fbpx

Category Archives for "Travel tips"

Week 5: How we do childcare as a travelling family

By Grace Koelma | Dare List Mama

One question we get asked a lot as a full time travel family is how we get time to ourselves, as parents who spend almost every waking minute with our kid. And THAT ties into our other most-asked question, which is how do we socialise Leo? And the answer to both is one magical word... PRESCHOOL! 🤩 {insert angelic chorus singing Handel's Messiah here 😇✨}

This week on our vlog we'll show you how Leo's first week of preschool in Vancouver went (starting 3 days before the end of year graduation concert!) and also take you behind the scenes with what we got up to when we hired a car in Vancouver. We usually don't mind using public transport (Leo loves the sky train here) but there is SO much natural beauty in Vancouver's surrounds a short drive away​.

« Tell us how you do childcare when you travel? Resorts with kids clubs, nannies, or daycares? »

Watch the video on YouTube or view it in the video above.

If you enjoyed this video, we'd love it if you could click like and share with your friends! And if you haven't already, subscribe to our YouTube channel below so you can find out about our newest videos. 👌🎥

DLF YouTube subscribe

Follow us on Insta, FB, YouTube and Pinterest!

<< Watch Our Previous Vlogs

Don't want to miss a Dare List Family update?

Remember to subscribe on YouTube or put in your email below and we'll send you DLF love every Thursday when we send our weekly vlog live. 💌✌️

Week 1: Packing week and ‘packrastination’

By Eric Koelma | Dare List Dad

It's packing week! The week where I become a packing ninja and Grace finds ANYTHING else to do instead of packing (she's an expert 'packcrastinator' 🤣)

Watch the video on YouTube or view it in the video above.

If you enjoyed this video, we'd love it if you could click like and share with your friends! And if you haven't already, subscribe to our YouTube channel below so you can find out about our newest videos. 👌🎥

DLF YouTube subscribe

Follow us on Insta, FB, YouTube and Pinterest!

<< Watch Our Previous Vlogs

Don't want to miss a Dare List Family update?

Remember to subscribe on YouTube or put in your email below and we'll send you DLF love every Thursday when we send our weekly vlog live. 💌✌️

Toddler Travel Tips: 27 toys & activities to bring on vacation

By Grace Koelma | Dare List Mama

We've been traveling full-time for 14 months with a toddler and have tried a whole heap of strategies when it comes to packing toys and buying toys & craft supplies in a location.

In our Thursday vlog this week I share 27 Toys + Activities to Pack when Traveling with a Toddler... It's a comprehensive guided-tour of my travel cupboard (filmed in our Airbnb in Italy), so get out your pen and get ready for some awesome tips + hacks!


If you loved this video, we'd love it if you could click 'like' and share with your friends! And hit subscribe to our YouTube channel below - we'd love to see you there too!

DLF YouTube subscribe

Follow us on Insta, FB, YouTube and Pinterest!

Toddler Travel tips: what toys to bring on vacation
<< Watch Previous
Grenoble France with a toddler | Dare List Family
Watch Next >>
Dare List Family Q&A | Toddler travel, cheap Airbnbs and earning money

Follow the Dare List Family

Remember to subscribe on Youtube or you can stay up to date by leaving your details below and we'll email out when our next video or article is up.

Q & A | Travel with a toddler, earning money, finding cheap Airbnbs and more!

By Grace Koelma | Dare List Mama

We've been travelling for over a year now, and feel like we're getting the hang of this 'full-time travel with a toddler and being digital nomads' thing. So we asked our Instagram friends if they had questions for us...

And then we shot a candid Q&A video (view above or on YouTube here) featuring lots of funny moments (Eric's drawing of Grace is downright freaky!!!) and the big question... when/if we are having No. 2 (a bit of a cheeky response to that one, haha!)

If you loved this video, we'd love it if you could click 'like' and share with your friends! And hit subscribe to our YouTube channel below - we'd love to see you there too!

DLF YouTube subscribe

Follow us on Insta, FB, YouTube and Pinterest!

<< Watch Previous
Watch Next >>

Follow the Dare List Family

Remember to subscribe on Youtube or you can stay up to date by leaving your details below and we'll email out when our next video or article is up.

Travel Hack: How I saw Rome’s major tourist attractions with ZERO crowds

By Eric Koelma | Dare List Dad

Have you ever wished to get a major tourist attraction all to yourself? Yeah, me too... So I worked it out and documented the journey. I managed to see all of Rome without crowds and this article covers how I did it (and the photos to prove it). Enjoy!

If you’ve travelled in the past 5 years, you’ll know that the biggest cities are over-crowded with tourists. It’s a well known and well-documented phenomenon.

It’s the reason for the rise in more alternative locations popping up - and people are swapping the majors (Paris, Rome, New York) for intimate retreats, off-the-beaten-path getaways and following Walter Mitty to Iceland instead.

Let's be honest, this is way cooler than paying €2 to stand in line for a public toilet in Rome...

