How The Crow’s Flight changed me and why you need to do it!
In August, I said yes to a trip I had no idea would change me so dramatically. Aside from the gorgeous scenery through Slovenia, the incredibly friendly people, fun and interesting customs, delicious food and rich history, this trip had something else. For me, The Crow’s Flight showed me how far I have come in my life, my health and that our lives are what we make it.
For context, the past few years have been rough and this year I decided was The Year Of Me. I started the year stressed, unhealthy and lost. My sense of self had been eroded, my past haunted me (I was still in court over custody and had just applied for another protection order, which I was granted) and I had no idea how much this year would change me.
On this trip, while hiking and walking through Slovenia, I got the best news of my life about my kids. I also discovered I am fitter, stronger and healthier than I thought and learnt more about my own past. This is a trip I will do again but next time with my daughters.
What is The Crow’s Flight?
An incredible trip encompassing the best of what Slovenia has to offer. Combining food, villages, fun and the 280km trail through Slovenia which was done by 100 prisoners of war, 75 years ago. The Greatest Escape of World War II, The Crow’s Flight is now available for anyone to discover and experience. I was extremely fortunate to be part of the 75th-anniversary trip, with the son (Neil Churches) and granddaughter (Lucy), of the man who led the escape, Ralph Churches. The history is one small element, the wilderness, food and people make it so much more.
I love history, so naturally, this trip appealed. However, little did I know how amazing the rest of the trip would be. The everchanging hillsides from high ski slopes to small farms to baroque churches. People with so much personality, warmth and enthusiasm for their country, they make you feel as if everyone should live here. Delicious meals expertly prepared by jovial chefs using fresh, local ingredients from either their own farms or ones surrounding them. This trip was more than I ever imagined.
My Personal Connection
While none of my family was part of The Crow’s Flight, I do have personal connections to this part of the world. When I first looked at the trip, I realised I’d be flying into Vienna and could stay there a few days which is where my stepmother (Joanne/Mum) and Oma (step-grandmother) are from. My beautiful, strong, amazing Oma lived through the war, so when I was offered this trip, I immediately said yes. I can never truly understand what Oma experienced but this trip gave me a greater appreciation and understanding of my stepfamily.
Belvedere Palace, my step mother’s favourite from where she grew up in Vienna
This was an opportunity to see where they were from, understand their history and having that connection with WWII, it set the tone for the rest of the trip for me. Before heading to Maribor, I went to places such as Schonbrunn Palace and Belvedere Palace in Vienna. Messaging Mum as I was there, only to discover, Schonnbrunn is in the area she grew up and they visited it frequently! To start a trip with the capacity to connect with my family on such a level was amazing.
What I Learnt About Myself
Halfway through our trip, I posted this on Facebook:
It’s no secret I love to travel. Many of my recent trips have been quite active with diving, hiking, surfing, swimming and other watersports. This trip was one I knew would push me.
Was This Really Something I Could do?
One of the things I do, which might not be recommended, is if I see something and I have no idea how I will accomplish it, I say yes anyway. Looking over the itinerary for The Crow’s Flight, I quickly realised we were doing a lot of walking. I live in Melbourne, my kids and I walk everywhere. City walking is quite different from hiking up the hills of Slovenia though. So what did I do? Ignored it.
I closed the itinerary and didn’t read it properly other than a quick scan. I figure this way, I can’t talk myself out of it as easily. If I go in blind, every day is a surprise. That said, most of it was surprisingly doable for anyone. A few parts were steep but our guides ensured we went at a pace that was comfortable for everyone. We stopped as needed, drank a lot of water (and schnapps because it’s a tradition!) plus had snacks. There is also a van available should you need a break or want to go back to the hotel.
I am Stronger Than I Think
Despite my reservations, I was amazed at how well I kept up. In fact, I was usually up the front with the guides, talking constantly. Since I was able to hold a conversation while hiking, without losing my breath much, I began to realise I am fitter than I thought.
When I expressed this to Matej, one of our guides, he responded with “Ja, you like Heidi from the hills!” which I took as a great compliment. I was also called “a little pocket rocket”. Which I loved! Matej, Igor and Dare, our guides, are all super fit and experienced, so getting a compliment like that meant a lot.
Knowledge is Power
Having the opportunity to walk with them, ask them anything, learn about Slovenia both past and present, was amazing. I don’t think they expected someone so talkative on their trip or who asks so many questions. Forever curious, I don’t always filter my thoughts or questions. But they were so sweet and answered everything. Plus, they each have such a unique background with various sports, upbringings, views and families. It was fascinating to learn their thoughts on so many topics and the views of Slovenians in general.
Learning about other cultures and countries is something I am passionate about and keen to expose my children to. I feel it opens our minds and makes us more understanding, compassionate and peaceful. Connecting with locals anywhere I visit is essential to me.
Highlights of The Crow’s Flight
It is so hard to scale such a magnificent trip down to a few key areas. I loved every day and there was so much to see and do.
Hiking the Pohorjes
Standing on one side, looking across to see where we are supposed to go, seeing the magnificent beauty but thinking “There is no way I will get that far today.” Then, before you know it, you’re on the other side, looking back from where you came. The scenery is stunning and the heights give incredible views.
Schnapps with Locals
Aussies might think they can drink but they have nothing on Slovenians! Wow! I have never had such strong liquor of all different flavours, offered to me so proudly. It was beautiful how this tradition is still so strong. As you hike through the hills, when you come over the top, you have schnapps. Many of the farmhouses we passed quickly got us schnapps and shared produce with us. Everyone was so friendly, welcoming and interested in us.
Each shot was different from plum to herb varieties and everything in between. They make it themselves and love to tell you about their home, their history and lives. Slovenians are strong, passionate and friendly.
Reaching the Dakota Plane
After trekking almost 280km, you come around the corner and there it is, an old Dakota Plane, their freedom. Since the trip is based on the Greatest Escape, you finish right where they took their flight to freedom. Feelings overwhelmed us at this point. I could never fully comprehend how that would have felt, being able to experience the walk then see the plane as you approach and know this was their point of freedom, was the perfect finish. The snippet below was posted on my personal profile.
As someone living with coeliac disease, travel and food can be difficult. I was catered for perfectly on the trip. Whenever I was concerned, someone would double-check for me, they made sure I had a lot of options and was always well fed. On top of that, the food everywhere we went was so fresh. Fish which had just been caught, produce from their gardens and local farms, preserves and lots of wine!
This had just been caught and was delicious
I made so many noises over this dessert, it was so good from
Fruit salad with a rum sugar syrup
My own little gluten-free canapes
All these preserved are made here
A wine for every occasion… Or one dinner!
Cheesecake and chocolate is always a winner
Portions here are huge
Sadly, not gluten-free so I couldn’t eat it but the size is big enough to feed 4!
My life has been structured so I can work remotely but rarely do I work in locations as gorgeous as this! We stopped here so I could write an article.
It was gorgeous! As well as the perfect place for lunch later.
Another time, I was able to quickly jump up on some hay bales to edit an article for 20 minuted then be taken to rejoin the group!
I love being able to work remotely and this trip was extremely flexible with that. If I needed to work, one of the guides could take me back to the hotel or hang out with the van so I could do what I needed then rejoin as needed. I only did this a few times but it was wonderful to be part of such a flexible and understanding trip. The whole way along on The Crow’s Flight, there is a van available to take you to the hotel or a cafe or something if you need a break or the hiking is too much.
Castles! Being Australian, this was a thing of dreams to me. We don’t have the incredible castles everywhere like they do here. And you can buy one if you want! Being able to walk around both touristy ones such as Ljubljana Castle and around abandoned ones on the route was such a treat. Each one is unique with their architecture, gardens, history and how they appear today.
(This one was my favourite and it was for sale!)
The WWII History
History, in general, fascinates me and while this trip started because it is based on WWII, it isn’t all about that. Snippets here and there are shared, the impact of the war is evident as you explore different areas and our guides had so much knowledge.
Starting at Stalag XVIIID, I was overcome with emotion there but attempted to hold it together. Having visited numerous memorials and historical sites, each has a definite energy and all of them make me emotional. Here, the air is heavy which is a stark contrast to the green fields and sunshine experienced on the day for us. Despite the emotions, it was fascinating to learn how the escape happened and get a small insight into how clever and cheeky Ralph Churches, the man who made the escape happen, was.
Throughout the whole trip, there are highlights which I enjoyed and I don’t feel it was a WWII heavy trip at all. Just tidbits here and there. The focus is clearly Slovenia, food, wine, schnapps, people and culture. This is a huge part of their history though.
What did I Really Think?
I updated my personal Facebook page through the trip. So what did I really think of the trip? Check it out, in order below! I rarely share from my personal page but as you read, you’ll see how much I loved the trip and I think it shows what I really thought.
So Many Men…
Stronger Than We Think!
Drinking From “Lovers Spring”
Treading in Poo & Generous Souls
Office Life as a Remote Worker
The Centre of Slovenia
Special Instead of Coeliac
How to do it
You can book through The Crow’s Flight website and choose to do the whole trip I did or select the areas of interest to you and do a shorter one. When flying in, Vienna is the easiest option then catch the train to Maribor. I took a few days either side to explore Vienna but if I had more time I would have flown into Vienna and out of Zagreb, Croatia. The trip ends near the Croatian border and you can catch a taxi from the final destination through to Zagreb. Be sure to have Croatian kunas and not just euros if you do though.
How to implement self-care when you’re stressed and broke
Throughout the past few years, I faced quite a few trials – an abusive marriage, homelessness, paralysis, multiple surgeries, child custody etc. Sometimes I was great with self-care, other times not so much. When I wasn’t, everything else in my life suffered. This year, I decided to dedicate the year to myself and focus on self-care. It has been incredible, more affordable than most think and changed everything.
Too often we put ourselves last. Our kids get everything they need, if we are going through custody all our money goes to that and if we are in a relationship, their needs come before ours. Over the past 18 months, I have done a lot of healing, learning and implementing. Here are my tips for self-care on a budget, during obstacles.
This post contains affiliate links to products and services which helped me and I use.
1. Get To Know Yourself
Early last year my on again off again boyfriend of 3 years broke up with me and this time we were done. It was a shock at first but I took it as an opportunity to learn more about myself. I decided not to be in a relationship (I dated a little and each time bailed real quick!) and instead, focused on myself.
