Caz Makepeace and her husband Craig live a life most families dream of – travelling for a living while writing about it on their blog YTravel, and returning to the Central Coast between each trip. They criss-crossed the globe and lived the expat lifestyle before having their two daughters Kalyra and Savannah, now aged nine and five, and they didn’t want to stop travelling just because they had kids.
Caz is the fourth mum to speak to us for Meet the Mama, and she has a lot to share about how parents can find ways to holiday more with their kids.
Your blog is all about experiencing travel as a family. Why do you think so many parents believe travelling as a family is too hard?
Because parenting is hard and I think families think it will be the same when they travel. They also have in their mind an image of what their travel experiences were like pre-kids and they can’t imagine how that adventure, freedom and relaxed ease could be possible when they travel with kids.
It’s just a matter of changing your approach. Parenting is hard no matter where you are and what you’re doing. You might as well fill the moments in between the chaos of a busy family life, with a chance to unplug on a family adventure. It offers you an amazing bonding experience with the people you love most. It’s a chance to get to know your children on a deeper level.
Before you created YTravel you, Craig and Kalyra were living as expats in the USA until you were forced to return home because of financial difficulties. How did this motivate you to start YTravel?
The only way you can bounce back from financial difficulty is sheer determination to not let it be the legacy you leave behind. It’s also about learning the lessons and using that as a motivating force for change and new creation.
Our financial disaster forced me to embark on some serious soul searching. How did I mess up so badly? I discovered that it was because I felt so disconnected from my life’s purpose as a result of stopping my travels, which had been my lifestyle for ten years before settling in the USA. I couldn’t believe that all those travel experiences and lessons I learned on the road had led me to this deep, black hole.
It led me to understand that my travels had not been for me alone, but for me to share. I wasn’t doing that. I decided to start blogging and share all we knew about travel to help people do it more and live a life they were in love with. Once I did that everything changed for us. We were back on the right path. In the end our financial disaster was the best thing that happened to us.
Given that you’ve travelled to so many places, why did you decide to move to the Central Coast when you came back to Australia from the USA?
We had no other option. We were financially wiped out, jobless and homeless and had our three year old daughter. We were so fortunate to have family who lived on the Central Coast who we could come home to, which gave us a chance to rebuild.
What is it you enjoy most about being home and in the neighbourhood where you live on the Coast?
I love my Saturday mornings at my local farmer’s market and cooking healthy meals based on local produce and whole foods. It was also a place I could chill for a while listening to acoustic music with a cup of organic coffee. Being at home gives us a chance to catch up with friends and some of my alternative healers like my chiropractor and energy healer. I do miss this when I travel. I love my morning sunrise walk along the waterfront and the Gnostic Corner cafe is one of my favourite places to visit.
We get cabin fever very quickly so even though we travel a lot as a family we’re still out and about on weekends. Sometimes that might be as simple as going for a beach walk or a bike ride, but we like to go out and do stuff. My work is always at home so it’s hard to relax at home when it’s always staring at you!!
We have a Netflix subscription so that can often be a way to entice us to stay home and relax. And I like to cook with my girls so we can often make cakes and chocolate bliss balls together.
Where do you like to take you kids during the school holidays on the Coast? Or do you usually take advantage of your girls being out of school to go away?
We tend to avoid travel in the school holidays. It’s too busy and expensive and the girls like that time to hang at home and play with their dolls..When we were based in Burleigh on the Gold Coast for 18 months, our eldest was in school and the youngest in child care so most of our travels involved weekend getaways or short trips. If need be, we’d take the girls out of school and sometimes our parents would come up to mind them if Craig and I had to go away.
We’re currently staying in Woy Woy until Christmas and then in January next year, we’re relocating back to the States. We’ll travel for a bit first before settling down. I look after the girl’s homeschooling when we’re on the road and I used to be a school teacher so I know what to focus our lessons on. They learn so much from their travels that I only really have to keep up with the essential skills like reading, maths and writing.
When the girls go back to school full time, we’ll make use of the holidays to travel then because American kids get 12 weeks holidays over summer, which is perfect for longer term travel. As the girls are getting older, we’re less inclined to take them out of school to travel. Plus, the US is way stricter in terms of letting kids skip school.
Now that you and Craig work on YTravel full time how do you coordinate life at home with being away so often?
It’s a little challenging. Prior to moving to Burleigh we travelled around Australia for 18 months so we learned how to do the juggle quite quickly. This time with our American trip we will be much better at it as well.
When we travel, Craig and I will often do most of our work in the early mornings or evenings when the girls are asleep. We also have a lot of tools and resources to help us automate certain parts of our business. We’ll often tag team with the girls if needed as well. We have to be very good at prioritising. If it doesn’t add value to our lives or business it does not get our attention. This is a huge message of our blog – unplug from the chaos. There is too much in our life that we subscribe to and overwhelm ourselves with because we feel obligated, guilty, fearful or insecure. Do live a free, healthy and joyful life, whether you travel or not. Focus only on what’s important to you and your family.
