Solo Parent Snow Trip – Day 1

27 Jul

I was up at 5am on the travel day for our snow trip to Mt Selwyn. So nervous because so many things could go wrong. My bus driver was a stranger found online, the bus company was an unknown, there was so much to do to pick up everyone and the luggage too. Would the accommodation be okay? Would we all get along? How would a bunch of kids like snow for the first time?

It was raining cats and dogs when we left. That added extra time, trying to load everyone in and not get wet. The bus driver proved his weight in gold from the very start – picking up toddlers who had fallen over in water puddles, dragging bags so we stayed dry. He was a rough looking guy – a tree climber by trade and missing his front teeth, but you couldn’t mistake his gentleness when he cradled a crying child for one of the mothers.

We weren’t even an hour out of town when the first issue hit. The heating and demisting functions in the bus were not working properly. We all unloaded into a McDonalds playground(thank goodness for the golden arches I say) while Shaun the driver worked on the issue. We piled back onto the bus with hot chocolates and were on our way again.

Then another hour later the rain had got so heavy parts of Sydney were flooded, and our luggage trailer sprung a leak! We had to pull into a hardware store – with eight adults and five kids! No one batted an eyelid at the mini bus in the pick up area and the staff were great, handing out free blow up toy hammers to all the kids while we ran madly around buying tarps and garbage bags.

Finally the rain cleared, the temperature dropped and we were heading into snow country. Amusing the kids on the bus wasn’t as bad as I had expected. There were screams, but never for very long. E was happy just playing with my iPhone. In fact, he was pretty happy the entire eight hours or so as long as I interacted with him and he only napped for half an hour. It’s the longest time he’s been in a car seat so I didn’t know what to expect.

Just as dusk fell we pulled into our cabins – and they were fantastic. Three bedroom cabins with lounge rooms, modern bathrooms, full kitchen and laundries. We couldn’t have asked for more. All in a peaceful rural setting only half an hour from the mountain. There were wombats and kangaroos and rabbits all around.

We’d decided each cabin would put on dinner one night so first night it was my turn with one of the other mums. I’d made a slow cooked curry the night before and it was gorgeous. Some red wine, some laughs, and we all fell into bed and I was so smug, thinking I was the most rock star group organizer ever to live.

Of course the next day things fell apart!



The First Solo Parent Travel Group Trip

18 Jul

It’s now only three days away from the first group trip of my Meetup group, Solo Parent Travel.

I have bitten off far more than I chew with my grand idea to organise a snow trip for us all. So now I’m chewing like mad. In Australia the snow is very, very expensive. It’s hard to get to, impossible to afford accommodation, the surrounding towns are a bit of a distance away and all in all it’s a pretty pathetic skiing experience. I say this with all fondness, but honestly, we’ve got nothing on Europe, Japan or even New Zealand. Nonetheless, it’s an ideal trip to try and organise for single parents, because no one would be able to afford to do it alone and it is an amazing chance to show our babies the snow, and let them explore a new landscape.

From Sydney it’s about a six hour drive. The first challenge was to get a mini bus that would allow us to fulfill all of the requirements for car seats and children! Australia has car seat laws that require an anchor strap that goes to a bolt behind the seat, as well as lap sash attachments. Do you think I could find a mini bus with at least four of the anchor strap points? It took days and days of research. Finally, I found one. But it needed a special licence to drive – a bus licence, whereas normal mini buses can use a car license. ARRGGHH.

Off I go to try and employ our own bus driver. It’s pretty hard to find and employ your own driver and pick one that you won’t mind sharing a cabin with! I also had the added pressure (jokingly) placed on me by the mamas. Could I please find a single,cute, bus driver who may be up for a little fun!? I’m not sure I succeeded on that point, but he’s a safe, experienced guy (DRIVING. NOT IN BED. WELL THAT WE KNOW ABOUT YET!)

Then onto accommodation. Cheap, able to sleep multiple families and be flexible enough that co-sleeping mamas could cosleep in comfort, mama’s that prefer their kids in their own bedroom could have two rooms, and mamas that didn’t mind sharing a room as long as it has a cot for their bubs also had space for that option.

I think it was at this point I started to question my sanity! We were up to five families, five toddlers, all aged 18months-3 years, and one 10 year old boy. We were too big a group for most of the houses. We couldn’t afford some of the options. So I settled on 3 bedroom cabins in a cabin park. Warm, cosy, self-catering with laundries and lounge rooms but by booking three of these cabins in a row meant we had room to spread out and still have privacy too.

I decided that I wasn’t happy enough just co-ordinating a cheap trip. I wanted single parents to be able to enjoy themselves so decided to also take along our own nanny. That’s luxury! After two nannies dropped out, it looks like our third is really actually going to get on the bus with us. She will take the kids one day to allow the parents to ski, tube, board or toboggan alone. And she’ll also look out for them at night if we decide to go out for dinner and drinks when our babies are asleep! Heaven.

That seemed like the last piece of the puzzle. Until I felt the urge to created branded merchandise. We needed tote bags full of toys for the bus! We needed t-shirts! We needed branding along side our hired van! Yes indeedy. So I spent my own money on an order of promotional stuff, just for the fun of it! That’s it in the picture.

Wish us luck!


Jody (ps. I know there are far too many exclamation points in this blog entry. But I am truly excited!!!!!!!)


Oops. Booked Another Trip.

15 Jul

Jetstar was having a 2-for-1 sale a while back and as E will soon be two, he’ll need his own seat. I thought that meant after Asia I wouldn’t be able to afford much travel. But I got though on the website during sale night- lots of my friends were trying to book, but I was the only one who made it through to the end. So..of course…um….I slipped and hit the keyboard with my credit card details.

