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Those of you who’ve been following Roaming Days via this blog and/or Facebook would know that we’ve recently packed up our life in Australia, and moved to Canada with half a dozen suitcases.

We possibly underestimated the size of the change. Large city to small town, our own house and space to living in Marlea’s sisters basement, and massive schedules and work commitments to starting anew.

We are now over a month into this adventure and we’re just starting to feel settled.

Since our kids, nicknamed Dora and Boots in this blog, have never experienced a Canadian winter, there’s been a number of firsts for them. In our last post, they were busy tobogganing and playing in the snow. They’ve also been ice-skating, snowshoeing, and a few days ago we made our first ever snowman. They’re now excited when we ask them to put on their winter jackets and snow pants, and little Boots is starting to look less robotic in all of his winter gear. Dora knows NOT to play in yellow snow, and she has also warned us about black snow. ☺

For Marlea and I, it’s been more about getting reacquainted with a real winter, as it was a decade ago that we last spent an entire winter in Canada, and 8 years since we were back for Christmas. It hasn’t taken long to remember the good, the bad and the ugly.

It’s also taken me a month to work out that I was putting on the kids ‘long johns’ backwards, and maybe my own as well??

Canada has put on a real show for us. We didn’t get a dress rehearsal, we stepped right into the live show – and what show it’s been! ‘A polar vortex’ has caused record-breaking low temperatures in Canada and the US. From what we’ve heard, this has made regular news in Australia, as well as the freezing of Niagara Falls. For us, we only need to look outside at the snow bank beside the driveway, which stands over 3ft tall.

The small town we are living in lies in a snow belt, so we’ve been in receipt of fresh powder snow day after day. For the last week the temperature has warmed which has been great on one front but it does make the conditions outside very icy. But today the temperature has plummeted to -18 degrees, (-30 degrees to -35 degrees with wind chill) so we are calling these ‘indoor play days’.

However, I don’t intend Roaming days to become a weather station ☺ I’m hoping that we will have a few other exciting things to share, but we will report on the extremities as they occur.

So the first month has been busy. LA was a nice way to break up flight over and the kids were amazing on the first leg from Sydney. Dora loved her TV and endless hours of Dora and Peppa Pig (which is normally restricted viewing at home). Meanwhile, Boots played with what would’ve felt like a revolving table of toys. After about 6 hours they were both asleep and we actually had to wake Dora for breakfast. After our previous long haul flights with Dora, this was a pleasant surprise.

Once we’d touched-down in LA we had some minor delays with our friends at customs, and then we were on our way down to Anaheim. Disney was essential for our little girl who loves princesses. Entertainment on the other days included the Science Centre in Anaheim and a tour of LA in a big yellow taxi – not strictly legal but a cost effective way to see the sights.

Our short stay in Orange County was perfect and before we adapted to our new time zone too much, we were on the move again. First we needed to deal with the small issue of baggage. We’d chosen to fly with Qantas because they allowed two pieces of checked luggage per seat. However a warning for unsuspecting travellers, if you add a layover the baggage allowance doesn’t carry through anymore, despite what the airline tells you when booking the ticket. As an added bonus, we found out the day before leaving Sydney that American Airlines had allotted us a zero baggage allowance from LA to Toronto.

At LA airport, we made a decision to accept an offer from an AA worker to carry our bags to check-in. The decision resulted in good fortune, as we by-passed the usual check-in desk and before we knew it, we were on the plane with two pieces of checked luggage each, no arguments, and no additional baggage costs.

Again the flight was rather non-eventful which is a great thing to report when flying with two little ones.

Although Boots was involved in a minor ice and cup incident.

As a method of distraction, whilst walking the back of the plane I grabbed a cup and two pieces of ice for Boots to play with. The game was simple. Pick up the ice and put it back in the cup. It was fantastic, and kept Boots entertained obviously until the ice melted.

The mistake was to send Marlea for more ice. In her defense, she thought the hostess had given me the first cup of ice, and she just asked her for more ice.

As Marlea returned to the seat with a full cup of ice, she questioned how this was going to work. No real surprise that it didn’t. Before we knew it there was ice on the seat and under the seat, as Boots started to shake the cup and scream while he lost ice here and there. That was the end of the ice game.

Toronto airport was extremely busy and there are some advantages of having children who have been cooped up on a plane for an extended period. We were ushered to a freshly opened customs line. Soon enough we were in a nice big crew-cab truck and on our way to our new home (for the next couple of months anyway).

