Voting from abroad

Let me start by saying this is not a post about our opinion on who you should vote for in the US election.  This is rather a post encouraging you to vote even if you aren’t thrilled about your choices, even if you are deeply discouraged and feel like “what’s the point”.  If we can vote 8, 884 miles away from our voting precinct, so can you!  We have always treasured our right to vote but never more than now that we are expats.  This right, this privilege is something that should not be taken for granted.  It is important to make our voices heard and to be active participants in creating the United States of America that we want.

How exactly do we vote from abroad?  Well, we first had to request an absentee ballot from our local voting precinct back in the USA.  Once that occurred we received an email confirmation that our request had been received and that we would receive our ballots in mid September.  Ours arrived this week.  Once we got ours printed off and filled in, we were ready to go.  In our case, the state of Florida allows us to either mail in or fax our vote.  It would have been our preference to mail in our vote to support the US Postal Service but due to the current disruption of services going on back home we decided to play it safe and fax in our vote instead.  Some states also allow you to email in your vote.  Quite a few expats, who only have the mail in option for their state, are considering expedited mailing services to make sure they get their ballots there in time.  There is an excellent organization called Vote from Abroad that keeps expats up to date on voting matters.   I have to say based on the expats we hear about here in Australia we are all a pretty motivated group of voters!  One fact the Vote from Abroad posted recently on their Instagram account was that 48% of overseas votes in 2016 were in swing states.  Hello Florida!  That would be us!


So, where exactly do we find a fax machine in 2020?  We headed to our local Officeworks (Office Depot of OZ) of course.  We decided to make it a family affair and chose the first day we could all be together to cast our votes.  Yesterday, we got up early and headed to Officeworks before they opened to take some photos of our voting experience.  I knew our girls would be a little embarrassed by my desire to document this process so the less people around the better.  Unfortunately, we weren’t the first people there.  An employee arrived just before us and appeared to be contemplating whether she needed to call the police as she watched us from afar.  I’m sure it was a bit unusual to see people holding signs and taking pictures in front of an office supply store before 8 am.  After a quick breakfast close by, we headed back to Officeworks to get our votes sent. Once we made our way to the employee who would be assisting us in sending our votes in, it took quite a while to get things to work properly. It seems that sending faxes to the USA was more complicated than it should be. Finally after about 30 minutes, we got the confirmation that the faxes had been sent and had arrived safely in Florida.  Yay!  Here are a few photos of our adventure in voting from Brisbane, Australia!  Going to a box store is not quite the same as going to your local polling station but we got to vote and that’s what counts!  I printed off the I Voted and I Voted from Abroad signs to make the experience more festive and because we are missing our little I Voted stickers that you always get back home in the States.





In addition to this being our first federal election abroad, this also was our Eve’s first time voting.  So exciting for her!  While there is absolutely nothing that compares to going in person to your local precinct and casting your vote, Eve will never forget this first vote from Down Under!  What an incredibly historic first vote to cast!  Do you remember your first time voting?  I remember my first vote well.  I went with my dad. I always loved talking about politics with my dad.  He was so wise and not the least bit partisan.  He was also super private.  I remember a reporter standing outside the voting precinct and asking him how he voted.  My dad replied “That’s awfully private”  and kept on walking.  Can you imagine this today?  We are just so very political and open in our sharing these days.  I often wonder what my dad would think of the world today.  My dad was not just my/our personal hero but one of those young hero’s of WW2.  As a very young man he was drafted and sent to France and Germany to help defeat that madman in Germany.  I cast my vote with him in mind!   I also voted as best I could with my girls future in mind and always to show them that they can have a voice!




I want to close with a reminder to not take this right for granted, especially if you are a woman.  There was a young woman who spoke at one of the conventions this year who had tweeted in May about something called a household vote.  I was curious what this was about and was horrified to find it was about a one vote per household movement.  No way!  While Lawson and I agree on almost everything, there have a been a few times where we have voted differently.  And, even if we voted exactly the same I absolutely do not want my husband being my voice..  While I think this is a small fringe group of people that are supporting this idea, we can see clearly in the US that this is not a movement we want to allow to grow.  I can’t help but think of Handmaid’s Tale when I hear about a tweet like this  I also can’t help but think of all the women who sacrificed so much to make sure I can vote, to make sure our daughters can vote.  Thank you suffragettes!  As the suffragette Carrie Chapman Catt said “This vote is the emblem of your equality, women of America, the guarantee of your liberty.”   The vote is the emblem of all our equality!  So….Go Vote!  Don’t let anything stop you, especially indifference.   Again, if we can do it from this far away so too can you!







Not on our list of expat to do’s

Late afternoon on Monday here in Australia, we received a phone call from a stranger that Sophie had been hit by a car while heading home from work on her Vespa.  The caller said the ambulance was on it’s way to take her to Royal Brisbane Women’s Hospital.  The caller was so calm we had no real idea of how serious the accident was until we got to the hospital and heard the details.  Sophie was traveling at about 60k (40 miles per hour) down a hill on a busy street when a car pulled in front of her and she hit the front fender.  Sophie then somersaulted twice over the bonnet (hood) of that car and landed hard in the next lane.  Amazingly the car traveling in that lane was paying attention and was able to stop in time.  Equally as amazing was the fact that a friend and coworker of Sophie’s, Candice, came upon the accident right after it happened.  Candice usually took another route home but because of an accident that direction she was taking this alternate route and was right behind Sophie.  What a gift!  She was able to comfort Sophie while other drivers stopped traffic and called us and her boyfriend. Also neighbors brought out pillows to stabilize her and a first aid kit.  As Sophie’s friend said it was a “yay community” moment.  It was a community of people we will probably never meet but are so incredibly grateful for.  Candice was kind enough to go to the emergency room with Sophie and waited there for all of us to arrive and then waited with us for quite some time.  As Candice began to explain some of the details and then later as we talked with Sophie about the police report, it really began to sink in how fortunate she was to be alive.  The driver of the car that hit Sophie just did not see her.  She had her four year old daughter in the car.  This could, of course, have happened to any of us.  Accidents happen in the blink of an eye.  The police established that it was the car’s fault and we pray her insurance will pay for both Sophie’s Vespa (which is totaled) and her hospital expenses.  Sophie is pretty banged up, bruised and has lost some feeling in her legs which we pray is temporary but there did not appear to be any head injury (a miracle)!
When we embarked on this adventure there were a number of experiences we wanted to have but testing out the medical system was not one of them, especially the emergency room!  Last year we experienced one of the private hospitals here in Brisbane when Lawson had kidney stone surgery.  It was a very positive experience, well other than the actual kidney stones.  As expats who do not have permanent residency yet, we are required to hold private insurance.  For us as Americans it has been quite an education and relief financially..  When Lawson was in a corporate job back in the US we had excellent insurance, although still pricey.  When he was self employed we really began to see how expensive healthcare in the US has become.  In our opinion, it is not really very sustainable.  When we purchased our healthcare here we were blown away by the cost.  It was maybe what we were paying when we first got married in the 90’s but with even more benefits.  For Australians, what we have to pay for private health insurance here is astronomical because healthcare is free for citizens.  The system though is more of a hybrid system – combining a bit of say Canada and the US.  If you make over a certain amount yearly, you are required to buy private even as a citizen to help protect their medicare system.  And, of course those of us who are guests in Australia are also required to buy private insurance.  For us it’s not that the medical system here is better but more of an observation of why does the US cost so much and can we do anything to change that?  Now, because Sophie was taken to a public hospital rather than a private hospital it will be a couple of weeks before we know how the medical expense side of things plays out but overall it’s just not as stressful here and people are not worried about being left with healthcare expenses that can cripple them financially for life.

