In early 2016, just five weeks after the birth of her first child, Hannah packed her suitcases and boarded a plane to Sydney, Australia. Over the next four years, Hannah and her partner Puka would welcome a second child, return to New Zealand (but blink and you would have missed them), and move their little family across the world to Fiumicino, Italy! I chatted with Hannah to get the low down on life amidst a coronavirus outbreak, travelling with toddlers and creating a home away from home.
I grew up in the coromandel in a few different spots, but never too far from the ocean. I spent most of my younger days covered in sand, exploring rock pools, making huts on my Nan and Pops farm, catching eels from the creek, surfing, and riding ponies - it was the dream.
Travel was never something I wanted to do or planned seriously - I can definitely say that I was a bit of a small town girl. It wasn’t until I visited Bali in the summer of 2014 that my eyes were opened and my desire to travel was realised. Little did I know what the universe had in store for me. Shortly after my Bali trip I reconnected with Puka and fell pregnant. Six months into my pregnancy, Puka accepted a contract to play rugby in Sydney ... and so our whirlwind adventures began.
What is a typical day of your life in Italy?
Like New Zealand, we are just coming out of an enforced lockdown and our days look very different now. I certainly don’t have it all together - but it goes a little something like: wake up, breakfast, get dressed and then Puka will typically head to the gym for an hour or two. I like to use this time to be active with the boys and ensure I give them some quality playtime. When Puka is home we'll take a walk around our friendly neighbourhood or head to the beach - which is literally 5 metres from our house. Both of our boys are currently obsessed with black beetles and caterpillars so we'll usually collect some on the way home and end up with a few creepy crawlers in the house! Once we’re home, the boys will jump in the outside shower while I cook dinner. Then bedtime! Oops do I sound too excited about that? Before Covid I would take a daily walk to our local cafe' for an “un cappuccino per favore” and fresh pastries. Gosh they're delicious - I miss them so much.
How do you make a home away from home?
We make sure the boys have their small personal belongings that are special to them and will provide some consistency - like their teddies and cuddly blankets. They’re used to travelling so it hasn't really been as difficult as you might think. They adapt well and are excited to explore.
What challenges have you had living away from home?
The biggest challenge is always being away from family and a support network. Puka and I don't often get to spend a lot of time alone which can leave us feeling a bit burnt out. I was fortunate that my Mum could visit for a week which allowed us to squeeze in a few date nights ... and get engaged!
We were only 2 1/2 months in to our new life of pasta, pizza and adventures when we were told that a few people in the northern region of Italy had been diagnosed with the virus. Things escalated quickly from there, and Puka's rugby was eventually cancelled. I definitely battled with anxiety and fear of the unknown, but I knew that our decision to come to Italy was based on our faith, which gave me peace and hope that things would turn out ok for us.
Do you have any tips for travelling with kids?
As soon as I knew I’d be doing a 25hr flight, I bought two blow up 'sky cushions' that filled the gap between the seats and would allow the boys to lie down comfortably. They were a life saver! My boys were 3 and almost 2 at the time, so I also packed a few new toys (the toys being new kept them interested for longer), activity books, food pouches and...ok lollipops. Cause I was going to be avoiding tantrums at all costs! It was a success.
Congratulations on your engagement! Can you tell us how Puka popped the question?
It was the cutest and most surprising thing that’s ever happened to me! Usually I’m hard to surprise. We went to Rome for the day, and it was everything I imagined - romantic and beautiful. Then on our way home he was adamant that we stop and have dinner somewhere. I was actually worried that Mum might be worn out from having the boys for the day, so I asked him if we could just head home. He said “no, we need to finish this day with a bang” (which was a bit odd seeing as he’s usually all for saving money), so we looked for a restaurant by the harbour in Fiumicino. To our surprise, everything was closed except for an empty fish and chip shop. Not long after finishing our (fried) seafood platter, he pulled out a little book titled 'To my better half' - it was an illustrated book of us and the reasons why he loves me (cuuute). I cried all the way through, but I still didn’t click that it was a proposal until the last page where he’d written “and with all that being said...WILL YOU MARRY ME?”. I was in shock, crying and when I looked over to him, he was kneeling beside me with the most beautiful ring. It was perfect.
What is the best parenting advice you’ve received?
To listen to your own motherly instinct. Your children are yours for a reason.
Hannah has recently announced her third pregnancy and we are so excited for her! Congratulations Hannah and Puka, we wish you all the best and look forward to seeing where the wind takes you next.