I mean for some people, the crowds are exciting and give a ‘buzz’ (extroverts rejoice!), so I see the appeal if that’s you…

But if you want to take a decent photo, tick off a bucket list item without losing a family member or just sit and silently enjoy the moment without a tour guide and thirty five grey nomads struggling with selfie sticks getting in your way, these over-crowded areas, packed tourist buses and over-priced cafes are simply ZERO fun.

It kind of makes me wonder; on an average day, how many poor quality photos are taken of the coliseum for example, just so people can tick off the ‘I was here’ moment? And how many people actually appreciate the grandeur of what was essentially a stadium set up for the purpose of barbaric, blood-thirsty torture as a form of entertainment? It should have an eery, off-putting feeling to it. But sharing that moment with 47,000 other people will probably distract you from truly feeling the magnitude.

Seeing the Coliseum instead with absolutely NO ONE else there really gave me the opportunity to consider and contemplate this site in it's hey day. I had a moment to feel for all the people who considered this place hell on earth.

It also helped me reflect on the modern day versions of the same barbaric fascination with death - the popularity of horror movies, shows like Black Mirror and the evening news (which is essentially “this person died, that person died, something about politics, someone else died, here’s some sport, weather tomorrow and here’s a cute puppy to make you forget that this all started morbidly”).

And just look at news sites… The biggest stories are the ones where people died. It’s unfortunate, but in this day and age of being able to track clicks and time on page, the news sites know that these stories get the most eyeballs. And Grace also knows that from the inside, having worked in digital newsrooms as a journalist.

But I digress and this is about my travel hack, so back to the Coliseum.

How did I see Rome with absolutely NO ONE around?


RUN

It’s pretty simple. You get up 30 minutes before sunrise and just run around the city. There are no tourist buses in operation, there are no crowds, no selfie sticks and no hawkers trying to sell you useless trinkets to take home for your mother.

The Coliseum at 10:30 AM on a normal weekday

The Coliseum that same day at 6:45 AM

This works for almost every ‘monument-type’ attraction. It doesn’t work if you want a photo on the inside of the coliseum for example, or an art gallery. But if you don’t need to go ‘into’ something or buy tickets, this works a treat!

Of course, it also wouldn’t work if it’s something like watching sunrise over the Taj Mahal (which everyone does). So, okay, it’s a hack for any 'non-entry dependent, non-sunrise-based' attractions!

In Rome, I saw 5 popular spots - The Coliseum, The Forum, Trevi Fountain, The Spanish Steps and The Vatican - (with no more than 10 people at any of them) across a 10km run before breakfast. 

A comparison on the Spanish Steps. It's like a Roman version of Where's Wally in the afternoon.

I've been doing this for years

In Paris back in 2011, I had the pleasure of enjoying the Eiffel Tower with no one around too.

I sat in the park and soaked up the scenery and history, grabbed a croissant on the way back to my hotel and enjoyed the day. I really appreciated the space to think. I don't get that in the middle of the day or in the evenings with fifty thousand other people there.

You can tell it was taken in 2011 because I still thought vignettes were a cool editing effect.

A shot usually swimming with people.

The Notre Dame - enjoyed by me, 2 cleaners and 17 pigeons.

I hope you enjoyed this and get to use this hack for yourself. Remember to share this post with your friends. Actually no, don’t. I want the tourist attractions to remain quiet! haha

But seriously... share this hack.

Also, check out where we are on Instagram at the moment. If we’re travelling in the same city as you, reach out to me. We could run together!

What hacks do you have for avoiding the crowds? Fancy sharing with us?

Eric Koelma

Eric is husband to Grace and Dad to Leo, exploring the world and doing everything he can to align the travel itinerary with world sporting events (hello Tour de France!). He's all logical precision and epic decision-making. Eric's also a rare kind of super-human who works best between 9pm and 2am, and still manages to get up early and chase that wilful toddler, WITHOUT coffee (he hates the stuff!)

Travel Guide: How to find cheap Airbnb accommodation in amazing cities

We've been travelling the world for over two years on a normal living budget (ie. no five star hotels). Here are our tips on how to keep costs low across Asia, Australasia and even in European summer, and pick the ideal family-friendly location for a month-long stay.

How we choose accommodation and location Airbnb

We paid $25USD a night for this stunning 3-bedroom apartment overlooking the central park of Grenoble, France.

By Grace Koelma | Dare List Mama

Isn't travel expensive?

"What you're doing sounds amazing, but how can you afford to have one big holiday all the time?"

We often get asked this question when we mention that we travel full time. I guess people assume we pay holiday rates and stay in resorts all the time, but the reality is quite different. (There's no way that kind of luxury resort lifestyle would be sustainable for us!)

We do slow travel

Here's the secret. We don't travel as if it's one big holiday.

We do something called slooow travel, which we define as staying in a location for 4-6 weeks at minimum, and living like a local. This means we can find longer-term rentals at discounted monthly prices and keep our costs down.

One of the most expensive parts of travelling are the transit costs (flights, trains and taxis), and the less you travel between major cities, the more you save.

Also, changing locations every week is exhausting with kids, so the rhythm of 4-6 week cycles means we have time to settle in and get a 'normal' routine going. 

After we tell people we slow travel, the next question is almost always:

"How do you choose locations to stay in and find affordable accommodation? How much do you pay a night?"

