3 kids, 2 years, 1 sailboat in the Caribbean and the family that made it happen
When Adelaide mum, Erin Carey, and her husband Dave sat down to watch Netflix one night, they didn’t know it was going to change their lives, and the lives of their three boys.
A sailing documentary they happened upon that evening sparked an idea for the family of five, an idea they worked for two years to bring to reality.
From tight budgeting, scrimping and saving, to pulling their kids out of private schools and selling their cars; Erin and Dave moved heaven and earth in a bid to sail around the world with their sons.
We chat with Erin about how they did it, and the huge life changing adventure it turned out to be.
Tell us about your decision to take your three sons and sail the Caribbean seas, how did this come about?
To be honest, it was a spur of the moment decision. My husband and I sat down one evening to watch Netflix. It was a random chance that he played Laura Dekker’s documentary about her solo journey sailing around the world. I wasn’t even planning on watching it, I was looking on my phone, but something grabbed my attention and for the next 90 or so minutes I was completely transfixed, we both were. At the end of the documentary we turned to each other and said, “wow”. We moved to the computer and googled “families sailing the world”. When we discovered that there were normal families out there doing it, we said, “if they can do it, so can we!” And we never looked back. From that moment on we were determined to live on a boat and sail the world’s oceans. At that stage we had no idea how we were going to do it, we just knew we’d figure it out.
How did you take the dream of this huge adventure and make it into a reality?
The first step in turning it into a reality was mindset. We truly believed we were going to do it, I think that was a huge part of our success. We were very determined, despite having no savings, some credit card debt and no idea how to sail. I always knew we’d do something big regarding travel, I thought we might live overseas at some stage, I had no idea we would live on a boat. It was as foreign to us as speaking another language. While I had spent some time sailing with my Dad as a kid, it was on an inland lake in a dinghy, and I didn’t enjoy it. I think the idea of freedom, exploration and adventure was more appealing than the sailing part, but I was also excited for that.
We bought a 21 foot trailer sailor and my Dad taught us how to sail. We’d head out every opportunity we got and we fell in love with the peace and tranquillity of being on the water. We also transformed our budget, cutting costs, making sacrifices and we even pulled our kids out of a private school and sent them public. We hosted international university students in our home for months at a time (sometimes two at a time) to earn more money and we applied for promotions. We sold many of our belongings and wouldn’t buy anything unless it was going to be used on the boat.
We researched and studied, networked and planned, never wavering in our dedication. My husband completed his coxswains course and we both did safety at sea and first aid. We knew that we didn’t want to start in Australia. Boats were more expensive in Australia than they were in the Caribbean and the oceans were more treacherous around Australia. When we found our boat online located in Grenada in the Caribbean, we knew she was the one. We got some online friends whom we’d met through the process to check her out for us and we had a surveyor do a survey and when she checked out, we bought her sight unseen. Two years and two months after watching that documentary, we flew to Grenada on one way tickets and saw our boat for the very first time.
What was the biggest challenge living predominantly on a yacht with three children for so long?
The biggest challenge was definitely homeschooling. It was harder than learning to sail, navigate and read weather!
We decided that we wanted to cross an ocean in our boat, which was also a huge challenge. We had to do a lot of work to our boat to make it as safe and seaworthy as possible and it cost quite a lot of money, but once we were out on the ocean, all the hard work was worth it. We sailed from St Martin in the Caribbean to the tiny islands of the Azores, 900 miles off the coast of Spain. It took us 17 days non-stop. During that time we couldn’t see land and we were a tiny fleck in the middle of the ocean. It is one of my most proudest achievements and I will always be in awe of the fact that we did that. I loved being at sea, the ever changing ocean was like looking at a fire and the ability to switch off and totally disconnect from the world around us was like nothing else. I definitely look back on that time with the fondest of memories.
What are your highlights and lowlights for life at sea and living port to port?
Highlights were definitely crossing the Atlantic Ocean, the island of Grenada and the beautiful locals we met, attending Carnival and just everything about the stunning island.
The people we met were also by far one of the best parts about living on a boat. The community of likeminded folk sailing the world’s oceans are a special bunch. We made so many lifelong friends, people we know we could visit at any time, all over the world. The opportunity to really slow down and connect with people was such a wonderful part of cruising. The camaraderie, kindness and support of strangers (who soon became friends) was amazing.
