In light of recent political and social events in the US, many of you have asked me how New Zealand stacks up in terms of gender, social and racial equality. This is definitely not meant to be a thorough analysis of the situation, but as far as I have investigated, New Zealand comes out as one of the most egalitarian countries (if not the most) in the world.
Turns out, most of the English and Scottish Europeans who populated New Zealand wanted to do away with British classism and tried to create a just and egalitarian society. According to various written sources, New Zealand was the first country to create a social safety net and give women the right to vote in the 1890’s. To date, New Zealand has had two female Prime Ministers and women have occupied every major cabinet position. Women get up to 12 months of maternity leave during which time their jobs are guaranteed. Same sex marriage was legalized in 2013. A transgender person won a parliamentary seat in 2002 beating out a conservative incumbent.
There is a lot more to be said on the subject but I thought these were some interesting pieces to the puzzle….
The photos are beautiful and we are doing lots of fun things. It’s easy to come across as “this trip is the best thing ever!” But I have to confess, I resisted Facebook for a long time because this sanitized, Disney-ish version of “look how great my life is!” really seemed one sided.
So let me come clean about what it’s really like to travel for a month as a family of 5.
The Good –
- It’s probably pretty obvious but we get a month of uninterrupted time to reconnect with each other. No school, work, classes, friends. Nothing to take our attention away from each other. We talk, hug and play. On each trip, I feel a renewed connection to each of my kids and to my husband. A fresh perspective on who they are as human beings today.
- We get to do fun, new things together every day. We take ourselves out of our comfort zones, try new things and in the process become more flexible and open minded. We talk to people from all over the world, see awe inspiring sights, immerse ourselves in glorious nature, learn about different cultures, history, geography, try new foods. I overhear my kids comparing life in New Zealand to Colombia or the US or India. I love that they are developing such a global perspective on life and people.
- We have our moments of tension or frustration (see below) but we are learning from them. We are learning to be more tolerant, to get along, and to laugh at ourselves and each other rather than get so worked up about things. We basically get closer and solidify our identity as a family unit.
The Bad –
- See point #1 above. Spending so much time together inevitably leads to frustration, tension and conflict. The kids fight, A LOT. And whine. And complain. When I can’t take it anymore and tell them to “cut it out”, they inevitably remind me that I don’t have siblings and thus “don’t know that this is how sisters relate to each other.” Every so often, deciding where to eat turns into an outright battle.
- When we are tired and the kids just won’t let up, my husband and I can get cranky too. And snippy…. Not only with the kids, but with each other. I did notice though that this is improving over the years. We mostly take all these frustrations in stride now and laugh ALOT. Definite progress!
- While all the adults we know say “It’s so wonderful that you travel with your kids like this. They are going to grow up to be global citizens and really appreciate this.”, our kids actually don’t appreciate that we travel so much, most of the time. Our 11-year old wishes she was back in Colombia riding horses, instead of in New Zealand. She reminds us of this daily, and sometimes hourly, basis. Our 14-year old generally loves to travel but this time around, she wishes she was playing in the snow in Boston. Luckily, our 6-year old still just wants to be with us, wherever that is!
But seriously, it was easier to spend 6 weeks in India two years ago with our then 4, 9 and 12 year olds than New Zealand with a 6, 11 and 14 year olds. Adolescence really does add an interesting layer and a whole lot of griping!
The Ugly –
- To be honest, it rarely gets ugly, although my kids may disagree. What ugly looks like though is either my husband or I yelling at the kids because they are dilly dallying when we have a ferry to catch… NOW! Or all 5 of us arguing and somewhat screaming because we literally want Turkish or Italian or Pizza or Mexican for dinner. Or… fine I will admit it… my putting my 6-year old into bed a little more forcefully than I wanted to after trying for over an hour to get her bed as she bugged her sisters and kept them up. Not proud of that one! But I know we have all been there…
- I just asked my 14 -year old what is the “Bad and the Ugly” of family travel and she said “My sisters!!!” I guess I should be happy that she didn’t include her dad or I.
So there you have it. The truth of the Altschul Matushenko family travel. In the sum total, I definitely think that the Good outweighs the Bad and the Ugly for us. That’s why we keep doing it. Plus, to be honest, I don’t really know of another way to live. I am such a vagabond at heart and travel is an absolute passion of mine! From the time I held my oldest in my arms when she was a newborn, I dreamt of showing her the world. After I got some sleep, of course!
I feel truly blessed that we have been able to create a lifestyle that allows us to travel 3 months per year as a family, live in South America and spend summers in the United States.
And what about you, dear reader, what are your passions?
How can you incorporate them more into your life in 2017?
I would love to hear from you so feel free to share your thoughts below.
Second strike out… just showed up for skydiving to find out that they just brought back previous divers because the winds picked up to 40 km/hr and so the mission was aborted. Made a reservation to try again at 8 am tomorrow. The weather report looks good. My last chance before we leave beautiful Wanaka…
But the day turned out to be a success anyway… my husband and I left the kids to rest in the Airbnb apartment and went on an amazing hike to the Rob Roy Glacier… about 3-1/2 hour very moderate hike through spectacular scenery… probably the most beautiful hike we have ever been on and we have been on a lot of hikes!
January 3, 2017
We had another beautiful drive from Franz Josef Glacier to Wanaka through Haast Pass… New Zealand sure is pretty!
In other news, I just signed my life away (literally) to jump out of an airplane at 15,000 feet RIGHT NOW. Major bucket list item! I am mildly terrified!
UPDATE 2 HOURS LATER:
After 2 hours of anxious waiting and watching 12 other people jump, my jump was called off due to clouds and now rain. I am so bummed!!!! The psychological torture of waiting is hard to describe…Its funny how the build up is more anxiety provoking than the experience. I guess it’s like that with everything in life.
January 2, 2017
Another fantastic day hiking and traveling in New Zealand. It’s taken awhile but we have gotten our groove as a traveling family. A long road trip takes some planning and organization as we are rarely in any place longer than one or two nights. Today, we walked in the stunning Hokitika Gorge and then drove a couple of hours through alpine scenery to the Franz Josef Glacier for a hike. It seems like the rest of New Zealand was there as well. Lots of people.
January 1, 2017
Happy New Year! What an amazing way to bring in 2017 than immersed in stunning nature! We drove from the north to west coast of South Island today through misty, lush rainforest, scrub bush and then some of the most gorgeous coastal scenery I have ever seen to the famous Pancake Rocks in Punakaiki. May the rest of the year be full of such beauty!