When I stepped back and analysed everything I saw how unhealthy our relationship was and went from there. Learning more about codependent relationships, alcoholism, confidence and what I really wanted in life made me realise I had lost myself completely in this relationship. Him breaking up with me was the best thing he has ever done for my daughters and me.
Books I read which helped
To learn more about myself, when I had a realisation about something, I read more on that topic.
Women Who Love Too Much – I have recommended this to so many women. It is too easy for us to take on everything, try to fix or heal people and end up burnt.
Loving An Addict, Loving Yourself – even though my relationship was over, learning about addictions and how it impacted my daughter and me, going to some meetings for families of alcoholics and similar helps immensely.
The Big Leap – I’ve read this 3 times now and get more from it each time. I have Upper Limited myself many times and now I am more aware, life is changing at a rapid pace.
Unleash Your Inner Money Babe – another book I have read repeatedly. Each time I do, more money flows. It is a 21 day challenge that will open your eyes!
2. Visualise Where You Want To Be
Have a really clear vision in your mind you can draw on when needed. For me, I knew I wanted full custody, protection order and for us to be able to travel. After going on my favourite trip ever, I had it. There is a particular place called Mane Bay. Whenever court and stress got overwhelming this year or I began to worry I wouldn’t get full custody, I brought this place to my mind. Here, at Mane Bay, the villagers come out in their canoes, everyone plays in the water and I could see my kids there playing with the others. Swimming, jumping, laughing. I stand at the dive deck and watch them. That was my vision, my peaceful moment that helped ground and focus me.
You need something you can use at any time to take your mind off the awfulness of what you are going through. This image I used in my mind was real because I had been there and I knew once we got custody, we’d go there.
3. Keep Healthy
When going through custody, my stress levels meant I was unhealthy. I got to a weight I did not want to be but no matter how much I worked out and watched my eating, nothing helped. Despite that, I focused on eating healthy, getting sleep where possible (insomnia was common) and remaining active.
Being healthy and active was not always easy when I was stressed out. Find activities you enjoy, it doesn’t have to be the gym. Running, yoga, dance, team sports, anything is good. When it comes to food, it’s not a reward. Ice cream and other junk won’t make you feel better long term. Even though many of us have been conditioned to reach for certain foods when we are stressed or upset, this isn’t a good strategy. Learn more about food and eat the way that works best for you.
For me, that means a mainly vegetarian diet which is also gluten and dairy free. Sugar is kept to a minimum and I drink mainly water, herbal teas or kombucha.
4. Reward Yourself
Whenever I discuss finances, I stress the importance of having a little of your own money. For years I have recommended 10% of your income be yours to do whatever you want with. Maybe that amount is too high for you right now. That’s ok, pick an amount that suits you. Have an account that money goes into and use it for whatever you want.
One of my big mistakes when going through this whole process was putting aside all my money for court. At some point, I’d snap and spend. More often than not it wasn’t a huge deal but a few times I felt extremely guilty. This year, I made sure to stick to my own advice and have done so much better. Being focused is good, having something for yourself is important too. Check out how to get the money for court.
If you want a nap, take it (provided the kids are taken care of). So many times I reached the point of exhaustion, especially as it got closer to court dates. There were nights and days where I got no sleep. In fact, there were a few where I was up for 48 to 56 hours straight. At this point, I didn’t drive or cook because I was concerned my body would collapse and felt it wasn’t safe. This is not healthy, you cannot function this way, your body needs rest.
I was so wired even sleeping tablets didn’t help. Get rest when you can. You need it. When going through obstacles we are on high alert, in survival mode. So if at some point in the middle of the day you feel the need for a nap, take it and do not feel guilty!
6. Create A List Of Things For You!
That’s what the year of me was about, creating a list of things I want to do, then actively doing them! Within the first 6 months of the year, I got my diving certification, had 2 overseas trips for work, learnt some dance and read books from my list. Having that list and a focus on myself enabled me to be calmer, focused and a better mother.
During this time, while doing things I wanted to do, court fell into place as well. I got custody and the protection order. Ultimately, a lot of time is spent waiting for court dates, so fill that time with things you enjoy.
What do you do for self care?
15 ways to make money and more tips on affording legal fees and custody
It took 7.5 years from when I left my abusive ex until I was awarded sole parental responsibility aka full custody. A 5 year protection order is in place as well. Fighting for custody or any legal matter is extremely expensive. Here are my tips, what I did and some links for more help. This post does contain affiliate links for products or services I have used and recommended. I do not link to anything I have not used or trust.
How To Afford Legal Help
Professionals (lawyers and barristers) have studied for years and know a lot we don’t. But they don’t know your case as detailed as you do. In my case, it was essential to have a good lawyer due to how complicated it was. We were pushed to higher levels of court so I needed a barrister and I was not willing to risk anything. Mentally and emotionally I was not in a position to self-represent but if you choose to do that, still get some help, often for free.
You can get free of charge help, however, not all Legal Aid is free. Check the details for your state and territory here.
When I was going through my divorce, there was a community health centre and other community legal help available, particularly for those leaving abusive relationships. This free lawyer helped more than the paid lawyer I looked at. I had paid $1,000 for help and ended up cancelling them, using advice from the free lawyer at the centre and doing the divorce parts myself. Police had already taken out the AVO for me before I was able to apply for my divorce. The AVO process with them doing it was free. Doing it myself later was difficult, so last year when I needed another protection order, I used my lawyer. Personally, the best result was the final protection order with the barrister involved.
Research, research, research. Do all the research you can on cases similar to yours, look for precedents, study the laws relevant to yours and speak with lawyers. When I was seeking a lawyer in Canberra it was easy as the child protection unit and other departments involved with child abuse all recommended the same law firm. My lawyer in Canberra was $600 an hour with the first half-hour consult was free and there were other times she didn’t charge me for phone calls etc.
Here in Melbourne, I checked reviews online then went to a site (I don’t remember the name of it now) and typed in my legal matter. I then got calls from a few lawyers about it, they offered their advice and plan of attack. Do this and you then are armed with more information plus you can choose one of these lawyers or another if you like. I went with one I spoke to.
How To Make The Money For Legal Fees And Custody
The amount of money spent on legal fees, custody, protection orders and keeping my daughters safe is the same as a house. Here is everything I did to make money so I could pay for it. I’ll cover things I did to cut back and save further down.
1. Online surveys – $2,000 to $5,000 per year
As silly as it might sound, online surveys were the first thing because I was doing them on the side when I was married. He didn’t think anything of them and while I didn’t make heaps, you can make $2,000 to $5,000 a year with them. Stash that away and cash out when you need or cash out each month and put it in a high-interest savings account. I wrote about the best ones for Aussies here.
The ones which have been best for me are Octopus Group (Australia’s highest paying one), Swagbucks which pays in USD (find a full guide for how to make the most with Swagbucks here), <Prize Rebel which also pays in USD.
2. Bank account bonuses
You will not get rich doing this and it is not good to open and close a bunch of credit cards etc. I didn’t do credit cards, I opened accounts when there was an incentive to do so. ING offers $25 if you open a new everyday account and follow the steps here with the code CNW116. Over the years I have made $25 through to $300 for opening a new account.
BUT make sure you follow the terms and conditions plus do what you need to avoid fees. This might mean moving money around a bit and can feel pointless.
3. Look for lost money
Check lost super along with your state revenue office. There is a lot of unclaimed money. I have had people find anywhere from $200 through to $20,000. Super is easy, you check through your MyGov account. As for other lost money, check out this post.
On top of that, search everywhere in your house, car, all clothing pockets, bags, under furniture. You’d be surprised where you’ll find random money.
4. Selling Things Online
When I started I focused on books as I could buy them for $1 and resell for $10 to $20 most of the time. I am selective about which types of books, never buying fiction. Finance, self-help, budget cooking, hairdressing and similar books did the best for me. Later, I bought things such as Tupperware, brand name clothing and anything else I knew I could flip. In more recent years, rockabilly clothing, camera gear and similar did well for me.
In fact, I have made over $10,000 in a month when I did it properly. It only takes me 3 minutes per listing and I looked for things around the $1 to $5 mark I could resell for a minimum of $50.
Facebook Marketplace and niche selling groups have become the best places for me to sell now. I don’t do it as much anymore because I travel regularly.
5. Selling for others
Since I was already selling online, this was easy. I sold things leftover from friends businesses and MLM ventures, clothes and even flipped a car. Friends and family asked me to sell their things as I hade greater success and we split the money.
I already had a blog but by 2014 I had a few and was reselling blogs too. To make money blogging I did ads, AdSense, affiliate links, sponsored posts, my own eBooks and services such as freelance writing. Now, I make most of my money from affiliate links on The Thrifty Issue. Read how to set up a blog and make money here.
For reselling blogs – I’d look for finance-related ones, buy them for a low price, increase their profit then sell them.
7. Freelance writing
I was approached to write my first freelance article which was great and most of the freelance articles I’ve done over the years are because businesses sought me out. However, that is not the only way to do it! Freelance writing can pay either really low if you go for those articles when starting out or $1,000+ per article. The higher a publication pays the more competitive it will be and you will need a portfolio. Check out how to become a freelance writer.
Back in 2013, I did this for a specific company. Financial mentoring where I would help mainly stay at home mums with their budget, finding ways to make and save money. Later, I did more of this on a wider scale as well as marketing, business and other mentoring. I stopped offering this due to the level of stress I was under with custody and I didn’t feel I was at my best to help others during that. If it is something you would like, we can discuss it. Email email@example.com or contact us with our form.
9. Teaching classes
I’ve taught classes on finance, social media, marketing, business and anything else I was asked to. Libraries, schools, community halls and the studio in my home when I lived in Canberra were all suitable. Think about your skills and what you could teach. I also did public speaking in general but am not including that as something for everyone because most people hate it.
$1,300 for 5 days over Christmas, $600+ another week and anywhere from $70+ per night is how much I have made with Airbnb. It’s free to join Airbnb and I have all my top tips to make money with Airbnb on The Thrifty Issue.
11. Odd Jobs
Babysitting, yard work, Airtasker, cleaning, anything. Basically, if I was offered work, especially in the early days, I took it. Later, as I grew my business I focused more on that and looked at what was bringing in the most money. But when I was newly single and needed money, I did anything I deemed reasonable.
