We are the De Ligt family, Donovan and Lyndal (early 40's) and our two kids; Michaela (8) and Lachlan (7), setting off for seven months on our Delightful Aussie Adventure between June 2016 and January 2017. We have been chasing the sun, heading in a anti-clockwise direction from our home near Canberra. We first headed up through Queensland to Cape York, then through the Red Centre, Top End and Kimberly. Next it was down the WA coast across the Nullarbor and up and down through SA. We are currently zig zagging our way through Victoria before our finale in Tasmania arriving home on Australia Day 2017.
Lyndal and I decided on TAWKing before the stork even delivered us our children. It all came about one night in a hut on the side of Mt Kilimanjaro, Africa. We had just completed a successful climb to the summit and clearly lacking oxygen to the brain decided that it was time to build a house, have a family and take them around Australia. It was a ten year plan! We decided that the best time for the kids to get the most out of the trip was when they were between 6 and 9. Luckily for us we had our two close together.
We started saving for the trip about six years ago, we had a goal and put a bit extra each week into our home loan as savings. We bought a new Mitsubishi Triton with a plan to pay it off over five years so we would own it when we set off. Two years before we set off we went up to a huge camping show in Sydney to look at fold out canvas 'tent trailers.' We left the show with a deposit on a Jayco Swan Camper Trailer. We really liked that the Swan had a kitchen, dining & school area, lounge and great storage that would make life on the road for so long more comfortable.
While we discovered that our van couldn't handle the harsh rigours of some of the hugely corrugated outback roads it was great 95% of the time on our trip around Australia. Having the van a few years before we set off gave us time to make some modifications to the storage and hone our set up for a quick set up/pack up and remove any unnecessary items.We ended up spending a fair bit of money on our Triton at various 4X4 stores,
putting on a canopy and storage drawers in the ute, long range fuel tank, improving the suspension and quite a few other modifications. We are a big biking family and also carried four bikes on the roof of the car which killed our fuel consumption but allowed us to explore so many places by bike.
Our biggest joy honestly is being able to spend so much time together getting to know one and other better, combined with the great adventure of travel and the chance to explore our own truly amazing country with our kids.
I am going to answer this question as part Question 7.
We learned to research and plan so we made the most of our time and quickly understood it was not possible to do everything on offer. One thing we really focused on was trying to save experiences for the places they were most famous for, e.g a camel ride in Broome or snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef.
Spending time as a family, discovering new things, learning about our nation's history and all the natural beauty has been the highlight. At first we found it a bit disappointing that we couldn't see and do every possible thing.
We chose to enrol in the NSW Department of Education, Distance Education through Queanbeyan DE Centre. Luckily for us the centre shares a campus with our kids' school. We received packs of work every two weeks from our teacher. The packs would be posted to Post Offices at certain towns as we travelled the country. As we finished each set we would send the completed packs back. We completed the full curriculum for our kids (history, geography, science, art, PE etc, which was a challenge, but one we felt was right for us).
At first I was blown away at the volume of work and what was involved. It was important to Lyndal and I that we shared the teaching duties and our strategy was to supervise one child each for a two week block and then swap kids at the end of the set. It took us a few sets to find our rhythm but we developed a system that worked for us. We woke the kids at 7am, had breaky and started school at 7.30am. Our sessions generally went for 2 to 3 hours. One on one schooling is pretty intense for parent and child. If you pay close attention you can see quickly when your child starts to head off track and you can intervene. For this reason DE is very efficient and effective but it really relies on the parent rolling up their sleeves and getting involved. We found that you needed to roll through various subjects during a session to keep everyone fresh and motivated.
It certainly had it ups and downs, one day I would consider retraining as a teacher and the next day, booking into an asylum! Our goal for the trip was to spend time with he kids and get to know them better and surprisingly school provided us the framework to be able to do this.
straight into reality that day as we explored Australia. The school work initiated discussion and prompted learning. We have heard countless times as we travel around Australia 'the kids will learn more on the road than they will at school' and while we agree that our kids' understanding of their world has rocketed forward this year, the fundamental principles of education are also important even while travelling.
Our goal was to balance the real world experiences with reading, writing and arithmetic. Trying to focus your kids on school work while their new friends are playing loudly outside is tough but we found with a solid schedule and structure we were able to complete all the work set out for us. We are however looking forward to the Christmas holidays as much as the kids.
We have found that the cost of travelling surprising.Lyndal and I travelled the world with a backpack, but even without the airfares, tripping around in a caravan with your family is much more expensive than we thought. It's not just fuel, food and caravan park fees. You get your wallet out in the morning and slip it back away as you put your head on the pillow each evening and these days there are four entry fees to pay for.
You can certainly do it much more economically than us, but the other side of saving coin is that you also limit the places you can go and things you can see. If you are running on a tight budget you really will have a big job keeping to it. Honestly our budget has been completely blown out of the water. (You could also get the TAWK Travel Finance Tracker to help you keep track - link here - TAWK Admin)
It has certainly given us all a much greater understanding of our history, geography, culture and the natural beauty of our country. Most importantly however it is the teamwork developed and relationships we have further developed with our children that will hopefully get us through the teenage years and form the foundation of a close relationships to last a lifetime.
If you are interested in reading more about our trip please visit our blog https://delightfulaussieadventure.com or our Facebook Page.