If you're curious in finding out, then read on...

How we budget accommodation per night

Before we left on our trip, we did the maths on how much our mortgage and living costs in Australia totalled to (based on our property 1.5 hours north of Australia's most expensive city, Sydney.)

You can read in detail how we worked out our budget here.

After we calculated our living expenses, we worked out that if we could pay $2000 maximum a month for accommodation, and still keep earning money as freelancers, we could keep full time travel sustainable. Sometimes we would pay much less than $2000/month. In Bali our accommodation came in at $600 a month (and that isn't even 'cheap' for Bali- we chose a very comfortable, modern bungalow with a fenced tropical garden for Leo.)

We've been travelling for over a year on this budget, so looks like it's worked! Read on for more tips on how to keep costs low (even in European summer!) and pick the ideal family-friendly location.

Don't have time to read now?
Pin for later. ⤵

Why we avoid famous, over-touristed cities

We mentioned that we stay 4-6 weeks in a city, and try to live like locals. This means we don't pick the tourist traps, instead preferring to travel to the big sites for a weekend or day trip. 

Why we don't like living in big tourist cities (think Rome, Paris, London, New York):

  1. They're waaaaaay more expensive. Like 3-5 times more expensive than other cities in the same country.
  2. They're overcrowded, over-touristed and dirty.
  3. The internet is often not as fast (because of the increased population load on servers, though this depends on where you are, obviously).
  4. They don't feel as authentic as smaller towns. Eg. We found an incredible 'La Dolce Vita' Italian experience during our 3 weeks in Perugia, but didn't get that vibe when we visited Rome. Rome was impressive. Rome was vast. But it wasn't homely and friendly like Perugia.
  5. There are hawkers everywhere, which gets pretty annoying when you're living there and get pestered every day on your morning walk to get coffee/fresh produce.
  6. You get sick of the long lines to see all those amazing museums and cultural sites that were on your bucket list, so you start to avoid those places. And when it gets to that stage, you might as well be staying in another city not famous for the Eiffel Tower or Colosseum.
  7. Local people are more rude in famous cities. We think it's because (certain kinds of) tourists can be kind of annoying, entitled and culturally insensitive, and shopkeepers and tourist operators get sick of that attitude and assume we're like that too before we've even opened our mouths. It feels like we're swimming upstream.
  8. The pace of life is more hectic and busy, and people are rushed which makes it hard to practice language skills, something we try to learn if we can. I found it so much easier to get confidence speaking French when ordering my baguettes in Grenoble, than in the bustling Parisian bakeries where the women barked orders from behind the glass counters.

Our method for choosing a city to 'live' in

Our 'rule' is really quite simple and has meant we've lived in cities that aren't on the beaten tourist trail, and are actually a wonderful surprise and have been some of our most treasured and memorable experiences.

First, we choose a country to visit, often one that is close to other countries, fits in with our flight itinerary, or a place on our bucket list. 

And then we open up Airbnb and start searching in the 5th-10th biggest city or metropolitan area.

(If you've never used Airbnb, you can get a $50 travel credit when you sign up first time here!)

We choose more built up areas because we prefer to use public transport, bicycles and walk, instead of hiring a car (something that reduces our travel costs drastically, and helps us keep fit and live like locals).

So what does choosing the 5-10th biggest town/city look like?

Eg. In Bali choose Canggu or Ubud (still quite touristy, but a more chilled-out vibe for long term travellers than the holiday towns), Avoid: Seminyak, Kuta and Nusa Dua. < This isn't to say don't visit those places, but choose to spend a week or weekend there, not make those touristy areas your base.

Eg. In France choose Nice, Montpellier, Grenoble - where we stayed, Bordeaux, Lille, Strasborg, Annecy. Avoid: Paris, Marseille, Lyon, Toulouse)  

Eg. In Italy choose Perugia, Bologna, Fano, Messina or Genoa. Avoid tourist traps like Rome, Verona, Venice, Florence or Pisa.

*Note: Sometimes in countries with a lower tourist influx (eg. Iceland, Romania, Croatia) you can pick the biggest city, like we did in Zagreb, Croatia (and loved!). And sometimes it's not as simple as avoiding a city with a large population. A smaller town like Verona, Italy might still be over-touristed, and sometimes dangerously so compared to its modest infrastructure capacity, fragile natural environment, rare historical artefacts and limited public facilities.

Obviously, this '5th biggest city thing' is just our style, and it's not a hard and fast rule for us. We just love it as a starting point for research, because it means we consider towns we haven't heard much about, and end up being an awesome experience that we can share with others.

One of the easiest ways to save money is to hire accommodation with a full kitchen and cook your own meals.

We stay in Airbnb holiday rentals

The next stage of our research process takes a LOT of time - often several hours of trawling through Airbnb listings, and opening tab after tab to compare features. 

Why we only use Airbnb to book accommodation

While there are a ton of accommodation booking sites and similar websites cropping up to Airbnb, we've been using Airbnb for the past 3 years, and have had almost zero accommodation difficulties, misunderstandings or mishaps. 

You don't have to use Airbnb though...

