If you have been following this blog, you probably know that late last year my husband and I made a big brave life decision. We resigned from our jobs. Sold a rental property. And purchased a campervan that is sitting waiting for us in the Netherlands. Then there was the lockdown.
We were set to fly to Europe in April. The plan was to travel for the rest of the year and return in time for Miss T to start her High School exams next year. Really now or never on the timing.
Then the world started to fall apart. Just as I was finishing work, the kids were enrolled in the correspondence school, and our house was listed for rent, Coronavirus started to hit hard in Europe. The borders started closing.
With a campervan in storage in the Netherlands, we started looking for a backup plan. We worked through our budget and started looking at caravans to travel around New Zealand. Although we have traveled much of the North Island, traveling around the South Island was definitely on our bucket list. We were grateful and excited to have such an amazing ‘backyard’ to explore in our own country.
Then, quite unexpectantly, and with only 100 coronavirus cases in New Zealand, we were all put into lockdown for at least a month. We must stay at home. Although my husband had work lined up (he is now self employed), with the lockdown in place he cannot go out to work, and cannot get paid. We can only leave the house for exercise, to get food, and for essentials.
When we dared to follow our dreams, when we decided to quit our jobs and travel the world with our kids, there is no way we could have ever guessed this could happen. A global pandemic. That we could end up both unemployed and stuck at home. A recession kicking in. Not even able to travel our own country. Living on our savings for our European dream.
The end of a dream?
So what now? We can only take this day by day. It is ultimately going to depend on how long this lockdown lasts, and how far our savings can take us.
I remind myself daily, it could be much worse. I am grateful we live in an Island nation, where we have managed to keep the virus out long enough to learn from other countries. Whereas other countries have suffered immense losses to human life, we have entered lockdown to regain control of the virus, hopefully before it is too late. My family is healthy and happy in our lockdown paradise.
Will we get out on the road? I doubt we will get to Europe anytime soon. But hopefully, we can get out of lockdown in New Zealand, buy a caravan and travel our own backyard.
As for Europe? Well, we own a campervan in the Netherlands. I hope one day we can get there. However, first, we will need to come up with a way of working while we are traveling. And we will need to find a way for our daughter to complete her High School exams from Europe.
One of my clients said to me when we first verbalized our European dream – when you get back, you will fall back into work and the chaos that is life, it won’t take long, but the thing that will change in you permanently is when you look at that horizon. You will look at the horizon and you will know you can pack up and reach for that dream, you will not be stuck in the everyday rat race. You will know you can walk away, you can achieve it. And that is what will stick.
That is what I want to learn, and for my children to learn. To be brave.
And in the meantime, I remind myself that when we traveled to Canada and the US for six weeks, people asked me what my favorite part was. My answer was ‘spending six weeks continuously with my children’. And I can do that right here at home.
So I’ve been noticeably absent from this blog for quite a while. I recently published a post, that I wrote in March last year. A lot has happened, and we have made a couple of BIG decisions in the last 12 months. Once again, we are heading off in a NEW direction. So the purpose of this post is to fill you in on what has been happening and enlighten you as to our new direction!
If you have been following this blog, you have probably worked out I was a stressed-out mother and career woman. The classic ‘rushing women syndrome’ type.
With our girls growing up fast the chaos all got too much. My husband gave up his job in May last year so that he could help out more with our girls, and at home, and generally support me in my career. It has worked wonders with the girls, Miss T’s behaviour has improved remarkedly, and Miss M’s enthusiasm for school and learning has returned. My husband has loved the new lifestyle and has started his own part-time business. On most accounts, it has been a success.
However, I’ve remained stressed. I felt stuck. And my health has deteriorated. Being the breadwinner wasn’t working for me. With Hubby not wanting to go back to work, we started to seriously think about our dream of travelling with the children. A dream that we had put to one side as ‘unrealistic’, while we continued to focus on our careers, paying off our mortgage and saving for retirement … the safe, the normal.
We thought about our parents. My father who passed away at 52, and my mother ín law who died at 59. Neither of whom reached retirement. Sitting here, working hard and saving ‘life’ for retirement wasn’t sitting well with us.
So again we thought of taking some time out for travel.
If we were going to travel, it had to be now. Before Miss T’s High School exams next year.
We made a decision. We are doing it.
I have officially resigned from my job. We have sold an investment property to fund the trip. In two months’ time, we will both be unemployed! Our home will be rented out. And we will be on a plane heading for the adventure of a lifetime with our children in tow!
Well, it has been a while. I have been missing in action from my beloved blog since we started renovating last September. We purchased a rental property. We had great intentions of working hard as a family and building our future together.
It was a romantic notion. The reality of six months of renovating was much more stressful.
By Christmas, I hadn’t taken a single day off since the start of September. I was eating terribly. I put on weight and I couldn’t motivate myself to get outside and exercise, my vice to keep my head clear. Every morning I woke up in tears.
Last week one of my key staff members resigned. The reason? Being a Partner in an Accounting firm is no longer her dream. She sees me running around, juggling children, husband and career. She tells me my lifestyle is not what she wants out of life. And she is not the first female to say that to me. It is almost funny – how many strong, intelligent and driven women can I put off actually having a career and a family?
And to top it off. Tonight my 13-year-old daughter threatened to kill herself. Why? Because I said no to her plans for an overseas holiday. I don’t think I need to explain how I felt about this. Needless to say, there were a lot of tears involved.
So, I’ve been missing in action from my blog – but not much has really changed. We are still working, and working, and working. The kids have suffered, likely so has our marriage – although we are miraculously still together!
I think we took on too much… But I am not going to dwell on this. This is not something to think through and plan and plan and plan. It is time to act. Time to take ownership.
Happy ever after starts now
My husband will resign from work next month. It will leave a great big hole in our budget. But it is time to finally be brave and to make the changes in our lives that we have dreamed about for so long.
This is the start of a new journey. My journey as the Breadwinner, with a stay at home husband. Our story of how we will survive giving up $130K a year. But we will fill that hole with family, and with love.
Life had been going pretty smoothly over the last few months. I’d dropped a couple of volunteer positions, learned to say no to work commitments, and even turned up for the odd school outing! I was exercising, going to relaxation yoga, and enjoying spending quality time with my family without stressing about work.
But you know what happens when a busy workaholic finally slows down? They find something else to do.
And I did.
Over the last few weeks, we have been in the process of buying another house. It is old and run down and needs a complete renovation. We have been busy measuring it up, picking carpets, shopping for kitchens, appliances and curtains. Booking in carpet and floor sanders and builders and painters. Not to mention the usual stress of dealing with the lawyers and the bank. And today we got the keys.
As you know we have been thinking a lot about what we want out of life. We have been looking at whether our busy chaotic lifestyle is for us. Which it may not be.
However, if we want to make changes in our lives, we need to do something about it.
We can’t just keep going to work every day, making money, spending money, and in five years time realising we are in the exact same position as we are today – just with a few more grey hairs and the girls looking at moving out of home.
Yellowstone took my breath away. I thought it would be a great place to travel. But it well and truly surpassed my expectations. Another iconic stop in our Amazing Journey that will be etched in my heart, and in my children’s memories, forever.
Planning your trip to Yellowstone
When it comes to planning your trip to Yellowstone, its best to remember there are distinct areas and themes – geysers, wildlife, hot springs, and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. There is so much to see and do and you could easily spend a lifetime exploring the park. In fact, people do. Our fishing guide was a retired scientist who, together with his wife, spent every summer in their RV at Yellowstone – working and exploring. There is always something new.
The sheer size of the park makes it difficult to get around. There can be hours of travel between these areas. Particularly if you have bear jams, or snow, or traffic!
The other thing to consider is the season. We were there in June, and it snowed. A lot. Luckily we had a cabin, but the poor tents suffered. And it was freezing – meaning the iconic Grand Prismatic was just a huge bowl of steam.
My biggest regret at Yellowstone? Only allowing three days. The iconic Yellowstone could be a destination all on its own.
We entered the park from the North East Entrance, straight into Lamar Valley. This worked well logistically, as the Lamar Valley was quite isolated from where we were staying at Lake Yellowstone Hotel. It also meant we got to explore the Bear Tooth highway on the way into the Park.
Yellowstone NP has abundant wildlife, but the Lamar Valley is particularly recommended for wildlife spotting. The Valley is home to bison, black bears, bighorn sheep, elk, grizzly bears, mule deer, pronghorn, and wolves.
One of the first things that struck us about Yellowstone, before we even spotted the animals was the smell. We couldn’t pick it, but the air just smelt like fresh herbs. It turns out it was wild Thyme. You can spot it in this photo, the wild Sage and Thyme are growing like grass and the smell in the air is just amazing!
Next time – I’d love to allow for an early morning at Lamar Valley in the hope of hearing to the wolves’ cries and spotting a few bears!
Canyon Visitors Centre and the Junior Ranger Programme
With the weather turning, we decided to spend a few hours at the Canyon Visitors Information Centre. It was a great place to explore, to get out of the weather, and to plan the rest of our stay at Yellowstone. The girls also signed up for the Junior Ranger Programme.
Having visited a number of the United States National Parks, I have to say how impressed I was with the Rangers, the helpfulness of everybody, and the incredible Junior Ranger Programme! On signing up the girls were given booklets to work through, learning about the Park, its history, the environment and how to look out for the wild animals. The girls learnt so much on this trip, through hands-on experiences that they would never have had in school.
On completing the Junior Ranger Programme the girls were duly sworn in by the Rangers and given their badge. What an amazing programme!
The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone
As the Grand Canyon was on the way to our cabin at Lake Yellowstone Hotel we decided to stop in for a quick visit and hike down to the Lower Falls Brink. I didn’t quite know what to expect, but it was breathtaking.
One word of caution, this hike is steep. But we managed it with the family, so you should be fine with a modest level of fitness.
Unfortunately for us, it started snowing about now so it was a quick hike UP the hill to the carpark.
Lower Falls Brink
And the view from Artists’ Point.
View from Artists’ Point
Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin
The next day, we awoke to MORE snow. But it did make for beautiful photos, and a good day to explore the Old Faithful Inn.
Around Lake Yellowstone
The Old Faithful Inn made a great spot to sit with hot chocolates and wait for ye Old Faithful. IF we had more time, I would have loved to have taken a tour of the building and learnt more about its history. Another free tour put on by the Rangers.
The Old Faithful Geyser is a must see. If not just because of its iconic status, but also because you are guaranteed to see it go off. There is a great sightseeing spot on the deck of the Old Faithful Hotel (hot chocolate in hand!).
Unfortunately, the Grand Prismatic was full of steam, and we couldn’t really see much at all. Apparently, it happens when it snows.
And to top it off – the parking was next to impossible. We were at Yellowstone in June, in the shoulder season. The traffic and parking in July would be extremely difficult. Unfortunately, Yellowstone doesn’t run shuttles like some of the other National Parks.
This is Yellowstone though, and there are plenty more bubbling mud pools, geysers and steam pits to explore.
Miss M was getting exhausted with the long days, so we decided to head over to the Mammoth Hot Springs area. It was a good hour and a bit drive so it gave her a chance to have a snooze in the car (this became a routine on our trip – early starts, late nights, and afternoon naps for our 7-year-old…). But it worked. See, a smile!
Luckily it had stopped snowing by day 3 when we had pre-booked salmon fishing on Lake Yellowstone! I’m not really a keen fisherperson, but how could you not go out on Lake Yellowstone?
Although the fish weren’t biting we learnt a lot about the history of the lake and heard stories about the old zoo on the island and the rogue that built it. We even spotted early morning wildlife out for a stroll, as well as native Eagles flying low over the lake.
Eating and Sleeping in Yellowstone
In terms of the accommodation, you can book this a year out. I thought we had plenty of time, we didn’t. We were lucky and managed to get the last cabin. Given there were no cancellation fees, I would book as soon as you possibly can, even if you need to change later.
Although the cabin had no cooking facilities, there was a fridge and with a little creativity, you could self-cater. We had stocked up with plates, bowls, knives, forks, cups etc at Walmart, as well as food supplies. We were able to self-cater with cereal for breakfast and picnic lunches. For dinner, we had pre-made salads and cold meats. We rewarded ourselves on our last night with dinner out at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel!
A trip to Yellowstone wouldn’t be complete without hanging out in one of the iconic lodges. We took the ooportunity to relax, and have a cocktail, while waiting for dinner at the Hotel.
Catching up with diary entries at Lake Yellowstone Hotel
The Hotel offered fine-dining US style, amongst power cuts. I tried Buffalo (these are not Yellowstone Buffalo, they are farmed for the purpose).