The time we could spend together as a family was also priceless. We became very close and now that we are home, the little quality time we do get together is quite a shock.
Lowlights include things on the boat breaking a lot. That is normal but it definitely got my husband down and drained our bank account. Like I said, homeschooling was also hard. We discovered that my son has a learning disability that was not identified at school, so at least that was a positive that came out of that. We can now understand how my son learns, which will make round two much easier (I hope!!)
What life lessons did you and your children come away with in 18 months of adventure and seeing the world?
We were away from Australia for 22 months and the life lessons we learned were huge. We all learnt that we are far more capable than we ever imagined. Now, when my kids are struggling with something, I just have to remind them how strong they are, they crossed an ocean for gods sake! Not many five year olds can say that!
We learnt that we are also far more adaptable and resilient than we realised and I think my patience also improved a lot. While we have returned to the same house, jobs, friends and even wardrobe of clothes, I’ve learnt that possessions really aren’t important to me. I want to have experiences with my kids, I want them to have memories of our adventure rather than our stuff.
I feel very disillusioned since returning home. I can’t help but feel that everything about our society is out of whack. I miss our simple (but hard) life on the boat, I miss human connections with likeminded people, I miss the daily feeling of really feeling alive. I miss the high highs and also the low lows, because that how you know you’re doing something amazing. I miss my kids. Even though we are still together, it’s just not the same back here.
While we were living on our boat, I also discovered that I am a natural entrepreneur, because I started my own business in an entirely new field. I fell in love with writing and used my 15 years of interviewing skills to write about the amazing people we were meeting along the way. That turned into me starting my own PR an communications company called Roam Generation helping adventurers, YouTube creators and digital nomads share their unique and inspiring story. I obviously love a challenge, because now my business is keeping me busy while we save for part two of our adventure, continuing across the Atlantic Ocean and into the Med towards Greece and Turkey.
Do you have other adventures in the works? What’s next for the Carey family?
Our plan is to save as much as we can, establish my business as well as I can and then return to the boat (which is currently stored on land in the Azores) in Feb 2021. After that, who knows how long we’ll cruise for next time. Perhaps we’ll sail all the way back to Australia?
Erin’s tips for families wanting to make a huge lifestyle change
- Set a goal that feels crazy and scary and talk about it as though failure is not an option
- Set a date and work backwards from there
- Make a date far enough away that you can save enough money but also close enough that you won’t lose your motivation
- Be prepared to make big sacrifices because it will be worth it
- Be aware that once you’ve experienced a different way of life, you may never be satisfied living in the rat race again
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A note from Tiff Manuell on her new store!
Oh My Gosh! We’re In! And we’re Open! What has felt like a marathon effort has finally come together and we’re feeling rather excited about it!
Located at 10A King Street, Norwood, SA, 5067 my dream working studio/retail store has come to life! We’ll be open Mon-Fri: 11am-4pm and 11am-2pm on Saturdays.
From the first early days of designing and making the bags I discovered how people loved to come into our tiny studio and see the paintings taking place on the walls and the products come to life. I was always taken by the excitement and happiness that our humble little studio inspired in individuals. I soon realised how important it is to share the experience of creating with you. Allowing you behind the scenes of Tiff Manuell has become a part of my brand, being transparent about how simple, intimate, hands-on and unique our processes are and bespoke our business is, is something I have always and will forever treasure.
When I opened our little studio in Unley, for the first time I was interacting directly with kind and lovely people who were engaged and interested. I’m now equal parts obsessed with not only creating the bags but seeing you find your dream piece, the one you connect with! I paint for myself as a guilty pleasure but seeing the emotional attachment that it created with people became the extra magic. I realised that everyone has their own sense of attraction to colour and pattern and how it can visibly move and empower them, how it alters their feelings and the glee they feel when they receive compliments on their piece.
So the King Street Studio was yes, a dream. We just needed space, we had outgrown our little studio years ago and we were falling over each other! I knew that we needed a space that could foster new ideas and create a more artistic shopping experience, where our followers, customers and anyone really could happily immerse themselves in a more comfortable space and still be able to interact with our creative processes. This old warehouse had plenty of natural light and was just one big blank canvas that I could work with. There were no real interior plans in my head until I stepped into the space.
