Updated January 20142
At the end of this month it will be four years since we left Australia. I can't believe it's been that long! Here's a brief recap of where we've been. I'll include our future plans but honestly we change our minds so frequently don't believe anything i say!
We started this trip in January 2010 with grand plans. Six months in Asia, including most of South East Asia, China and Korea, before heading over to North and South America.
By March 2010 we'd realised that that speed of travel just wasn't ideal for our family. We wanted to be able to spend longer in each place and experience the various cultures. We realised we needed to factor in rest days, for both us and the kids. Sightseeing every day when your travelling long term is tiring. We wanted to spend enough time in each location to see all the sights and have rest days where we just read books or watched a movie, caught up on schoolwork, swam and played with new friends without feeling like we were eating in to ‘sightseeing' time.
Colin is also working while we travel and we're homeschooling the kids so we also realised occasionally we need to stop somewhere for a few weeks or longer to catch up on these things so when we do have the chance for a week on the beach we can enjoy it!
So we revised our plans. We decided to just travel around South East Asia in 2010, including spending 5 months (1 month, then later 4 months) in Penang, Malaysia.
6 nights :: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
1 month :: Bali, Indonesia
4 nights :: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
7 nights :: Penang, Malaysia
4 nights :: Langkawi, Malaysia
1 month :: Penang, Malaysia
We had debated whether to stop for a month in either KL or Penang. In the end we decided on Penang as it's much more relaxed than KL and Tracy wanted easier access to the Beach. We found a great apartment just near Batu Ferringhi for under AUD$1000/month and it includes a great swimming pool, Squash Tennis and Basketball courts. We also rented a car for $400 for the month.
5 days :: Cameroon Highlands
2 days :: KL – just a stop over
4 days :: Melaka
We had intended to head to Thailand for all of May, travelling from Krabi to Chiang Mai or renting an apartment on the beach somewhere. Of course that's when the red shirt unrest broke out so we stayed for another week in the Cameron Highlands waiting to see what would happen. Things in Bangkok settled down so we flew up to Krabi, with the intentions of spending a few days around the islands before heading to Bangkok.
2 days :: Krabi (we were intending 5 but it was hot and the place we were staying in had no power during the day or internet. Colin had several deadlines due during that time so no Internet was a problem. ).
7 days :: Koh Lanta
Unfortunately that's when things got worse in Bangkok so we flew back to KL for a few days before heading to Laos.
2 days :: Vientianne
4 days :: Vang Vieng
3 days :: Luang Prabang
2 days :: Vientianne
In June Tracy's mother and her partner joined us for two weeks so we traveled through Vietnam with them as part of a tour. Visiting Hanoi was a fun and exciting. Next time we'd do it a lot slower. June is ridiculously hot and that was a lot of ground to cover is such a short time.
4 days :: Ho Chi Minh
3 days :: Hoi An
2 days :: Hue
2 days :: Halong Bay
4 days :: Hanoi
2 days :: Ho Chi Minh
We spent a month travelling around Cambodia with the children's godmother:
5 days :: Siem Reap
4 days :: Battambang
3 days :: Phnom Penh
3 days :: Sianhouville
2 days :: Kampot
2 days :: Kep
3 days :: Kampot
4 days :: Phnom Penh
In August we headed back to Penang to rest for a while. Staying longer this time we were able to negotiate a better rental deal ($700AUD per month) and put the kids in daycare so we could get some work done while the kids made friends. It was a win-win situation all around!
6 days :: Chiang Mai
5 days :: Bangkok
4 days :: Kuala Lumpur
7 days :: Singapore
3 days :: Kuala Lumpur
In mid-November, Tracy's cousin joined us and we flew to Bangkok before boarding an overnight train to Chiang Mai on the same day. We were fortunate since we could book a hotel in Chiang Mai in advance before we arrived. We were excited to visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, the Zoo and the night markets. Even though it was just for a week, we made sure to fit in as much as possible. We then headed back to Bangkok and onto Kuala Lumpur, before catching a bus to Singapore for a week to spend time with friends. Then it was back to Kuala Lumpur for catch a plane home to Australia for Christmas.
Back to Australia for Christmas with the family!
After a month back in Australia for Christmas we weren't quite ready to leave. Since we needed to be in Australia in April for a wedding anyway we decided to stay.
We filled our car with camping gear and spent two months driving around the east coast of Australia.
We spent a 3 weeks driving from Brisbane to Sydney, stopping at Ballina, Port Macquarie, Port Stephens, the Hunter Valley and then Lane Cove National Park in Sydney. We then picked up a large RV on a relocation special for $5 a day and drove from Sydney to Adelaide over four nights. We stayed in Adelaide with friends for several nights before driving in another RV to Melbourne along the Great Ocean Road. After a few nights in Melbourne we picked up another relocation RV, making our way back to Sydney across the Snowy Mountains. It was a brilliant trip and we loved every minute of it ... well perhaps not so much the long days of driving but everywhere we stopped was fantastic.