It turns out we are doing a month in Hawaii in February 2012. Who knew?


My Shop

14 Jul

I’m so surprised. I’ve had enquires about the Babypotes in the shop section of this blog. And made some sales. Woot. It means out there somewhere I have readers! It’s motivated me to put some more effort into the blog, and I can’t wait to get to Asia now to see what things I can pick up to sell in the shop too! If anyone has any suggestions or requests let me know.

Chupacabra Beach

13 Jul

How time flies when you’re living your ideal life! Oh, don’t I sound full of myself? But things *are* going well. Amazingly so. I am working hard at several different projects, but it’s providing enough funds for E and I to travel. I am trying to keep the balance of work and play right, and it does keep slipping. I have a week where I do nothing but take E to parks and on coffee dates and watch kids TV. Then realise I’ve got a deadline for the book I’m writing, or the government job I’m doing, or a bunch of people move out of the guest house and next thing I’m doing 17 hours days! Whew.

Two weeks ago we had a chance to slip away for a whole 48 hours! A friend of ours, Gunkle we call him (short for Gay Uncle – really my best friend and kinda male role model for E) decided to book a beach house in winter just as a weekend retreat. So we packed the car and drove off into the unknown. It was quite odd for me, since I’m normally the organiser, to not have to know much about the house or the trip. I was so relaxed that I couldn’t even remember the name of the beach. I knew it started with a C. So it became a running joke that I would refer to it as something else every time I spoke.

“Oh, we’re just having a great time at Copacabana Beach. Yes, Chupa Chupa Beach sure is gorgeous is winter.”

For the record, it was Culburra Beach. About three hours south of Sydney. It had a tiny main street with a few shops and a petrol station and a lot of beach frontage. Nothing really to do except relax. Surprisingly the weather was quite warm during the days – enough for my son to want to go stark naked and play with the sand and the water! At night it was cold enough for a fireplace, red wine and a roast dinner. And being winter, the place was deserted. We had the beach to ourselves quite a lot. No one was stupid enough to swim, but E loved sliding down the sand dunes on his butt!

In preparation for our big trip I had bought E a Phil&Teds Traveller Cot. It was expensive and very hard to put up the first time. That thing drew blood! I had read in the reviews that it wasn’t great for setting up so I persevered but was swearing a lot. I had it set up at home for a week before we travelled so that E could play in it.

Kiddo has never slept well in portacots, but I’m not comfortable with him in a bed alone  yet so I was hoping I hadn’t wasted the money. But guess what? The week of play worked! When he saw it at the guest house he knew exactly what is was and had no problem sleeping through the night and napping in it. The only down side is that it makes a rustling noise when he moves which drove me nuts!

I have also bought a small travel backpack for E and I packed his comfort things in there – sleeping bag, dummy and nightlight musical seahorse. He got to carry that into the house. I think it helped too.

I ended up with such a stress free trip with kiddo that I’m much more confident I can manage longer trips with him now.

Vietnam here we come (snow first)

2 Jun

I’ve been not blogging much. Blame that one the Guesthouse. It has taken a fair bit of energy to get up and running. But now it potters along by itself without too much work required from me. So much so that it will act as a great passive income while we travel. So I have got all excited and planned two trips. Three really if you count a quick getaway to a beach house a few hours out of Sydney. This is what my year looks like now:

June – Beach House with a bunch of gay boys.

July – Single Mama snow trip. I am organising a group of us to have a cheap adverture in the snow.

October – Leave for Vietnam with a stopover in Malaysia. We have 5 weeks in Asia.

I will go into more details soon. I just wanted to let you know the blog is not dead and Solo Mama WILL Travel finally!

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Asia…

5 Apr

My plan was to travel this year. I had two dates in mind – either leaving end of May, after a very good friend had her baby, and being back in August before my nephew had his second birthday OR waiting six months or so until after the August birthday. I decided I’d apply for a contracted position that ends in October as a way of letting the universe decide. And I’ve now got the job! It’s too good to pass up. Work from home, great pay, I’m the boss and it works around E. So October is now launch date for my trip!

What I didn’t expect was to end up running a Guesthouse in the meantime! One of my friends was moving out of her studio but couldn’t afford a house. Since I take in homestay kids I said that I could probably find a house we could share – my half would be full of backpackers and homestay and her half would be her private home. Lovely, if offbeat, concept. We went to look at a few places and then stumbled on this crazy old hospital building. And by crazy, I think it actually was a psychiatric residential home judging by the number of locks on the bedroom doors! It has six bedrooms, four bathrooms, three living spaces and a pretty modern kitchen. Some parts of the building are downright creepy but it has potential. It was also C.H.E.A.P because no family wanted to live in it. My friend decided the location wasn’t great for her, but I could not get this building out of my head. Before I knew it, I had put in an application to run it as a homestay or travellers house. I didn’t expect anything to come of my crazy idea. But the owner of the house agreed. And overnight, my life changed!

I am still going to travel in October. I have only agreed to a six month lease of the old building in case it doesn’t work out. So if it doesn’t I head off to travel. But if it does work out, it’s a steady stream of income for the foresable future that will fund my world travel and I’ll never have to work in an office again!

What an adventure. I now have to find enough furniture for this place. And linen (I bought FORTY kilos of blankets and manchester yesterday!) I have to find a mix of long-term, short-term and overnight guests and tenants to make it profitable. I have to clean it top to bottom since it has been neglected! But I’m convinced it will be fabulous. I already have my first confirmed booking – the whole house booked for two weeks by a visiting Circus Troupe.

So now I’ll be able to spin stories to my son with the lines, “What, you don’t remember the time we lived in the Mental Institution?” and “What about the time we joined the Circus?”.

I love my life. It’s not conventional, but it’s also never dull.