We signed the lease early in the year AND the Covid Isolation became a reality. My Hubby and I decided the project had to be ours alone, rather than bring the workmen in and the associated trades we would handle it ourselves. I think given that reality we had more creative freedom to make it up as we went… Possibly the biggest blessing in disguise!
My favourite part of this new space is the big illusive roller door… When you are on King Street looking at the warehouse I don’t think you would know what lies behind… Open the hidden pink door and with one glance you can see the product sitting pretty, just proud of the studio where all of the behind the scenes happens to bring the pieces to life! The Art Of Handmade!
All I hoped to create was an inspiring, playful space that fosters creativity and encourages individuality… A space that highlights the handmade nature of the product! And fingers crossed we have done just that!
Now the building and renovations are done I just want to get back to painting and making. I can’t wait to see if this space truly does encourage new creativity!
This is a studio we’ve designed for YOU to explore and enjoy so if you’re in Radelaide I would just love for you to come by and say hi and explore the collection of latest bags, artwork and the behind the scenes of the brand…
If you can’t make it in! Don’t worry, you take a quick look inside, below…
With lots of love,
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Kristen Avis is a Canadian freelance writer, living in Australia, and mum of three small children. She loves hiking and spending time outdoors, reading, writing, travelling and coffee. She studied journalism in Canada but didn’t mesh with the constraints on creativity, so graduated with a degree in sociology then delved into creative article writing. Also a competitive figure skating coach, she spends a lot of time in the ice rink. When not on the ice, she’s chasing after her kids, learning about them and about herself through this crazy journey that is parenthood.
Lessons learnt from the Coronavirus pandemic
The past few months of the Coronavirus pandemic have been extraordinary times for everyone, in every walk of life. Our lives were unwillingly changed in an instant. Our normal daily activities and our tendency to meander through life in the rat-race came to a sudden halt. Normality was uprooted and turned on its head.
For us as parents there was first a lot of fear about the virus and how to keep our families and ourselves safe, a lot of worry about work (or lack thereof!) and how to navigate life on a decreased family budget. Then there were a lot of long, lazy days with our children. There was a fair bit of wine consumed too!
During this unparalleled time people will likely agree that they’ve felt a plethora of emotions over the past few months ranging from a feeling of ‘doomsday’ depression, states of calm and anger, to the almighty fuzzy feeling of love and adoration. Sometimes the emotions came rushing in all at once, leaving us no time to process before finding ourselves crying uncontrollably in the car. But more commonly, we’ve had extra time to peel back the layers of our thoughts and to try to make sense of it all.
The monumental impact that this pandemic has had on our children is not lost on me.
I think about it constantly. The scope of what has happened is beyond the comprehension of a child. They see it on the news, they hear it on the radio, it’s all people talk about. They write letters to their friends that would need be hand-delivered to their letter-boxes to avoid meeting face-to-face, with pictures that depict two friends playing together and the words “I’m sorry about Coronavirus.” Heart wrenching to witness the heaviness in the hearts of our children, apologising for the hurt caused by a global pandemic.
Then came transitioning to homeschooling, not being able to see friends, not leaving the house, being nagged to wash their hands more than usual, and, can you believe it, the playgrounds shut down! (The worst!)
Living in Adelaide we’ve been lucky to have felt relatively safe from contracting the virus, which helped make the lockdown period more enjoyable. It was like being grounded as an adult and sent to our rooms to self-reflect, urged to improve our lives and ourselves. We were finally able to do the things that sat on the eternal ‘to-do’ list.
The virus made life slow down. One day at a time, each day like the last.
Our normal lives like a film in slow motion, the chaos edited out. No rushing to dance class, no arranging alternate school pick-ups to arrive at work on time, no freezer meals (well, maybe a few). We now had the time to cook real, wholesome food, and to sit down as a family every night and talk about our day, as mundane as it may have been.
We’ve been forced to look at ourselves and re-evaluate the path we’re on. To do some real thinking about what we value in our lives, and how we plan to manage our integration back to a new normal way of life.
Many parents I’ve spoken to on this topic have said they don’t want to rush back to all the activities, that they enjoy the snail pace of life right now. Yet, we will go back. Because those are the things that create our community and our sense of being and belonging. The things we need and crave as humans. Those activities might look different from now on, but we will run back to them when we can.
