Most of our time in Australia up until Melbourne, we had spent on the road and our own. First in a 4 WD with roof-top tents driving across from Perth to Adelaide and then in a motorhome driving from Adelaide to Melbourne. In Melbourne things were about to change. Read on, to learn more about our amazing Melbourne homestay experience.
Hello old friends
Our arrival in Melbourne was also the revival of a 22-year-old friendship. We were so fortunate that an old Aussie friend, through the Rotary Youth Exchange Program back in 1998, now with wife and three beautiful children, had invited us to stay with them, after we had let them know of our arrival and our wish to visit them – do your own interpretation :-) We did know them fairly well though, as they lived in Denmark for 5 years – more or less pre-kids.
We arrived in Woodend, about an hour outside Central Melbourne, and it only lasted about five minutes before all 5 kids were running around in the garden. This obviously doesn’t sound like something special to write about, but when your kids haven’t been in a private garden with a trampoline and loads of space to run wild on for 8 months, it was special. Had it not been for dinner that day, we wouldn’t have seen them until bedtime. To make our welcome even better, a kangaroo stew awaited us on the dining table, what a yummy Aussie welcome.
Woodend - Home Time
For the next few days we just stayed in the house and garden! After having spent almost four weeks on the road in Australia and seven months of fulltime traveling, the feeling of being in a real home was indescribable. Due to the warmth and the heartfelt welcome of our friends, we felt at home immediately. It was also clear that the boys loved being with other children again, and not just other children on some playground, but actual (new but real) friends – a friendship that was formed in the first 5 minutes upon our arrival in Woodend. Every day, Toby and Philip were counting the hours until we could pick up their new friends from school.
After enjoying life in an Australian family, we thought it was time to start exploring Melbourne a bit. We went into Melbourne and walked around all day, exploring the city on the City Circle tram, visiting an interesting and educational Aboriginal museum about the First Nation people living in the Melbourne area, saw the Queen Victoria Market, we wandered around the CBD and finished off the day walking along the banks of the Yarra River. With tired legs and feet, we headed back to Woodend by train at the end of the day.
The next day, we went back into Melbourne, heading directly to the Melbourne Museum with natural history and cultural collections. Once again, it was the Aboriginal exhibition that first got our attention, and we spent a long time in there learning about Australia’s culture and the history of the Aboriginals. It’s a huge museum, and we could easily have spent more time (we spent a full day) there, so much to see and learn and some awesome and interactive exhibitions.
As it happened to be the day of our wedding anniversary, our friends and hosts had offered to babysit the boys, so Martin and I could go on a date! What a treat – for all four of us. The boys seemed to have enjoyed being without their parents as much as we enjoyed having an evening to ourselves.
More Home Time
We spent some great days at home in Woodend, hanging out with our friends while the kids more than enjoyed the freedom of being able to run in and out of the house and garden. There were also some cultural lessons for the boys in the shape of cricket lessons. The oldest son, Odin, knew all there was to know and taught the boys. I had never imagined that I would see my kids play cricket for hours in the garden – but then again, why not! It was so great to see friendships grow across new sports, hours of reading side by side, board games, picking fresh fruits, berries and veggies in the garden, making jam (on their own), and simply being about good old fun and games.
Family Mountain-biking Fun
We also went for an afternoon of mountain biking with our friends and a group of their friends in the woods nearby – there was even a mountain bike trail for kids, where they could do rounds on their own. Another joy of ours while staying with our friends, was being able to cook dinner. For foodies like us who also enjoy cooking, to be in an actual home, as opposed to be an Airbnb or hotel apartment. Not only was the atmosphere different, but also the equipment in the kitchen and most importantly, to be able to cook for someone who appreciated it.
Mount Macedon Regional Park
We spent a day hiking and exploring Mount Macedon and the surrounding regional park. The beautiful gumtrees everywhere and simply beautiful and plain nature, with vista points to give us a great impression of the area north of Melbourne.
Hands On at Scienceworks
We were not completely done exploring the city of Melbourne, and not that we ever would be, but there were still a few more days of sight-seeing and hanging out in the cool city. A place that was super fun and interesting for the whole family was the very hands-on museum, Scienceworks, with different exhibitions, all geared to teach kids (and adults) about the human body and sports, inventions, Air and Power and even more.
Full-time Travel Family Meet Up
We also happened to be in Melbourne at the same time as another fulltime traveling family, The Jetsetting Family, so we met up. It’s fun to meet in person, when you have met through the fulltime travel community on Instagram, had Skype calls and then finally to meet in real person. Also, to meet with someone who share the same mindset about alternative ways of living (life on the road) and how it gives a different perspective on life.
Bye Bye Melbourne and Friends
With one last day in Woodend/Melbourne, we spend it back at the house and garden with the family before it was time to say goodbye to our wonderful friends and amazing hosts. Not only did we love our time there because they are just wonderful and warmhearted people, but we learned so much from them about Aussie way of life, the culture and an incredible opportunity to build new and stronger friendships. Thank you, Ben, Kate, Odin, Lucy and Zoe, from the bottom of our hearts!
Next up, our final stop in Australia: Sydney. That you can read much more about in a soon to come blogpost, so stay tuned.