TAWK Featured Family -
'Hassell Free Travellers'

June 2016

1.   About you

We are the 'Hassell Free Travellers’.  Meet Jonno/Jon/Jonny Aka Dad, Tracey/Chikki Aka Mum, and our 3 boys - Tijhe who is 11, Bodhi who has turned 4 on our travels and lastly Kohve 2 and a half, trust me there is no forgetting Kohve.   We have been on the road for 23 weeks now, as that sounds better or longer then roughly 6 months.  We travel in our Paramount fit for 6 with our 2011 Patrol.

2.   Why did you make your decision to TAWK?

I was becoming very stale and sadder and suffering from post natal depression, stuck in ground hog day, with no excitement or adventure.  I put the idea to Jonno in 2014 and he wasn’t for it at all.  It took me 6 months of nagging, pushing and crying to get him to listen to the idea.  I then started adding him to Facebook groups, and I continued to ask a lot of questions as well as questions that he had, whether they were stupid, inappropriate or not, I wanted him to see how everyone else was living and that it could be done.

This is something that I set out to do when I was younger, I had started on my second trip around Australia, stopping in Cairns for 6 months, before my trip was put on hold for 11 years (yes, the baby).  It has been something I have always wanted to do, even with children, however all things life got in the way and blurred my dreams.  We bought a house, we had 2 more children, next minute we are both in debt, 3 kids, working to pay bills.  Something had to give.

Once he got the idea in his head and saw that we really needed change, we then started the planning and all of a sudden it was really happening.

3.   How did you get organised and how did you prepare?

We added ourselves to a bunch of Facebook pages and liked other travelling bloggers and posters.  We even stalked families as they were travelling and stopping in Mackay and asked if they would like to meet.  We gained as much knowledge and different ideas from people who were already travelling instead of the professionals.

After a year of gaining as much knowledge and looking for a van that fits our family, we were running out of time and it was getting closer to the end of the year and closer to our leave date although, we really didn't have one. 

It seemed as though we were still dreaming and preparing for potentially nothing.  So it was time to get serious.  I called the real estate and put the house up for rent, thinking it would need some time as we were in a tough climate, well it went on the market straight away!   So I lowered the wish list for a van and found one that suited perfect.  We went to Bundaberg to have a look at it, and next minute we were towing it home.

We then had 4 weeks to move out, clean house and be prepared for out trip.  We again jumped on all those Facebook sites to get ideas of what to pack, what we need, what we don’t need, so many questions, in the end we just had to do it.  We lived in the van at my mums for 6 weeks and from there we looked at what we had, culled what we didn’t use in those 6 weeks, and learnt a lot about small spaces and the van.  We then set a date and were so excited to start our adventure.

4.  What has been your biggest joy?

For us it has been knowing that when we put our mind on something we can achieve it.  Over coming what most would only dream of doing, taking that gamble and just doing it.  The joy that the little kids have loved it and are so easily adaptable.  Seeing what they naturally fall in love with and the changing scenery they are getting exposed to.  It excites me a lot when they surprise you with something they have learnt or remember from a particular adventure.

5. What has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?

Our biggest challenge as a family is that Jonno still works 7 on 7 off FIFO roster.  We have had to keep Jonno working to be able to live this lifestyle as we have rented our home out, and still have debts.  We didn’t want to leave a permanent job and risk having the added stress of looking for work on the road and having to go back to a 5 on 2 off kind of roster.  So with Jonno still working a FIFO (Fly in Fly out) roster comes the challenge of staying close to a major airport, budgeting in those flights and train fares, and then me roughing it and toughing it with the kids on my own for 7 days.  Its had its good, its bad and its ugly.

We have also made the decision that now we have trialled this lifestyle, we need to go home and make some changes, as we know what we want to do differently.  We have decided we want to sell the house, pay as much of the debts off as possible and travel indefinitely, with out the need for a FIFO job.

Another big challenge is food on the road.  We have gluten and celiac, dairy, nuts and egg allergies,  as well as a strict preservative free diet for Bodhi.  With not having the fridge space, as well as all the same mod cons as I did at home nor the same time spent cooking as I did at home, I could not be in full control of what food we were eating.  Cost of food we have found more expensive also.  Not being able to buy in bulk, small fridge issues means shopping more regularly also, makes for more expense when on a strict budget.

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6.   Where have you enjoyed the most and Where disappointed you the most?

This is a question we have struggled with and also ask other travellers.  How to define this question, and what reasons make the place the most enjoyable.  Do we go from experience, or beauty or where we have just fallen in love with.  I know we were definitely disappointed with the Central Coast NSW, I went in with rose coloured goggles on thinking we needed so much time in this area.  Turns out you don’t need much time at all.  We waited around for a festival that we were all really excited about and for the price expected it to be a good one, but we were utterly disappointed with not a lot happening and one measly train ride for the kids.

The most enjoyed place based on experience would have to have been Murwillumbah and Mullumbimby purely for the families we had met here and the times we had spent with them.

The places that we fell in love with was most definitely the coastal towns with beautiful beaches, Kiama, Forster and I did resonate with southern Gold Coast.

7.   How did you get organised with schooling, what did/do you do and how did you come to that decision? (new question from Mar 2106)

Schooling was a confusing subject, not knowing much about homeschooling at all, and also scared of the commitment and the fact that I was no teacher.  So once again I turned to trusty Facebook and joined all the homeschooling pages that I could find and asked as many questions that I could ask.  We have unschooled and kept up with the main subjects being Maths, English and science.  

Tijhe (11) is also required to do a project on each of the towns we visit, with question he needs to answer from Who found the town, when was it established, what was the town originally used for, the population of the town then and now, as well as any changes to the town and aboriginal history.  At first we also expected Tijhe to help up with Budgets, fuel expenses and to work out how much fuel we were going to need to get to our next destination, but that got old quickly. 

We also have the news agency books for the little boys for their age groups and will sit down with them every now and then to do some schooling for them, but we don’t enforce it.  They have an alphabet poster on the wall that we will look at most days.  We also find playgroups for them to join in on and of course we keep up with reading.  We have found book exchanges around the places also.

8.   What surprised you most about the trip?

I was surprised at how well the kids adapted to the trip.  It took Tijhe longer, but that is because he has outside influence like friends and other family members.  But I am very impressed at how everyone has adapted.  It hasn’t been an easy road by any means, and some days I think the boys ears are all painted on but otherwise they have learnt, loved and played.  I was also a little concerned about not having eyes and ears in enough directions with a fence to hold the kids in, but they have surprised me there also, knowing their boundaries.

9.   What would be three pieces of advice to give to a future TAWKer?

  1. Keep to a routine with day and night sleeps and meal times.  Have exploring days as well as down days.
  2. Don’t be to hard on your self when things go wrong
  3. If you don’t like some where, leave.

10.   How do you think that this adventure has changed your family?

I think it has opened up a new world for us, as well as different ideas on raising kids.  It has shown us whats important and that money/work isn’t everything.  The biggest positive was breaking away from the mainstream and living to normal societal pressures.  Knowing that material possessions are not important.

We hope that we have inspired you in some way and hope you also get to Travel Australia With your Kids!

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