It took several hours of waiting while they were doing x rays and scans of Sophie checking for internal injuries before we were allowed back to see her.  Once we were able to be with her there was such relief and joy!  But the realization of exactly how close we came to losing her Sophie hit Eve full on and she passed out in Sophie’s room.  As the nurses were trying to stabilize her they found that her blood pressure had dropped to half of what it should be so they wanted to check her in as well to make sure she was ok.  So in the span of about four hours we had both our daughters in the hospital and we were running back and forth between the two rooms to check on them.  It was quite an insane night.  After a couple of hours and several tests, they felt that Eve was going to be alright.  Whew!  It will be interesting to get the bill for Eve’s visit as well.  Because this was a public hospital they said it should all be free (even for us) because Eve is a student here in Australia.  We shall see how that unfolds.  For us, it’s just kind of bizarre.  The emergency room was as low key as the rest of our experiences in Australia.  It was a little disorienting after our time in US hospitals.  When I first was allowed back to see Sophie I found it quite impossible to figure out who was who.  It was not clear to my American eyes who was a doctor, who was a nurse, etc.  There was more of a police presence than I remember back home but maybe that was because we were in a more urban hospital and there were most definitely quite a few people with drug related issues in the waiting room  Also, I add the below photo as a bit of humour from our experience in the emergency room waiting room.  There is this thing here whereby some Australians walk around without shoes – everywhere including shops and even apparently the hospital.  We just can’t make sense of this but it’s a thing.  I suppose this is where we might appropriately be called uptight Americans!
To some degree our girls will always be these sweet little ones pictured below.  Life was simpler and it felt like we could more easily protect them.  The reality though is that they are young women making steps into adulthood and we must come to terms with how little we can do to protect them.

Many years ago we heard a story about a man who was in hospital.  A friend visited him and said “how unfortunate that you were in this place at the time this accident happened”.  The injured man said “maybe but maybe not because something far worse (or far better) could have happened”   This story has become interwoven into the fabric of our family.  If I (the worrier in our family)  begins second guessing decisions I have made, Lawson quite often will say “well maybe but also maybe not”.  The point being we just never know.  Was it a good idea for Sophie to be driving a Vespa?  Well, maybe or maybe not.  There are no certainties in life.  Drivers make split second decisions that can alter the course of their or another persons life every single day.  I know all my friends who might be reading this are striving as we are to make the very best decisions they can each and every day.  We can always keep striving to do better but we also must be gentle with ourselves as accidents happen, life happens.  I don’t talk about my faith as much as I used to because I am becoming more and more like my dad with each passing day.  My dad was quiet and found words to quite often be cheap.  He felt how he lived his life was an expression of his faith. more than how he talked about his faith  As I get older I find myself wanting to be more and more like him but I do thank God and our girls guardian angels for their protection!   I am, however, also aware that there could be a parent reading this who has lost a child to a car accident who might be thinking well where was God for my child?  I don’t know why our beautiful daughters life was spared and another persons daughter was not.  I know we are filled with relief and gratitude and even more empathy than we might have before this experience for other parents who go through this, most especially those who might have lost a child.  As the upheaval and turmoil of the past few weeks, especially in the US, has unfolded, the way we talk to one another and about issues on social media have left me feeling quite overwhelmed and upset.  Then this happened and the goodness and kindness of people comes through.  We have so much more in common than we do differences.  I hope we can find a way to extend the kind of compassion you gave us on social media after this accident, to one another in other areas as we navigate this time of tremendous change.  Thank you all for your kindness, friendship and prayers for our family!  We are truly grateful!  And thank you for doing your little bit of good where you are because that little bit of good made a world of difference for our family!



A pandemic kind of Mum’s Day

As we awake to Mother’s Day here in Australia, my mom is so close in my thoughts.  Well, she is always.  My mom, Lawson’s mom, all of my aunts, cousins and friends who have mothered me over the years all are.  I really could use a dose of that mothering  now.  How about you?  I would give so much to have a day with my mom and my girls all together again, especially one where my mom felt good and there was not a pandemic sweeping the world.  My mom suffered from chronic pain the last few years of her life.  A serious car accident just a few months after losing my dad and an undiagnosed gallbladder issue that ultimately led to her death took a lot of my mom’s spark.  And boy did she have spark!  She was sparkle and pizzaz to me and my dad’s quiet sensitivity.  She made things fun!  She was also fierce and determined and outspoken.  My parents had been married 15 years when I came along, but she never gave up hope in all those years..  She desperately wanted to be a mom.  Actually she wanted to be called mama and was quite disappointed when I dropped that in favor of mom sometime during my teen years.  I thought mama sounded too old fashioned and as a child who perceived her parents as ancient due to that long wait for me to come along, I was all about not being old fashioned.  As with many mothers who have tried many years to get pregnant and have gone through a traumatic birth like my mom did with me, she was always worried about losing me.  I thought she hovered a bit too much.  Now I have far more compassion for what she must have been feeling.  This is how it is isn’t it?  The perspective of adulthood, becoming a mom myself and now navigating life without my mom all make things clearer and raise my empathy for all my mom went through.  And in a charming twist that I love, my oldest daughter calls me mama quite often and I don’t find it old fashioned at all.  My Sophie is also showing signs of having inherited her Nonnie’s green thumb.  And both Sophie and Eve have my mom’s joi de vivre, love of beauty, commitment to friends and zest for living!  It helps to see how all the love she showered them with has helped produce such lovely young women!  I am so lucky to have been my mama’s  daughter and to be mom to my own amazing daughters!





