Tag Archives: travel

Reflections on 2015

And so we near the end of another year. That’s 2 (and a bit) years I’ve been (very sporadically) blogging!

My views on New Year’s Resolutions have varied from year to year but what I always enjoy is looking back on the year that was. The Facebook gimmick “Your Year in Review” has already appeared and people are beginning to share their yearly summaries. If this replaces the annual “Christmas newsletter” a lot of people send out, I think there’d be a sigh of relief from many reluctant recipients, but weirdly, I don’t actually mind getting those letters, I even like reading the details that really don’t concern me, about people I barely know.

(What always impresses me, though, is that people have enough self-confidence to send these things out, knowing how they are received by the majority of people, which is one reason it’s not something I do.)

So, 2015- what sticks in my mind?

More travel- this year we explored Marlborough at the top of the South Island and beautiful Martinborough at the bottom of the North, catching the ferry in between. I think we only managed 3 trips to our beloved Queenstown, once in March for Mr L’s off-road marathon, the Motatapu Classic, once in August to ski and then we’ll be back there next week for Christmas. I made several trips across the ditch- 2 to Melbourne for work and 2 to Sydney. We did a couple of local weekends away too- to Russell & Northland, Waitomo caves (twice) and just last weekend to Waiheke Island. Our list of places to visit and revisit seems to be ever-expanding, and if 2016 is to be our last year living here, we’d like to make some headway into that list!

Of course, our beautiful Baby L arrived in May and he has been a delight and a privilege to have completing our family. In many ways, seeing him change so fast has made both Mr L and myself all the more aware of the idiosyncrasies (amusing and not-so) of Master and Miss L, as we see them change and realise just how fleeting their stages of growth and development are.

This year has been a big year for me in terms of mindset, with determined forays into mindfulness (my favourite champion of this cause so far being Dan Harris) and happiness (I’ve become something of a Gretchen groupie). I feel that my/our Zero Waste dabblings (inspired largely by Bea Johnson) are, in many ways, an extension (or perhaps combination) of these two ways of thinking. I’ve become so much more aware of our impact on the earth and of the earth’s impact on us and I suppose you could say I’ve spent some time getting to know my inner hippie and seeing just how a simpler way of living, spending, thinking and doing frees up so much time for taking notice of what matters and what lasts.

On that note, as I look back through my calendar I’m surprise to see there aren’t a lot of scheduled events, for a year that has felt so full and formative. I think that’s because you don’t write down the little things- cherry picking with Master and Miss L in January, losing Miss L (ok only very briefly) on a plane in August, someone walking off with Baby L in the supermarket trolley (hmmm, maybe I need to start paying attention to my children more!), Master L astounding us one day by casually announcing he was going to write his name- and then doing it! Me falling off the side of a cliff while skiing, drinking beer in the middle of the afternoon in the Fork and Tap in Arrowtown (Miss L developing quite a taste for it too!), the feeling I had opening a box of macarons and a spa voucher as a “thank you” present from Mr L, playing Calon Lan to try and get Baby L back to sleep at 3am, getting both feet off the floor (not for long!) in crow pose…. And so on.

A few weeks ago we watched “Inside Out”. Since then, Mr L has talked about generating “core memories” for our kids. I agree, that’s important, but from a slighty more selfish point of view, I’m very happy to look after them in my own memory bank for now!

Here’s to 2015…. x

Hauraki Rail Trail

In preparation for our Big Christmas Adventure, we cycled the Hauraki Rail Trail last weekend.

“We” being myself, Mr L and the three little Ls. When we mention family bike rides to people, the usual response is “Wow! Ummm- how does that work, exactly, with 3 kids?”

Well, here’s how we do it:

The cycling logistics involve Mr L pulling a Wee Hoo iGo Two behind him. Master L (and usually Miss L) sit on this. Whoever’s at the front can also “help” by pedaling, although Mr L tells me it’s not a huge contribution they make! I pull baby L (and sometimes Miss L, when she tires of the Wee Hoo) in a Chariot double trailer. Mr L is a competent, experienced cyclist, so having an extra long bike with two young children who like to randomly throw their weight around (and sometimes fall asleep and slump inadvertently to one side) is a small challenge but not a huge deal. I’m not sure how I’d manage, being by far the less experienced, less confident, less fit and less skillful rider (not meaning to put myself down, just being honest). Towing the Chariot, on the other hand, while being harder work than propelling just myself, isn’t technically any more challenging, although some of the narrower gates require a certain amount of precision riding!