12. Medical Testing – $4,050
This wasn’t strictly for legal fees and isn’t something I recommend doing generally. The one I was involved in was for a condition I have, testing a product already on the market so we knew the side effects. My group were the 10th group to go through, so 150 had already done it. I wrote about my experience and tips for medical testing on my other site.
13. Market Research – $100 per hour
I probably only did 6 or so of these but the pay is good, usually $100+ per hour. Farron Research was the one I did the most with. Read more about it here.
14. Rented Out My Garage
In Sydney, I rented it to a single mum to use for her sewing business. In Canberra, I rented it out for storage and in Melbourne, I rented it out for someone to store their spare car. Each time it was around $50 a week. In Melbourne, I could have charged more.
15. Other Things
There are so many ways to make money such as renting out your car, becoming a virtual assistant and more. Two articles which you might like are:
43 ways for single mums to make money
How I made $33,277.57 on the side!
How I Saved Money For Legal Fees And Custody
As mentioned earlier, I did what I could myself and there is free help available. Since I was paying for most of my legal help out of my own pocket I set up a high-interest savings account for it and looked at where I could cut back.
Going over every area of my budget I found quite a few areas I could improve on plus accessed a bunch of freebies to help.
1. Do A Full Financial Review
I do this annually anyway, last year I saved $4,765 doing my annual financial review. Compare insurance, electricity, phone, rent/mortgage, everything. Use my review as an example and see how much you can save. Alternatively, do the free 21 day challenge which goes over all the areas and lists out ways you can save.
Whenever you make a saving, actually put that money into your savings account. It’s too easy for the money to be frittered away otherwise.
Sign up for birthday freebies and discounts. Look for coupons and discounts on everything (see a full list for Aussies here). Register for cashback sites and make use of them. Also, check out the full list of Aussie freebies from The Thrifty Issue.
You can get $15 off each of your first 2 boxes with Dinnerly, $35 off with MarleySpoon and $35 off with HelloFresh if you want to try any of them. Check every website for an email list if you are going to shop with them. Most offer a discount. Also, look at how to get a discount on everything.
3. Have A Reward And Splurge
Typically, all money that comes in, whether it is work related or bonus cash I split. At least 10% is savings, 10% invested, 10% charity and 10% to do whatever I want. The rest is either daily living expenses or straight to savings.
Having that 10% to do whatever I want with reduces the feeling of being deprived, it means we can have takeout sometimes and do fun things without feeling guilty. I know when I was saving for court, I put everything towards it and felt guilty if I spent money on anything else. You are allowed to spend on yourself!
Also, little rewards. Aside from custody, which is obviously the main goal, having smaller rewards helps with feeling like you are getting there and keeps spirits up.
How did you pay for legal fees or custody?
Where to learn to dive and how I did it!
This year I decided was the year of me. I wrote a list of things I wanted to see, learn and do. Diving was top of that list after I did a trip with Solomon Island Discovery Cruises last year and got to try it. In June, I finally got to go to Munda and get my open water diving certificate with Dive Munda.
I chose Dive Munda because I had already done diving with their manager, know the owner and felt safe with them. Knowing I was in the hands of people I trusted and learning in the most gorgeous part of the world was ideal. Full disclosure, I was gifted the diving lessons but I had already selected Dive Munda as the organisation I wanted to learn with, despite living in Australia. My accommodation was at the Agnes Gateway Hotel, which was also provided.
Dive Munda is the building in the middle with the markets on one side and the Agnes Gateway Hotel surrounding it and stretching out to the other side.
Why Dive Munda?
Well, as mentioned, I already knew and trusted them. Trust is a big deal for me, especially when it comes to being underwater, safety and my life. On top of that, have you seen Munda? WOW! It is the most amazing place to learn to dive! Crystal clear water, an amazing array of marine life, friendly locals, a laid back vibe plus they are located right inside the Agnes Gateway Hotel. You can literally walk out of your room and go for a dive.
On top of that, the owner and staff are passionate about conservation and equality. Dive Munda has trained the first two Solomon Island dive instructors. Previously, this was viewed as a male job. It is female-owned, female managed but has a good mix of male and female staff. Great care is taken to maintain the area, protect the reefs, keep it clean and promote Munda as a great destination. Given my background in advocacy work, Dive Munda was a perfect fit for my personal values too.
Dive Munda also work with Pack For A Purpose to provide medical and other supplies.
Where is Munda?
Munda is a gorgeous area only 3 hours from Brisbane and now has direct flights! There are over 40 dive sites here from wrecks to reefs with sharks, manta rays, stingrays, loads of tropical fish and so much more.
Map inside Dive Munda showing diving locations
As you can see, Dive Munda services numerous incredible spots for diving, each with something unique to see.
How does it work?
Firstly, I was signed up to online learning so I could go over all the theory before arriving in Munda. It’s easy to do via the app and once you are qualified your certification will be on there plus you can log your dives.
After theory, you do the practical. I flew into Munda on Saturday, explored the area a bit then on Monday, started my first lesson with Euna. If you want to dive, be aware you need to allow 24 hours after your flight before diving and 24 hours after your last dive before flying. It is extreme changes in pressure on the body and dangerous to not wait.
Learning with Euna is hilarious which made it so much easier and less stressful. She is the second-ever female Solomon Islander dive instructor and a great teacher. You can read more about Euna and other women impacting the diving industry here. Before diving, we had to swim a set length and tread water then we got into skills. My most hated skill is mask clearing, which everyone knew and became a joke by the end of it. But we did it!
Over the next few days, I completed my training in paradise. The first two sessions would be pool sessions in Australia. In Munda, we did them at a calm beach on this gorgeous little island. I preferred learning this way as I felt it was more realistic learning skills in saltwater with sand, fish and coral instead of a concrete pool.
On my first ‘real’ dive to 18m, another instructor George came with Euna, David (another student) and myself. Poor George, I turned too quickly and smashed straight into him. Then I got confused about something and got him to repeat it possibly 3 or 4 times while we were underwater before I finally understood but he was so patient. Also, when I get excited, I tend to squeal and hug or squeeze whoever is near me. When I first got to see some of the marine life including sharks, turtles, manta rays, a giant manta ray, stingray and other creatures I may have lost my mind a little.
This was a bigger problem later with Solomon Island Discovery Cruises. There, my instructor, Justin, promised me I would see a lionfish because I have wanted to since I was 6. When I saw it, I gasped so much because I was so excited, I started to rise and grabbed him to maintain control. My breathing was way too fast and it took me a few minutes to settle. He was pretty happy he spotted it for me and the whole trip other divers kept a lookout for lionfish for me which was amazing to me.
I think Lionfish are just the most graceful, beautiful fish! Image by Justin Saula Yatibu from one of our dives.
What will you see?
You will see everything! I had friends see hammerheads at Shark Point. On my first dive mentioned above, in the first coral crevice, a green turtle came out, hovered in front then went off into the blue ocean. At the next one, there was a reef shark just sitting there. Looking up there were numerous manta rays then the others spotted a giant manta ray. George tried to get me to see it but I missed it.
Determined, I hovered and waited for a little while longer then it came back towards us and I was so excited. George and Euna seemed pretty happy I got to see it too. They pointed out stingrays, different fish, corals and so much more. Everything you could hope to see diving, we saw. Their knowledge, patience, understanding and desire to ensure we have a good time was astounding.
What else is in Munda?
You go to Munda mainly for diving because it is so diverse and played a part in WWII so you have wrecks combined with the gorgeous water, tropics and friendly people. If you are into WWII, Barney’s Museum isn’t too far away and there is quite an array of war artefacts from all countries that were here. Plus you can touch it all! You can try kava at the Agnes Gateway Hotel with Vili the manager or head to the kava bar. A little market runs during the week, with Friday being the biggest day right out the front gate of the hotel and Dive Munda. Do a walk with a local to see waterfalls or even get a massage. The massages here are done in a way unique to this area, with knowledge handed down. Grab a kayak, go snorkelling or just explore the area.
All of these things can be arranged at the Agnes Gateway hotel where Dive Munda is based, making your trip easy.
How to get there
Solomon Airlines fly directly from Brisbane to Munda in around 3 hours. Flights from other Australian cities will go via Brisbane. Alternatively, numerous flights go through Honiara, you can extend your stay and do a Solomon Island Discovery Cruise from Honiara (only available at certain times of the year) and fly to Munda from Honiara.
Another option is getting the local ferry from Honiara if you have flown there, although these are usually crowded and take a long time. Lastly, get your own boat and go or hire one there. I met a lovely couple who are sailing around and did some diving in Munda while staying on their own boat.
Soggy Paws is owned by Dave and Sherry who were a lovely couple!
As mentioned, I stayed at the Agnes Gateway Hotel. It’s a 2 star hotel with a 5 star view! You have wifi in reception, except on Fridays during the day when the markets are busy because everyone is on it. However, just 2 streets away you can get your own sim and data. Be sure to set it up correctly on data though or your credit will disappear quickly. They set it up for me. There is also an ATM and some shops next to it.
View of an evening from the restaurant at the Agnes Gateway Hotel. Some evenings there is entertainment and every evening a variety of marine life are visible off the deck.
My accommodation was the family suite which had 2 bedrooms, a lounge, walk-in robe big enough for all your luggage, bathroom, separate toilet and it’s own veranda. With AC (which I barely used because the temperature is pretty perfect), a fridge, tea and coffee facilities plus super friendly staff, it was great. Be aware, as with many places in the islands, there is no hot water but since it is around 30C every day, you don’t really need it.
My room at the Agnes Gateway Hotel.
What To Eat
The restaurant in the Agnes Gateway Hotel provides a variety of dishes with generous servings. It is best if you let them know ahead of time what you would like and when you would like it served. They also offer a buffet some nights plus entertainment. Located within the hotel is a small bar as well.
There is a little cafe around the corner or you can grab a taxi and head to Noro to the Blue Container Store to get some groceries if you prefer (it is mostly Aldi products). There are a few little supermarkets with limited offerings and a bakery in Munda as well. Some days the markets had good street food and fruit.
Personally, I ate mostly at the restaurant because it was easy, the staff were friendly and the sunset view was amazing. Plus, all the guests were so friendly. I met numerous other divers, sailors, archaeologists and filmmakers all enjoying Munda.