The beauty of living our travel lifestyle is we combine health, family togetherness, fun, adventure and work all into one. Living this way shows me just how much time we lose in the day to day lives on things that don’t matter.
Out of all the events you’ve attended and brands you’ve worked with because of your blog such as Expedia and Qantas, what have been the highlights?
A visit to the White House was an amazing experience. I still can’t believe that a couple of travel bloggers from Woy Woy were invited to the White House. How does that happen? No wonder we thought the email inviting us was spam. We attended the first travel summit there to discuss the benefits of students studying abroad and got to go inside the White House and see all the Christmas decorations. It was fantastic and a definite highlight.
We also recently won a photography award at the BlogHer Conference in the US, which is the biggest blogging event for women. I predict our upcoming road trip across the USA will be an absolute highlight too. We can’t wait to get started.
Which countries have you found to be the most family friendly when travelling and are there any places you haven’t enjoyed?
There are very few places that I haven’t enjoyed travelling to. Any western countries are very family friendly. This year we travelled to Singapore and the Philippines both of which are very family friendly. Fiji and Thailand are also great.
If I were to choose one place it would be Athens, Greece. My advice is to spend a day to see the sights then jump on a boat down to the islands which are spectacular.
Are there any countries you haven’t been to and still want to visit and why?
So many! I have not been to South America so would love to visit many countries there. I also want to go to Antarctica and India.
Given the state of the world at the moment, many parents worry about the safety of travelling, even to places previously been considered safe. What do you suggest when choosing a destination?
Well really we’re not safe anywhere. Not even walking out our own front doors. Anything can happen to any of us at any time. So I wouldn’t focus on places, such as Paris, being unsafe just because a random experience happened. It happens everywhere.
However, I do understand the concern, especially when it comes to traveling with kids. I would keep an eye on destinations to makes sure there is no political unrest or consistent safety issues. Listen to the travel advisories from Government bodies but be aware they will be extra cautious.
There are some destinations I do think twice about due to the nature of travel in that region. For example, in some regions of Africa, I’m not quite prepared to put my girls on some of those buses to get around by road. It was scary enough for me when I did it pre-kids.
I think the best thing to do is tune into how you feel. If you feel nervous or unsure about a destination, so much that it will affect your travel joy, then choose a different place. There are so many destinations to choose from, most of which are very safe.
Is there a “right age” to travel with kids, and if so what age?
I don’t think there is one right age. They offer different experiences and can be right in many ways. However, I do believe the toddler age is the most challenging. So if you were to hold off travel at any period it would be from when they first start walking to about 3. But, I’m still a big advocate for travelling with your kids whenever it works.
Money and the cost of living is often the main reason families think they can’t travel. What are your best tips for helping parents afford it?
Prioritising your daily spending at home. What are you spending money on that is really not important to you? Do you need two cars and an ultra-big home, or can you scale back so you have more money to do other things like travel. As we like to say, “Collect moments and memories not possessions.”
For each new cutback you make in your daily expenses, put them into a travel fund. You won’t even notice that that money is “missing”.
A couple of great tips for saving money on the road is to consider taking a road trip. Even a trip four hours away from home can be a life changing experience. Camping is a fantastic way to save money, get out in nature and have an enjoyable time together.
Consider low cost airlines to reach your destination. Come prepared with what you need and the flight will be fine and will save you a lot of money. We recently flew to the Philippines on Cebu airlines. They were fantastic and much cheaper than any other airline. Scoot at the moment has some incredible deals for international flights.
Also consider renting an apartment through places like Airbnb. With apartment or home rentals you also have a kitchen so can save money on eating out too. And if you do eat out, skip the expensive restaurants and go more for street food, picnics and take away. If you want to eat out at a restaurant consider lunch or breakfast instead of dinner. It’s cheaper and easier to manage with kids.
Where are your favourite places to eat out on the Coast with your kids?
Last night we ate at the The Coast Bar and Restaurant on the Gosford Waterfront. I really loved it - the meals were great and the views amazing. We also caught up with friends recently for dinner at the Kincumber Pub. I really like the vibe there and the food was exceptional.
Favourite Things on the Coast…
Beach: I love MacMasters Beach and Pearl Beach.
Playground: My girls love the Umina Beach Precinct. I love taking them there on Market day. I’m quite impressed with the monthly markets there and the café/restaurant is great.
Place to get coffee: The Coast and Lord Of Pour in Ettalong, Gnostic Mana in Woy Woy and my current fave local is the Cook & Co Eatery in Woy Woy. I am filling up my loyalty coffee card quite quickly there.
Go-to family dinner: Kincumber Pub.
Way/place to exercise: Woy Woy Waterfront walk/run. We love the annual Five Lands walk to do as a family. It’s such a special celebration and the walk is fantastic exercise and a chance for bonding. We also love the Bouddi National Park coastal walk.
Any other Central Coast businesses you love?
We love the Avoca Beach Markets. I think they are one of the best in Australia. They’re small compared to other places in Australia, but they have such a lovely, chilled community feel.