No matter what way you travel, an extended trip involves extensive planning and a long to-do list. Preparing to go away for a year is no small feat and by the time my family settled ourselves on the plane we were physically and emotionally exhausted. But, I must step back and take us to the seeds that were planted in the beginning that allowed this journey to be possible.
One afternoon, my husband had an in-depth conversation with a friend about their exchange-to-Australia experience. He was regaled with stories of adventure, quality family time and explorations of a beautiful and dramatic country – instantly hooked.
“Honey we’re going to Australia,” my husband announced on his arrival home that day. He was the push - determined from the beginning to make this happen. His first hurdle was to convince me to agree to leave our settled life and move away from family and friends for a whole year.
I know I am not alone. Many of us are hesitant to disrupt the flow of our lives, whether it is for work, school or family reasons. This need for consistency is valid. But we often view changes in this flow through a negative lens, seeing them as disruptions rather than providing opportunities. As a first step I needed to see this adventure as positive rather than disruptive, the possibility of enriching our lives; to spend time as a family. I did not take long to shift my perspective.
The next step was to get our kids on board. This wasn’t going to be easy. My son said, “I was anxious at first. I didn’t want to leave my home in Canada.” To be honest, they probably weren’t completely on board with the idea until our arrival in Brisbane. Over the year, we slowly started to win them over by bringing them into the process, getting them involved in making decisions. We talked openly about our fears, our hopes and what excited us.
As we investigated things to do and places to see, the kids got interested. We were able to “walk” down the streets of our soon-to-be neighborhood, and “see” the kids’ new school using Google Maps. We got books and videos on Australia from the library to learn as much as we could about our destination. We armed ourselves with information, sights and animals to see and places to visit. All of this served to ease the kids’ worries, make it more real and build their excitement for the upcoming year.
Although my family chose a teaching exchange (two teachers from different parts of the world agree to exchange teaching jobs, classrooms and homes for the year), there are many different options for taking an extended trip abroad. Simply Google “family travel abroad” or “extended family travel” and you will get an overwhelming number of links – ones that are dedicated to all different types of family-travel experiences. No matter what route you decide, many of the steps and processes we took to plan our exchange can be applied to any long-term trip.
A year away requires a lot of planning and preparation. We had to fill out an extensive application form outlining who we were, where we lived, job descriptions and our expectations and hopes. Once a match was found for us, the preparations went into high gear. Paperwork such as visas, passports and certifications needed to be in order. Then, the purchase of plane tickets, check for health and disease warnings and arrange for someone to check on our house throughout the year.
Prior to leaving we also gathered friends’ home and email addresses, setup a Skype account and encouraged friends and family to do the same. It was easier doing these tedious tasks knowing that with every box we ticked and every line we signed we were getting closer to the end goal of spending a year in Australia.
One of the biggest components of getting ready to go away was the packing up and preparation of our house. Imagine trying to fit your life into eight suitcases. We had to balance our wants with the reality of airline baggage allowances. We had to pare our lives down to the necessities, the cannot-do-without essentials and mementos. It involves asking yourself what I can not live without, what will provide comfort.
The ability to provide some comfort for our kids or the ability to ease their sadness was important to us. So with this in mind, special toys, pictures of friends and family and a few stuffies were packed. We also couldn’t forget the Star Wars sheets for our young Jedi. We felt that having these few items along with us and having the means to stay connected would soften the blows of homesickness.
While we had to think about what we would pack, we also had to consider what we would leave behind. We had to prepare our house for another family to live in. Rooms needed to be de-cluttered; tote after tote was filled with extraneous items and stored in the attic for the year. Luckily we were able to recruit friends to help clean fridges, scrub ovens and dust shelves as our departure date rapidly approached.
Throughout the year leading up to our departure, I lurched between moments of excitement and hesitation. It was hard to imagine what a year away would feel like. Once I realized that it would be a blip in time that would fly by, I was excited at the prospect of going off somewhere new.
Even though we arrived in Brisbane emotionally and physically exhausted, we felt ready to take on the challenges that faced us.
About the Author (Author Profile)From time to time friends and neighbours around the community drop by to share ideas, trade stories and offer up their wisdom – joining us as guest columnists here at Our Big Earth.
Sites That Link to this Post
- Storage Tips that Prepare You for an Extended Stay Trip | November 29, 2012