So the Hauraki Rail Trail is a 95km trail (in its entirety) between Thames and Te Aroha at the southern end of the Coromandel peninsula. There’s a side arm approximately 21km long which goes from Paeroa up to Waihi and this is definitely the most scenic section of the trail and would be my recommendation if all you were looking for was a day ride. The trail runs beside the beautiful Ohinemuri river, through the Karangahake Gorge, which is the kind of place you’d almost expect to find a hobbit asleep under a tree, it’s just so picturesque. We wanted to do the whole thing, not just the prettiest bit, partly as a trial run for Christmas and partly because there’s something immensely satisfying about waking up at point A and transporting yourself (without a vehicle) to point B, where you sleep. Thames-Paeroa and Paeroa-Te Aroha are not unpleasant rides by any means, cruising through mostly rolling fields and agricultural land.

There’s not a lot in the way of skilled bike support on the trail, so my advice would be as prepared as you can be for technical issues. Another big worry I had was sun protection and it turned out not to be an unfounded one. The NZ sun is fierce and we proved that even on a mostly cloudy, rainy day, it’s still possible to get burnt. The strategy of covering up as much as possible with clothing (long sleeves and pants), hats and sunscreen proved a successful one but even so, it’s easy to forget about exposed hands and that long shorts can ride up to expose un-sunscreened knees.

So was it worth the logistical challenge and extra grunt to pull 3 children along almost 100km of cycle trail? Absolutely. Our feeling is that if we can make adventures like these realistic and fun for the kids, they are far more likely to embark upon their own later in life (not to mention enjoy some more challenging ones with us as they get bigger). When I think of my own childhood, where a “bike ride” meant 10 minutes down the street and around the corner to the playground, it just doesn’t compare.

Family Travels

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Exploring the snow at Whistler Creekside

We’re at the end of our 8 day trip to Canada now. It’s always sad to get to the end of a holiday, although I know I’ll be glad to be home once we actually walk through the door.

This wasn’t our first overseas trip with children, although it was one of the more logistically complex. There was a conference I wanted to go to in Whistler and given that we love the place and love to ski, the obvious choice was to take Mr L and the two little Ls with me.

A number of people (most of them with children themselves) expressed their admiration, as in “Wow, you’re brave coming all this way with 2 young kids”. A couple of others (without children and unlikely ever to have them) simply gave me the impression they felt a bit sorry for me having to compromise my holiday “fun” because of my kids.

However, I really don’t agree with either of these sentiments (although I was happy to accept the admiration of the former group!) Like many things in life, and definitely life with kids, not only do you get out (to some extent) what you put in, but you learn fairly quickly that if you really want to make things happen, you can. Yes it might be a bit more work, but there’s a good chance it’ll also be more rewarding.

A lot of it boils down to mindset, I think. When I was pregnant with Master L, friends of ours announced they were getting married in Whistler (he’s Canadian). They hoped as many people as possible would make it and were planning a week’s skiing leading up to the wedding. I calculated that Master L would be about 5 months old by then and so my first reaction was “Oh, that’s such a shame, we won’t be able to make it” but before I could say words to this effect out loud, Mr L said “Awesome, skiing in Whistler, sounds great!”. I was a bit dubious, but once I realised Mr L was serious, I thought “Well if we’re going to do this I need to be positive about it and make it work”.

And so we did. And it was brilliant! Flying with a 5 month old, breast-fed baby is a piece of cake (now that I look back on it anyway! Ok, so at the time it seemed like a bit of a big deal, but it was fine). We stayed in a self-contained apartment at so we had everything we needed including a kitchen. I hear a lot of people complaining about going away with kids and staying in self-contained places, they grumble that they still have to cook & wash and tidy up, so “you may as well be at home”, they say. But I disagree. You cook a bit, but much more basic stuff, the biggest load of laundry you’ll do is the contents of your suitcase (and that’s unlikely to be done all at once) and someone comes in every day and spruces up- but only when it’s convenient for you, of course. When Master L was playing on the floor or sleeping I a) read b) slept as well or c) drank wine (well, at night anyway!) I did a bit of skiing- we’d get a babysitter for a long morning (which is about my skiing limit anyway, especially 5 months after having a baby) and it was actually very relaxing. Plus there are none of those chores and ongoing projects calling to you and making you feel guilty for sitting down and relaxing.

