Even Solo Mamas on Government Handouts Can Travel

28 Mar

This is part of the March writing project for a Facebook group I belong to called Families on the Move. Our theme is that anyone can travel and this is my story…

Not a day goes by when someone doesn’t say to me with a sigh, “I wish I could do what you do!”

That being of course to travel lots!

So far our two big trips have been Vietnam for five weeks, and Hawaii for four. Next month is Bali for three weeks. We’ve also done three day farm stays locally, week long trips to see family and four days in the snow, complete with travelling nanny and bus driver! All in the last two years.

Heck, I was even in Hawaii for a month when I was six months pregnant, swanning around solo and bloated, eating pineapple by the tonne and shocking people by having no partner along with me.

Right, enough of a recap. I guess it sounds like a boast when I list it all like that. But it’s not. This is how I’ve managed it and what I’ve learned.

1) One month in Hawaii – this was simply a case of taking annual leave from a job in Australia (where four weeks is standard per year), finding a cheap Craigslist sublet that gave me an entire apartment to myself next to the Honolulu Zoo for $500 a week.I then turned around and listed my own place on Gumtree (Aussie site similar to CL) for $500. I read the local newspapers in Hawaii, found the local library having a book sale, caught the bus ($2) and bought twenty books ($20) and holed up in my apartment with trips to Safeway for food. It was ultra cheap and pregnant I didn’t want to move much except to float in the water.

Lesson from this trip – if you have annual leave, USE IT for a holiday no matter how broke you are and what your condition is. Don’t waste it on a “staycation” thinking you can’t manage something else. And CL isn’t all serial killers and scams.

2) Five weeks in Vietnam – Airfares only cost us $600 return on an ultra special deal. I picked the country purely because it was known as child friendly, the flights weren’t too long, and it was cheap. I didn’t know anything about the culture or people and was scared outta my mind about this trip with a 23 month old. I bought a guidebook, then decided not to read it cause I stressed more, and just got on the plane.

Lesson from this trip – travel before your kid is two cause they are free. It’s not the nightmare people make it out to be. We managed seven flights on that trip – stopovers in Malyasia to break the trip, plus internal flights where I thought the trains might take too long. It was FINE.

If you’re worried, just get on the plane anyway. We survived. It was hard work, there were some tears but mostly huge grins as I learned about an entire new part of the world. I just took it one day at a time and fell back on TripAdvisor or Lonely Planet when I was out of my depth. And picking a country knowing that they loved kids was wonderful. In some ways easier than my US trips.

3) Hawaii for a month –This time I felt a bit more adult and responsible and traded Craigslist for a site called AirBnB.com – I rented out my own house again and then used that money to guide my accomodation budget. It was tight. We spent a few nights in a tent on a hippie commune on the Big Island to bring down the costs! And also got a good condo deal from a group buy website like Groupon.

We were broke again so our trip was all about self-catering and off the beaten tourist path some of the time. Didn’t drink a single cocktail or stay in a single hotel. We shopped for toys in thrift stores. We got a two for one airfare for Hawaii too.

Lesson from this trip – ditch the hotels. Get out of the tourist ghettos. Think like a local and suddenly everything is much more affordable. Consider non peak season travel since the flights will be cheaper. Sure, Waikiki happened to flood the week we were there. But when we were off season in Vietnam we had stunning weather. You make not get lucky all the time but you can still have a bunch of fun. Rain didn’t matter when we were in the spa at our condo! And besides – a toddler throwing a tantrum is so much nicer with a whale in the background to watch, than stuck at home, where it was also flooding!

4) Bali – this started as a joke. Another single mother and I figured if we pooled our government pensions together in a third world country we could afford nannies, housekeepers and a villa with a pool. In Australia it doesn’t even cover rent. And then suddenly she was gone – and had rented a villa for six months in Bali. So we’re off to join her.

Lesson – pool your resources with friends. That’s also how we managed our snow trip and the farm trip too. Small local trips, or cheap countries with others. Start small if you need to – our farm stay was less than one hour drive from home.

The hardest thing about all of this is that yes, I did have to quit my day job. After my pregnant Hawaii jaunt I had no annual leave left, and when it came time to return to “the grind” after my baby was born I fell into an anxious heap. I couldn’t fathom it when there were sooo many things I wanted to show my baby.

I used a small amount of savings to start a business, and yes I am lucky in that Australia we do get help from our government with kids too. But even so I traded in a great job for uncertainty. I eBayed everything I could. I have no assets and my car is worth nothing. And I decided to share my house, which isn’t always easy, but gives us the breathing space to travel. And I do work hard with my own business – even when travelling I have to spend time every day on my computer. So in some ways I never get a day off now. I just work less, and from interesting parts of the world!

I really didn’t want to come across as preachy in this article but honestly, Nike spend thousands to come up with that great slogan. Take some of my ideas and JUST. DO. IT.

Check out other posts by travelling familes with the same theme:

Only the Very Special, Lucky, Rich, and Perfect (Like Me) Can Travel by Gabi at http://thenomadicfamily.com/?p=178

Anyone can travel by Mary at Bohemian Travelers


Diet shouldn’t stop you from travelling by Amy at livin’ on the road


If Anyone Can Travel Why Don’t You? – Keryn at Walkingon Travels (twitter: @walkingontravel)


Not Everyone Can Travel – by Living Outside of the Box (heeeheee…! Yes–it IS on topic!)


You Have to Be Special Like Us if You Want an Awesome Life – Discover Share Inspire


True Story: Single mother from Bushwick, Brooklyn, funds long-term trip without having to sell a kidney – Melissa at Break Out of Bushwick


Anyone Can Travel, Just Let Go by Diya at a minor diversion


Don’t Be Jealous of Our Travels! Be Happy for Us and Know That You Can Make it Happen Too !

http://growingracelife.wordpress.com/2012/03/18/you-can-make-it-happen-too – Susan V. and family

Anyone Can Travel…Just Find Your Way by Kate at Experiential Family @experientialfam http://experientialfamily.com/anyone-can-travel/

Pity, Envy, and why anyone can travel — Clark Vandeventer of FamilyTrek.org @FamTrek


Travel – Possible? http://www.wandering-photographer.com/2012/travel-possible

A Family Travel Lifestyle….. Loreena at Little Aussie Travellers


New Life on the Road – http://www.newlifeontheroad.com/anyone-can-travel-cant-they/

A King’s Life. Our Path to becoming Lucky enough to Travel: http://www.akingslife.com/?p=3030


13 Responses to “Even Solo Mamas on Government Handouts Can Travel”

  1. Grow in Grace Life March 29, 2012 at 12:21 pm #

    So exciting for you and your child ! Bali is going to be incredible I am sure! Thanks for sharing the good advice.

  2. bohemiantravelers1 March 29, 2012 at 8:29 pm #

    Great post, it is so important that people see many different types of families can make travel a reality if they really want to!

  3. Diya April 6, 2012 at 6:59 am #

    I agree that sometimes traveling with kids (especially one as adorable as yours!) in child friendly countries is a wonderful experience. The kids open up doors that adults alone would never manage. Thanks for sharing the lessons learnt.

    • Micki@TheBarefootNomad June 5, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

      What an awesome article. Thank you so much for this!

      If I had 5 cents for every time I’ve heard someone pull out an old, tired excuse like money (while they have a $400 car payment) or children for not traveling, I’d be… well, let’s just say I’d be staying in much nicer accommodations when I travel 🙂

      You’re wonderfully resourceful in finding ways to travel.


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