How To Plan And Book
Dive Munda offer great packages in conjunction with Solomon Airlines and Agnes Gateway Hotel which is the best deal here or you can check out the sites and create your own holiday.
Having been to the Solomon Islands in December, April and now June/July, my preference was April and June/July over December only because I grew up in Tasmania. So I struggle with high temperatures and high humidity. Munda I found nice because it is based right on the water with lots of islands and it felt there was more airflow than Honiara.
Be sure to pack insect repellent or get the essential oil jewellery to protect from mosquitoes. Get vaccinated, take malaria medication and a mini first aid kit. It is easier to be prepared with everything rather than get there and find out you can’t get what you need. Munda is a small area without a lot of what most people are used to.
I love diving, the team at Dive Munda are amazing and I will be going back with my daughters.
How I got full custody, a 5 year protection order and he has no access
Before I even start, let me be clear about full custody and my views. Unless there is abuse or extreme circumstances, I do believe it is in the best interests of the children to have both parents. It doesn’t matter how much you dislike each other, that needs to be put aside for the sake of the kids and a relationship with them. I don’t mean stay together, I mean children deserve to have a relationship with both parents.
This includes not putting the other parent down, not restricting access or playing petty games to get control or annoy one another. Your children are half of each of you and deserve to feel they are special, important and not be made to feel half of them is awful because you can’t get along with their other parent.
How to get full custody is a loaded topic. Generally, I recommend trying to work it out without court and lawyers. Once you get into court, it is expensive, emotionally draining, time-consuming and hideously expensive. In my case, court was unavoidable, however, the law and police repeatedly failed us during the process despite ample evidence. When it finally got to trial everyone was horrified we were even there due to the external evidence, as in evidence from others, not just what I said. I should have been granted full custody from the beginning.
What is in this post?
I’m going to give you background on my case, my experience in 3 different states, tips for court, how I got full custody and my personal views. This is not a “how to game the system” guide and not guaranteed. Me getting full custody and everything I outline here will not mean you do. But if yours is a case where the other parent is abusive or something, it could help. Also, it shows you are not alone and full custody (also known as sole parental responsibility) is possible.
Before I get into it, I want to make it clear we now have a great relationship with my husbands family and I am so grateful for that. My daughters have had sleepovers this year, text their cousins, Facetime them etc. His oldest sister reached out earlier this year and has been absolutely amazing. We were all nervous when we met up in person in Sydney but it was so good. They have all treated me exactly as family, my daughters are ecstatic and we will go up to Sydney at least 2 more times this year. And his whole family are conscious of the protection order, ensuring he does not breach it and that my daughters feel safe and supported. We are extremely fortunate to have them in our lives again and for their support.
While there is no contact with my ex-husband, should my daughters want to, they can. They have made it extremely clear they do not want this but do want to be close to their Polynesian side, including attending a family reunion in Tonga next year.
So in short, we love that side of the family and will continue to develop and maintain strong ties there.
Some of the extended family. My kids look so much like their cousins! Mele is in the red GAP top and Halia in the black and blue SURF jumper.
My Case Background
I was married in 2005, it was abusive and I left 2012 with our daughters. He still had some contact until 2014. I won’t go into details too much as it is not my story to tell. Despite sharing elements of my life, this involves my kids and it is their choice when they are older what they share.
When I left, a protection order was put in place due to the circumstances. In 2013, the divorce was finalised, I moved to Canberra and during this time I was legally advised not to apply for custody as the court would grant 50/50.
In 2015, we had the opportunity to travel and I tried to get him to sign passports, he refused. It was going to go to court but I became paralysed and extremely sick. At the end of that year, my daughters and I moved to Melbourne. Here, they had the opportunity to go to China with their school in 2017. Again, I tried to do the passports. This time he agreed (I had a recorded phone call of this). However, he didn’t sign and we had to go to court, which meant I also had to go for full custody. It took almost 2 years from then until now to get custody. Over 12 months of that was simply waiting for a court date!
Evidence Against Him
2014, my daughters came back to me and never wanted to see him again. Without sharing much, there is evidence, police reports, child protection reports, statements and reports filed by teachers, psychologists, witnesses and others in NSW, ACT and VIC. As well as the assaults against me. The file is huge and continued to grow in the 7.5 years between me leaving and me being granted custody. This is evidence NOT created or supplied by me. It was subpoenaed by the court when we got pushed to the higher court.
I had to have a full psychiatric assessment from a specific psychiatrist, which was expensive. It’s not a regular psychiatrist and not a simple process. However, all he had to throw against me was claims against my mental health. Which through this process, showed my prior mental health issues were mainly due to being in an abusive relationship.
At the end of 2017, my eldest daughter was diagnosed with ASD Level 1, anxiety and a few other issues to watch for. This is also known as high functioning autism or Aspergers. This does impact how child custody and visitation is awarded due to the special needs of children with autism.
Last year, my ex caused issues again and I had to go to court for a protection order. An interim one was granted then in April, a full 5 year protection order even barring him from posting on social media about us at all, was granted. This helped significantly as it showed a long history of abuse, so no chance he would be ok with the kids.
Lastly, in the final stages of court, his lawyer ceased to act for him. He never came to court throughout the whole process and on the first hearing this year, the judge saw what he is like. It was complicated, messy and thankfully, the judge set a date for a quick trial because of his behaviour. He was court-ordered to attend with legal counsel and we had it included that I could proceed uncontested if he was not there. This is what happened and on the final day, instead of there being a 6 day trial which they initially though, it took 2 hours.
My Top Tips To Get Full Custody
As you can see from my experience, it took years. I had a legal help the whole way which cost me a fortune and there was extensive evidence of abuse. Remaining calm, keeping it together, continuing to work and parent my children was extremely difficult during this process. But I did it. And would do it all again if I had to.
1. Mindset is everything – have a happy place
Don’t roll your eyes, this was one of the biggest determining factors enabling me to remain calm and focused. If you are hysterical, irrational and all over the place, it isn’t great for you in court. Yes, emotions are normal, hysteria is not. When our emotions take control, we can make poor decisions, it is harder to remember things and you need to remember for court.
I didn’t implement this fully until December 2018, after my best trip ever. After going to the Solomons, with Solomon Island Discovery Cruises, I desperately wanted to take my kids and had a very specific image of Mane Bay in my head. I could see my kids playing in the water as I watched them from the dive deck. That moment, that experience, to me is the moment we are free.
Last month, we were meant to go but as the judge hasn’t finalised the paperwork, my daughters are not allowed out of the country. So in February, 2020, we are going and there are more spaces on the trip if you want to come! Email us here.
Whenever I got overwhelmed about court, I began to picture this spot, this experience and my whole body relaxed. It was so real to me and will be soon.
2. Have Support
My family is incredible. There were numerous times I rang family members in tears, or furious at what was happening. I borrowed money from my parents as needed, my sister dropped everything and flew down one night when I was not coping and I know I am fully supported.
Not everyone has that but there are support networks. Charities have support workers to help you in court and with paperwork before court. I also had a private psychologist I started seeing to prepare me for court, have somewhere safe to vent to and also to help with parenting and understanding autism.
Join a support network, get professional support, create a community.
3. Have evidence
I have written about 5 tips to win in court previously and included the importance of evidence. Write down everything including the time, date, location, what happened. Get witnesses where possible. Report things to the relevant departments, have teachers and other people in positions of power who are involved to write reports. Do everything via email to ensure you have a paper trail and if you have to do phone calls, request they be recorded then at the start of the recorded say “This phone call is being recorded” to show they agreed.
Do not fabricate evidence or embellish things. Numerous people involved with my case commented on the fact my records of what happened and when corresponded perfectly with evidence from police, schools, child protection etc. Having my own proof and the ability to show exact dates, recorded phone calls, text messages etc all added to my credibility.
4. Dress to impress
Again, I wrote about this in the previous article. How you appear matters. Dress in blue where possible because it subconsciously indicates trust. Corporate or business attire is preferred, along with neat hair, nails and makeup. I look like a lawyer when I go to court and this has helped significantly and been commented on by others. If you want the law on your side, do the right thing, have your evidence and dress the part.
Charities offer help with this, borrow from friends or family if necessary and do your best to dress accordingly.
5. Be willing to compromise
There are a few things in my court orders I didn’t want but they aren’t awful. However, by being willing to compromise, it increased my chances of getting full custody.
6. Show you are doing what is in the best interests of the children
Years of speech therapy, psychology, play therapy, extra-curricular sports, the autism diagnoses and treatment for that were all documented and used in court. These, combined with the evidence we were in contact with his family and I was willing to continue to facilitate that added weight to this part of our case. In fact, as it turned out, between the first hearing this year and the final trial, we had a trip to Sydney planned so we saw the family. This was mentioned in my court papers and when we went back for the trial, it helped to solidify the fact I will continue this relationship and contact for my daughters.
The fact I had driven to Sydney, then instead of just letting the kids play awhile, allowed 2 sleepovers was huge. It showed I put my own feelings and fears of my ex aside for my kids. And they course had an amazing time with their cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents on that side. This was not a stunt I pulled for court, we will continue to see them all. It did happen to help though.
7. Get legal help
I don’t want to reveal the entire total of my court costs but they essential equal a house. This year I paid tens of thousands within a few months and he didn’t have to pay a thing this year. Be prepared to sell everything, do any job and work your butt off to pay.
For some reason, when I started this process in Melbourne, I didn’t have to put money into trust. I had when I needed legal help in Sydney and Canberra but here we expected it to be a quick process with the evidence so my lawyer didn’t request it. Instead of having my money sit there, I was able to pay the invoices as they sent them. My barristers continued this arrangement when they were hired to help as well.
I was extremely lucky with this. When my lawyer went on maternity leave and another took over he said he had never seen this arrangement but since I never missed an invoice he was happy to continue it. Don’t expect to be so lucky. Be prepared to have to put down thousands. You can save a little if you self-represent and the court is usually helpful if you choose to do it that way. My case had been so long and messed up I wasn’t willing to self-represent.
You know what is best for your kids and if you have left an abusive relationship, it will be hard but it is worth it. This nearly broke me, completely. My ex-husband used things I wrote or said online against me (well, tried to) which made me shrink completely and question everything I was doing.