So we had similar plans this time. I took loads of distractions and snacks for Master L on the plane, we booked an apartment with an extra bedroom and we had my conference to complicate the logistics slightly. It’s a little harder flying with 2 kids, in that you end up each “having” a child the whole time, instead of passing one back & forth between you, but that’s ok, at least he had his own seat and I gave up the expectation of reading or watching movies with children on planes a while ago. Babysitting costs no more, really, for 2 than for 1. And because you have a toddler there’s not as much time for the reading & sleeping etc, but then there isn’t at home, either. And we still had our wine!

A spanner was thrown in the works by Miss L, who came down with a nasty bug the day after we got here which meant we had to cancel the baby-sitting a couple of times to stay with her ourselves, which was really disappointing, but those things happen at home, too. It also meant Mr L and I didn’t get an awful lot of time alone together. With her cold, Miss L slept terribly all week and in a strange bed, Master L didn’t sleep well either. So we are all tired!

There were some great things about going away with our toddler, though. We got to spend more time actually doing things with Master L and watching him enjoy them- like playing in the snow, riding in the cable car and watching the trucks clear the snow each morning. Last time we went, at 5 months old, these were the things we wanted to enjoy with him but he was more interested in practicing rolling over! We got 8 days away from the work-home-sleep-work cycle to take stock. I really enjoyed my conference. We both managed to get in some skiing. We went on a sleigh-ride….

I’ll never be one of those “I backpacked around south-east Asia with my baby on my back” type of people, nor have I been brave enough to try camping with the little ones yet, but I do think you can do anything if you really want to. You will undoubtedly have to compromise at some stage and be realistic about what you can enjoyably do. So while I look at those people who do go traipsing round the world and think “you’re crazy!”, I also say to those people who tell me “Oh I wish WE could go skiing with our kids”, you can! Yes we are lucky that we can afford it, some of it’s about affordability, but from a  logistical perspective, some if it is really just a bit of lateral thinking and determination.

So, what did we learn?

  1. Get to the airport extra-early. Toddlers hate to be rushed, they also love running around the airport and plane-spotting. And toilet stops take a long time!
  2. Don’t plan to do anything much within 24 hours of a long-haul flight. The kids need time to recover.
  3. Don’t worry too much about not having “exciting” things for little kids to do at your destination- riding buses and going to new playgrounds can be just as much fun as things which cost money.
  4. If you have the luxury of being able to take or meet (helpful) friends or relatives on holiday, do it! We realised (way too late) that Mr L’s mother was off work this week and it would have worked out perfectly if she’d come with us. It would also have solved our problem of not being able to leave a sick child with a baby-sitter.
  5. Don’t overestimate how much time and energy you will have to do your own thing- we booked a 5 day lift pass, of which I skied 2 and a bit days, and I brought 2 new books with me, and haven’t read as much of a page of the book I was already on!
  6. It’s your holiday too, so while you need to consider your kids, you also need to do what you want to do some of the time as well.
  7. You can make it work with kids, you might just have to compromise a bit!

So, to our next holiday, bon voyage!

Plane People

We arrived in Canada yesterday, flying Sydney-Auckland-Vancouver with Air New Zealand. Even with 2 kids in tow, 15 hours on a plane gives you a lot of mental blog-writing time. I was pondering how flying has changed since my first long-haul flight at the tender age of 12, good old QF002 LHR-SYD. It seemed to go on FOREVER and back then, waiting for “the movie” to be shown, hoping it’d be something decent and then getting a wry neck in the process of trying to watch it from behind the 6ft 6 giant in the seat in front of you was about the highlight of the flight. The next most exciting moments were having the meals delivered and waiting to see (between movies) how far the plane had progressed on the world map. I do recall, making the trip back again 4 years later, we flew Virgin Atlantic for one leg (we went the cheaper route via the US) and their newest planes had individual entertainment systems which was an absolute innovation then- I got to watch Single White Female which was actually rated 18+ and I was only 16… I felt like it was such a big deal!

Back then, being unable to sleep on a flight seemed like a real hardship, then once I started working I remember being so proud of myself as a shift worker for being able to get over jet lag within 24 hours (night shift is pretty good practice for that actually). Now, I don’t expect to sleep at all and to be honest I don’t really care that much, I’m just so desperate for Master and Miss L to be settled (ideally asleep!)