Sadly, we don’t have as many pictures of Lawson’s mom with us primarily because he isn’t on facebook much and that is where most of my old photos come from as all of our photos are in storage back in the US.
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In keeping with my thinking as a child that my parents were old (which they absolutely were not nor would they be considered to be today at 36 and 38 at the time of my birth), my parents went through the Depression.  I have been wondering what they would be thinking about all that is happening in the world right now.  What would their advice be in navigating this?  I feel certain they would be devastated by what is happening in the US and wonder about what has happened to their country.  I wish I could process it all with them.  Any child who grew up with a parent who went through the Depression knows that some of that anxiety probably got passed on to them.  It certainly did me.  How about you?   What have you been feeling during this incredibly scary time in our world?  This pandemic has upended life for us all but more importantly it has been tragic for some  We have been some of the fortunate ones who have been able to shelter in place in relative comfort and have remained symptom free.  While we have struggled with the isolation many are feeling, we know we are fortunate.  Our hearts break for those who have lost loved one’s to this virus.  I can’t help but think of all those who will be numb with loss this mothers day.  I was able to hold my mothers hand as she passed away.  What must it be like for those facing this virus without a hand to hold?   What must it be like to lose someone you love to this virus?  We have appreciated how here in Australia they have shared a bit about each of those who have passed away from the virus.  It is not abstract.  It is very real.  It is important to put faces to the numbers because only then can we enter into a place of true compassion.  It could happen to someone we love.  I never want to forget that.

We are way too familiar with grief.  Over the past decade we have lost our parents, an aunt who was like a second mom,  two of our doggies and two of my best friends  We have also faced other kinds of loss .  Grief comes from all forms of loss but changes you every single time it comes to visit and it is here on our doorstep again.  It is not just a personal grief this time though  This grief is one that much of the world is feeling yet it has somehow left many feeling more isolated than united.  Why would we not pull together in the midst of a pandemic?  Why are some countries doing it better than others?  I don’t have the answers but I do know the collective loss is very real.  I feel it.  Our family feels it.  Maybe we feel it so acutely because as expats our hearts keep getting tugged back home where there seems to be such division  I know for certain social media while an incredible tool for connection often leaves me turned inside out from the mercurial nature of it. Human behavior on social media is well….interesting at best, infuriating and hurtful at some of it’s worst.  I have found the minimization of the loss that some are facing unconscionable.  This is not like the flu.  I contemplate chucking the whole thing almost every single day but just can’t seem to do it so instead end up just popping on for a quick bit then jumping off to spare myself the emotional rollercoaster of the feed.  We are  oh so connected these days yet at least for our family (because we all talk about this kind of thing a lot) it is easy to still feel isolated and I don’t think that’s just because we are expats.

So where does that leave us?  Or lead us?  Well, for us it’s back to our spiritual life, our internal life and cultivating that.  I know for sure that life will be somewhat different for us on the other side of this quarantine.  I posted this quote by the trauma expert Dr. Bessel van der Kolk on our instagram page the other day  “We need to organize our interior lives because our exterior structure has disappeared”.  While the interior aspect of my/our life has always been one of our highest priorities, it is in the periods where I am isolated that I am most vulnerable, as I think many of us are, and thus need these inner reserves the most.  As so much of what we have counted on from the outside goes through it’s own reorganization and in some cases dissolution, we need our inner resources to be fortified all the more.
How are you doing?  What kind of things are you doing to nurture yourself?  How has your world changed through this crisis?  How are you finding connection?   We really are interested.

I should be writing this Mothers Day post to you from Melbourne this week instead of writing about a pandemic and grief.  It was to be our first trip there, a Mother’s Day gift.  While there have been baby steps back to a new normal here, it will be a while before we are able to take that trip.  It is our sincere hope that travel restrictions will ease up within Australia by July as we need to get to the US Embassy to renew Eve’s passport due to the fact that she was a minor when her current passport was issued.  It is a small thing in the big scheme of things but there is something about having an expired passport while abroad that is kind of scary.  It doesn’t look like there will be any travel back to the US in the foreseeable future either which I have relied on being able to do the whole of my time here.  Having the thought “I can  jump on a flight back to the US if I need to” has kept me brave even if I didn’t do it hardly at all.  Hmmm…back to needing those inner reserves for bravery!  I am always thinking that my parents are somehow here with me, seeing this whole adventure unfold.  I think they would like Australia quite a lot as it reminds us so much of our own childhoods in the States with all the modern conveniences of today.  If this pandemic had happened in the 1970’s, I think the US would have handled it a bit more like Australia has handled it in 2020.  It is interesting to experience one reality but to watch your homeland experience a different reality.  It is unsettling.  There is talk of a travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand as the two countries are similarly tackling the containment of the virus.  I think it is important to add that the two countries have vastly different political leaders – one conservative, the other liberal – and yet they are very united in how they have tackled this pandemic.  It can be done regardless of political affiliation.  I think this is important to remember as we look to the future.  As expats, we view our country from afar and frankly right now I wish more Americans had that opportunity.  Australia is far from perfect but so too is the US.  The biggest difference I see is America is so divided and partisan that the addressing of issues feels almost impossible which makes safety challenging.  Our daughters feel that they will have a better, safer future here than in the US….that breaks my heart.  They are lucky to have options but that doesn’t take away our worry for our homeland.  If anything this has made us more patriotic.  Objectivity is a good thing.  We are grateful for how this expat adventure has stretched us personally, expanded our perspective and has given us an added dose of objectivity

In the midst of such worldwide upheaval, we hope that this Mother’s Day finds you safe and healthy. We remain deeply appreciative for your friendship and for all the kind messages to us.  Connection has never been more important and we never take it for granted!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!  Stay safe friends!  And, Happy Mother’s Day!  We leave you with this fabulous sunrise and hearts full of gratitude for your presence in our life.


Being an expat during a pandemic

It is an incredibly bizarre time to be an expat. We can’t leave Australia now.  All  international flights and most flights within Australia have been canceled.  There was a headline a few days ago that said “Australia cut off from the rest of the world as it bans international flights”.  It was a terrifying headline to read for an expat  but after giving it a moments thought we realized it is absolutely necessary.  This is exactly what should be happening right now.  It is hard.  It is scary and it is necessary.  While there is always criticism of how a government might have handled things, from our perspective the Australian government has at least taken this pretty seriously from the beginning.  Since January there have been measures in place to try to protect the public here  Down Under.  Where the government most likely dropped the ball was not being aggressive enough  in monitoring those coming in on flights and cruises from the US and Europe.  Most of the new cases can be traced to that.  Sobering right?  The  truth of the matter is we are all, no matter one’s country, to some degree cut off from the rest of the world for a period of time even if you are not living on an island continent like Australia.