However, there are plenty of things we may choose not to rush back to. The work meeting that had to be face-to-face, the extra hours of work to simply catch up or to get ahead, the sitting in rush hour traffic just to get to the office where we begrudgingly spend most of our lives. The employment we keep so that we can have two days of freedom per week with our families. We can now change and reconfigure those essential parts of our lives based on what we deem important at the end of all this.
New Zealand has recently began considering the creation of a four-day work week. Coronavirus may have helped their decision by quashing traditional ideals of what work needs to be done where, with whom, and for how many hours. Perhaps the best thing to come from this pandemic will be a new work-life balance for many of us. For those tired of working to live, longing to spend more time with their kids. For those with parent-guilt seeping from their pores on a daily basis. It could provide a new platform to initiate conversations in business and in leisure about how we want to spend our time. After all, the virus provided a stark reminder that none of us are invincible.
When our kids finally returned to school I basked in my newfound free time. But gosh did I miss them! All the time we spent together during this pandemic taught me that they are all that matters. We can live without a lot of the luxuries we had before, and the freedom to do and go where we pleased. Really taking the time to see the world through the eyes of a child, in its most raw and simple form was the biggest gift. Kids don’t need much more than love to be happy.
Essential and non-essential were key words throughout the quarantine period, used to urge us to consider whether we really needed to do something. Was it necessary for survival or for mental or physical health or could it wait? Did we really need to be doing all that we were doing? It was amazing how things that used to seem so important and so urgent, suddenly fell from the pedestal of importance in our lives into oblivion. We found we could live without it for a while. We could even eliminate it altogether.
As international borders, workplaces, sporting venues and restaurants begin to open, go forward with a new sense of purpose.
Life is short.
Love your kids as much as humanly possible.
Scrap the social event you’re dreading.
Work from home when you can (it’s a win-win for you and the environment!).
It’s non-essential. There is so much non-essential in our busy lives as a family that, like this pandemic, will dissipate into a distant memory.
Coronavirus has reminded us that love, more than anything else, is essential.
Love is all we need.
Plant stylist and Adelaide’s go-to garden guru Emma Sadie Thomson has a very special super power; everything she touches turns to green! Whether it’s lending her green thumb to the interiors of the city’s best venues or selling her indoor plants, pots and hangings in her collaborative workshop studio, Ensemble, it comes naturally to Emma.
We chat with her about life with her 18 month old daughter Frankie, and how having a toddler running around has changed her perspective, as well as getting some top tips about encouraging our kids to enjoy growing in the garden!
Tell us how your life and career has changed post becoming a mother?
Priorities change, I’ve changed and different issues seem to take precedence over those that once did prior to becoming a mother. It’s a juggle balancing work life and being a mum and at times very challenging. I have found that by being self-employed and able to work part from home, it has given me the option of being very flexible which has certainly helped me find balance. Fitting in work while she naps, deciding whether you work / rest / do that mountain of washing or take some time out for yourself while you have this short window of time to yourself. Frances is now 18 months and is very BUSY! I have found that trying to create routine makes life much easier and not so overwhelming. I try and have set days where I work and then allow myself to have days off where I am home with Frances. Life has certainly changed in every way, but a change for the better and in a way I couldn’t imagine.
What types of things do you do with Frankie to teach her about nature?
We head outside and spend time in the garden as much as we can, anything from picking and smelling flowers to jumping in puddles. Kids love being outdoors and in nature. If you don’t have a big back yard head out to the park.
Gardening with children provides them with skills to help with development. One aspect of physical development is sensory stimulation that they can experience in the garden, from feeling the texture of the leaves, rubbing their hands in the soil, as well as smelling the flowers and leaves.
Frankie Button, Nola Owen & Eva Ockenden
What are your top 5 indoor plant varieties?
- Devils Ivy: an easy care plant that cascades and trails. Easy for beginners
- Ficus Burgundy: the deep burgundy foliage is a great alternative
- Monstera delicosa: an all-time favourite, a popular one amongst plant fanatics and this fast growing plant can make a great feature plant.
- Hoya carnosa: These have the most amazing flowers.
- Oxalis Triangularis: these look like the most amazing purple butterflies, the leaves also close up when it gets dark.