When he played mind and control games, it messed with my head. Hearing things from my daughters, seeing the impact on them and the amount of money it cost us wore me down. However, I held onto the hope we would be free. I kept the image in my mind of us at Mane Bay and eventually, we won. We are still waiting for the judge to finalise to upload the paperwork so they can leave the country for the first time but right now, we are free.
You might also like
5 tips to help you win at court
How to get the money to leave an abusive relationship
What is the Coral Sea Resort & Casino really like and what can you do in Honiara?
This year, I committed to doing more for me and focusing on myself (read about that here). For my birthday I jetted off to Honiara and I cannot even begin to express how much fun it was! Having been to the Solomon Islands in December, I barely got a chance to see much of Honiara and knew I wanted to explore more. From April 4th to 11th, I was fortunate enough to stay at the Coral Sea Resort & Casino in one of their luxury waterfront villas which was amazing!
(From top left – The Boardwalk Restaurant at The Coral Sea Resort & Casino; below it – US War Memorial; Tenaru Falls; Trying Kava; MV Taka off the shore of the resort; Bonegi; view facing back onto the Coral Sea Resort & Casino from the dock; Tenaru Falls).
Honiara is only 3 hours from Brisbane so super easy to get to. One of the things I love about Honiara airport is the people at the top waving as you get off. I know they aren’t waving at me but it is such a cool way to enter the country. Walking through, all the staff are so friendly, my bags were out quickly and my driver from the Coral Sea Resort & Casino, Ben, was waiting there with my name on the sign. Such an easy start to the trip!
View of the Coral Sea Resort & Casino including The Boardwalk Restaurant from the dock.
We drove through the city chatting then as soon as we arrived at the resort I was given a warm welcome by the front desk staff. Ben unloaded my bags, I was checked in, handed a coconut as I was escorted to my villa.
The Starfish Villa
Every villa has a different carved plaque. You’ll find carvings incorporated in designs across the resort.
Right at the front, my villa was the Starfish Villa with a beautiful view from my private terrace of the ocean, The Boardwalk Restaurant, pool and resort. In the evenings, I could hear live music while relaxing in my hot tub. It was bliss!
Private hot tub, terrace and views of the ocean from one side of the luxury waterfront villas.
The other side of the luxury waterfront villa.
Walking in, it was wonderfully air-conditioned, clean, the bed was comfy and I was surprised to find a proper sized fridge with an array of mini bar options instead of a few little bottles. The lounge is a sofa bed so if you have a family, the villas are a good option.
My bed, lounge and hot tub in the Starfish Villa at the Coral Sea Resort & Casino, Honiara
With enough space and amenities to cook if you wanted. Behind the door, there is a proper sized fridge!
Breakfast is included in your room price and there is a nice selection of either buffet or cooked options. I tried almost every variation of eggs they had and was happy with it all.
What Does The Coral Sea Resort & Casino Have?
You could just hang at the resort if you wanted to relax and be taken care of. I was there to explore more of Honiara but I still made use of the great facilities. The swimming pool is a good size and lights up at night which is perfect for me. With my complexion, I tend to avoid swimming in the middle of the day but it is warm enough here to swim at night.
Swimming pool at night with the villas and hotel accommodation in the background
The foyer is open and has a chill island vibe plus regular live music, table service and Haydn’s (a steakhouse) attached with numerous options for either drinks or meals. I had most of my meals at Haydn’s and tried The Boardwalk once. Check out their dining options here.
View of The Boardwalk from my private terrace. I loved how it was beautifully lit up but far enough away that I still had privacy when in my hot tub. Check it out on Instagram.
I don’t gamble but I have been to numerous casinos, including ones in Las Vegas. While this casino isn’t that big (for obvious reasons), I was pleasantly surprised by how nice it is. Immaculately clean, well decorated and laid out plus cool and comfortable. With plush carpet and seating along with a VIP room which has been established for those wanting privacy when betting higher.
A selection of casino games are available as well as the pokies. Whenever I had a look there was always people in there but it didn’t feel overcrowded and the staff were happy to help quickly. If I did like to use a casino, place bets or use the pokies, I’d be happy to do it here.
My Top Food And Drink Choices
There was an alcohol ban so cocktails and other things were limited for the start but my favourite cocktail which I had on my birthday was the White Lady. Vanilla vodka is available too which made me happy as it is one of my favourites and they have a great selection of whisky.
The Thai Chicken Curry and Thai Beef Salad were two of my favourite meals. Unfortunately, I didn’t take photos of my food but you can see a great selection of images for food and drink on the Coral Sea Resort & Casino Facebook page.
Every time I mentioned going to Honiara people were surprised. It has a pretty bad reputation because of things from the past but I absolutely love my time there, every time. In fact, this will be the first location my daughters go when we can travel overseas. Personally, I found everyone to be extremely friendly, helpful and I thoroughly enjoyed my trip.
I lost my mind over this which my friends (locals) found amusing. Moving around in the water made it light up blue! I legit felt like I was Ariel and may have announced “Oh my gosh! I feel like a mermaid!” with squeals of excitement. It’s the plankton that causes it and I actually squealed seeing it. I didn’t get photos (I tend to live in the moment more than take photos of whatever is happening) but I highly recommend it. We were at Hammock Beach, not too far from the Coral Sea Resort & Casino but definitely a nicer beach than those right near the resort.
Tenaru Falls, one of the guys took this for me as I walked in.
This was top of my list because I love waterfalls. I heard it was fairly simple but I am not fit. Hilariously, my lovely guide, Alex, laughed about how women walk up and down here with babies. He did it barefoot and realistically, I preferred doing the river crossings barefoot rather than in my hiking boots. You cross the river 6 times so shoes which are good for river walking would be beneficial rather than hiking boots.
Parangiju Mountain Lodge where you start and finish. There is also a little shower to the side to rinse the mud. I got covered in mud and ended up coming back to the hotel in my bikini and a towel to clean up properly there.
How To Book
To do Tenaru Falls you need to arrange it through the visitors’ office or Parangiju Mountain Lodge. The lodge is also perfect for a cool drink and gorgeous view after your hike. If it has been raining you won’t be able to do it as it will be too slippery. But white water rafting is an option then.
It takes around 2 hours round trip and if you are an active family, is suitable for kids. I am sure my two could do it and better than I did.
Tenaru Falls, that’s me right next to the falls. Amazing to swim here. My guides were so much fun!
After hiking and crossing the river, it is as if the trees and everything parts to open up to the waterfall. It is stunning and you can swim underneath, climb up into a little cave there and stay for a while. This was one of my favourite parts of the trip.
Look how close it is to shore! An easy snorkel for anyone at Bonegi.
Diving a wreck properly has been on my bucket list for years. Since I don’t have my certification, we hit up Bonegi where I got to snorkel the incredible wreck, see the marine life and spent some time hanging out at the beach. The wreck is so close to shore, as are others dotted around the Solomons. It is one of the things I love about the Solomon Islands – the history. Planning a significant part in WWII you will find wrecks, memorials and significant locations all around on your travels.
Honiara Central Market
A quick walk straight from the hotel to the market means you can pick up anything from food to souvenirs. You can negotiate with stall holders but I didn’t because I know what the wages are there vs what I earn.
There were lots of roadside stalls around the place too, which is where I picked up a lava lava (wrap around/sarong) and bag for my daughters which they love. Being part Maori and part Tongan, my daughters love island style gifts and use them often.
For the most part, I wanted to relax and spend time with my friends living in Honiara but there is so much to do around the Coral Sea Resort & Casino. You can book a boat through the resort to go fishing and the chef will prepare your catch for you back at the resort or do a day trip to islands close by. Check out the war memorials, which I did and cried. They are beautiful, moving and the views are incredible.
Take the time to walk around and read everything.
I try to visit a war memorial everywhere I go. The amount of WWII history in the Solomon Islands is incredible and well worth taking the time to learn about and explore.
My ex-husband is Tongan and how I first learnt about kava. I’ve wanted to try it ever since but women are not allowed in some cultures. Finally, here in the Solomon Islands, I got to try kava at the Kokonut Cafe. Be warned it tastes like mud mixed with wheatgrass juice and pepper. Definitely not for everyone! It reminded me of this juice I had to drink when trying to get pregnant years ago.
See, kava looks like muddy water! You drink it from a coconut shell usually then rinse your mouth.
The beers weren’t mine but I’ve been told it’s best to follow kava with something such as beer. I’m coeliac so didn’t.
Honiara is amazing and there is so much to explore there, then be sure to jet off to Munda, Gizo or other areas. Another option is to go on a dive tour since the Solomon Islands has incredible diving locations. (I did one with Solomon Island Discovery Cruises last year here which is how I knew about the Coral Sea Resort & Casino as guests stop here for a few hours before and after the cruise.) I’ll be heading back with my daughters in October so if you want to join us, let me know and we can arrange it! We will probably stay a night or two at the Coral Sea Resort & Casino before or after the cruise as well.
When planning a trip to Honiara, you can book anything you want to see or do easily through the Coral Sea Resort & Casino. Their customer services is fantastic.
My Tips For Honiara
Honiara is not a big, bustling city and the Solomon Islands are a developing country. Wages are much lower, the infrastructure such as roads are not the same as Western countries but the people are super friendly.
Since I typically travel alone and have had issues in other countries, I now usually have a guide with me. They know where to go, negotiate everything, translate when necessary and have the best tips. On some trips, I have worn a wedding band and at times my guide or a male travelling in our group would be referred to as my husband to stop issues. I didn’t have this problem in Honiara. My guides were great and I felt totally safe.
Staff in the resort take security very seriously. They have security guards, a whole team, cameras and management are regularly around. Everyone was super friendly making the Coral Sea Resort & Casino feel more like a home away from home rather than a resort.
That said, be aware, as you should be anywhere. Keep your bag zipped, your belongings close, use the safe in the room and be aware of what is happening around you. This was my second trip and I haven’t had issues either time nor has anyone else I know personally who have been to Honiara. In fact, everyone can’t wait to go back to the Solomons!
Get out and explore! The resort is great but there is so much to see, do and try.
Have you been to the Solomon Islands? What was your experience?