How long that is seems to depend on how seriously we take this.  Life is surreal for everyone at the moment, but even more so for those of us experiencing this in another country whilst also watching our homeland grapple with this extremely frightening situation.  We have no family here.  We are on our own yet in many ways we feel safer here than we would in Florida as per capita there are far fewer cases here in the state of Queensland than in the state of Florida.  As with all things going on back home we are observing from a distance  and trying to make sense as best we can while not being exactly sure what is true.  We do have access to all the same news as every other American and we are watching and reading them all….everything from the New York Times  and NPR to CNN and even  Fox News  to hear what they are reporting and then there are our social media news feeds which are sometimes more frightening than the news frankly.  And it’s not those that are posting the seriousness of the situation that are scaring us.  It is the ones not taking it seriously enough.  This has somehow become political when , in our opinion, we should be listening to the scientists..  Dr Fauci and Dr Birx are extraordinary human beings and doctors.  They most likely have 401k’s too.  They are no doubt  worried about the economy.  Again, in our opinion, we really should listen to them first, not the politicians. The same here for us in Australia.  Schools have remained open but we pulled our youngest daughter out because she was our biggest contact point and why risk it.  We listened to the scientists not the Prime Minister.  We live in the third largest city in Australia.  We also live in an old Wool Store building that has been converted to apartments.  We were informed that someone in our building was self isolating due to contact with someone known to have the virus and someone in the next Wool Store over has contracted the virus.  We all shop at the same grocery stores most likely.  We touch multiple shared surfaces from doorknobs to the elevator to trash shoots.  Our proximity to others  living in the city makes us vigilant.  We are probably at higher risk than if we lived in a country town but the concept of social distancing and staying home applies to us all.  We are doing all we can to protect ourselves and in protecting ourselves we protect others.  We truly are all in this together!
Last night I dreamed about our home in Florida.  I awoke disoriented and anxious with a visceral longing.  I am nesting as best I can in this temporary place we live in but I really miss having my own home.   This longing for the familiar, for home is something expats know comes and goes, waxes and wanes.. We are oh so grateful to be given this opportunity to live in Australia but this pandemic and the uncertainty for what the future holds has certainly made the longing for our own home intensify.  We are grateful to be able to hunker down in our home here in Brisbane.  We are grateful we can FaceTime our oldest daughter who is also hunkered down in her own apartment.  We are grateful to be healthy.  We are grateful for friends and family and our ability to stay connected through technology.  Thank you for that connection because currently we feel a bit cut off from “home”

Love and hugs and wishes for good health to you all!  Stay safe friends!


Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone!  Let me start by saying a huge thank you to all who have checked in on us as the fires raged here in Australia.  We so appreciate your concern and taking the time to email, send messages and posts via social media, etc.  We truly are deeply grateful!  We are safely north of the current fires as we are located in Brisbane.  If you are looking at a map of Australia we are on the eastern coast north of Byron Bay, north of Sydney.  There have been bush fires close enough to smell the smoke this summer but nothing of the magnitude of the fires in New South Wales.  They are devastating beyond words.  We have recently had rain and it has helped with the fires but  please continue to pray for relief, please pray for more rain as the whole country is in a drought,  please pray for the fireys (firemen and women in Australia, told you they shorten everything) and please pray for the injured animals and people who have lost so much.  I’m not going to post any photos of injured animals but instead of a beautiful koala we had our photo taken with just before Christmas at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary..
I have at least 10 half written posts from last year that I never quite finished.  The reasons are many but can probably be condensed down to the fact that last year was really hard (with some fabulousness thrown in there) and every time I tried to write I veered off course into heavy territory and frankly I didn’t feel like anyone needed that!  I tried to rein it in but there it was on the page!  A new friend who has lived abroad for many years reminded us recently how hard the first few years are in a new country.  There is no way around things being different, not bad just different.  I have struggled the most with, not exactly homesickness but something akin to homesickness.  It’s quite an elusive thing to put words to and then there is always an element of nostalgia which cannot be accurately relied upon.  I miss my physical home back in Florida but the house is all that really feels like home there now.  Well that and the familiarity of place.  Those two things and of course the relationships are what can make you ache some days  There have been health challenges as well that I will include in a future post on our experience so far with the health care system.  I have tried to keep our instagram and facebook somewhat updated because that is a way to stay connected with photos but words are what really fill in the blanks..  It is hard to get back into a habit like blogging that you have neglected but I hope to get back in the groove even if the first few seem  as choppy as this one is feeling.  It’s in the starting back right?

The year is already off to a quick start.  We have three birthdays between mid January and mid February in our family so it’s always pretty full on here but especially when January is summer instead of winter.  I have always loved the start of the new year back home because you nest in and plan but here in the Southern Hemisphere it is beach time, vacation time!  So, the beach it is!  We took a quick trip to Tangalooma Island to experience feeding the wild dolphins and snorkeling the wrecks a couple of weeks ago.  It was a fun trip but we will never do it again in summer as it was insanely crowded.  We also found it a bit unorganized with both those events so the mechanical engineer and professional organizer in us were both frustrated and wanted to problem solve this issue.  However, the experience of feeding a wild dolphin was pretty special and was just a ferry ride from Brisbane.  Our oldest daughter turned 23 this past week and she had planned a trip to the Sunshine Coast with some friends for her birthday.  We were able to drive her up to the Sunny Coast and spend some time exploring before dropping her off and heading back home.  We also fit in a quick trip to the New South Wales beach town of Cabarita.  We are hoping the year ahead brings lots more exploring of the coastal communities both north and south of us.  It is really great being based out of a city that is so close to great beaches!
Among the events in the past year that I missed that were supremely important was our Sophie’s graduation from the University of Queensland in December.  It is a brave person to move university almost half way through their program but that is exactly what she did in order to embark on this expat adventure with us.  She did not seek it out particularly but she ended up graduating from one of the top 50 universities in the world and we couldn’t be prouder of our girl!  Most university students live at home while they are in university and we have been lucky enough to have her with us on this adventure so far.  She is working hard to save so she can move out on her own in the year ahead.  She will continue working at a local Brisbane shop that carries some of the loveliest organic linens and other sustainable products.  In the rather poorly planned category would fall Eve’s wisdom teeth coming out the day before Sophie’s graduation from uni.  Fortunately we had a top notch oral surgeon for Eve and she was determined to not miss her sister’s ceremony!
Well, a rather disjointed beginning to a proper catch up but there it is!  Please keep praying for Australia!  And, thanks again for checking in on us and hanging in there through this long drought in our blogging.  Big hugs from our family!


April Fools Day

Oh has it ever been a while!  I have several half written posts that have languished.  It would be easy for me to just put it in the category of home sickness but that’s only part of the story.  I have been home sick for sure but even more I have reached that point in any of our big moves where I begin questioning exactly how Lawson talked me into this!  It usually happens about a year and a half in and sure enough it has happened again starting late last year.  I am in many ways an unlikely candidate for the expat life.  Sure we have talked about doing this for forever and I love to travel but the thing I love the most is home and nesting – that is what has always been my thing.  Somewhere near the end of 2018 as we were facing our third move of house in Brisbane, I began really missing home and questioning this whole thing.  But, where is home?  Home is most certainly 2108 Brookhill Rd even though I no longer own it.  Home is Seagrove Beach and our house there which is now leased for the next year and home is the United States.  It is true that you will find out just how American you are (or wherever your place of birth is) when you become an expat.   But, home is also where my little unit resides and Australia feels very much like home in some pretty important ways now as well!  Even though I am ready for a home to call my own again, I am equally as intent on pushing through this homesickness and doubt and enjoying this adventure and somehow finding my way back to blogging about it!