There are a few similar alternatives that allow you to book home rentals in a similar way, like VRBO, FlipKey, Home Away and HouseTrip. (<< If Airbnb ever gets too expensive, you know where we'll be heading for our accommodation research!).

We've written down ALL our best booking tips below, and you can easily apply the principles we use on Airbnb to those other sites I listed above.

We love home rentals as opposed to hotels and resorts because: 

  1.  We get to stay in a 'real life person's' house, not just one owned by a booking agent or big commercial hotel chain.
  2. House rentals will generally be much better equipped in terms of kitchen appliances and utilities, laundries, more aesthetic furniture and decor, and bonus books, children's toys and DVDs.
  3. They have a unique personal touch, and we've always received amazing hospitality from our hosts.
  4. It puts us in touch with locals who give us amazing local tips on where to eat and what to see and do.
  5. For our kind of travel, we feel it's more authentic than staying in a large hotel chain, but that's just our opinion! We love the occasional resort too (not going to say No to a child-free massage by the pool!)

Amazing Story! In Croatia I had a dental emergency, and my Airbnb host (who was an Ophthalmologist by day) phoned her Orthodontist friend from grad school and got me a last minute appointment. Talk about amazing service!

We think that while Airbnb prices have climbed since it first took off 5 years ago, it still offers excellent value for money per night -- ie. we've consistently found 2 bedroom houses in metropolitan cities (remember the 5th biggest rule!) for between $25 and $50USD a night. Using a home rental booking site like this means full time travel is sustainable for us.

How we choose the perfect family rental

When I'm comparing listings for longer-term stays, I'm looking for a few things (some of which can be filtered by using the advanced search options within the Airbnb website, so it turfs out the unsuitable stuff).

  • check
    Reliable hi-speed WiFi
  • check
    A well-stocked kitchen with appliances like a microwave, oven and gas top 
  • check
    Family-friendly (this means no unfenced pools, mezzanines or rickety staircases)
  • check
    A laundry is a bonus
  • check
    Proximity to public transport, cafes, grocery stores, bakeries and playgrounds
  • check
    In a safe 'family' neighbourhood

This amazing park in Grenoble was right opposite our apartment. They had a 6-week festival with free activities over all of Summer.

Communication with the host is so important

Many families avoid staying at brand new Airbnb listings (without any reviews as yet) and I completely understand their caution.

When booking on Airbnb (and similar sites), reviews are an essential part of the accommodation research. When I'm choosing a place to stay for a month, hearing about other people's experience there (bonus points if they are also travelling with a toddler!) is crucial - and I usually read every single review, and make notes -- did they mention an awesome cafe with a play area for kids? Was it in a quiet street away from main roads? Was everything spotless and clean? 

Before booking, I always get in touch with a host, just to:

A) make sure they are an 'ordinary' person (as opposed to a stilted hotel manager) - small talk and little niceties in conversation will tell you that 

B) ensure they care about their listing/property and will answer questions in detail before you book (if they care about answering your questions and are patient, they will likely care about their listing)

C) double check that they have hi-speed WiFi and explain that we're digital nomads and use a lot of internet

D) tell them that our toddler Leo is joining us, and is very well-behaved and has stayed in over 30 Airbnbs all around the world

E) most importantly, ask for a deal if it's a longer stay! Never assume the price on Airbnb is the final price! Asking doesn't hurt, they can only say no!

New listings can be great, but do your research

I've taken the risk on month-long bookings with four brand new listings now (in Ubud - Bali, Grenoble - France, Perugia - Italy and Zagreb - Croatia) and I've never regretted it. In fact, those places have been our favourites, perhaps because the host took extra measures to make sure we were comfortable during our stay.

Don't rule out new listings

I often take the risk on brand new listings with no reviews. Why?

Because they're often 50-80% off and are INCREDIBLE value for money IF they are as awesome as they look in the photos/description.

Here's how I mitigate the risk...

If I find an amazing listing (like this one in Grenoble) that looks too good to be true (like 3 bedrooms in a stylish, fully furnished and equipped central apartment for $25USD per night... ummm yes!) and has NO reviews yet, I double check when the host joined Airbnb on their profile -- if they've joined recently, you can assume it's a new listing.

Airbnb used to have a feature that allowed you to see how many views a listing had (and if it was low - around 20-50 views then I knew it was new), but that feature no longer exists unfortunately.

If unsure, I just ask the host if it's new. Since there are no reviews, I ask them lots of questions relating to the listing, about the neighbourhood, kid-friendly activities, what appliances are in the kitchen, the configuration of the rooms in the house, and always, always about the WiFi speed.

To be honest, the hosts whose apartments we've been the first to 'christen' have all turned out to be the most wonderful, kind people, and we've felt really good about helping them get a start and giving a rave review (which was deserved!) to help them get more bookings.

Check out our favourite Airbnbs!

Click on the links below to view our favourite (and best value for money) Airbnbs.

