29th November 2017
Family Traveller writer Hannah Canavan is on a round-the-world adventure with her husband and three kids. This instalment of Hannah’s blog finds the family in beautiful Bali
“The cure for everything is saltwater – sweat, tears and the sea.” – Isak Dinesen
Four weeks and five days into travelling full-time as a family and I think it’s safe to say that we have fully tested this assertion, with good results.
It is strange to think that a few short weeks ago we were surrounded by friends, family and furniture in our family home in London. Writing this from a fraying wicker chair on the veranda of our Balinese home-stay and watching the morning sun glint through sheets of monsoon rain, it feels in a way as if we have been travelling forever.
Our first month of travel has had joyful ups and some moments of sadness. Being together full-time and in one small hotel room instead of a family house has taken some getting used to, although as we near the end of our fifth week I think we have found our rhythm.
Before we left, Patrick and I had chatted about what we thought we would learn from travelling full-time. After musing for a while, the only thing that we were both absolutely certain of is that we would make mistakes. I don’t think any of us were prepared for our first big mistake to announce itself less than a day into our journey, when we were told that we couldn’t board our flight from Singapore to Bali because we hadn’t booked our onward tickets from Bali.
There’s something fairly humbling about holding up a queue of tired passengers while you scramble onto the free airport WiFi, take a few wild stabs at Skyscanner and book your entire family onto the cheapest flights possible in your window of dates.
Thankfully, Bangkok turned out to be the most budget-friendly option and we had planned on heading to Thailand after Indonesia anyway. Phew.
Onto Bali we headed, to the hipster paradise of Ubud. The bustling market streets were the opposite to the tranquil, green countryside that I had imagined, but it turned out to be a great base from which to explore.
We were happy to be offered tours through the team at GetYourGuide.com, who curate an incredible selection of tours all over the world. As nature-lovers we decided to head out for a full-day tour of Ubud’s scenic spots, choosing rice terraces, a waterfall and coffee plantation as our stops along the way.
I was a little nervous about the prospect of being out and about for twelve hours; our kids are only six, four and two so I thought the heat and driving might get to them. Thankfully our guide took all this into account and we didn’t spend more than 45 minutes on the road at any one time. We drove past bamboo huts, farmers balancing stacks of crops on tiny mopeds and crowds of children in their immaculate, brightly coloured uniforms to Tellaganang rice terraces.
Stepping out of the car was like stepping into a vivid green oil painting, speckled with a rainbow of coconut-sellers’ parasols. We hiked down into the valley and wound through the fields, learning about the Bali seasons and irrigation systems from our guide.
The kids marched on, leading the way, as kids do when given somewhere new to explore and a challenge. The view from the top embodied everything that I had imagined about Bali: the crisp, green, clean view of nature, a tropical countryside paradise.
After photos and a play on the swing at the top, it was time to head to a nearby coffee plantation. The cooler climate of the plantation was a welcome change from the humidity of Ubud.
We discovered lemongrass and vanilla trees, played with ‘ticklish’ leaves and even sampled fresh beans from inside a cocoa pod (“they taste like mango jelly!” discovered our six-year-old).
A stunning view convinced us to sit in the cafe and enjoy a taster-tray of different teas and coffees grown at the farm- watching our five-year-old sip ginseng coffee (“big thumbs down, Mum!”) or rosella tea (she downed the whole cup) is something we won’t forget in a hurry!
Our last stop was a local waterfall; in the heat of the day it was great to grab our swimming costumes and splash about in the water. There were lots of sacred stone sculptures around the area, and our kids piled up rocks from the riverbed to make their own creations, chatting to locals about why the structures were there.
It’s the little moments like this that will become our souvenirs of the trip – we don’t have room in our cases for straw donkeys or embroidered fans, and we no longer have a house in which to put them.
But the little nuggets of knowledge that the kids pick up and our photos and memories, are increasingly becoming far more valuable than any material thing we could buy.
We want our adventure to be helpful both in terms of a worldly education for our kids and also for the communities that we visit- with this is mind, we got in touch with a local charity, the Villa Kitty cat sanctuary, and spent a day there learning about the residents.
There are, unfortunately, many abandoned and neglected cats and kittens around Bali, and the staff at Villa Kitty do a wonderful job looking after over 150 cats who were previously left ill and abandoned. Our kids loved playing with the cats and learning about how to care for newborn kittens and it was great to see such a dedicated team caring for them and keeping the place immaculately clean.
We loved our trips around the Ubud area, but the climate was a little (a lot) too rainy to allow us to get out and explore as much as we like.
We’ve now moved to Sanur, on the southeast coast of Bali, and are loving the sunnier weather and living near the beach.
It means that I can work from a beach-side cafe while the kids play on the sand, and we can have play-dates with kids that we’ve met locally and settle into a slow pace of life that revolves around work, play and being outdoors.
As family and friends message us about short English winter evenings and tinsel going up in high-street stores, it is bizarre to consider that we have no idea where we will be this Christmas. It could be Cambodia, spending the festive period exploring temples and rivers, or perhaps Sri Lanka, where palms laden with coconuts replace Christmas trees. We are hoping to visit a children’s charity in Thailand in the next couple of months, and might spend the festive season helping there. We just don’t know, and that’s part of the fun, and chaos, of full-time family travel.
To follow Hannah’s journey, check out adventuretravelfamily on Instagram.
Find out about volunteering at or donating to Villa Kitty cat sanctuary.