How to best prepare for court to get the best outcome
Heading to court is scary, especially if it involves your safety or your kids. Yesterday, I went to court for the hearing of our IVO (also known as an Intervention Order/Violence Order/Protection Order/Restraining Order). As I sat there and watched people come, speak to the judge and go, I realised many people simply don’t know a few minor things that can make a big difference to your day in court.
I was given advice back when I got divorced and more when I had to do the protection orders. These tips mostly don’t cost you anything but have a significant impact, whether we want to admit it or not. We like to think all judges and magistrates are fair and impartial but certain things about how you look and speak do have an impact.
1. Dress Corporate
Every single time I have been to court I have been the best dressed non-lawyer there. In fact, I am usually mistaken for being a lawyer or similar. When you think of dressing for court think corporate or Sunday best. Think conservative, modest, neat and tidy from your head to your toes.
I always wear a skirt and heels, my shoulders are covered and often some of my arms. My skirt comes to my knees and my heels are not platforms, they are modest nude or black matt heels (not patent/shiny ones).
If you don’t have any suitable clothes or cannot afford them, borrow some or reach out to a charity. There are numerous charities offering clothing for court and job interviews.
Why does it matter how you dress?
It takes years to become a magistrate or judge so most are over 40 before they are appointed and can work into their 70s. Also, there are significantly more males than females. If you want to make a good impression, think about how grandparents or a church priest would expect you to dress and go for similar. Be conservative.
Dress however you want anytime you want, it’s your body, your choice. However, people make snap judgements in a split second based on how we appear. You are appearing in front of someone who is going to make decisions for your life. Dress to impress and appeal to them.
2. Wear blue
This is based on the psychology of colour. Blue conveys loyalty, trust, dependability, all things you want to represent when in court. Look at our police, uniforms for firefighters (when not fighting fires), ambulance officers, doctors, nurses and similar. The majority wear blue for this reason.
Think about it, you want to align yourself with that side of the law. Sky blue shirts, navy suits, navy skirts and dresses or royal blue all work well. Add the black shoes and the immediate impact is you are similar to law enforcement.
3. Have all your documentation
Be prepared with dates, times, locations, facts and any relevant documentation to provide evidence. Depending on your case, this may have needed to be submitted already. You cannot turn up to court on the day and be all over the place.
Respect the courts time. Be prepared, have a timeline, have your proof and if necessary, lodge it before you go to court. Take copies with you of anything and everything on the day. It might not be needed but it is better to have it than to not.
4. Be conscious of how you speak and act
Firstly, when you enter the courtoom, bow to the crown. It will look like you are bowing to the judge/magistrate but it is to the crown and a sign of respect. They notice who does and who doesn’t. Do it every time you enter or exit the room. When the judge enters or exits and everyone stands, make sure you do too! All these things seem minor but they make a difference.
Next, the judge, magistrate or registrar is the one making the decisions. Even if the lawyer asks the questions, direct your answer to the judge/person at the front making the decision. The questions are being asked for their benefit. Our courtrooms are not all like the ones you see on most TV shows. Often the witness box is positioned so you can see both the lawyer and the judge. Address them properly and if you are unsure what to call them, pay attention to how the lawyers speak and copy them or ask your lawyer. Your honour, Your Magistrate and similar are most common.
Next, speak clearly and concisely. They don’t need your life story. Answer questions in a simple manner. If it is a yes or no question, answer yes or no. You do not need to spend 5 minutes explaining why. When asked to explain something, keep to what they have asked you to explain, not everything that has happened to you at every point in your life. Be factual and have evidence to back up your claims.
Be honest and genuine and things will go much smoother.
5. Get legal help
I know lawyers can be expensive, some things you can do yourself, others are better with a lawyer. It is up to you to decide. However, in my experience, a good lawyer is worth it and will make things go much smoother. For starters, they know what needs to be lodged, they know what different magistrates/judges are like and how to best appeal to them, they know what to ask for and can remove the emotion.
Get referrals, get pricing structures and an idea of how long things will take, how expensive it will be, then plan for it. You can go to legal aid and community legal centres. If the matter is more complex, you are better off with a private lawyer though.
Rebecca Neale of Bedford Family Lawyer suggested on my Facebook page: “If representing yourself, I suggest you develop a short narrative, like an “elevator speech,” to start your argument and then focus on the facts that support your argument that you’re in imminent fear of serious physical harm. To identify the most potent facts, I suggest sharing your story with a friend and seeing what she responds to the most. Frequently, survivors are used to certain atrocious behaviors, that they can lose perspective on what is the most egregious.”
This is fantastic advice in my experience!
How can you afford legal help?
Your lawyer could cost anything from $300 through to $700 an hour and they charge for everything. Every email, every phone call, draft, all of it. Get the costs agreement so you know what you are paying for. Whenever you need to talk to them, do all of it at once rather than 5 different phone calls. Also, ask about pro bono work, looking into legal aid and all your options.
When it comes to actually having to pay for a private lawyer, do everything you can. Online surveys might not pay much but something is better than nothing. Take on extra shifts or a second job. Sell off anything you can, mow lawns, do babysitting. Check out these 43 ways for single mums to make money or how I made over $33,000 on the side last year.
How I overcame major obstacles in my life and you can too
Domestic violence, homelessness, robbery, rape, divorce, paralysis, cancer, surgeries, the past few years have had a lot of obstacles. At the same time, a lot of opportunities and abundance with awards, international speaking, buying and selling businesses etc. Life has been a rollercoaster.
Back when it was all happening I was in survival mode and while I did get through it, there are things I know now which mean I would handle it all differently. I feel now, if I were to face huge obstacles again my focus and mindset would be different as would my plan of action.
Here are 5 things I did which helped me flip my life around back then and tips to do it differently. Disclosure – this post contains affiliate to products I use.
1. Look For Ways To Make More Money
It is amazing how many ways there are to make money now. My first thing was to look at online surveys (you’ll find the best ones for Aussies here). I bought things to resell online and in 2017 got to be making over $10,000 a month doing that. I reached out to all my networks for more freelance writing work, I increased my blogs (find out how to set up a blog and make money with it here) plus I took any opportunity to make money I could.
While it meant I made more money, I was also stressed because I wasn’t consistent or focused on one thing. I was in survival mode and grabbing at anything. This set me up for numerous failures over the coming years because I remained in the ‘do it all’ mindset rather than shifting to one of abundance.
2. Market Without Money
One advantage I had at the time was I already had a blog, a book published with Wiley and connections. This meant I was able to reach out to let people know I was available for work. I was a little too proud to let them know how much I needed the work and instead focused on marketing what I had and what I could do.
The marketing steps I took enabled me to focus on my business more and in 2014, found a company, buy more websites and win more awards. These steps have become a popular keynote presentation of mine and now I have turned them into a course which will launch on March 1, 2019.
We live in a time where there are more options than ever before to market without it costing you a cent. It will cost you time though. I cover social media, how to set up each platform properly and what to do on them. Creating a social media policy, marketing strategy, how to get into mainstream media and more without blowing your budget. In fact, I have done it all without spending a cent on ads. You can find out more about the course here and follow me on Facebook where I will be sharing tips live about marketing and what I do in life in general.
You can see one I did for an event in January here
3. Worked On Goals And Mindset
I’m still working on this and it will be a work in progress forever, which I am ok with. As humans, we need to grow and progress continually. Back when I had major obstacles it was hard to think clearly at times and focus on where I wanted to be. Many days it was too difficult to actually face work at all so I needed to put systems in place to help me.
Firstly, having an attitude of gratitude. Listing out things to be grateful for and looking for the lessons or opportunities in everything. When I dwell on how bad something is, it seems to get worse. When I focus on the positives or even potential positives of whatever is happening, things remain doable and even become better than I could have imagined. Don’t let negative experiences define your life.
Next, goals. I have a 10 step method to success with goals here. It includes working out your values, what you want in life, creating a vision board, writing down the goals and more right through to celebrating success.
Realise we all have good and bad days. When you are working on your goals you will have setbacks and will need to change your tactics to achieve what you set out to do. It doesn’t mean you need to give up but you do need tools to help you get through it. Create a supportive community for yourself. Ask for help when you need it including looking for mentors or coaches. I had a few who helped me so much and I offer this service here. Meditate and visualise. Increase your confidence (find 20 ways to do that here). Create systems such as a miracle morning and you will find life works easier.
4. Self Development
This term made me cringe back then but I read everything possible. Podcasts play regularly on my phone, especially at the gym now and we often watch documentaries as a family. Self development is part of life and something worth carving out time for. Back then I neglected my health, now, as part of my self development, I am learning more about nutrition, health and my body. I know it pretty well but there is always more to learn.
Some of the books which have helped me the most are The Big Leap, Lucky Bitch, 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People, The Richest Man In Babylon, The 5 Love Languages and Unf*ck Yourself. I essentially went through the self help section at the library and read everything they had. If they didn’t have a book which was recommended I got it from Book Depository and now have a collection of books others regularly borrow from me. If I loved a book, I bought it.
5. Focus On Others
Honestly, one big step that helped was volunteering. It got me out of my own head, connected me with amazing people and gave me a sense of purpose outside of myself. I needed to practice self care but I found I did that better and had a better attitude after volunteering. Find a cause that resonates with you and get involved.
What I Would Do Differently
All of the above are important, however, there are a few key things I would do differently. We all learn from our past and here are my tips.
1. Get A Better Handle On My Money
Yes, I write about money at The Thrifty Issue and did at other sites I own. Typically, my knowledge with money was pretty good but I did allow myself to be used a few times and was a bit of an emotional spender at times.
Learn to budget. Save money. Invest and be smart with what you have. Don’t lend money you cannot afford to lose and recognise when someone is using you. They might be your closest friend but it doesn’t mean they have your best interests at heart.
Read The KickAss Single Mom, Unleash Your Inner Money Babe and Lucky Bitch. They will help you get in a better mindset with money. Then if you want more for an actual plan paying off debt and to budget, The Total Money Makeover or The Barefoot Investor are both good.
2. Focus On Health And Self Care
I put everyone before myself and it nearly killed me. Paralysis and level 10 pain is not something I wish on anyone. It was traumatic for everyone in my life and myself. Especially since the doctors couldn’t tell me what was wrong the first time it happened.
Listening to my body, eating healthy, exercising and taking time out when I need it are things I had to learn. Do what you need to do for yourself to take care of yourself. This includes romantic relationships. Be clear about what you want and need in one before getting involved with anyone.
