Why swapping school for travel is a good thing

By Natalie Tuck

I’ve just returned from an epic road trip.

Think barefoot sailing capers in the Whitsundays, family four-wheel driving adventures on Fraser Island and serene sunset sessions along the beautiful east coast of Australia.

I decided to take a break from work to travel around Australia with my family and our much loved, slightly vintage, Jayco camper trailer.

So often I’d dreamt about taking our son out of school and just hitting the road, but the idea just scared me. So it was shelved, until recently.

Maybe turning 40 was the catalyst or even the impending organisational changes at work. Whatever the reason, my partner and my eight-year-old son (who needed some coaxing - theme parks - check!) agreed to come along for the ride.

Our East Coast odyssey

Our eight-week road trip started in wintry Melbourne and went as far as Airlie Beach where we hired a catamaran for eight nights and sailed around the Whitsundays.

We had the pleasure of staying in Sydney, Yamba, Hervey Bay, Fraser Island, Airlie Beach, Hamilton Island, Yeppoon, Mackay, the Gold Coast, Byron Bay, Lennox Head, Tuncurry-Forster, Batemans Bay, South West Rocks and Merimbula.

I could sing the praises of every one of these beautiful destinations but what I’d rather do is let you know that swapping school for travel is a very positive experience.

So many of my expectations – about travelling with kids – were smashed. There were many times that I was the one learning from or through my son.

Traditional classroom versus the University of Life

If you’re worried about your kids’ education, then that is totally natural. I was too, but then I realised that travel really is a self-defining journey. The things my son got to experience far outweighed anything that he could have been taught in the classroom.

School and his friends never seemed far away though as we communicated via the app Class Dojo and organised a Facetime call with his class.

He had printed hand-outs that his teacher had kindly collated, and instructions to work on times tables and vocabulary exercises – these last two we did happily in the car. 

The time of your life

Imagine a world where you don’t care to know what day it is or even what time it is! When the most pressing issue is a forecast of rain on pack-up day because you don’t want the canvas on the camper trailer to get wet.

Being away from the routine of everyday life is liberating. The simple things like watching the sun rise and set become the most enjoyable.

 

Thank you Google

One thing you’re sure to get pummelled with is a barrage of curious questions from your little ones on the road. Be ready and be patient.

A personal favourite went something like “Are we on top of the world now that it’s daylight or are we still down under”?

Sometimes it takes the power of a mighty search engine to brush up on your antiquated knowledge but the good news is queries about when you will ‘get there’ are no match for Google Maps – ‘in exactly two hours’, thank you very much!

Australian history and culture

There is something so ancient and sacred about this country. Never have I felt that more strongly than at Nara Inlet.

You have to sail into the inlet and then take your tender (dinghy) to the beach.

A relatively short but steep walk will take you to the Ngaro cultural site where you learn all about the history of the indigenous custodians of this land and marvel at the well-preserved cave paintings.

Here a visual narrative is woven, clearly depicting the relationship between the Ngaro people, the land and sea.  

 

One with nature

To sail around the Whitsundays, we had to learn all about tides, how to navigate with charts, how the direction and speed of the wind affects sailing, and the unpleasant consequences of when the macerator in the toilet breaks down.

We observed an abundance of birdlife, from sea eagles to pelicans, had a visit from a curious turtle and even had the pleasure of camping with kangaroos.

The bucket list stuff

Barefoot sailing in a 40-foot catamaran with friends. Snorkelling in ‘the heart’ of the Great Barrier Reef at Hardy Reef. Watching in awe as young humpback whales breached in front of us and when a pod of dolphins frolicked in the wake of the boat.

 

Your kids will see life with a new lens

Travel teaches kids that the world is expansive and exciting. It doesn’t just revolve around them and their town, suburb or city.

They draw comparisons to their own sense of place and identity when exploring new places and meeting new people.

You get to be a kid again

This is seriously…the…best…part! You get to do the things your kids love to do – which is essentially what you loved to do as a child.

Bike ride everywhere, run from waves, swim, snorkel, play mini-golf, arcade games, jump off cliffs into the water, play board games, make card houses, go tenpin bowling, ride rollercoasters, speed down waterslides, go to the movies, drive dodgem cars, climb rocks, go on nature walks, eat ice-cream, play ‘hide and seek’ and tickle each other until it hurts too much to laugh anymore.

Did that really just happen?

We had some amazing travel moments on our trip, so many that when people ask me what my favourite part was, I just stare blankly as my mind madly searches through a catalogue of 100s of experiences. Umm, any easier questions?

So, if you’re reading this and thinking ‘I would love to do that’. I have to say, please do! Be brave and bold and venture forth with your family. It’s so much fun and yes it can be slightly terrifying at times, but you are in it together, making memories that you will hold onto for a lifetime.

 

Have you swapped school for travel with your kids? We'd love to hear about your experience in the comments below.

Isn't it time you explored Australia? Book your next BIG4 getaway today.

 

Web: natalietuck.blog
Instagram: www.instagram.com/nataliektuck

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4 comments on “Why swapping school for travel is a good thing”

  1. Paul White

    12 September 2017 at 6:13 pm

    Hi loved reading your experiences. We are from the UK and have travelled around Australia on 7 different occasions with our children in the past, they are grown up now. Here in the UK it is now illegal to take your children out of school in term time with each parent facing a fine of £100 per child per week of school missed. Plus the courts can legally make the children go to school. We think this is a very narrow minded archaic attitude as travel has a very beneficial effects on a young mind.  Thanks for posting…  Paul

  2. Tammy Greene

    12 September 2017 at 8:47 pm

    We just returned from 12 magical weeks travelling from Melbourne to Broken Hill, up the centre to Darwin, across to the Gulf of Carpentaria and onward to Cairns before heading south. We took long service leave and pulled our kids out of school to travel. In doing so, we not only provided them with a broad educational experience, we created lifelong memories for all of us…for life! Australia is vast, diverse and rich in natural beauty. It is so satisfying to hear your kids talk about different towns (or countries) they have visited, make comparisons and build upon prior knowledge which ultimately helps them to cement their place in their world. Travel is fun, exciting, memorable and educational. I have met too many people who have wanted to “do the trip” but missed the opportunity because they didn’t commit to going. I didn’t want to have that same regret. Our kids are in year 4 and 5 so for us, it was the most ideal time to travel. They loved every minute. We all did. I wrote a family blog and the kids kept a diary. That was it. We enjoyed our time together, knowing that we were all receiving an education each and every day.
    By the way, I’m a primary school teacher and I’ve always encouraged and supported families who have wanted to travel. There are so many families crossing over our wonderful country every day. If you want to do it, then make it happen.

    “Life is for Living”.

  3. Nick

    13 September 2017 at 11:09 am

    We took our 3 primary school aged kids out to do the big lap for 18 months. They’ve come back into school not having been left behind, and in fact, are excelling. The school of life taught them so much more than what you can learn in the classroom, and our memories will last forever. Anyone considering it, just do it!!!!

  4. Leanne flitton

    15 September 2017 at 12:03 pm

    We took our kids out of school when they where in year 3 and 5 and took them to qld for a month. The teachers asked me to do a diary with them each day with writing and pictures. We still have those diaries the boys are men now but the diaries are happy memories that we treasure.

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