Our home is now a small town consisting of a couple of thousand people. We live in the basement, which sounds much worse than it actually is. In Australia, basements are rare whereas in Canada every house has a basement. And more often than not, Canadians finish their basement into a very useable space whether it be a rumpus room, or in our case, a lovely living area, bedroom and bathroom with sliding glass doors which currently looks out onto a snow covered inground pool. And yes, the basement is heated. ☺

What’s funny is that although we have downsized significantly, we still feel like we have too much stuff. It’s a good transition into life on the road, where we will have even less space.

We’ve been surprisingly busy. We’ve been getting ourselves set up, we’ve had friends and family visiting or staying with us, we hosted a large family Christmas day, and we’ve been adjusting to general day to day life with young children (with two parents at home)!

It has been fun so far. I had a night out to a local hockey game, and the company was much better than the actual hockey. We’ve been 5-pin bowling and took a sleigh ride through some beautiful trails in the woods. We’ve taken numerous trips to the barn to watch our niece train and ride her new horse. I, by complete chance, got an hour and a half private curling lesson… watch out Winter Olympics two thousand and never.

Our only ‘routine’ so far is Sunday public skating at the local arena. Dora absolutely loves it, and I think we all enjoy it for the skating as much as the poutine afterwards.

We’ve just returned from 5 days on the road. We headed south towards Toronto to check out a few motorhomes and 5th wheels (trailers). The International RV show was in Toronto and helped us fully explore all of our options and we are excited that we’re not far off finding our ‘home’ for the rest of this year!

What’s coming up? Well part of this trip is not planning too far ahead and going with the flow. We ‘re currently scheduling a few short trips through February before trying to hit the road in March (weather permitting).

The next question will be ‘go east or west’?

Follow along with our Facebook page to see more frequent photos and updates of our travels.

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“The weather outside is frightful…” and Canada has welcomed us with -10 degrees Celsius temperatures and it feels like we’re buried in snow.

It begs the question why anyone lives in this near inhabitable land. You need layers upon layers of clothes to even think about opening the front door. Going outside is more or less done on a ‘needs to’ basis. Sometimes it’s quicker to walk to your destination than shovel snow from your driveway, brush the snow off your car and scrape the ice of the windscreen/windsheild. Either way you’re going to freeze your butt off.

All that being said, there is something very appealing and beautiful about it all. Perhaps the novelty will wear off in a couple of days or weeks, as someone said to me, “Stay south, winter is only fun for ’bout half hour.” On the flip side, I was also told that if you “learn to play in it, winter isn’t long enough.” We’ll see!! Right now we’re just enjoying it.

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This is the first time that our kids have seen snow. The pictures above show Dora and Boot’s first experience of snow. Below are some other pictures including Dora’s first snow angel. She’s told us that next she would like to make a snow duck, a snow dog, and a snow elephant. I’ll keep you posted on how we go with those!!!

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You can see more pictures at Roaming Days.

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If you’re in or around LA and looking for something to do with kids, give the Discovery Science Centre a go. It’s a great half-day activity that will engage the kids from the minute they walk through the door.

It really has something for everyone, including rock climbing, cool science experiments, launching rockets, and ice hockey experiences including shooting and saving pucks.

There were two fantastic exhibitions on while we were there.  The first was Ripley’s Believe It or Not, which was interactive and informative. The kids can crawl through a lifesize prehistoric snake, stand next to the worlds tallest man, and experience a number of illusions.

The second exhibition was the 8th Annual Science of Gingerbread, which gave the centre a nice festive feel. We have never seen so many gingerbread displays, and my only tip to the Discovery Science Centre would be to raise the glass! I caught a couple of kids dipping their fingers in the display, and who can blame them.

The Discovery Science Centre is only a 10 minute drive from most Anaheim hotels, which is approximately a $20 cab-ride depending on traffic. If you get hungry, there’s a Taco Bell on-site, or a short walk will take you to a Westfield’s Mall and a ton of restaurants.

The cost of entry is very reasonable, however check the flyers in your hotel lobby for various discounts that may be available. Enjoy 🙂

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Every step, every decision, every moment, we are designing our lives.  What influences us, or the way we view things can be enriched or limited by our mindset, our attitude, our life experience.  Some moments are bigger than others. They change your life.

