. Paul was due to head off to a work conference in Perth and the plan was for me to move midweek while he was away, from the place we were house sitting to a serviced apartment. But I was miserable and so suddenly the plan changed and the kids and I had tickets booked to Perth for the next day. The idea was to get away from Melbourne, gain perspective of the situation, have a little bit of a holiday and of course to have the support of Paul. An added benefit was being able to reconnect with my uni roommate Virginia, who I hadn’t seen in 13+ years. Old friends are so special because you can pick up where you left off and I didn’t feel bad about crying on her shoulder. Virginia was such a godsend for me that week – she listened to me, poured me wine when needed, hosted me and my kids in her home and was the rock I needed that week. (Thank you!!!)
Perth (Western Australia) is somewhere I had always wanted to visit, but is so far from the more populous east coast. We had so many cool and cloudy days in Melbourne in October and Perth provided blue skies and sunshine each day, which does wonders for your mood. Paul’s conference was in the cute tourist seafront city of Freemantle (but called Frio by locals), just outside of Perth. While Paul attended sessions throughout the day, the kids and I go to see Frio as tourists and it was a fantastic way to take my mind off the past few weeks. Here were some of the highlights of our time in Frio and Perth.
1. Frio Waterfront
Our first night there we had dinner at the Little Creatures Brewery and right away I was reminded of how family friendly Australia is. The kids got to play in a huge sandbox overlooking the water while Paul and I enjoyed some uninterrupted conversation and great food and beer. We were staying at the Esplanade Hotel, with a lovely park between us and the water. The kids loved watching all the action at the skate park in the evenings.
2. Maritime Museum
This museum has lots of lovely exhibits and displays and is very informative. What my kids loved the most was colouring in the fish pictures that you then scan and watch them swim across the digital screens on the wall. We spent a couple of hours just doing that. The other highlight was touring the HMAS Ovens submarine. It was a pretty cool and educational experience to be guided through the sub from front to back by a retired sub man.
3. The Beaches
Perth has those Aussie beaches you think about – white sand beaches, blue waters, good surf. The kids loved time in the sand and even braved the cool water for some swimming.
4. Rottnest Island
I knew I wanted to splurge on one tourist activity while we were there and couldn’t decide between visiting Rottnest Island or whale watching. In the end we chose Rottnest Island, which is 18 km off the coast and is a picturesque island known for its underwater life, beaches, car-less roads famous for biking and its quokkas (a tame marsupial found mostly on the island). The Rottnest ferry companies charge exorbitant prices for the ferry and the joke in Perth is that you can get to Bali cheaper than Rotto. The island’s beaches and turquoise waters reminded me of the Bahamas and after getting set up with our rental bikes, we were off to tour the island. Gavin in particular loves biking and was really excited about this bike adventure and was constantly having to wait for us slower ones. You can’t miss the quokkas – they are everywhere and are very comfortable with the tourists that crowd around them. They really are pretty cute animals and so unique. The only blemish on the day was when Miles decided to jump into a blue swimming hole. Ella was scared to go in and was encouraging her brothers to jump in and of course our little 5 year old went for it. I had been going over to check out what they were doing and while I waded/ran in, Ella immediately jumped in and grabbed him. Good instincts on her and it was impressive that she could swim and keep them both up, but we were all a bit shook up. The day really was a wonderful day and the only thing that would have been better is if Paul had been able to come with us.
5. Freemantle Prison
Since we are living in a former penal colony, it is mandatory that the kids learn about this unique history and so we visited our first prison in Australia. I tried to get the kids to do the standard “Doing Time” tour, but they opted for the “Great Escapes” tour. The evening “Torchlight Tour” would probably be quite spooky. The prison opened in 1850 and wasn’t decommissioned until 1991. The kids enjoyed hearing about prison life and some of the notable escapes and attempts and hopefully they will only ever find themselves in prisons on tours!
6. King’s Park, Perth
King’s Park is an absolutely massive park in Perth and you could spend days exploring all the different parks of this park. The kids and I met up with Virginia and her boys at one of the amazing playgrounds. She introduced us to the awesome Aussie tradition of BBQs in the park. All parks (even our small local park) have free BBQs and on weekends you always see gathering in the park with BBQ and drinks.
7. Freemantle Market
Open Friday to Sunday, these markets are great for wandering around and checking out the local food and crafts. I could spend hours in markets, but my kids cannot, so it was a quick walk through with a couple of stops for yummy food.