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visit Shanghai, Suja, Chang-
shu, Beijing and Xi’an to gain
an understanding of Chinese
culture and education.
Students visiting Changshu
Experimental Primary School,
whose students will come to
Leongatha in August as part of
the sister schools program.
Principal Rob Higgins said
he enjoyed his 10th trip to the
country and never tires of vis-
iting the sister school.
“I go every year and it is
an amazing country. I have no
hesitation in taking students
there. It is safe and everyone is
friendly,” Mr Higgins said.
“China is a major industry
partner with Leongatha and it is
important for our students and
their parents to gain an under-
standing of Chinese culture.
“It was also great profes-
sional development for our
staff to learn about Chinese
teaching methods and vice
Students visited major tour-
ist attractions including the
Great Wall of China and expe-
rienced authentic Chinese food
and culture during their two
“This is the fifth year Leon-
gatha Primary School students
visited China and we had an
amazing time,” student Maya
“We enjoyed everywhere
we went. We got to visit our
sister school and have dinner
with families who will be com-
ing to visit us in August. We
look forward to showing them
Student Piper Goldsmith said
she enjoyed her first overseas
trip and cannot wait to return.
“Chinese culture is so dif-
ferent to ours and it was in-
credible,” she said.
“We got to visit our bud-
dies, which was exciting. They
spoke English quite well so
we got to communicate with
Mr Higgins said students
looked forward to seeing their
new Chinese friends later this
“The two schools are getting
closer and closer. The teachers
communicate with each other
and we have one class that
Skypes students in Changshu
every week,” he said.
“The students learn so
much about themselves on
the trip and they gain so many
skills. They are now comfort-
able speaking with internation-
al guests and communicating
Grand tour: Leongatha Primary School students and staff at the Great Wall of China on their annual trip to visit their
Changshu sister school last month.
China impresses students
School students returned
from their trip to visit
the Chinese sister school
in Changshu earlier this
Sixteen students embarked
on the journey, accompanied
by 16 parents and six Leon-
gatha Primary School staff
The trip saw the travellers
By Brad Lester
PARENTS holidaying with children of-
ten say they need a holiday just to re-
cover from the experience.
Family getaways can entail packing half the
house, placating little ones throughout the journey
and dealing with constant questions of “Are we
The challenges of travelling with young children
did not discourage Rachael Millar and Russell Mc-
Cartney of Cape Paterson from touring throughout
Asia for nine months with their children Ruby, then
seven, and Lincoln, then three, in 2015.
They had no car of their own to travel in, no
rooftop luggage box and no endless line of suitcases
to somehow fit into the boot.
Rather the parents each travelled with a 40 litre
rucksack and day pack, and a day pack for each child.
They only took whatever clothes, equipment and toys
they could fit. After all, they would carry their bags
everywhere they went on public transport.
They toured Malaysia for two months, followed
by another two months in Vietnam and then Laos.
A month in Thailand followed, although unplanned
but necessary to seek treatment for Russell’s ear
The family then flew to Japan for two months,
returning home via Hong Kong, Singapore and In-
They labelled the holiday a travel experiment and
have shared their experience online to inspire families
to achieve their travel dreams with children in tow.
“It was an amazing experience. There were
some times where it was challenging but we always
had somewhere to stay and we were never hungry,”
“People have said how could you do that but it
is about making a choice. It’s been really great for
the children. Ruby has learnt some language, about
different currencies, and the children have an under-
standing of other cultures.
“It was good for us to be the different ones. I
would like to think they are more empathetic and
open minded, and know what it is like to be a little
The family saved for four years, initially not
knowing they were bound for Asia but knowing
they would like to embark on a family adventure.
“Twelve months before we left we started focusing
on Asia. We knew we had to find somewhere we could
afford to live for that period of time,” Rachael said.
“We toyed with the idea of working but we did
not want to do that because one of the reasons to
getaway was to spend time together.”
As a teacher at Inverloch Primary School, Rus-
sell took advantage of an education department
scheme to work for four years at 80 percent pay and
then take a year off at 80 percent pay. He now works
at Wonthaggi North Primary School as classroom
teacher and maths coach. Rachael was able to take
time off without pay from her job as communica-
tions officer with the West Gippsland Catchment
They arranged a friend to stay in their home
while the friend’s new home was under construction
and researched their adventure online.
“We booked flights in to and out of Malaysia
and did that in all of the other countries, and then
planned activities accordingly,” Rachael said.
She contacted reviewers on the holiday website
Trip Advisor to garnish opinions and joined the Fa-
cebook page Families on the Move to obtain recom-
mendations about doctors and accommodation.
They travelled slowly and planned activities for
half of each day to suit their children, and organised
private tours or drivers so if the children became
tired, they could call it a day.
Ruby’s education continued daily under the di-
rection of her father, but her informal education con-
tinued throughout the holiday.
“It was hard at times because we were the
children’ parents, their teachers, their nurse, their
friends and their enemies all at the same time,” Ra-
“We spent a lot of time looking for food we
could eat whereas at home you take your fridge and
pantry full of food for granted.
“In Japan, a lot of the products were unrecogn-
isable. There were completely different brands and
half of the products we had never seen before.”
To add to the challenge, Ruby has a peanut al-
lergy and the family’s supplies included EpiPens,
as well as a well stocked first aid kit to deal with
While Ruby escaped illness, Russell and Lin-
coln sustained ear infections that required ongoing
Volunteering with a conservation project, stay-
ing with a Muslim family and swimming off tropical
islands were among the highlights.
The family was no strangers to international
travel with little ones, having driven around Europe
in a motorhome for three months with Ruby, then
aged two, in 2010.
“It was a happy experience and proved that just
because you have got children you are not required
to have boring holidays and that you have to restrict
your plans, and the trip showed that children will
travel well,” Rachael said.
Rachael was inspired to make the most of life
now rather than wait until her children were older
after the death of her mother in 2008 from cancer.
“She did not get that choice of enjoying her re-
tirement,” she said.
• Learn more about the McCartney family’s tips
for travelling with children online at www.travellin-
Parents open children’s eyes to Asia
Feeling free: Cape Paterson’s Lincoln and
Ruby McCartney join their mother Rachael
Millar to tour the Japanese city of Kobe on
Northern experience: Rachael Millar and daughter Ruby McCartney enjoy a night out in
the Japanese city of Kyoto.
Mastering surfing: Ruby McCartney rides
waves at An Bang Beach in Vietnam. She
went to a home school group everyday for
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