Family Vacation Journal: Australia and New Zealand

Facing our fears and bonding in bucket list destinations in Oz and Middle Earth

By: Mindy Poder
Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge // © 2014 Thinkstock/tfjunction
Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge // © 2014 Thinkstock/tfjunction

Each member of my family entered our journey to New Zealand and Australia with a mix of excitement and poorly masked anxiety.  In the decade since our last extended vacation abroad, my brother and I have moved out and become accustomed to independent city life, while our parents have become content in their carefully crafted, suburban routines.

I’m not going to lie and say we were all merrily skipping down the Yellow Brick Road together the entire time. There was a steady stream of small tiffs and even a proper blow-out at a Greek cafe in Adelaide (sorry!). Ultimately, though, our vacation brought us together in a way that the occasional get-together never could. Together, in the majestic landscapes of Middle Earth and Oz, we faced our fears.

My mom, who has always had an irrational fear of water activities, endured a thrilling jet boat ride in the Dart River. And though I never expected to bungy jump, I did it for my brother — with his encouragement, I experienced what it feels like to face the unknown. As a unit, we discovered brand-new things about each other and ourselves.

We checked off bucket list destinations together, one after the other, as though we were running errands back in the ‘burbs: the Waitomo Glowworm Caves, the geothermal waters near Rotorua, the Great Barrier Reef, the Sydney Opera House, the Daintree Rainforest and so on. We even all agreed on something: Our favorite activity was a Kangaroo Island overnight safari on my birthday, where we shared the experience with new friends, including sea lions, koalas, wallabies and kangaroos.

Of course, if you ask my dad what his favorite part of the trip was, he won’t say Kangaroo Island. Always the contrarian, he’d say: “getting to spend so much time with you and your brother.”