On to today’s short post.  This day of April 1 is significant in our family’s life due to an event that we can only wish was an April Fools joke and not real…the flash fire of 2017.  Yep, only a short while before we got on the plane to head Down Under.  I won’t bore you with the details but the fire, the burns almost derailed this whole adventure.  Although time has softened the memory, Eve’s screams of terror as she watched and the weeks of pain remain just at the edge of consciousness.  It is nothing short of a miracle that skin grafts weren’t necessary and that this adventure began at all.  I still have a very nice reminder of this day on my right arm just below the elbow.  My freckles are slowly returning though and the healing continues two years on.  I marked today with a visit to one of my favorite places in Brisbane – Jurlique Wintergarden!  Jurlique is one of our favorite Australian brands because of the purity of their products.  If you ever have the opportunity to use their products (they are sold in the US) or to have one of their facials do yourself a favor and do it!  Today I celebrated the fact that my face has healed from the fire with a visit there.  I am grateful for my healing.!  I am also grateful for life’s small pleasures in the form of healthy products.   For all the things I miss from back home, and there are many,  there are amazing Australian products that have enhanced our life tremendously..  Jurlique happens to be one.
jurliqu wintergarden jurlique products
jo and kat jurlique
Maybe this short post will jump start our blogging and I will actually finish that post about our most recent house move.  As always, we thank you for following along and we have so appreciated the notes checking in on us!  You can always follow along on our Instagram account as we keep that updated regularly.  We hope this first day of April finds you having a beautiful day with not a single April Fools Day surprise in sight!



Behind the scenes

I recently had a friend suggest I include some less than flattering photos of this adventure to show that it’s not one big 24/7 party in the Kelley’s Aussie Adventure!  Well, I don’t think you really want to see those photos but before I write a post about our most recent American friend’s Aussie adventure with us, I did think I would share a bit about what has been going on behind the pretty pictures from instagram or here in the blog  I know for me, I see others beautiful photos and I imagine a life that flows perfectly all the while knowing that we are all human and all struggle.  Funny isn’t it how we all do this to some degree?  I always assume others have their act together far better than we do!

I think I have already written pretty honestly about the terrible start we got to this year with the loss of Lawson’s mom and his siblings planning the funeral before he could get there.  Grief and being sucker punched aren’t ideal ways to start the new year.  I think I have also shared that Lawson has had some health issues.  I have probably downplayed exactly how much all of this has impacted our year and this experience.  We have been so exceedingly blessed all our life with good health and have never taken that for granted but this year has been full of fear, confusion and seeking as we try to get to the bottom of why Lawson has felt so bad.  He has had intense abdominal pain the entire year.  Under normal circumstances this would be stressful but in another country it is all the more challenging.  We have been really lucky to find a GP who listens and comes along side as Lawson has gone through and continues to go through a battery of tests.  As we eliminate one major thing after the other we repeatedly come back to stress and its toll on our bodies.  As yogi’s, we are pretty darn in tune with our bodies but sometimes life throws you things that just leave you totally untethered and confused.  I have spoken a lot about grief as it has become this close friend over the past decade or so.  In spite of me being the “quiet one”, my grief process has been one of talking – a lot- about loss.  Lawson’s has been more internal, a quieter processing.  We all have our own ways of moving through grief but there is not doubt it does change us in ways we might not recognize at the time.  And, I do believe the more deeply we love the more intense the grief process no matter what shape it takes.  And, all that can impact our bodies in ways that can be totally unfamiliar and scary.  We await another appointment to go over a calcium heart scan but being able to eliminate certain things like colon cancer has allowed us to breathe a few sighs of relief!  We know from the results that were sent to us after the heart scan that Lawson’s numbers hold some concern.  What we have come to recognize even before that appointment is the number of things we need to change – stress and sugar reduction are at the top of that list.  Digging into what causes stress in our lives is not always easy.  There are the obvious things like living abroad of course, but then there are the more subtle things we just assume are how we are made – things like sensitivity, putting others first, people pleasing, the list goes on….This part will take a lot of focus, a lot of letting go of things that drain us and a lot of filling our empty cups back up!
you can't pour from an empty cup graphic
In addition to Lawson’s medical journey, we have been trying to get Eve the help she needs for attention related issues.  If you know our girl, you know she is a ray of joyful sunbeams.  If you know our girl, you might also know that school has been somewhat challenging.  She is smart as a whip but there are so many joyful rainbows going on inside her and emanating out of her that school details can be challenging.  We finally feel like we are getting the right kind of help for her here.  It seems to us that there is a gentler, more holistic approach to dealing with ADD here.  Eve’s school is providing lots of support and we have found a helpful doctor here too.  Don’t worry, I asked Eve if I could write about this and she said sure.  That’s our girl!  This illustration below makes me think of Eve and the extraordinary beauty radiating out from both her spirit and mind (illustration credit to one of my favorite illustrators, Aimee Sicuro).
amy sicuro rainbow kid
If there has been any part of doing this medical journey from abroad, it has been the reasonable medical bills we have incurred (at least by US standards).  I can’t even begin to tell you how that has helped with the stress we feel.  Our monthly insurance rates for private insurance here in Australia are maybe close to what we paid back in the early 1990’s in the US but with better benefits.  The amount we pay for private insurance here is staggering by most Australians standards because they have public medicare.  During Lawson’s corporate years, we certainly had excellent insurance, albeit far more expensive than here..  However, if you are self employed in the US or have had an aging parent with extreme medical costs, maybe you have a better understanding of exactly how expensive things are in the US.  Another thing we notice here is that in our doctor’s office there are no advertisements for pharmaceuticals, nor are there on television.  For us, this makes us trust our doctor just a little bit more.  I don’t think the Australian medical system is perfect at all but they are doing something right with keeping the cost of both insurance and medical procedures reasonably priced.  I don’t believe the number one reason for bankruptcy in Australia is from medical bills like it is in the US.  Maybe we could examine how other countries are doing things and integrate that into the really great parts of US health care?

And then there is the stress of our home in Florida.  We are trying to decide if switching to a long term lease might be a better choice for our home.  We knew this was going to be super challenging having our home open to others.  We knew others would not care for our property like we do.  The degree to which this is true has been harder to deal with than we expected.  People put any manner of things down the toilet because why?  Because it’s not theirs?  It is disheartening to say the least and expensive for us as well.  We, of course, learned a lot in our time living at the beach about how people seem to lose their minds when they go on holiday.  For the first time, I came to understand what people meant when they said “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”.  Yeah, what happens at the beach stays at the beach and the homeowners pay for it!  We know we are blessed to be able to keep our home and yet the stress is real in trying to do the right thing by our home from afar.
aimee sicuro graphic rerouting
So, no ugly pictures here but lots of words on how our life is not perfect.  Behind those beautiful pictures of Australia, behind those pics of us smiling, there is concern and worry just like everyone else.  There are days I just want to go home.  It would be easier in lots of ways but we press on knowing that even in the midst of life’s concerns we will never regret having this expat adventure with our daughters!  People have said we are courageous..  Maybe, we have courageous moments but most of the time we are shaking in our boots trying to figure things out as we go.  We are constantly rerouting this whole thing (illustration credit above again to Aimee Sicuro).  Thanks for joining our perfectly imperfect family as we continue on this expat journey!