Ubud - Bali
Grenoble - France
Perugia - Italy
Zagreb - Croatia

<< New to Airbnb? You can get a $50 voucher on your first booking with this link. >>

Using Google Maps Street View

The last thing I do is use the map provided on the Airbnb listing to guess where the accomodation is. This is a lot easier in Westernised, urban neighbourhoods with street numbers and houses that are only 10 metres from the kerb. It's trickier in country areas with long driveways and trees hiding the house from the road, or developing countries like Indonesia, where the traditional family dwellings (called compounds) don't have street numbers and are hidden behind walls.

I go to Google Street View and cyber stalk the streets until I find the accommodation. Then I look around at the neighbourhood and nearby playgrounds, cafes, public transport stops and shops. I did this with all the new listings we tried in France, Italy and Croatia, but it wasn't as easy in Bali.

I'm a classic over-planner, so walking around a suburb virtually via Google maps is my style of travel research, but it might not be yours! Some people prefer to travel more spontaneously, and have surprises when they get somewhere, but if I'm booking a non-reviewed apartment for 6 weeks with a toddler (and Airbnb has no refunds if you cancel on your end for long-term bookings) then I want to double and triple check I'm willing to fork out the $2000!

Google Maps Street View of Zagreb suburb

A Google street view of the neighbourhood we stayed in for 5 weeks in Zagreb. Looks friendly, doesn't it?

So there you go! A long list of tips to help you plan your long-term travel and book the best accommodation for your family. I hope it was helpful!

And now we'd love to hear from you! How do you choose cities and apartments/hotels when you travel? Comment below, we'd love to hear your tips and hacks.

Don't have time to read now?
Pin for later. ⤵

Grace Koelma

Grace is a writer, designer, digital nomad, mum (otherwise known as toddler chaser), slow traveller, wild things appreciator, culture immerser, coffee opportunist... She frequently uses big words (some of which are definitely made up), likes long walks and even longer books, and her focus on wellness in 2017 means she is learning to obey her FitBit. Except when she's glued to her computer!

Come with us to our next destination!

Get Dare List Family love and behind-the-scenes action sent straight to your inbox.

(Don't worry, we won't spam you! We hate that!)

Calculating a budget for full time travel: How we did it

Budgeting for travel

It's easy to be 'millionaires' when the Indonesian currency is 10,000 to 1!

By Eric Koelma | Dare List Dad

Before we sold our possessions, quit our jobs and left on our big global adventure, we asked ourselves some very important questions.

One of our top questions was: Can we spend the same or less per day as what we do living in Australia?

If the answer was yes, then this plan was viable in theory. So we did the math...

When it comes to expenses, living a domestic middle-class life in Australia is expensive. Studies in 2017 found Sydney to be more expensive than New York and London, for the first time ever. 

Our house was 1.5 hours from Sydney, so we felt the ripple effect of rising house prices and cost of living.

Here was our regular monthly expenditure:

Rent/mortgage: $460/wk = $1840 per month

Electricity: $360/qtr = $120 per month

Water: $330/qtr = $110 per month

Phone plans: $19.99 and $17.99 = $38 per month total

High-speed Internet = $60 per month

Petrol and owning two cars: Estimation tank and a half per week ($80) = $320 per month

Car operating costs including servicing, insurance, registration etc would be (conservative estimate) $3000 per year =  $250 per month

Health insurance = $50 per month

Home insurance = $50 per month

Okay, they are the more major and most consistent things...

So we're looking at $1840 + $120 + $110 + $38 + $60 + $320 + $250 + $50 + $50 = $2838 per month

And we haven't talked about food yet...

Or random purchases.

Or house repairs. (Yikes!)

Now compare that with life on the road.

Some initial research on Airbnb (our favourite home rental platform) showed us that we could find accomodation for between $500 - $2000 a month (toward the lower end in Asia and the higher end in cheaper European countries).

And remember that the cost per month isn't just for a roof over your head. 

We chose accommodation with high-speed internet, a kitchen (so we could cook our own meals and save money on eating out every night), a laundry, and if we were lucky, a backyard or pool. Utilities like water and electricity come included in the price wherever you stay. Remember that when you rent temporary accommodation, you don't have to pay for home insurance or renter's insurance, and you don't have to spend money on home repairs.

So our expenses filtered down to:

  1. Accommodation (including wifi, water, electricity, maintenance, home insurance)
  2. Mobile phone plans
  3. Travel insurance (for our technology, health or other emergencies)
  4. Transit costs (airline tickets, taxi + Uber fares)*
  5. Groceries (factoring in the use of a kitchen and only eating out once a week)
  6. Entertainment and tours
  7. Discretionary items and occasional clothing/equipment replacements**

* A note on budgeting for bigger travel expenses: things like flights would be booked in advance and be a large lump sum ($500-$3000 at a time), so this had to be budgeted for, and we usually broke down the cost across the months between long-haul flights.

Eg. We paid $2500 for three tickets to Europe, and divided that lump sum monthly over the 5 months we were in Europe, as an average monthly budget. So our flight costs were budgeted at $500 month between June - November 2017.

** A note on discretionary budget: Compared to what we used to spend on a weekly-monthly basis on clothes, home decor, trinkets and other random purchases, this cost was extremely minor while travelling... we chose not to purchase souvenirs or home decor because there's only so much space in your suitcase and your furnished accommodation leaves you no space to buy that ornamental rug. Quite a handy way to stay a minimalist!

Rainy day funds

Obviously, there are things you can't budget for, and for that we have a 'rainy day fund' and also a 'insurance excess fund', so we have funds to pay our excess (around $500) at short notice when making a claim.

This is just our method of budgeting, and we'd love to hear if you've done similar maths or something different. Have questions? Pop them in the comments box below and we'll do our best to answer based on our experience!

Eric Koelma

Eric is husband to Grace and Dad to Leo, exploring the world and doing everything he can to align the travel itinerary with world sporting events (hello Tour de France!). He's all logical precision and epic decision-making. Eric's also a rare kind of super-human who works best between 9pm and 2am, and still manages to get up early and chase that wilful toddler, WITHOUT coffee (he hates the stuff!)

Come with us to our next destination!

Get Dare List Family love and behind-the-scenes action sent straight to your inbox.

(Don't worry, we won't spam you! We hate that!)

How we finally decided to take the leap

Photo: Eric Koelma

By Grace Koelma | Dare List Mama

The biggest thing holding back couples or individuals who want to quit their jobs, pack up their lives and buy a one-way ticket to see the world is fear.

And too many options analysis paralysis. And then fear, again.​ Because that's all analysis paralysis really is anyway.

When a promotion is the worst thing possible

In January 2016, while camping on holidays with our family, we had (what we now realise was) a significant landmark discussion about our goals for the year ahead. We had a serious case of wanderlust and hadn't been on an international flight since we got married back in December 2011, and suddenly, with university, graduate jobs, career changes, buying a house and having a baby (yeah, we can cram a lot in when we put our minds to it!), almost five years had lapsed.

We were happy-ish, but we were tired. ​We were tired of short holidays, taken in desperation... One week at an Airbnb two hours north of our home... Five days house-sitting in a friend's Sydney apartment. Taken out of desperation because we needed something - anything - to act as a brief wedge between the work-and-general-life-busyness that was quickly enclosing on us.

We felt geographically, emotionally and spiritually stuck, and so made the New Year's Resolution to figure out a way to travel the world and get a new global perspective. We wanted to leave by July (just after our son's first birthday). 

But when we got home from holidays, the worst thing happened - the very enemy of our plans to start our own businesses and go out on our own as digital-nomads.

Eric got a promotion.

Not the typical 'bad news' you were expecting, I bet.

Confused? It seemed great at first, a significant pay rise, an impressive job title, more responsibility. A huge compliment. You can read more about why promotions can be the worst possible thing for a would-be entrepreneur here.

But with more responsibility and a bigger take-home paycheck meant longer work hours and more sucking up to the boss. After five years loyally spent doing menial, pen-pushing, mind-numbing work in risk-management, Eric was well and truly on the corporate ladder now.

He was 'crafting a real career for himself' (or so his boss told him). But the joy was short lived.​

Work had us exhausted. Both working for others (my husband was a digital marketing strategist at a leading Australian food manufacturing company, and I was freelance writing as a journalist) and growing our own start-up businesses from the ground-up: The Mulberry Journal and Roarify. 

Add a baby in the mix...

Our son, Leo, was 6 months old, and even though parenthood was pretty epic, we had that permanent hangover that comes from sleep-deprivation as a parent, made worse by the countless 1am finishes we spent building our businesses and playing customer support. ​

We felt torn... We wanted to build our businesses, but buying a house seemed like the 'right path', the logical next step in our middle-class "Hills Hoist in the back yard" version of the American Dream. Frankly speaking, were eight short months into the 30-year mortgage repayments of our first-home, paying more interest than we could believe. We hadn't even paid off the front door handle yet. It felt like a trap.

We spent nine long months of 2016 talking.

Discussing. Pontificating. Epiphanating (yes I just made that up, but we were 'epiphany-addicted'.)

But unfortunately it was all talk, little action.

I say little action, not no action, because we were taking small steps in our businesses.

I guess we just believed that somehow, if we tried hard enough, flogged ourselves until 1am enough nights, and had enough 'serious talks' about it, we would eventually get there.

Not. True. (For us at least. If you've taken the leap in a more staggered, small steps kind of way, we'd love to hear from you!)

The point of desperation

I mentioned we had been having 'serious talks' about our future, often off the back of Eric working late, and arriving home after Leo would go to bed.

​We would go through a rhythm of having lots of intense, late-night discussions about our future in a row, and then a natural decline and complete 'radio silence', usually after we realised we didn't have a solid way forward to reach our goal. Often we'd just 'get busy' and forget about it. Those times were really disheartening.

THOUGHT TO CONSIDER!

When we think we can't achieve something, be it losing weight, buying a house, starting a business, or travelling the world (note: is this because we think we don't have the required skills/experience, or are we just afraid of hard work?), often we process this by simply getting really busy distracting ourselves. Life has a handy way of becoming a distraction, and passive, lack of action becomes our norm.

In October 2016, ten long months after our first proper discussion about travel, we found we were in an intense period of discussion, but this time something felt different.

We were desperate.

