WELCOME TO HAPPY PLACE HUNTERS
Everyone has a Happy Place. Somewhere you think of when you need cheering up. The first thing that comes to mind when you daydream. A place that makes your heart sing. It might be a tropical island, a mountain peak, or the tree-lined park at the end of your street.
Distance isn’t an issue – near or far, it’s that place where your mind travels to when you’re in need or comfort or inspiration. Happy Place Hunters is an adventure travel guide for families that are looking for ways to break out of the everyday and find new Happy Places, even if it’s just for a day or two. We love to travel (even if it’s just around the block) and we love sharing each new experience with our children. However back when we first hit the road with kids in tow, we had trouble finding out just how child-friendly the kinds of places we’d like to visit were – it seemed everything online was geared for the usual theme parks or package holidays. These days there's plenty of great family travel websites, but it can still be a challenge to find information about destinations that don't have a kid's club. We wanted to create a hub for parents who like to explore slightly more adventurous paths – sharing surf breaks, hiking trails, music festivals, or art and cultural experiences with their kids – all without forsaking their sanity. We tend to gravitate towards affordable or unique accommodation, and look for activities that get the kids outdoors or expand them culturally, with the occasional tourist trap hack thrown in for good measure.
We hope by sharing our Happy Places as we find them, and hearing about yours, too, that together we’ll all find more opportunities to discover ways to build real & lasting memories as our children grow.
MEET OUR TEAMPEOPLE
How This Site Came To Be
When our eldest son was about eight months old I often took him for walks along the beach on sundown. As an active kid who rarely slept longer than a few hours at a stretch, our sunset excursions were an attempt to help him burn off energy and milk the last rays of sunshine before another long, wakeful night.
One day during our sundown jaunt, an elderly lady ventured over and ran through the usual gamut of questions strangers feel compelled to ask anyone pushing a stroller. What a sweet child, what’s his name? Is he your first? Any teeth yet? Then despite the bags under my eyes being a dead giveaway, she asked the million dollar question all newbie parents invariably get handed: Is he a good sleeper?
I’d come to dread this line. Deep down I knew those querying were merely trying to be helpful and friendly, but I’d found admitting my child slept less at night than your average vampire was a gateway to scrutiny and the proffering of a trillion sleep theories. Have you tried swaddling him again? Controlled crying? Co-sleeping? Singing him to sleep? Not singing him to sleep? Sleep hammocks? Driving around the block? Breastfeeding him on demand? Not feeding him when he wakes?
I braced myself for an inquisition into baby’s sleep routine. However instead of suggesting another sage trick that might induce little Dracula to slumber, my questioner offered advice.,No mind, it’s not like he’s never going to learn how to sleep now, right? It’s the best time of your life. No seriously, it is. It goes so fast, and he won’t stay little long. Just enjoy it while you can.
At first I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I was so ridiculously tired, the emotions were hard to interpret. Like, I haven’t slept in four days and you’re saying this is as good as it gets? Really? I mumbled a hasty thanks and darted home.
That night after I somehow managed to get my little Nosferatu to catch a few zeds, I thought about the stranger’s words. It wasn’t far removed from the litany recited by grandparents and aunts and uncles at family gatherings the world over. My, how time flies! Gosh, they grow up so fast! Where does the time go? Enjoy it while you can.
As a kid, I’d never understood why adults rambled about the speed at which time passes. Like seriously, I’m counting the minutes until Christmas morning for what seems like eternity, and here you are talking about how the weeks have flown? The only difference was, instead of counting down ‘til Christmas, this time I’d been caught wishing my time away with standard parent-grade time wasting.
If you’re a parent, you know the drill. Waiting for baby to wake from a nap. Waiting for baby to stop feeding. Waiting for baby to get tired enough to fall asleep. Pushing the stroller around the block again.
As a person who’d spent most of their adult life travelling the world and shunning any kind of monotony or regimentation, I had to admit I’d let the mountain of parenting advice I’d been given beat the freewheeling lifestyle straight out of me. Routine, routine. Consistency, consistency. Repeat, ad nauseam. Any outings had become a manic race to get home by nap time. Just going down the beach had turned into exercise in packing and logistics, and for the first time in my life I’d been actively avoiding any big trips – just the thought of all the variables was headache inducing.
Yet you know what? Living each day to a predictable tempo hadn’t helped; no matter what manner of expert advice on building a routine I’d enacted, my baby owl had stayed just as obstinately night-owlish. But he had grown. And time had flown. Somehow with all the pressure that surrounds achieving ‘good parent brownie points’, the only evolution had been the loss of living spontaneously. The old lady’s advice had been a timely reminder – I’d been literally sleepwalking through what was supposed to be a magical chapter of our lives.
There’s an old travel adage that claims it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. Well it’s the same for parenting. It’s so easy to get caught up in helping kids reach each developmental milestone that you forget the best part is all the random stuff that happens along the way. But if you’ve pared your life back to eliminate the unpredictable and turned your home into some kind of baby-friendly padded cell, who does it really serve? A child thrives when taken under a parent’s wing to enjoy life’s journeys together, be those adventures big or small.
I peered over at my little Nightcrawler in his cot, his sleepsuit stretched to fit his ever-expanding frame, and could almost see him growing with each breath. I went to sleep knowing I was going to set my goal higher than just making it through the next day. Days mapped into predictable routines had never suited me, and I had a sneaking feeling they didn’t suit him either. Adventure was back on the table.
That week, we ventured down the coast to stay in a rustic cabin to go surfing and bush walking. We survived. Heck, we even enjoyed it, sleep routine be dashed. It didn’t solve his sleeping issues, but it didn’t hurt them either, and I felt better for the change of scenery. The next month we tried our hand at camping. No casualties. In the months that followed we ventured a little further and even flew interstate, and when he reached eighteen months we booked our first around-the-world ticket as a family. OK, I’m not going to lie – travelling with kids is challenging at times – but we’re all still here to tell the tale (or tales, as this blog would suggest). And just like the elderly lady promised, it just may pan out to be the best time of our lives.
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MAKE YOUR ACQUAINTANCE
Happy Place Hunters is always on the lookout for great new places to visit, things to see, and stuff to do. Got an idea for us? Drop us a line via our Contact page. Want to contribute? Hit our Contributors page. Looking for feedback or advice? Reach out via any of our blog posts or social media channels – we'll try get back to you as soon as we can!
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