Adams Australian Adventure – Part Two

There is something about seeing where you live through the eyes of a first time visitor that reminds you how lucky you are!  This was certainly true for us during our adventuring with the Adams!  We tried to structure our outings in such a way that there was a balance of things we knew with a few new things, things in town balanced with day trips and free things with those that cost a bit.  We leaned a lot about what worked well and even more about how much we have to learn about being tour guides.  We pushed pretty hard to see as much as we could but there was so much more that we wanted to show them!  Sigh!  And, then there were the things that didn’t quite work out like we planned and we didn’t have a back up plan.  For instance, picking up where we left off…..Day 6 had us scheduled for a surf lesson in the mid afternoon on the Gold Coast which is an hour-hour and a half drive south of Brisbane.  We had an easy morning conserving our energy for the surfing to come and arrived at our lesson only to be informed the waves really weren’t good enough for us to go out.  Serious bummer!  We had initially scheduled the surf lesson for the afternoon thinking the weather might be a bit warmer – it is winter here – but now we know the chances of cancellation are higher in the afternoon. So we rescheduled.  We made the most of what was left of the afternoon walking a nearby trail with great ocean views and watching the sunset but it was disappointing and felt like a precious day lost a bit.
Gold Coast buildings, ocean
Gold Coast trees rocks beach july 2018
Gold Coast rainbow beach?

Sunset gold coast 1
Eve and MAggie close up gold coast trip one
LAwson and Eve looking out on the gold coast
On Tuesday, we had scheduled one of the Brisbane’s excellent free services called the Brisbane Greeters.  We met at City Hall and took a three hour walking tour through some of the CBD into the City Botanical Gardens and ended up at Queensland University of Technology.  Our guide was a retired professor from QUT and an incredible wealth of information!
downtown with the metal kangaroos
On Wednesday, we headed once more to the Gold Coast for an early morning surf lesson.  Just as we were pulling into the parking lot we received a call that our instructor could not find his keys.  He suggested we go get a cup of coffee while he looked.  We waited and waited and waited.  We watched the surfers from up on the bluff.  We discussed what might be plan B.  We finally got the call that he found them and could be there around 1.  We were frustrated but eventually decided to go with the lesson because we had already made the drive down and this was on Maggie’s bucket list of things to do in Australia.  In spite of all the irritation of waiting, our instructor was actually really good and patient with us.  Maggie already had mad surfing skills and led the way for us all.  Eve also was able to hop right up.  Lawson and I popped up ever so briefly and fell just as quickly but totally fell in love with the experience even if we weren’t up long.  We can’t wait to really learn to surf!  We were freezing by the end of our lesson and found a place to get some chai and coffee and watched the sunset once more!

dad meditating pre surfing

pre surf lesson july 2018

Eve and Maggie pre surf

me, eve and Lawson pre surf

pre surf instruction


Eve surfing

maggie surfing

One of the most long awaited parts of their trip was our visit to the Australia Zoo and the koala encounter that Chastity, Maggie and Eve got to experience!  We arrived right as the zoo opened and wound our way through the wombats and were able to hand feed the kangaroo’s.  We found our way to our seats at the Crocoseum for the main show at noon which features the crocodiles.  We were really fortunate to be there when Terri, Bindi and Robert Irwin were all there for the show..  On this day it was a little harrowing because one of the birds didn’t get the memo about the croc and kept getting really close to the edge of the water.  It was not part of the script and everyone in the stadium was holding their breath that we wouldn’t watch nature in action.  Fortunately, the bird was spared as the Irwins and the other staff distracted the croc!  Whew!  From there, we took a tram to the Africa section of the zoo.   In addition, the Nature Channel was filming the Irwins so we got to see that process in action.  It was finally time for the Koala Encounter and what an adventure that was for our three explorers!  Look how cute these pics are!

zoo croc show with bird

zoo croc show bird 2

zoo bindi and mom croc feed


small kangaroo July 2018


the four of us at zoo Africa exhitib July 2018

maggie and Eve with koala july 2018

koala in eve's arms july 2018
The next morning we were up early once again as we headed south again toward the Gold Coast for a whale watching boat trip.  The whales are migrating north right now and while you can on occasion spot a whale from the shore, it is all the more likely going out on a boat.  We chose to go with one of the scuba diving charters because of the small size of the boat which meant everyone had a good seat!  Our only regret was not having our really good camera with us.  We did get  a couple of good pics, just not quite as many as we would like.  The whales were simply breathtaking!

whale tail 3 july 2018

whale tail 2 july 2018

whale tail july 2018

all 6 of us on whale watch
After several day trips to the Sunny and Gold Coasts, we took Saturday and Sunday to chill in the city.  We took the free ferry down to South Bank and took in the art museums!  We then walked over to Fish Lane and had pizza and pasta at one of our favorite restaurants Julius Pizzeria!  From there, we had to introduce Chastity and Maggie to Messina gelato!  Yummy!  We wound our way back down to the Brisbane sign and attempted to get some photos of the girls without other people in the photo – impossible!  The sign is frequently swarming with people climbing all over it and this evening was no different.  The girls had great fun and we loved seeing the sun set over the city from this vantage point!  While at South Bank Chastity and Maggie rode the wheel of Brisbane and got to see the city from up high all lit up.  We walked from South Bank over the pedestrian bridge to QUT and the lighted trees where we attempted to get a few photos!  We spent Sunday morning exploring Roma Street Gardens and then headed home for a chilled afternoon spent playing games.  After a busy week, we all relished the down time learning a new game and just enjoying one another’s company, plus our dogs Felix and Dani and kitty Karo were thrilled to have us around for an extended period of time!











Eve and Maggie glamour shot
We awoke early the next morning to prepare a picnic lunch and get packed up for the drive and ferry ride to Stradbroke Island (Straddie).  After the hour long ferry ride we made our way back to the little coffee shop we discovered on our first trip to the island.  A little warm chai and we were ready for some koala and kangaroo in the wild sightings!  We headed first to Amity Point.  If only we had a four wheel drive vehicle!  Alas, we do not so we parked and walked out onto the nearly deserted beach.  We then hopped back in the car to drive to the Gorge Walk.  It was Eve’s eagle eye that caught this sweet koala hanging out very near the road!  We got out and took some photos and our sighting caused others to stop and snap their own photos.  Sometimes it is nice to know that Australians get just as excited about seeing a koala in the wild as we do!  We walked around Amity and watched the pelicans and just enjoyed the natural beauty.  Then it was off to the beautiful North Gorge Walk.  Well, lunch first.  We appreciate how much Australia still has an abundance of picnic tables and public amenities available.  We began our walk and early on found these kangaroos just chillin just off the path!  The views from North Gorge Walk are simply fantastic!  At one point, we saw a couple of whales and a couple of sea turtles.  Unlike our first trip to Straddie when things were rainy and overcast, this day was perfectly clear!  Ahhh!  We live in a beautiful world!  We must be stewards of this world God has entrusted to us humans!







