Sometimes I want to just quit my life, pack up and take off. Then I remember I have a family I don’t want to abandon. So I start thinking about us all quitting our lives, packing up and taking off.
The whole family could be on a permanent, exotic break, setting our own schedule, learning about other cultures and rejecting city life and all the stress it can bring.
I’d never have the guts to do something like that, but I love hearing about families who have. Author Fiona Higgins and her family did it, relocating from Australia to Bali, Indonesia for three years.
Fiona tells Holly Wainwright and Andrew Daddo what it’s really like on Mamamia’s podcast This Glorious Mess.
Fiona joined her husband, whose job in international agriculture focuses on developing communities. Higgins had previously lived in Java for a year, but that was during her single days.
Moving to Indonesia for a prolonged period of time with three young children aged five, three and 14-months would prove to be a whole different kettle of fish.
Firstly there was the rabies…
Almost every dog in Bali has rabies, Higgins told Holly Wainwright and Andrew Daddo on Mamamia Podcast This Glorious Mess. She said 200 people a year – mostly locals – die of rabies and she had to teach her dog-loving children to keep their distance because even being scratched or licked in the eyeball is dangerous.
Then there were the killer mozzies…
She explained that in Indonesia mozzies “carry all sorts of nasty, possibly fatal conditions” such as dengue fever.
Then there was that time a monkey broke into their home…
The cabin crew have dished the dirt on airlines. Article continues after this video.
“At one point we had a monkey in our house,” Higgins said, adding that her children became used to all sorts of creatures and critters during her time there.
And the fact the nearest decent hospital was two hours away…
“As a parent you do think, ‘Okay, if someone falls off a fence and gets a really nasty gash, two hours in the traffic to get to the hospital.’ These things do cross your mind as a parent.”
It was also wonderful. Fiona Higgins and her family were so lucky she was fluent in Indonesian, allowing her to bond with the locals and avoid feeling isolated and lonely while her older kids were in school and her husband was at work. Any spare time she had she used to write her new novel Fearless which is set in Bali.
“No other country really appealed to me in that sort of comforting way as Indonesia because I already understood the language and I understood the culture to some degree.”
Her children took to life in Bali like ducks to water and adjusted easily to their new country, attending school with both Balinese and ex-pat kids. They found it much harder to adjust to their return to Australia about a year ago.
"When we first got home he was hardest hit because his idea of home wasn't Australia at all. He kept saying when we arrived back in Sydney, 'When are we going home to the white house?' That was quite heartbreaking. My two older children as well, they loved they experience, they found friends there, an incredible set of friends from all over the world, so diversity right there and this understanding of difference that perhaps they wouldn't have had otherwise and they missed it when they got back."
"I didn't realise that my children would be as attached to that experience and that place as they are. They still are. If you ask any of my children, 'Where would you rather live, Bali or Australia?' they would say, 'Bali'."
They made so many friends during their time living in Indonesia and Higgins says her children learned a lot about difference. An added bonus was the fact Indonesia recognises five religions in its constitution meaning they don't go two weeks without a public holiday, leaving plenty of time to travel and explore.
"As many of my family and friends know there were times when I would have given anything to come back to Australia to access health and educational opportunities I felt my children were missing out on," Higgins said. Still she'd love the opportunity to travel with her family again although she recognises it would be much more difficult now that her children are older and all in school here.
Listen to the full episode of This Glorious Mess featuring Fiona Higgins here.
Catch up on all of our Mamamia podcasts by downloading the Mamamia Podcast App.
If you want to buy Fiona's book Fearless, go to apple.co/mamamia where you can find all of Mamamia's podcasts, as well as any book mentioned on our shows.
Officeworks will pick and pack your school list for you with our free School List Service, plus you’ll get the lowest prices guaranteed on every school list item.
1. Submit your list in-store or online at officeworks.com.au/schoollistservice
2. We’ll pack it all for you, free.
3. We’ll contact you when it’s ready to collect.
If you find an identical stocked item on a quoted school list at a lower price, we’ll beat it by 20% - that’s our Parents’ Price Promise.