For me there was one of these moments, almost 12 months ago, as I sat in a mid-morning meeting surrounded by 4 or 5 gentleman in their late 40’s and 50’s.  It was no reflection of any of them personally, they were faceless to me. But it represented an image of where my life could be very rapidly. I was on the same path. Corporate was my working life. I would be one of them. And I wasn’t ready to be.

This image drove an overwhelming urge to try something else in my life, and for new reasons. I was not unhappy in my job, in fact I was loving it. I was working with great people, doing something that challenged me and I believed in. The new reason was personal fulfilment, and what that meant to me.

I pondered on the image in my mind for a few weeks before telling my wife that we were moving to Canada, something that we’d spoken about so often, but never committed to. It’s not easy to turn your life upside down. Often  as humans we always find a reason not to do something. If it were a run, we would say it’s too hot, it’s raining, it’s too windy, my legs hurt today, the kids are sick… seriously, is running really that good for you anyway?

It was this moment in my life that motivated me. It started a change in me and how I was viewing life. It changed my priorities, and I suddenly felt heightened and free.

So this is it. We are packing up our life. We have a three bedroom house, 2 bathrooms, 2 living rooms, an office, kids playroom, kitchen, and 3 sheds… 4 big feet, 4 little feet… and we are leaving with 6 suitcases.

We are moving to Canada. We have less than 3 weeks to go. We have a lot to do. We have a lot of stuff to make disappear. We have to work out a way to entertain an 18 month old on a 14 hour flight. Three minutes at a time. Maybe two minutes. Might still be optimistic. Not planning on getting much rest. We will layover in LA for four days. We will live Saturday twice.  On to Toronto. It may be  a 50 degree difference in temperature compared to Sydney.  Two hour drive North West. We arrive at our new home. With family. And soon there after we hit the road.

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And so our story begins.

We’re designing our life.

By Ben Gray

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Blank Canvas-2A blank canvas is a simple, well-worn analogy. But with a little twist, we have found it to be quite powerful and it has become the premise for our trip and adventure that we’ll embark upon by the end of 2013. But to be honest, the adventure has already begun!

Blank canvas is not about starting a new life. Instead it’s a change of mindset. It’s about a new way of looking at each day. It encourages us to live life through practical learning, emotional experiences, and soul-searching adventure. It’s finding beauty in everyday life, and capturing that picture.

What an exciting time ahead for our family. Wow, in less than 12 months we will walk away from a life that we’ve grown very comfortable in … careers, a home, stability, and routine. We will land on the shores of Canada for an adventure, blended with family time and a road trip that we’ve only ever dared to dream about until now.

What I feel most passionate about is the change in lifestyle. No suit, no clock, no stuff (or at least less stuff). And it will be about freedom, fun and family. Why would anyone give me a strange look if I told them that!! 🙂

Making the decision

We’d spoken about a life in Canada, but a decision to uproot our family is not made lightly. We are happy in Australia. We live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, we have a well-established life, and my family is here. Everything I know, everything I’ve grown up with, is here around me.

However, in my day to day life I felt as though I’d fallen into the trap of chasing an imaginary finish line. When you’re moving so quickly through life, it’s like flicking the TV channels; you get a bit of everything but you don’t relax and enjoy the show.

So I asked myself this question. Would I have any regrets in 30 years if I accepted my current life as all that it would be?

And the answer was yes. Whilst I have no complaints about my life, when I looked back at the things that have shaped me, travel stood strong. Walking the Grand Canyon as a young bloke, hiking in Nepal, family camping at a little place called Burrier, and experiencing rural China are just a handful of trips and experiences that have changed who I am. The more one lives life, rather than just exists, the more nutrition there is for the mind. And this is a philosophy I want to share with my kids.

I’m taking this time to be with my young family, to see the world, and to explore my passion of photography. If I end back in the same place, so be it. I have lost nothing, I have gained everything.

And so, the decision was made that we needed to let go, be fearless, and be open to whatever lies ahead for us.

Phrases such as ‘Sea Change’ or ‘Tree Change’ have been coined due to the growing trend of people leaving the hustle and bustle of the city. Our family will be making what we’ve coined as a ‘Season Change’. Moving from Australia to Canada, from the hot to the cold, from Kangaroos to Polar Bears, from roundabouts to 4-way stops, from 2 seasons to 4. We decided to trust our instincts and follow our hearts. We hope you can come along for the ride as we roam Canada!

By Ben Gray

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