Stradbroke July 2018 from walkway

Eve and Maggie Stradbroke





We had planned one more trip up to the Sunshine Coast (Sunny Coast) but almost two weeks of constant exploration was starting to catch up with us.  One of the things we definitely learned is pacing is always kinda hard.  You want to fit in as much as you possibly can but not wear yourself and your guests out.  Hmmm.  We have a lot to learn.  I remember why I came home from our first trip to Australia with a stress fracture in my ankle!  We took the next day off and drove over to one of the neighborhoods near Eve’s school.  Eve loved showing off her school and Bulimba has a nice little downtown for window shopping.  On the Adams last day, Sophie scheduled a trip to the Cat Cafe for her, Maggie and Chastity.  After a quick lunch, we took the City Cat ferry to UQ (University of Queensland) and explored a bit of the city we had not made it to yet.  Sophie gave us a very quick tour of her school as we maneuvered around a multitude of new graduates taking photos all over the campus.  From there, we caught a bus back to West End and had one last stop at Messina for another gelato!  We walked off a few of those calories by heading back down to the Brisbane River and South Bank for one last Brisbane sign climb and then it was time to head home so Chastity and Maggie could get a few hours of sleep before our 3 am drop off at the airport.  And, just like that we were hugging them goodbye!  Massive sigh!

Lucky Cat Cafe sign


I haven’t shared before how we met the Adams have I?  A series of somewhat traumatic events transpired that had us pull Eve out of the school she was in and begin home schooling her in 2015.  While we love the flexibility homeschooling provides a family, Lawson and I are not exactly the right profile for this job  We were using a school in Vermont that was a Waldorf based distance learning program with teachers but the distance aspect was challenging for Eve.  On a homeschool group outing, Lawson and Eve met Chastity, Maggie and Reese and a wonderful new friendship was formed and ultimately Eve was welcomed into Adams Academy that semester!  While the circumstances that led us to homeschooling for a time and to meeting the Adams was not optimal, it is a good reminder of how sometimes hard things in life can bring unexpected blessings – like the Adams!  We are thankful for their presence in our life and for their making the long journey to see us in Australia!  Here’s to more visits from them in the future and to more of our friends making this journey!  Thanks mate for joining us on this adventure!


Adams Australian Adventure – Part One

On July 4th (US Independence Day), our friends Chastity and Maggie Adams arrived from Florida!  Yippee!!  Their timing was perfect because certain US only holidays can really make us nostalgic for home – 4th of July and Thanksgiving especially!  They arrived late morning and we headed home for what Aussie’s call a sausage sizzle or as we would say grilled hot dogs and other 4th of July type foods.  The goal on day one was just to keep them upright and have a relaxing day catching up and eventually taking a ride on the free ferry up and down the Brisbane River.  Mission accomplished!  We had planned to get up early the next morning to catch the sunrise at Mt Coot-tha thinking Chastity and Maggie would probably wake up in the wee hours of the morning but they did so great  adjusting to our time zone that we waited later in the day to head out..  It was raining on and off much of day two which helped us ease into our adventure schedule!.  The rain cleared off long enough for us to catch some great views of the city from Mt Coot-tha lookout about mid-day and to have a  picnic at the Botanical Gardens at Mt Coot-tha as well.  We also popped in to visit the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium when the rain picked back up.
July 4th arrive at airport
July 4th Eve, Chastity and Maggie
Eve and Maggie Mt Coot-tha
Mt Coot-tha lookout all of us
I must say, I wish I had this kind of energy and looked like this after I have flown half way around the world!
MAggie jumping at Mt Coot'tha
On Friday, we continued to ease into things with a trip down to the CBD (Central Business District).  One of our fave Aussie companies is Jurlique so we had scheduled a facial for Chastity while the girls and I walked around the CBD for a bit.  Katie took great care of Chastity and hopefully helped with any dehydration that came from the long plane ride over!
Katie and Maggie at Jurlique
From there we headed to the Red Cross Cafe which is tucked under Brisbane City Hall.  While the food is simple, we love the good cause it is associated with!
Chastity and Maggie at REd Cross Cafe
After a lunch we explored the Brisbane Museum in City Hall.  It is a great introduction to Brisbane and her history.  Because it was school holidays the vintage elevator ride up to the Hall’s Clock Tower had a long wait.  We rather optimistically decided to catch one of the last trips up which was at 6:30 pm.  While it it a really cool thing to do and the views of the city at night are great, it is probably better to wait till jet lag has completely disappeared before pushing so hard in one day..  We were super glad the bus stop was just outside City Hall!.
Maggie and Bristopia sign
Maggie and art at Brisbane Museum

Eve and Chastity at vintage elevator City Hall
We awoke to a perfect day on Saturday!  We walked down to New Farm Park and the weekly farmers market that is held there.  On the way to the market, we stopped at one of our favorite places for coffee, the Coffee Hut, which is situated right inside New Farm Park!  We then wandered along the walkway that leads from New Farm to Teneriffe.
eve, maggie and chastity at new farm park coffee hut
Chastity and Maggie teneriffe boardwalk
maggie and chasttity walk to teneriffe
eve and maggie bubble girl teneriffe
From Teneriffe, we caught the ferry down to South Bank to the French Festival!
French Festival 3
Eve at French Festival\
After exploring all the French Festival had to offer, we walked down to the South Bank pool and beach.  Can you believe this is free?

lipstick building from pool

southbank pool\
We relaxed by the pool and enjoyed the sun and people watching!  We finally headed home via the ferry and upon disembarking at Sydney Street we noticed the Story Bridge was lit up in Red, White and Blue!  It, of course, had nothing to do with our holiday back home but it sure made us think of home!
eve and maggie day 4 sydney street stop
On Sunday, we ventured to quirky, cool Byron Bay.  We have heard of Byron Bay for years but this was our first trip there and boy did it not disappoint – well, other than that we were just there for the day!  It’s hard to describe the beauty and character of Byron Bay so I will just let the photos do the talking.
Eve and Maggie Byron Bay colorful wall
donald trump taco sign
adams and us byron bay july 2018
So, we made it through day 5 of Adams Australian Adventure in this post….I will save part two and three for another couple of posts!  Don’t Maggie and Chastity look happy in these photos at Byron Bay?!  We think they should just move here!  Well, after the rest of their unit (Chad and Reese) comes for a visit that is!
Chastity and MAggie at Byron Bay







Eight Days in Tasmania

This past semester was my most challenging. University, internships, and work proved to be a taxing trio, yet I held my determination and enthusiasm, knowing I would jet off to Tasmania when it was all over.