3. Learn About Myself
Even with all the self help books it has taken until more recently for me to learn enough about myself that I feel comfortable standing up for myself, setting boundaries and doing what I need for me. I knew freedom was important but it wasn’t until the last 6 months I realised it is one of the most important things to me. If I feel trapped or locked into something my whole being shrinks and I will reject whatever is happening. It’s been fascinating to learn this about myself and to see how it applies to my life from relationships through to business.
Take the time to learn about yourself, what is important to you, what your values are and how it all fits into your life to make it the best one possible.
Take some time to think about what you want and create a plan for yourself. If you want help doing this, sorting through your finances or what steps to take next, I have opened up a limited number of one on one sessions here. You completely a questionnaire for me to review, we have 1 hour online together to discuss it then you get a copy of the video or audio to refer to whenever needed, along with a document with any resources or tips we discuss. Book your session here.
How to make 2019 your best year and create a life you love
The past year was a rollercoaster and I decided to step off for a while. Meaning, I scaled right back, stopped speaking at events, wrote less and totally changed direction. Or at least, I attempted to.
My life felt like a hot mess and I needed time for me and to focus on my family. My daughter was officially diagnosed with autism at the end of 2017. At the start of 2018, my boyfriend of 3 years and I broke up. Custody with my abusive ex-husband was meant to be finished last year (it’s not) then towards the end of the year I had to get another IVO (violence order against my ex-husband to protect my daughters and I).
In April 2018 I turned 33, enrolled myself in a Diploma of Counselling, a course I had always wanted to do and set about trying to work out what I wanted in life. Yes, I have had an amazing life, won awards, been goal oriented and things were great. However, at some point, I realised I was living the life I felt was expected of me, not so much the life I truly wanted.
What happens when you live for everyone else?
The break up was hard on myself and my daughters but it taught me so much. I realised I had lost myself in him, in motherhood and the Mormon idea from my upbringing of being a stay at home mum. I felt I was supposed to be and do everything for them – my boyfriend and kids. Over the few years we were together I went from being a successful award-winning CEO to putting aside everything for him and my kids. It’s not that I didn’t love him or don’t love my kids but putting everyone else first isn’t healthy.
Because of the breakup, I was able to reflect on my life, my behaviour and work out what I really wanted. I read Women Who Love Too Much after it was recommended to me and it changed the way I think about relationships and parenting. My kids are everything to me but when I stopped being myself and doing things for myself I also stopped being the best mum I could be. With my relationship, I stopped being the strong, confident, feminine woman I truly am and instead became someone I look back at now and wonder about. It wasn’t him, it stemmed from my idea of what I should be like and be doing in a relationship rather than doing what I wanted and what worked for us.
Long story short – when you live your life on everyone else’s terms you aren’t living your life.
How do you stop being ‘just a mum’ or ‘just a wife’ and be you again?
First, decide to change. With all those realisations in 2018, I had to make changes. On top of the diploma I went to a dance class, I read every book I was recommended. I spent a lot of time alone journaling, reading, thinking and trying new things. Learning to be happy on my own, happy with my life and learning what I enjoy.
Think back to your childhood – What did you enjoy? What did you want to become? How did you spend your time? Which hobbies and interests brought you joy? Start doing some of them again.
Take action. Write a list of things you want to try or do and go do them. Carve out time for yourself. Make yourself and your happiness a priority.
At first, I felt guilty. As women we are supposed to be able to do everything, be superwomen and sacrifice everything. As a mother, your kids should always come first at the detriment to yourself, right? No.
If your kids are fed, clothed, sheltered, taken care of, healthy and happy, you’re doing well. Many kids are spoilt, entitled and have way more than anyone could possibly want or need. Let go of the societal pressure to be, have and do everything. Decide on the life you want for you and your kids then make it happen.
My Year Of Me – Your Year Of You
I’ve decided 2019 is the year of me. This is the year I actively learn the things I want to learn, read the books I want to read, travel the places I want to travel and live my life to the fullest. It’s about being the healthiest I can be, having the skills I’ve always wanted and showing my daughters that being a mum doesn’t equal being a slave. Being a mum or an adult woman to me means being confident, happy, pursuing my interests and having people in my life I want and love. As a mum, I know when I take care of myself I am more patient, understanding and fun for my kids. We have higher quality time together and life is smoother.
I want to invite you to decide what you want in your life or at least decide to take the time this year to do more for you. Choose a class you’ve always wanted to do. Read books. Go on a holiday. Spend time with you. Learn to say no and realise it’s ok to quit.
What does my year of me include?
What doesn’t it include might be a better question! Having spent months already working out what I want to do and learning about myself, I have a pretty clear direction for 2019. I’ve broken it into categories – books to read, things to learn, places to visit and experiences to have. My usual goal areas of travel, finances, career, health, personal development, relationships etc all still apply. It’s just being done a little differently. And yes, I have already enrolled in a lot of what I will be doing or I have things in place to make it happen.
Books To Read
My aim is at least a book a month but my stretch goal is one a week. I don’t always know all the books I plan to read at the start of the year because obviously, new books come out all the time. Here are the ones I am starting 2019 with:
Recommended by a few people, I am pretty excited to get stuck into it. All about small changes, systems and how we can improve our habits, it is exactly the kind of book I like to read.
A book on how to achieve more while doing less is something I will love. I know when I am focused or in the flow I can achieve so much so I’m curious to see what tips are in here.
So many people love it and I have had it for 6 months yet still haven’t read it! I can’t wait though as it contains so much valuable information to transform your business.
Another highly recommended book with the aim to “release the beliefs that hold you back from living a better life.” I’ve enjoyed other work of Gabrielle Bernstein and am sure I will love this one.
I’ll be reading more books which I will add as I decide on them.
Things To Learn
As a high school drop out (I left school in year 11), learning is a big deal to me. While I don’t believe our education system is for everyone, it does have its place for certain occupations. I feel I have learnt more outside of school than I ever did in it. As such, I strongly encourage my daughters to keep learning things they want to learn and never stop. Here are the things I am learning in my year of me.
Despite doing French, Indonesian and German in school, I remember none of it. Spanish is a language I feel will be beneficial for travel plus it sounds amazing! I downloaded DuoLingo and have already started my lessons. In 20 minutes a day, I am already recognising more than I thought possible in a short amount of time. My pronunciation has improved drastically and I get reminders from the app to do my daily lessons. You can spend less time, I chose to go aggressive with it.
Learning a language has been on my list of things to do every year. Duolingo is a super easy to use app which I feel has helped me more with language than any other method I’ve tried.
Complete My Diploma Of Counselling
On average it takes 18 months, mine will be completed in 12 months from when I enrolled. It has been interesting learning everything and doing a course I have wanted to do since I was 16. Whether I work as a counsellor in my life or not doesn’t matter. Learning this was important to me.
Learn to sail
It’s a dream of mine to sail around the South Pacific and other locations. You can’t follow your dreams unless you take action to make them happen! Living in Melbourne there are a few places I can learn to sail and I start in February.
Learn A Style Of Dance
I’ve chosen which style of dance and where to do it already. It’s one I’ve done before but only completed 3 terms. This year I have a better routine with it, love the studio and will be learning a variety of routines.
Get My Diving Certification
On the best trip of my life, I tried scuba diving and cannot wait to go back to get my full certificate. I wrote about the trip in detail here. The team from Solomon Islands Discovery Cruises were incredible and I felt so comfortable with them.
Places To Visit
Ok, I travel a lot and in 2018 went to the Solomon Islands, Cairns, Fitzroy Island, the Daintree Rainforest, Canberra, explored more of Melbourne and its surrounds including staying in a fairy house in Warburton. Most years I get a few trips in. This year I have some specific ones planned and here are 3 of them.
Despite having just been, I cannot wait to go back. This is where I plan to get my diving certificate. Hopefully, I will be able to do Dive Munda and be able to explore more of the islands plus I’d like to do some specific volunteer work over there. Read my article about why everyone should take this trip here.
I’ve been numerous times but my kids haven’t and I want to take them to the theme parks etc. We are going up in July and I have a speaking event the week we are there. They can’t wait, it was something we hoped to do recently but postponed it.
In 2015 we swam with dolphins, rode horses and went to a cool little school fete down there. Yet there is so much more there I want to see with my kids. It’ll be happening over a weekend within the first half of the year.
Experiences To Have
Aside from the travel, there are other experiences I want and will have this year.
Run A 10km
Register for and do a run properly. I did the Color Run with my sister a few years ago and loved it. This time, I want to run 10km faster and stronger than I have ever been able to run. Training has already started because I can barely run at all right now! Follow me on Strava to see what I am doing if you want.
At the end of 2017, I bought a certificate for this for a friend and have meant to do it for myself since then. Why is it so much easier to do things for others than it is for ourselves? I’ve bought the certificate on Groupon for myself and am doing it once school goes back.
The feeling of free falling is the most awful feeling in the world to me but I have wanted to skydive since I was a kid. This year is the year of me and the year I am going to do it. There are beautiful places all around me to do it such as Torquay or the Yarra Valley. I have no excuses and will be doing it. Adrenaline has great deals for skydiving and similar.
This photoshoot has been booked in and cancelled multiple times since 2013. Why? Because I was never fully happy with my body. With the yoga, dance, run and everything else locked in I have decided come July, I am getting it done. I cannot imagine being in a healthier state and don’t want to keep putting it off.
A Variety Of Sports And Activities
Archery, golf, kiteboarding, stand up paddle boards (I did this a little in the Solomons but want lessons to do it better), skateboarding. All of these are things my daughters and I have talked about doing. Now I have a car, they are all easy to get to and do plus Groupon has amazing deals for them all the time.
Outsource Everything I Can
At different times in my life, I have outsourced things in business and my personal life. I’ve found I struggle to outsource things in the home because of guilt. While the travel and experiences will take priority, I have income goals and as I hit each one I will outsource more at home. Living in a unit cleaning was simple and cheap when I outsourced. Where I live now it is not. Plus we have a massive yard which takes me hours to maintain and I hate it. I want my life and my time back. Thus, outsourcing is key to my year of me.