Then it was back home for a wedding and Easter, as well as packing up our gear as we'd finally made a decision – we were moving to Penang, Malaysia. The cost of rent in Penang was only slightly more than we were paying for storage in Australia. We'd decided we wanted to base ourselves out of Penang for the next few years so rather than paying for storage in Australia and a higher rent in Malaysia for a furnished apartment we decided to ship everything over and rent an unfurnished house. Our aim to spend at least 6 months of each year travelling abroad.
We put all our things in a shipping container bound for Malaysia and jumped on a plane.
In May 2011 we arrived in Penang Malaysia and started a new adventure – setting up a house here. House hunting, buying a car, finding daycare, packing, unpacking. Yikes!!!
We spent the next few months living in Penang and using it as a base to explore further. We visited the Perhentian Islands and drove to Koh Samui. We were actually planning on driving all the way to Bangkok to see Tracy's mother who was on a stop over on her way to Europe. Unfortunately we ran into car problems so Colin drove back to Malaysia while the kids and Tracy caught the train to Bangkok.
Thanks to some very cheap flights with AirAsia (when they were still flying to Europe) we finished 2011 in Europe.
We flew into London for four nights. After that time we drove a rental car into southern England to see several castles before making our way north to visit friends in Manchester.
After the UK we flew to Eastern Europe. We'd always wanted to go there and it's much cheaper than Western Europe. We flew into Macedonia and spent several nights in the capital before catching a bus to Serbia. We spent a few nights in a small city in Serbia with friends before heading to Belgrade.
Belgrade was one of the highlights of our time in Europe. It's a lovely city. After Belgrade we caught a train to Bulgaria where we spent a few nights in Sofia before spending Christmas in Veliko Tarnova.
2012 started on the island of Crete in Greece. Friends were heading there to enjoy a milder winter so we decided to join them for a month. Unfortunately things didn't quite work out, mainly because the accommodation wasn't really set up to handle winter (it was a summer holiday rental) so after a lovely (but chilly) week exploring Crete we made our way back to Bulgaria via Athens and Thessaloniki.
Our next destination was a ski resort in Bulgaria called Bansko. Colin loves snowboarding so we decided it was time the kids and Tracy learned to ski! We spent two weeks in Bansko enjoying the snow before heading back to Sofia.
We then flew to Paris and visited friends on the German-French border. After several nights in Paris it was time to fly back to Asia.
Back to Penang and Asia. During March and April we visited the Perhentian Islands again, as well as flying to Sarawak for a week.
We spent May in Sri Lanka. We spent two nights in Colombo before catching a bus to Nuwara Eliya. After several nights in Nuwara Eliya we caught a train to Ella (absolutely brilliant!) for one night before heading to Galle. We spent a night in Galle, followed by a night on the beach in Hikkaduwa. While we were in Ella we were lucky enough to meet an Australian lady who had a holiday house on the beach in Hikkaduwa. She invited us to stay with her and it was amazing.
Then it was back to Colombo to meet Colin's parents. With them we went to Kandy, Dambulla and Trincomalee before flying back to Malaysia.
Sitting in the heat in Sri Lanka after we came to several decisions - we wanted to stop somewhere for six months, the kids wanted to go to school and we didn't want to be in the heat of Asia. We debated a few locations and finally settled on New Zealand.
We flew into Christchurch, bought a car and made our way south looking for a place to call home. We ended up in Queenstown and spent a fabulous six months there.
Colin's parents had always wanted to have a white family Christmas. In December we flew back to Australia to see everyone and then headed to Canada with all of Colin's family. We spent a week in Vancouver before heading to Big White Ski Resort for a very snowy family Christmas.
After the family Christmas we decided to stay on in Canada for a few more weeks. We spent January at Big White Ski Resort before heading back to Vancouver to see friends. Then it was home to Australia for several weeks to see family.
In early March we left the kids with their grandparents in Australia and flew to Japan for a week. Nine days later the kids flew with their grandparents to Malaysia and we met them in Kuala Lumper. After a few nights there we returned to Penang with the intention to spend the rest of the year in Asia.
Unfortunately our plans to spend 2013 in Malaysia fell through. The kids wanted to go to school but all of the International Schools that we could afford were full. We had also come to the realisation that we preferred living in cooler climates. After a lot of debate (a LOT of debate!!) we decided to sell all of our possessions and head back to New Zealand for a year or two. It was a really hard decision.
Before flying to New Zealand we briefly visited Cambodia with a friend. Tracy remained behind in Asia for two weeks to travel with this friend before meeting the rest of us in New Zealand.
The rest of 2013 was spent on New Zealand's south island in Queenstown.