The stakes were higher than ever before. Eric was at an emotional breaking point, time-poor, hating his job, and exhausted from the constant battle with powerlessness, caught between wanting to provide for his family and wanting to take the entrepreneurial risk that so many of his biggest influencers were proponents of.

And so, having no idea what we were doing, we jumped...

One Saturday morning, we were having yet another conversation about our desire to pull up stumps and travel, to live a completely different type of life.

And then, after months of coming to the same point in the conversation and getting busy and distracting ourselves, SOMETHING DIFFERENT HAPPENED.

We looked at each other and one of us said to the other ​"why don't we just call the real estate agent"? 

And that was it. The smallest, simplest ACTION.

The rest is a story for another post, but in a nutshell​ we:

  • Identified the main problems
  • Stopped trying to over-analyse to find the 'perfect' or 'right' way to do it
  • Stopped shitting around and started taking ourselves seriously
  • And made a key phone call (ACTION).

Sounds pretty simple, huh? But simple and easy ain't the same thing, as we quickly found out.

Want some practical tips for how to take the leap?

READ: 7 steps to stop shitting around and taking the leap into digital-nomadism and travel​

Take action now

Are you ready to take the leap for yourself? I dare you to let go of fear and take a wild step, even if it's just making one phone call...

The unknown is only scary if you stay on this side of it.

Grace Koelma

Grace is a writer, designer, digital nomad, mum (otherwise known as toddler chaser), slow traveller, wild things appreciator, culture immerser, coffee opportunist... She frequently uses big words (some of which are definitely made up), likes long walks and even longer books, and her focus on wellness in 2017 means she is learning to obey her FitBit. Except when she's glued to her computer!

What to do in Florence with a toddler

By Grace Koelma | Dare List Mama

Florence + toddlers...

Two words that don't commonly go together. During our one month stay in Italy we spent most of our time in the beautiful walled city of Perugia, but we took a brief one night/two day trip out to Florence/Firenze (just 2 hours by train).

Florence is a 2000 year old medieval city ​steeped in a rich and bloody history. Centuries of being the home of wealthy Italian families has given Florence scores of exquisitely crafted Cathedrals and cavernous art galleries hosting some of the world's most famous sculptures and artworks. But like fine wine, Florence grows on you. And let's be completely honest here... most of the city's history, beauty and charm is lost on a 2-year-old (sorry, Florence).

We didn't have time to research Firenze before we went. Full-time travel has a way of making you much more relaxed about visiting new places. In the past, I would have researched for hours before we arrived. Now we just figure it out when we get there*. So when we arrived in Florence, we were a bit taken aback at the lack of parks and playgrounds visible in the city centre (a day-tripping staple when you have a 2-year-old). Most European cities we've visited have parks in the centre of town - something we gravitate to and use as a base.

*It's different when we're booking a location/Airbnb for 2+ weeks. That is when I do my research!

But the good news is there ARE things you can do in Florence with a toddler. Our guide will give you everything you need to know for a 'weekend trip'. (I'd reconsider if you're planning on visiting for longer. Firenze is beautiful, but really not designed for kids).

What to do in Florence with a toddler (no museums or Cathedrals!)

First things first... Gelato. 

Florence is famous for its world-class gelato, which is said to have originated in Firenze in the 16th Century. As is the case with most European cities, the gelato is most expensive near the big touristy piazzas and Cathedrals. We found a reasonably priced and delicious gelateria in the square around the BACK of the Duomo Cathedral (while all the crowds were milling around the front).

$$ Tip: The gelato on the Ponte Vecchio (the most iconic canal bridge in Florence) is exorbitantly priced, and there are few places to stop and enjoy it with all the crowds. 

Catch the Florence sightseeing bus (24 or 48-hour pass)

After 6 months travelling full time, this was our very first organised tour! And it was GREAT. Leo's tantrums and toddler antics left us fairly exhausted after our first afternoon/evening in Florence. We were pretty exhausted from walking around everywhere. Parks were few at that point, and he was tiring of all the sightseeing. We don't have a stroller, and Leo doesn't like being carried for long, but also can't be trusted running along beside the road. He's full of energy.

So many attempts at a good photo, but Leo was getting sleepy at this point!

But Leo also LOVES buses. So we figured in order to keep him entertained the next day (particularly through nap time) we'd try the double decker hop-on-hop-off bus. It had mixed reviews on TripAdvisor, but buying tickets was the best decision we made. At €23 each for 24 hours it was great value for us and here's why: 

  • It was entertaining sitting on the top level for Leo and had lots of good views for us
  • We got a tour around a very spread out city, including up the hill to the ancient city of Fiesole, which is BEAUTIFUL.
  • It meant not as much walking for us (and carrying Leo on our back).
  • We could hop off every time we saw something of interest (a park or playground etc). We saw places we probably wouldn't have stumbled across if not for the bus route.
  • It has an App you can download that fairly accurately shows the location of each bus (so you can see whether they're running on time).
  • The rumbling of the bus eventually sent Leo to sleep which is a high five in any parent's book!
  • Earbuds and audio commentary included with a history of sights as we passed. As parents, this was a perfect way to learn a little history while Leo was entertained. We can't really do museums and really miss learning the history of a location in that sense when we visit.