I know many people feel they can’t outsource anything but once they finally do, it is such a relief to have someone clean. I grew up with the belief it’s a waste of money and mums should stay at home to maintain the home. As a single mum, I’ve learned that is not practical. Women are exhausted, relationships failing and the pressure mounting because we’re expected to do too much. Scale it back. Pick the lifestyle you want then do what you can to make it happen. Take it one step at a time.
Changes To Work And Career
What does this all mean for all the work I do here and at The Thrifty Issue? The Thrifty Issue will continue with more of it being outsourced throughout 2019. For Kylie Travers things, I won’t be offering one on one sessions anymore and more of the content I share will be around motivation, what I am doing, travel and life resources and advice. My motivation is to empower women through financial independence and help you live life for you. I’ll also be doing this through a lot of public speaking, creating a few courses and other resources.
What are your plans?
Not just plans, what action are you actively taking to live life on your terms?
Recently, I went on the most amazing trip of my life to a place everyone questioned both before I left and since I’ve been home, the Solomon Islands. This is one trip I think everyone should take. Picture pristine islands, amazing culture, wonderful experiences and a tropical paradise which hasn’t been commercialised or overrun with tourists. It’s unique, friendly, happy, full of adventure and relaxing all at the same time.
In 2018, I took a massive step back from everything I do and took the time to re-evaluate all aspects of my life. Interestingly enough, right when this trip happened, I had a lot going on in my personal life which meant that right up until the morning of the trip I was still questioning if I should go or stay home. Going was the best decision ever!
This video is from our trip. Right at the end, I am snorkelling in the red shirt.
Where did we go?
Upon arrival in Honiara, we were picked up at the airport and transported to Coral Sea Resort to await our boat – The Taka. Usually a dive vessel, for this trip it was transformed into an adventure boat with a little taste of everything the Russel Islands and Florida’s have to offer.
Our itinerary changed a little due to weather but it did not disappoint! We travelled through the Florida’s and West Russel Islands which are incredible.
Surfing, stand up paddle boarding, snorkelling, water skiing and wake boarding were on offer at Maravaghi which was stunning. Here I got a taste of the stunning marine wildlife swimming below the surface.
During out trip we also visited Tulagi, Mane Bay, Olevugha, Roderick Bay and more. Roderick Bay is the location of the MS World Discoverer, the German cruise ship which crashed and has been left there. This spot brought me close to tears as I watched the kids playing in the water, swinging in the hammocks, jumping out of trees and using the zipline. My kids are forever telling me they are Islanders (they are part Tongan, part Maori) and watching these kids I could see my own. It was at this point I decided I must bring my kids with me on a trip here.
The Leru Cut is one of the most magical places I have ever snorkelled into. It’s a cut in the side of the island you can snorkel or dive through and the sunlight shines through the canopy as you can see below
You can find the specific cruise we did here and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
What I learnt
Being able to try scuba diving was possibly the most incredible experience I’ve had! I didn’t expect to be able to do it and while it did my head in trying to breathe, change my mask and go through all the safety things, I managed to do it. Chevone was my scuba instructor and she was fantastic. We went through everything on the boat first, then in the water and she made sure we were confident with what we were doing.
I tried stand up paddle boarding for the first time which is harder than it looks but I enjoyed it. Even though I’d been snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef a few months ago, I got some great tips from the crew here and they ensured I saw everything I hoped from clams closing to clown fish, sharks and World War II wrecks including a bomb.
During my trip, I managed to get stung by jellyfish (on two different days), black bruises all over my legs, sunburn on my upper thighs/lower butt area despite copious amounts of sunscreen, had nausea, got covered in a rash and learned Chevonne and her crew have more patience than anyone I know as a result! I felt like I was coming to her every day with a new thing and was a walking disaster but she was always so lovely about it. And despite those issues it was still the best trip of my life. Little tip which I knew but many I have spoken to don’t – vinegar is your best friend! It is brilliant for jelly fish stings and other issues.
Around the 4th day when I got out of the water and was covered in bites or a rash or something, Rob (one of the crew who is hilarious and so happy) basically hosed me down with vinegar, rubbed it in and made sure I was fine immediately. I’d been warned before going medical treatments can be an issue in the Solomons but realisitically if you take precautions, alert crew as soon as something is wrong, most issues are minor and can be sorted quickly. And of course, I also used a cream for the stings and rashes, along with some antihistamines and nausea tablets thanks to their medical kit.
One of many stunning sunsets on The Taka in the Solomon Islands
Why did I love it so much?
Obviously, the water activities, snorkelling, scuba, scenery and wildlife were incredible. There was more to it though.
1. The staff were amazing!
Seriously, they clearly love what they do, are passionate about their culture and sharing it with the world. I have never been on a trip where the staff went so out of their way to help in every way possible. When snorkelling I went with different staff each time and each time they did everything they could to show and explain everything plus get amazing shots and help when needed.
2. Dietary needs were not an issue
Being coeliac, food can and has been a huge issue on numerous trips. Elsewhere I have been made to feel like an inconvenience, simply not catered for or worse, they ignored it and I got extremely ill or I recognised it before I ate and went without.
Not with Solomon Island Dive Cruises. Our chefs were Freddy and Charles, who went above and beyond! I love them so much. They were so happy to cater to my needs, even prepping a few things for me to taste to see if I liked them before doing a full batch. I had individual salads each night (because I also don’t have raw tomato or cucumber) and they checked with me every step of the way.
While dietary requirements aren’t an issue for most, when it is an issue for you it is amazing when you are on a trip where not only is it catered for strictly but they are happy about it and want to please you.
3. It is an untouched paradise
The Solomon Islands isn’t usually the first place people think of when they want to travel to a beautiful island paradise. Having travelled a bit, I can tell you this has been by far my favourite location. Hardly any tourists, a focus on eco-tourism, amazing wildlife including whales, sharks, dolphins and manta rays right next to our boat and some of the most beautiful scenery.
I’ve done remote parts of Indonesia, Halong Bay in Vietnam, New Zealand, Hawaii, grew up in Tasmania and been to many other areas deemed paradise, pristine or stunning. The Solomon Islands is something else!
4. The History, Culture and People
With a unique Melanesian history, combined with World War II history, it is something of a wonder. Shipwrecks, Japanese u caves from the war and numerous locations around the Solomons will show you part of their history along with part of the world’s history. As someone who loves learning about the past and the culture of everywhere, the Solomons was a treasure for me.
The culture is unique and the people were so friendly. Our crew were outstanding and I loved getting to know a little about each one of them. A few I am now friends with on Facebook and honestly, the cruise director, Chevone, is a gem. She is so lovely, has a beautiful presence and she has the most incredible team working with her I have ever come across. They all seem to get along really well, work together, hang out after work hours and are almost like a family.
5. It taught me about myself
Never before have I had such issues coming home and settling back into my old life. In fact, I don’t want to come home. This trip changed me in many ways and upon returning home I have already set in motion so many things. While on the cruise, I mentioned some of the things I used to do and love to one of the crew members but that I no longer did them. Their opinion/advice was so simple and inspired me into action.
On top of that, talking with other men and women over there about their culture, their lives and the differences we have between here and there I was inspired. A lot is going to change in my life now.
This is the spot and the moment at Roderick Bay I knew I needed to bring my kids
Frequently Asked Questions
Since I have been back, I’ve had a few FAQ’s. Here are the main ones:
How far away is it?
3 hours and 15 minutes from Brisbane makes the Solomon Islands extremely accessible. Coming from Melbourne I had an extra flight but not by much.
Why go there?
Ok, it wasn’t top of my list of destinations initially but it is now! This trip had everything you could hope for – stunning islands, friendly people, amazing culture, delicious food, water skiing, wakeboarding, snorkelling, scuba diving and more! It came at the perfect time for me and I cannot wait to take my daughters later. In fact, after seeing what I did on this trip, they begged me to take them once we have custody sorted.
So really, why not go there?
What about the crime?
I have heard about crime issues in Honiara and since I didn’t spend much time there, I can’t comment as to that. However, with everything else we did, I have never felt safer. Be smart, as you would with any travel. Be aware, read up on anywhere you want to go etc. Since I was always with men (either crew from the boat or in a group waiting at the airport etc) I felt fine. Not saying you need a man, I simply know I relax a little when travelling with men because they always do what they can to make me feel safe and have always been gentlemen with me. This goes for everywhere I have travelled from conferences to media trips. I have always been fortunate to travel with wonderful people.
Where were your kids?
As a single mum, I get this question every time I do anything. I come from a huge, supportive, fantastic family. As one of 9 kids, I have a few options. My neighbours are community minded and I have some wonderful friends. For this trip, my kids went between family and friends, with most of the time spent at our home with friends from Canberra who they have known their whole lives.
If you are a parent (and I know most who read my content are) there are options. Do childcare swaps, at our school parents have each other’s kids when parents have to travel so it’s not an issue. Get to know your neighbours or even look at vacation care camps. Better yet, if your kids are allowed out of the country (mine are not yet), take them! This will be the best trip ever for them.
Was it expensive?
Everything was included in the trip, as it will be for you if you book the same one. Other than a few drinks and knick knacks for my kids, there wasn’t anything to pay for. That said, you could easily spend more and stay longer. Our dollar is really strong against the Solomon Dollar so the conversion is good for you.
What about vaccinations and other prep?
If I am honest, I am usually rather hopeless at this. To prepare I did get shot recommended by my doctor for typhoid, Boostrix which lasts 10 years (both of these hurt for a few days), malaria tablets (get the more expensive ones. The cheap ones will make your skin burn like you will not believe!) and there are other shots you can get. It’s easy to sort out and really, I didn’t need much preparation. Also, I tend to be one throws my stuff into her suitcase the morning of the trip and will wing a lot of it.
Remember to tell your bank you are travelling. ALWAYS have travel insurance (I never travel without it) and have emergency contacts for others. I put more prep into ensuring my kids were ready, had their schedule, everything for their swimming lessons and all taken care of than I did for myself going on the trip.
The Solomon Islands now has a special spot in my heart. If all goes well, I will be doing my dive certification there and hopefully visiting a few times in the coming year. There is so much to see and I cannot wait to take my kids. And it’s not just me who loves it, I have a friend who served in the Army there and speaks of it fondly too (in the comments on this post).
Where will you travel to next? Have you been to the Solomons? What did you think?