I am writing this by request of my mama and my friends, yet before the details of my travels, I would like to say thank you to Huai-Yuan Change AKA Peggy, one of my closest most dear friends who accompanied me to Tasmania. More than anything this was a trip to be with my friend; her time in Australia is coming to an end (for now), and I will very much cherish the time we spent driving, singing, hiking, eating, and exploring.

Day One: Monday was a travel day. Peggy and I landed in Launceston at 8pm and were very happy to know it was one degree Celsius outside. I have always preferred winter because it demands layers and hot drinks. Launceston is a river city in Northern Tasmania. And while driving to our Airbnb, it didn’t take me long to realize that all of the homes were colonial. This was easily my favorite part about the town. The homes were so well preserved with their charming stain-glass windows, brick, red-doors, and double chimneys. Many were heritage listed as well.

After dropping off our luggage, we walked to Geronimo Aperitivo Bar. Here, I confirm once again I am not a fan of cocktails even though I so desperately try to convince myself otherwise. The food was great though, but to be fair all the food we ate on our trip was great.

Day Two: We drove North to Bridestowe Lavender Farm, the world’s largest commercial lavender farm with over 650,000 plants. Here, I found a love for lavender lattes and lavender ice cream. Although the lavender was not in bloom, Peggy and I enjoyed a peaceful walk along the endless rows. The gift shop was excellent, and I walked away with bundles of dried lavender and a bottle of their lavender syrup. I’ve been having it in my morning coffee, and it’s excellent. The remainder of the day we drove around Northern Tasmania, stopping many times for scenic pictures and cattle. I have never seen so many cows and sheep in one place.
Day Three: Wednesday was by far one of my favorite days. Peggy and I drove west to the famous Cradle Mountain, primarily to see the mountain and the wombats. The trip up was steep, but it was well worth it. Every time we drove around another bend, it seemed as though the landscape changed into something entirely different. Once inside the park, we hiked from Dove Lake to Ronny Creek, and toward the end we saw about fifteen wombats feeding. This day was spectacular, and I recommend making a whole day of it.

Day Four: Following our lovely breakfast and pink lattes from Alps and Amici, Launceston’s gourmet food-store, we said goodbye to Launceston and headed down the Midland Highway to Hobart, making several stops along the way. We first came into Campbell Town. Here, we visited the Book Cellar at the Foxhunter’s Return. The Foxhunter’s Return has a beautiful stonemason front and is heritage listed as a coach inn which provided shelter for those traveling between Launceston and Hobart during the 1800s. The bookshop is located in the cellar, hence the name, which was used to house the convicts who built the Red Bridge alongside the inn. We weren’t supposed to take pictures, but I snapped one of Peggy! The Book Cellar has one of the largest collections of Tasmanian books, and I picked up a few monographs including diary entries of convicts and primary resources on the history of Van Diemen’s Land and slavery and famine. I would definitely suggest stopping here for reading material and coffee!
Our next destination was Freycinet National Park, a peninsula off the East coast, famous for the Wineglass Bay. This was a bit of a haul, but we made it with enough time to hike to the bay. It was beautiful and completely different than Cradle Mountain. Here we didn’t see wild wombats, but we did see wild wallabies in the car park. Fish and chips and a lot of driving and Disney songs later, we made it to Hobart. Our Airbnb was at the center of everything cool. I feel we got lucky! To end our night, we walked two minutes to T-Bone Brewing Co. where we had hot cider and played arcade games.

Day Five: Friday was another one of my favorite days because we took a cruise to Tasman Island! This was three hours of rain and rough sea, but it was totally worth it because we saw many Australian and New Zealand seals and pups playing! We also sailed into Port Arthur, a historic site, home to the ruins of the convict church and penal colony for second offenders as well as the famous, Isle of the Dead Cemetery. Unfortunately, we opted not to take a tour of the site which is my only regret of the trip! It is definitely a must-see.

The day ended with Japanese food, beer, and an exclusive tour of Hobart’s town hall. Alderman Bill Harvey spotted Peggy and I snooping around and offered to show us around; he even let us sit in the Lord Mayor’s chair.

Day Six: Saturday was a full day of shopping, eating, and exploring. After a lovely breakfast from Daci and Daci Bakers, Peggy and I walked to the Salamanca Market, a Saturday ritual for the people of Hobart. Here, you will find over 300 stalls of artisan crafts, foods, and clothing. There was even a music stall where I picked up a CD of the 60s greatest hits which I have unfortunately already misplaced. Next, we stopped at the TMAG, Tasmania Museum and Art Gallery, where I discovered the Thylacine. This species solely resides in Tasmania, found in no other place and is often referred to as a Tasmanian Tiger. It was the largest, carnivorous marsupial in existence before they declared officially extinct in 1982. In the late 1800s, the Tasmanian government issued a bounty for Thylacines since they were a nuisance to livestock, yet this ultimately ended in their extinction.

Before a dinner of oysters, fish, and scallops, we visited Hobart’s Convict penitentiary which is also a must-see. In just under an hour our tour guide brought us through the building’s evolution as a penitentiary, chapel, jail, and court.

Day Seven: Day before we leave, and we are so tired. We spent three hours at the Farm Gate Market mainly because we just wanted to sit and relax. This was the perfect place to get breakfast and check out the locals. Also, there was a live jazz band in front of the Playhouse Theater which is always a good thing. Mount Wellington was our next journey. Pinnacle Point overlooks the Hobart and is just so beautiful, but the temps were bone chilling at negative seven degrees Celsius, so we didn’t stay very long.

We were in bed pretty earlier this night. After a little shopping, champagne, and Italian from Amici, we were home packing.

Day Eight: We had our last breakfast in Hobart’s historical center, Battery Point, at a place called Jackman and McRoss Bakeries. This is an absolute must. The food was delicious, and the location was perfect. For a moment, I could picture myself as a resident.

After breakfast, we had to say goodbye to Hobart. Peggy and I flew out of Launceston. It was about a 2-and-a-half-hour drive back, but of course, we made a couple more stops. If you are in Tasmania, you must stop in Richmond. Here, we walked the Richmond Australia’s oldest stone bridge, erected by convicts in 1823. Not only does the bridge attract humans, but it is also home to many birds including a black swan! We also toured Richmond’s gaol. This gaol is Australia’s oldest gaol that still remains, dating back to 1825. It was meager in size compared to Hobart’s penitentiary; nevertheless, the stories of the people who passed through were just as stirring.

Our last stop before the Launceston airport was another small, historical town called Ross. Here, Peggy was hoping to visit the famous bakery that inspired the imagery for the Japanese anime, Kiki’s Delivery Service. It is common for this bakery to welcome up to 50 Japanese visitors a day, many in cosplay, yet today the owners were on holiday! We were both upset, but I am hoping it will motivate Peggy to come again!

I will never forget my eight days in Tasmania, and I am so thankful that I had such a wonderful travel partner. I am looking forward to taking my family back for their first time!