Catch the bus up the mountain to Fiesole

Fiesole was a complete surprise, and we're so glad we made the spur-of-the-moment decision to stay on the bus because otherwise we would have missed it. I'd highly recommend staying on the bus (Line B) for that part of the journey, and planning on spending an hour or so exploring the town.

Tip: The buses come every 30 minutes, so you can hop off in the main square of Fiesole and return an hour later for your return journey. The view as you descend the mountain is incredible!

Find the Piazza S. Spirito for lunch

Our lovely Instagram friends recommended we visit Piazza S. Spirito (a square on the south side of the river Arno). This Piazza is lovely because it's out of the way, less crowded and safe for kids to run around in. Plus, it has public toilets on the far side. They cost €1 each for entry, but it's worth it for the sparkling clean facilities.

$$ Tip: To save money paying for each family member, pay €1 to use the parent's room and change your toddler's nappy, and use the toilet inside while you're in there.

While you're in Piazza S. Spirito, look for Gusto Pizzeria (there will be a handful of groups of uni students/young people sitting on the stairs devouring boxes of the delicious pizza. Just ask them!). The pizza is cheap, takes just 2 minutes to make, and will be the best thing you eat in Florence, hands down.

Walk down to the Piazza T. Tasso - it's playground time!

The Piazza T. Tasso is a 10 minute walk along quiet backstreets from the Piazza S. Spirito (just plug both piazzas into Google maps to find the best route between them). P. Tasso has a children's playground - twice as big as what is pictured below. It's also just across the road from the hop-on-hop-off bus stop (No. 24 on the red Line B).

Tip: When looking at the map, it might be tempting to visit the nearby Boboli gardens, which are huge botanical gardens spreading over ​4 hectares. Unfortunately, we didn't realise the gardens are ticketed (around €7 for adults and €3 for kids over 2. Pretty pricey for a garden!)

Head up to the Piazzale Michelangelo for an AMAZING sunset view

Piazzale Michelangelo is set on a hill on the south side of the Arno river, overlooking the city. The lookout has the best view of Florence from afar. On a clear afternoon locals and tourists alike gather on the steps of the upper viewing area to watch the golden colours on the buildings as the sun sets.

Bring a bottle of wine or a little antipasto spread, and enjoy the sun warming your face and the chit chat of people with accents from all over the world. 

How to get up to Piazzale Michelangelo: You can walk from the base of the hill up a long flight of shallow stairs (just head to Via Monte Alle Croci and follow the crowds.) Or you can catch the hop-on-hop-off bus to the top. It's one of the most famous sites in Florence, you can't miss the stop!

The stairs to the top of Piazzale Michelangelo

Don't miss the SECRET best view of Florence!

We stumbled across one of Florence's best-kept secret views totally by accident. The below photo shows the view taken in a little nook in the Giardino delle Rose, directly below the lower viewing platform at the Piazzale Michelangelo. It's a beautiful quiet oasis in the chaos of the touristy area above, perfect for toddlers who want to run run run! The gardens close at 6pm. Oh and this time it's a free garden. 😉

Hint... Ponte Vecchio is best at sunset

When the crowds have faded away, gaze over at the famous Ponte Vecchio market bridge from it's little sister down the river, the Ponte alle Grazie. The views are magnificent!

View the iconic Cathedrals by night

There's something about the silent, eerily lit-up domes and ornamental facades that quietened Leo down straight away (in contrast to the high-energy fireball we were grappling with in the same spot earlier in the day!). We highly recommend a quiet stroll through the famous piazzas in the city by night as the perfect way to end your stay in Florence.

Playgrounds we saw from the bus, but didn't stop at

Have you been to Florence with kids? What did you enjoy? Comment below.

Grace Koelma

Grace is a writer, designer, digital nomad, mum (otherwise known as toddler chaser), slow traveller, wild things appreciator, culture immerser, coffee opportunist... She frequently uses big words (some of which are definitely made up), likes long walks and even longer books, and her focus on wellness in 2017 means she is learning to obey her FitBit. Except when she's glued to her computer!

Come with us to our next destination!

Get Dare List Family love and behind-the-scenes action sent straight to your inbox.

(Don't worry, we won't spam you! We hate that!)

Happy 2nd Birthday, Leo!

By Grace Koelma | Dare List Mama

We can't believe how fast the last two years have flown by, and now our little guy is TWO! Already, he's been on more flights than we had by the age of 20. We love watching him curiously explore the world, culture, people and nature as we travel. 

We put a quick video together of Leo's birthday, in the little village of La Séauve-sur-Semène in France. 

We love you, Leo 

Mummy + Daddy xxx

Grace Koelma

Grace is a writer, designer, digital nomad, mum (otherwise known as toddler chaser), slow traveller, wild things appreciator, culture immerser, coffee opportunist... She frequently uses big words (some of which are definitely made up), likes long walks and even longer books, and her focus on wellness in 2017 means she is learning to obey her FitBit. Except when she's glued to her computer!

Come with us to our next destination!

Get Dare List Family love and behind-the-scenes action sent straight to your inbox.

(Don't worry, we won't spam you! We hate that!)