Anyway, more and more often now that I’m turning into a grumpy old woman, when I fly I am astounded at how stupid people can be. Sometimes I laugh at them, other times they just really get on my nerves. And so I’ve compiled a list of the 5 most irritating people to fly with:

The bogan– we are travel snobs, I readily admit it. We’re lucky enough to be able to travel fairly often and (admittedly entirely due to work perks), since we’ve known each other, either Mr L or myself has been a Gold Frequent Flyer and/or lounge member. (The benefits of lounge membership become all the more evident when travelling with children, but that’s another post). However, occasionally we choose an itinerary where we are unfortunate enough to be unable to justify paying extra or going to great lengths to fly with one of our preferred airlines and we “choose” to fly with the hoi polloi. The bogan traveller abounds on these trips and is easily recognisable by:

  • their destination- often Bali- no offence to any non-bogans who go there, or Balinese people (in fact, you have my sympathies for having to put up with the bogan Australian tourist invading your country)
  • their suitcases- usually gaudy, voluminous and quite often matching- not just matching bags but, as was the case with one leopard-print-clad traveller we queued up behind at check-in once,  clothes to match the suitcases: leopard-print leggings, scarf AND luggage!
  • their Bintang singlet-tops
  • their tattoos

The carry-on muppet– the last flight I took (prior to yesterday’s) was Sydney-Melbourne (well, technically the last flight was the return flight Melbourne-Sydney but that’d be splitting hairs). Ok, I was only going for the day so perhaps my intolerance of people with inappropriate carry-on luggage was exacerbated by the fact that I had none. But after watching 3 vertically challenged women struggling to put their 3 obviously oversized bags in the overhead lockers, it occurred to me that carry-on luggage should not be size or weight-restricted, it should be time-limited. You get 30 seconds to put it in the locker. If it takes you longer than that, you check it in. This thereby eliminates bags which are too heavy or too large but also discriminates against people who are too short to get it up there themselves. However, short people are compensated by the fact that they get sufficient leg-room once they actually sit down, so I have no sympathy for them, really.

The seat dyslexic– there’s always one… person in the wrong seat, that is. Every time I fly, someone near me is asked to get up and move by the person who has actually been allocated the seat in which the dyslexic has settled themselves. The offender always look puzzled and perplexed, but rarely embarrassed. I can forgive people for occasionally getting the wrong row: sometimes the number isn’t directly over the seat, it’s slightly in front or behind and coupled with the parallax error generated by reading it at an angle on approach… ok, maybe… But the whole window-aisle fiasco? Maybe some people fly so infrequently they don’t realise A is always window. But there’s a little diagram above every row to explain it! Perhaps it’s just wishful thinking on their part- like the lady I once had to ask to move because she was in my seat and she said “Oh but I requested an aisle seat, I always do!” Yeah well sorry, “request” doesn’t necessarily mean “get”, so move!

The baggage carousel hogs– these people wait for their luggage right up against the carousel. They drive me crazy. The bags come out in a steady stream. They do a circuit which takes between 3 & 5 mins, I’d say. Then they come round again if they aren’t picked up the first time, so it’s not like you’re going to lose your bag forever if you don’t grab it in the first 2 seconds after it comes through. These people usually have a trolley right beside them (preventing even more people from accessing the carousel) and frequently have at least 1 smallish child with them (not so small they shouldn’t be able to follow the simple instruction “stay here at a sensible distance, with the trolley, wait for me and DON’T MOVE” though, which was standard issue to us as kids at busy, highly stressful places like airports) but definitely small enough (and hyperactive and disobedient enough) to be nothing but an impediment to the luggage-retrieving process, of which they generally seem to consider themselves a crucial part.

The eager beavers– finally, those people who jump up from their seats the moment the plane has reached the terminal. I know I’m a bit of a goody two-shoes at times, but they clearly tell you, every time you fly, to wait until the captain has turned off the seat-belt sign to get up. Leaping up doesn’t get you off the plane any sooner, as people always seem to do that very organised row-by-row exit, and even if it does get you off the plane a bit quicker, you still have to wait for your bags (although I often suspect these people are carousel-hogs too….)

I have neglected to mention the DVT-phobic, mainly because they generally don’t annoy me too much, unless they are standing next to me, stretching and pacing, when I’m in an aisle seat, although I marvel at their fear of getting a DVT on a 2 hour flight when they sit still for longer than that in a movie, and probably every night at home in front of the TV. I also hate the conversation-maker (groan- “You on your way home? Travelling for work? Oh, what do you do?”…) and the person with children. I know they have a right too fly too, I have my own children, which is why, even if you fit none of the above 5 categories, I recommend you still don’t sit next to me on a plane.