We know that you have a VERY GREEN thumb, what are your top tips for keeping plants inside alive?
Water, Water Water – be mindful of watering and over watering is a more common killer than under watering. You can even get yourself a water meter to use. Generally we water plants every fortnight and give them a really good drink.
EMMA’S TIPS FOR GETTING YOUR KIDS IN TO GARDENING
- Kids love growing things, especially things that they can pick and eat. Try growing some fruit and vegetables. Some great ones are things like: strawberries, snow peas, carrots. Things they can pick and eat straight away.
- Get your children some of their own garden tools / basket to pick things
- Give them room to grow. Designate a portion of the garden, a container, or other space for children to create their very own garden.
Images: Gretl Watson-Blazewicz
Find out more about Emma Sadie Thomson
Emma Sadie Thomson: A Natural Transition
She Moves & So Can You
As a qualified Pilates and yoga teacher, PT and counsellor-to-be, Bridie Walker knows all the “things”, but like all of us other regular beings she often found the motivation to workout quite tough.
Being a Mum of 2 kiddos herself, Bridie also knows that fitting around a gym schedule isn’t always appealing. This sparked the idea to create something a little more convenient.
Perfect for isolation ‘She Moves’ is an online platform where Bridie shares her workouts with Mums and busy women, bringing the workout from her home to yours. For just $15 a month you can be part of the She Moves community and even spot Bridie’s pets and children who make cute cameos in the videos.
To find out more info on how to sweat, stretch (and swear!) from the convenience of your own lounge room:
I’m Hayley Berlingeri, Adelaide born and bred, mamma of three, and here I am just finding my way (AKA fumbling!!) through my days with my little ones, trying to be the best version of me that I possibly can be (which more often than not, results in me flopped out on the sofa at 10:34pm eating an entire packet of Mint Slice bickies, and thanking God that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it!)
Before the babes came in to being, I poured my heart into my career as a Junior Primary teacher and JP Coordinating Principal, I travelled the world, near and far, and I solidly slept. But since then have given every waking minute to motherhood and all its mess, mayhem and marvel. Oh, and I love to share our stories in squares on our intsapage!
“I’m about to become a mum! What was it like for you the first time round?”
Estelle, Golden Grove
Hard! So very and so shockingly hard.
You know that hour between night and day, where it’s not one thing or the other? Yep, we all know it, us mums. And, I knew it SO well, and I was SO sick of knowing it. I just wanted to GO. TO. SLEEP. For longer than two seconds. I was desperate to remember what it felt like to wake up after the sun had risen. Even when other mothers who’ve gone before you tell you about the overbearing heaviness of that tiredness, you can never grasp it. You can’t ever understand the monstrosity of it until you’re living it. And I struggled with living it. I remember the day that Paolo went back to work after a month at home with us. It was especially daunting for me. And I secretly wanted to gouge his eyes out because I was so jealous that he was escaping the new nut house and leaving me, ALONE, to try and keep this kid alive! How dare he!!! But I got myself together, new mum bun and all, and I took our teeny 4 week old Valentina for a stroll around the neighbourhood. And screaming so loudly in my head was the thought that I DON’T WANT TO DO THIS AGAIN TONIGHT!! And the next night. And the one after that. For all eternity!!! And I was hoping (well, to be honest, desperately willing) for some really kind, pretty, motherly kidnapper to come along (you know, an early thirties gal with a jazzy haircut, a good heart, and a longing for a child!) and run away with my baby. I was even going to let her keep my brand spanking new $1500 pram. And all I was going to do was wave them off happily, and with a sigh of ‘good riddance’, turn around, walk back home and drag my sloth-like self into bed and SLEEP!!!! FOREVERRR!!!! All day and all night. I wasn’t even going to call the police. I was just going to go the f*#k to sleep and never speak of the whole ordeal again. And that’s when I knew I wasn’t right. And so I called for an appointment with my GP…but that’s a tale for another time!! So, there’s just a snippet of the sheer overwhelming enormity that becoming a Mum was to me. But, thank God all of that fear, that unknowing, that newness is combated by the instant, indescribable, unfathomable love that the teeny, screaming, not-sleeping bundle brings!
Love Hayley xox
Got a question about life, motherhood or eating chocolate biscuits… I’ll give you an answer! @sweetlittlestory