Aussie couple Caz and Craig Makepeace have been travelling the world since 1997 and are inspiring others to do the same through their ytravel blog community. In this Q&A, Caz shares her views on Australian culture, moving abroad and living life without a schedule.
How do you think growing up on the East Coast of Australia shaped your views on travel and living abroad?
As a child, I was always out exploring my local area, whether swimming at the beaches or hiking through the bush. Australia’s outdoor lifestyle had me hooked on adventure and nature. I always wanted to explore what else was out there. Going on family holidays to many of the East Coast beach towns was always a fun adventure into the unknown. I came to love the beauty of world, and began to recognize just how much the planet had to offer, even if my experience of it was only in my backyard.
Also, Australia is very remote and detached from the rest of the world. Europeans often drive into other countries for their summer vacations. We never had that luxury and so international travel seemed all that more exotic and adventurous to me. We were always exposed to other countries through TV and movies, but I wanted to experience it for myself.
I loved Australia and all it had to offer, but I wanted to see what other places had to offer too. Could there be beaches any more beautiful than Australian ones? What about summers in other countries, were they just as hot and carefree? What were the people really like? And mountains? What were they like to climb, as Australia’s mountains were more like hills in comparison to the rest of the world? I wanted to see big cities, with populations the size of Australia, and experience what it was like to have snow covering the ground during winter.
The best way for me to start my adventure was to live abroad and see for myself just how other people lived. And then I was hooked, and I’ve never stopped exploring.
What was the biggest challenge you faced moving abroad and how can others avoid or overcome this?
There are so many challenges that come with moving abroad. We have done it so many times now that it feels so normal, so it’s hard to think of a big challenge. I think for most people the biggest challenge would be the uncertainty they face with meeting and forming new friendships. This is something you want to try and do straight away to take away the initial loneliness factor and so you have a support network in place.
It’s always a good idea to research an area before you move there to see what opportunities are available for making contacts with others. Try to communicate with people in the area before you move and arrange to meet up upon arriving. There are always some types of meet up groups or expat communities where you will be moving.
Upon arrival into your new country, you must be open to meeting people. This means talking to strangers in a friendly manner. We met one of our best friends in the States when we first arrived and were apartment hunting. He worked at the complex we were looking at and sent us down the road to his apartment complex, which had vacancies. After a two-minute conversation, he said we should meet up for a beer, and then gave us a call when we moved in. Encounters like these happen all the time if you are open to them. They can happen for you at work, at the gym, local cafes, bars, or restaurants. Make it a priority to meet the local people.
You and Craig have lived and worked in 5 different countries. What has been the most surprising and/or most predictable reaction to your lifestyle?
I am still surprised by reactions such as “What would you want to go there for?” I mean, why not? How could you know why you would or wouldn’t if you’ve never been there? I can’t quite understand why people aren’t curious enough to at least find out a little bit about a culture or country that is unlike their own. How can you make the firm decision that your country is the best on earth, if you have not experienced anything else?
The most predictable reaction is, “You are so lucky.” I hate this reaction, as luck has nothing to do with it. It’s about having a dream, saying yes to it, making some sacrifices and then taking action. Those who believe in luck are disempowering themselves by believing it will never happen to them, as they just aren’t lucky enough. And so they don’t even try. It’s just a choice.
And what are the main differences you’ve noticed between life in Australia and life overseas?
Australia, to me, seems to have the perfect balance between work and play. Other countries I have lived in seem to place too much emphasis on either work or play.
Americans work too hard and don’t take enough time out for themselves. Work is a much higher priority than what it is for Australians. They [Americans] are lucky if they get a week off each year, whereas we get at least 4 weeks paid. They are expected to work long hours and rarely get lunch breaks. As a teacher, I was constantly shocked at the high expectations placed on children and how much work they were required to do; there was no play scheduled into their long and busy days.
There are other countries in the world who focus a little too much on the play and don’t work quite as hard. There are a lot of long lunches and time spent sitting around having a yarn or a beer when its work time.
I think Australians, when they are at work, work really hard. But they don’t make work their life. They knock off when its time to knock off, they take their leave every year so they can relax and have fun with family and friends. And then when it is time to play they play hard. Work places seem to be a lot more relaxed and friendly. Teaching in Australia is just a breeze to me now. I feel like I have so much time to do things, and I can be really relaxed about it. I think it is so important to have balance in your life and you can definitely be successful in your career and business by making room for play.
From chatting to people in your travels, what do you think are the biggest misconceptions about Australian culture?
That we drink Fosters lager. Sorry mate. You would be laughed out of the pub ordering one of those!
I remember when I first moved to London, I was always so surprised with the amount of people that would comment to me about how lazy Australians were. My reaction was always the same, “What are you talking about? We’re not lazy. We work really hard and are always out doing things, whether playing sport or hanging out at the beach.”
I soon realized that this was a common misconception based purely on our, “No worries, she’ll be right” attitude. I think people equate working hard with being serious and being stressed. Australians are not lazy at all, yet they do maintain that relaxed and easy going persona, which may come across as being lazy. You can work hard without being stressed about it.
It was only a few years later that I heard Australians were high in demand for being hired in England, because of their hard working attitude. Seems as if the misconception was eventually destroyed by cultural awareness.
I recently interviewed Sophie Redisch about travelling with kids. Your gorgeous daughter, Kalyra, is three now. Have you done much travelling with her? And what are your top three tips for people travelling with kids?
Kalyra’s first plane trip was when she was in my stomach flying from Brisbane to the USA, and she hasn’t stopped since. We have traveled quite a bit with her, but it has been a different style of traveling to what we are used to. We have been to Fiji, she of course came to live with us in the US for two years, and now we are back in Australia she is helping us to explore our beautiful country. She is a really good traveler.
My top tips would be to throw out your schedule. You have to be really flexible when traveling with a child. You really can’t follow any rigid patterns.
Make sure you provide time each day with activities for the children, even if it is just playing in the park. This helps them to feel an important part of the journey and gives them that much needed exploration time.
Talk to them all the time about the journey, especially before leaving. Let them know where they are going, and what they are going to be doing. Always be enthusiastic and excited about it and allow that excitement to build within them. Then when on the road, talk to them about their experiences. What did they like best, what did they learn, what certain things meant etc
Finally, what other projects are you working on right now and what are your future plans for yTravel?
We have a lot of projects we are working on right now. I have almost finished a how to travel around the world book. It is aimed at not just providing the logistics on travel but to inspire others to see what a life changing experience it is and to help them to take the first step.
We have also launched the website Working Holiday Australia Tips. We plan to spend a lot of time exploring Australia, providing information to help those backpackers who want to travel and work here.
Our yTravel blog plans are to continue to grow our readership with more destination type and travel tip pieces as well as continuing our focus on community interaction. We plan to incorporate more video and maybe some podcasting as well.
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