LETTING THEIR HEART LEAD THE WAY

Views of the Amalfi Coast from the water

Are you and your love planning to whisk your whole tribe away for a familymoon? Joel Cooper, of Frank and Dollys, shares his insights and highlights from the family’s glorious global adventure

We missed our bus.
Standing on the wrong side of the narrow road that winds along the wild cliffs leading down to Amalfi, the bus flew right by all five of us. After already waiting for 30 minutes in the Mediterranean sun it was fair to say we were a tad disappointed.
For the kids, they had just missed the bus to the place where we were going to eat gelato all day, lazing on the pebble beach and splashing about in turquoise water.
But for my wife Rachel and I, we had just missed the bus to tapered streets full of hidden treasures, cheese platters and glasses of vino by the sea.
A missed bus may not seem like a big deal, but when travelling around the world as a family everything has to be planned with our toddler son Oak’s day sleep in mind, time slotted aside for running our online clothing business, Frank & Dollys, as well as squeezing in home schooling for our daughter Poppy.
The bus to Amalfi suited our timing perfectly, we were ready to jump on and head to the town which is on everyone’s bucket list and have the dreamiest day in the Italian sunshine.
When we missed it, Rachel and I glanced at each other as the kids gazed back at us with a certain look in their eye; we knew we had to make some magic happen very quickly to turn the day around.
The gorgeous little seaside village we were staying in, Conca Dei Marini, had a hidden little cove beach, full of locals watching the world go by while a handful of tourists caught rays on the stone beach, taking a refreshing dips in the clear water.

Above: Rachel, Poppy and Wren in the cove of Conca Dei Marini. Photography: Joel Cooper

Above: The stone beach at Polignano A Mare.

Above: Joel and Rachel at their Airbnb in Monteleone Sabino.

As we headed down the steep steps to the cove I stopped the first local I saw.
“Do you have a boat?” I asked, talking in slow rounded English.
“Si,” he replied, looking confused.
The next couple of minutes I played charades with him, passionately acting out the five of us, and him, in the boat, going to Amalfi.
“Now?” he replied in a thick Italian accent.
“Si,” I nodded enthusiastically.
He disappeared, and within 10 minutes we were sailing across the crystal clear sea of the Amalfi Coast, our kids literally squealing with joy as salty sea water splashed in their faces.
Rachel and I pinched ourselves at the beauty in front of us, as our new Italian friend at the steering wheel beamed, “Welcome to life in Amalfi.”
So here is my first family travel tip; when you miss the bus, find a boat.
On February 1, my family and I packed up our home in Bellbrae and our retail store in East Geelong and squeezed our life into five suitcases with a one-way ticket around the world.
We often get asked how do we do it with three young children, a busy online business and a daughter in school.
The answer to that can’t be written in an Instagram post or a blog feature, but unravelled, in detail, over time.

Above: Exploring the streets of Xi Zhou Town, in northwestern Yunnan, China and the vibrant Shaxi Ancient Town.

 

So far we have travelled through Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, China and are currently in Italy.
The amount of times things don’t go to plan; struggling with a language barrier where no one speaks English; or being the only Westerners in the village; or the GPS not being able to find your Airbnb address; or working out the currency exchange only to realise you paid four times as much as you should have.
It is in these moments that the spontaneity and adventure of travel kicks in.
When you’re in this flow, you quickly realise that nothing is a mistake; that the boat was the far better option; that being without GPS forces you to knock on someone’s door and witness the kindness of strangers and the true meaning of hospitality.

Above: Tegalalang Rice Terraces

And when you are the only Westerner for miles you can sit back and truly be immersed in a culture so far from your own.
Showing our children the excitement that each day can hold, and teaching them about going with the flow, has been an absolute delight. You have to be willing to stay on the positive side and think creatively, as when you’re in a foreign country, it can seem easier to just head back to the hotel when things don’t go to plan.
We have this little saying, which often comes out over breakfast.
“Wherever you go, go with all your heart,” and that is how we enter the day, because we never know what will come our way.
One thing people often said to us before we left was, “have a great holiday”.
For us, this isn’t a holiday, we are living our life very similar to how we lived at home, and that’s the key to making travel work with a family.

Above: Tukad Cepung Waterfall, Bali