And we got to enjoy the views … well, we did after I asked to be moved (they initially tried to put us in an obscure corner where the children couldn’t disturb their other guests … not my style, our girls have table manners and we were there to enjoy the surroundings as much as the next guest!).
Fine dining at Lake Yellowstone Hotel – even with children!
Lake Yellowstone and Fishing Village
The sun has finally come out for a beautiful drive around Lake Yellowstone on our way out of the park.
Yellowstone is an absolutely amazing and iconic destination. We crammed in a lot for our short timeframe. They were long days and we were all exhausted, but it was absolutely worth it.
I’m not sure I’ll get back to Yellowstone anytime soon, it is quite a hike from New Zealand. But maybe one day Hubby and I will be the oldies parked up in the staff RV village working and exploring the park :).
This blog is part of the Amazing Journey Series.
Five years ago we re-evaluated our lives and our goals after the sudden loss of my mother in law. We vowed to slow down and to enjoy life with our small children. We got outside and explored. And we travelled. This Amazing Journey series documents our journey through Canada and the US, provides an insight on travelling with children, local destination tips and tricks, and, of course, gives an Accountant’s perspective on making the most of your holiday dollar. Earlier entries are here:
I am the first to dread Mondays in our house. I suffer horribly from the “Monday Blues”. But I’m done with it. It’s not helping me or anybody else, so I’m turning over a new leaf. Welcome to POSITIVE MONDAYS!
This week it’s back to work as normal. I’m slowly recovering from the flu, and my brain is almost functional again. I just got a pay rise (not sure if that is a good thing, or if it just adds to the handcuffs, but an interesting topic to explore later…). And, if all goes to plan, we may even buy a house this week!
I wish you all a fantastic week, with whatever it is you are doing. Remember:
“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love – then make that day count!“ Steve Maraboli
The Beartooth Highway is a 68 mile All American Road that winds its way through Montana and Wyoming, leading its travellers to the iconic Yellowstone National Park. At 3,337m high, there is some serious elevation – a bag of chip bursting elevation in fact! Starting from around 1,600m in elevation, you start your climb starts in grassy meadows, travelling through switch-backs and steep zigzags, past banks of snow, and skiers blasting past your window.
We flew into Billings Airport, as the closest airport we could find to Yellowstone National Park, that didn’t cost an extremely exorbitant amount (i.e. Jackson Hole). Billings turned out to be a great place to pick up a rental, stock up the car, and find cheap accommodation. I have to provide a recommendation here for the Hilltop Inn. This was the cheapest hotel accommodation in our entire trip, and it provided free breakfast. The room was huge, and to top it off there was a microwave and a fridge so we could self-cater a family dinner (with the help of a hot chicken from Walmart!). Would love it if they didn’t use disposable plastic for EVERYTHING though, a little better for the environment if they used glasses, plates, knives, forks etc instead of the single-use plastic variety – wrapped in another layer of plastic for hygiene.
The Beartooth Highway
We had three amazing All American Roads on our bucket list for our US Trip – the Beartooth Highway, the Big Sur Coast Highway, and the Tioga Pass (technically a National Scenic Byway). Unfortunately for us, a storm took out a key bridge on the Big Sur Coast Highway, and the snow didn’t clear from the Tioga Pass by the time we travelled through in early July – which left only the Beartooth Highway.
Even then, the Beartooth Highway was CLOSED the day before we left Billings. Hubby was devastated, knowing the Big Sur was closed, watching the snow reports daily for the Tioga Pass, and refreshing the Beartooth Highway website hourly for updates to see if it was going to open. In the morning when we were due to leave Billings the hotel staff gave us the good news – it was open. For now. Get moving… We knew we were still hours away from the start of the Highway, but we took the risk. We were very lucky. It was closed again the next day!
It’s Friday and it’s time to celebrate the weekend!! Unfortunately, I’m still doing Dry July so I won’t be seeing in the weekend with the traditional Friday night glass of wine (OK, the reality is it’s probably more like a bottle!)
I’ve been back at work this week after our beautiful holiday in Taupo. Here’s a little snapshot (proper blog to follow shortly):
Miss M and I exploring Taupo whilst Hubby and Miss T are off skiing without us…
I’ve also been a bit quiet on the blogging side. But truth be told, there is a reason for that!
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