In this month's Talking Travel series we chat to Matt Watson of the adventurous Watson5. Over 86 days, 4100km, 8 towns, 15 "homes", and 500L of bottled water, Matt toured Turkey's ruins (and ice cream parlours) with his wife and young children - aged 5, 3, and 18 months! The family's blog of the three month journey continues to attract visitors interested in their balance of cultural travel and child-friendly holiday.
Tell us about your trip and what led to the decision to take your family to Turkey.
The opportunity to travel occurred after I sold my business. My wife and I decided it would be great to make the most of the time off work and take the kids away to show them what a wonderful and diverse world we live in. The destination we picked was Turkey as it had everything we were looking for: magnificent landscape, incredible history, and a culture which is very family orientated and child friendly.
Initially some friends doubted that the trip was a good idea. Looking back, is there anything you would change? What do you think your family gained from the experience?
We had a mixed response from family and friends when we told them of our plans, it was either one of great excitement or utter horror - no in-between.
The trip was quite well planned 'though we didn't book anything outside of the first few weeks. We wanted freedom to travel about without having a fixed itinerary and this worked well. There's not much I would change, some things got the better of us but that's life when you're travelling whether you have kids or not. I wouldn't take a car seat for Bella if we did it again, as it proved cumbersome to carry around along with luggage and 3 children.
As far as what the kids got from the trip, they amazed me with their resilience to long haul flights and lengthy bus trips. The opportunity to try new foods, culture, religion, and language they all adapted to and accepted. Their interest in the mosques and ruins surprised me. A year later they still count to 10 in Turkish, recreate cave houses of Urgup at home playing, talk often about camel rides, hot air ballooning, scorpions, and the friends they made.
Making new friends in Istanbul
You left well prepared yet travelled lightly - what are your tips for travelling with kids?
My tip for travelling with small children is "keep it simple". We had to mix sightseeing and day trips with down time. At their age they can't go on day after day so with being away for 3 months we spent longer periods in towns taking our time. We also made things fun. Visits to mosques and ruins were balanced out with ice creams in the parks or a swim in a pool. Where possible we stuck to their usual routines in terms of the times we ate and bedtime. As long as kids feel safe and loved they will be fine.
The kids enjoy a Roman bath in Selcuk
You documented the whole trip with a popular and entertaining blog. What advice do you have for other travel bloggers wanting to share their experiences?
The blog through Travellerspoint was fantastic. We were able to connect with all our family and friends at once. It was great for posting our photos and sharing our stories with everyone back home. We ended up having over 12,000 views so we had a few others checking out our trip also.
Where's next for the Watson five?
As for what's next, I recently published my book on our trip. It's called "Hot Sun and Scorpions" and is available on Amazon Kindle or through [self-publishing company] The Copy Press. It's a humorous take on what life is like on the road with a 5, 3 and 18 month old!
As for the next trip, well that's booked. We head off on the 7th May for Vietnam and Cambodia. This time for 2 months. I'm really looking forward to taking the family away again, especially with the kids being a bit older - Holly is 7, Toby 5, and Bella 3. It will be a bit easier not having to worry about nappies, baby formula, and finding cots for Bella.
We will be using Travellerspoint to start another blog to document our travels again - so stay tuned!
Check out these recent interviews in the Talking Travel series: