Downsizing your family reality into a camper with Jana Chan of Czech and Australia -Episode 9

Jana and Tom Chan – Australia-Czechia:
Episode 009: Imperfect Parenting


As this airs, Jana is once again in another home, on the move and preparing last things. Brave woman! Soon hope to see/hear her own blog/podcast so you all can enjoy this lovely mom’s journey! Keep checking her for the link. Still trying to convince her:):).

The funny thing is that between the time when Jana and I talked and the airing of this podcast, we have as moved into a downsizing mode with our family. So, are again re-visiting old Feng Shui rituals, started back in the 80s and 90s in Northern Cal, like we wrote in earlier blog. And, just in time, Marie Kondo’s toddler episode popped up on Netflix with her shining personality and moving beyond her books, but into the only reality show I have now watched. As my husband is new to this realm, it was the perfect moment to share with him, the attitude around “thanking our space for what it has given us” and greeting the things we look to downsize with grace, respect and check in about joy. Funny enough Mats saw that another friend and healer, Caitlin Donovan mentions this on her show/posts, as she has some big changes coming up, so is as well, finding the things to keep. So, it seems, it is a time for clearing. The signs are all there.

The conversation with Jana Chan

I (Ariel) enjoyed a great conversation with Jana Chan who was born and raised in Karlovy Vary spa zone with famous healing waters, just a couple of hours outside of Prague in Czech Republic (Czechia), now living in Australia with her husband, Michal and 3 year old son, Tom.

In this conversation, I enjoyed Jana’s openness and willingness to wander to various topics with me. The main focus and guiding topic through it all, was that she recently had to downsize her family into a 5 meter camper vehicle. She talks about all that it took to get there and a few things on the way.

Episode 12:  Show Notes

About Jana

Why Caravanning/Camper Vanning /Family on the move?

Downsizing your family from a full apartment life to a 5 meter moving home space.

Selling things to downsize

Where to live in the world?

Who are your friends, as expat in Oz/Australia?

Kids and weather

Moving back to Czech?

You must be rich if you’re an expat?

Do people comment on your caravan plan?

The next caravan phase awaits

Transition from working woman to fulltime mom

Birth stories and help

Jana’s birth was easy

Ariel and Mats’ birth story

1 year old, new reality

Attitudes about babysitting

Mother’s group

Different mom styles in the Australian mom’s group

Different core values as parents

Vaccinations laws in Australia

Solutions to the anti vaxx new law reality in Australia?

Vaxx issue another reason for travelling, now.

Australian attitude about long travel with family

Learning about diversity and “different” through travel

Last thoughts on caravanning prepping and kids            

Conscious parents

Tips and tricks for toddler parents

Show notes and thoughts, below:

A great conversation between Jana Chan and Ariel
Imperfect Parenting Podcast: Episode 9

About Jana

Currently in Jana’s hometown, Karlovy Vary.

These days officially living in Australia.

Tom has only known one home in Manly beach, Sydney, Australia.

(Little Tom comes to show us his new Prague book.)

They have been in Australia for 9 years.

They have been at their home in Manly beach, for 5 years.

Jana has been working in an office and as a waitress. She is trained and educated in Social work.

Tom is nearly 3 years, (when this podcast airs he will be 3).

Why did they decide to caravan through Australia?

Why did Jana and family decide to downsize their entire home into a caravan and travel 1-2 years?

At the end of their travel period, Tom will be 5 and required to be in School according to Australia.

So, they do this adventure now, because they don’t want to stay forever in Sydney.  Michal works all over Australia, anyway. So, why not do this while Tom is still small and no school work.

Once a month dad will go away to work and Jana and Tom will camp or whatnot.

They don’t have enough savings to not work during this time.

They were renting before.  They will do again if things don’t work out on this adventure.

Downsizing from flat/apartment to a 5 meter mobile space

How has the downsizing process been for Jana?

The last month has been the hardest and most exhausting. 1st 2 months easier, clearing and so on actually felt good.  And, then much tougher in the last stage when having to let go of furniture and more personal items etc.

Then, coming to stay with family, in Czech, for 2 months so will store some things in Australia (mainly in the caravan), while away.

They mostly brought to CZ winter things and clothing on this trip to CZ and that will stay with family when they go back.

Funny enough, she and her husband Michal arrived in Oz (Australia) with one bag, and now the load they have been orgazing is much larger.

And, even though they didn’t over buy things for Tom, there still seemed to be a lot more than expected.

With a 2nd child Jana wouldn’t even use all

The things they did with Tom.

So, in the end, no point to pay for storage with all that is on the table.  Also if there will be a move to Europe/Czech, then really No point to store and keep everything.

Selling things to downsize

In their area in Sydney and their area it was easy to buy things 2nd hand for Tom and even themselves.

When downsizing, they sold a lot of things through

The Facebook marketplace and other 2nd hand groups.  It worked really well for them to sell most things through  the internet.

Jana wondered if maybe it would be harder in Czech. I agreed sometimes the prices people want is nearly not worth the time and energy, though we have similar resources and platforms in various languages.

Sometimes it’s easier to just give it away or leave things outside.  Too much time coordinating just to sell things that cost $2 and such.

Deciding where to live in the world?

Are you hoping to find the right place to live in Australia, while traveling?

Jana’s heart is still very much at home in Czechia.

Parents are getting older and eventually they want to be closer.

They miss having family around for holidays and birthdays.

And now even moving away from friends and community, in Australia is a bit hard.

Yet, also just moving from Karlovy Vary to Prague you feel that, even as a Czech, just being in another area. (That is the same, anywhere.)

Who are your friends, as expat in Oz/Australia?

Jana and I talk about volunteer work and meeting people who are like minded that become your community.  (As this is where we both met, it brings back some nice memories.)

A lot of friends now are moms and though, sometimes, we don’t have the same values for life, with kids its similar.

Jana realized that once you leave whatever “home” is.. you are never really the same, again. We are changed forever.

Jana feels always 1/2 torn between places. 

Even in Australia, Jana’s family-ohana has Czech and Slovak community. Though often missing similar values, they share their culture.   And, like Prague, people come and go from all over the world, not a constant community, which is ultimately a bit tricky.

Kids progress, movement and weather

Australia is much easier with kids with less cold and clothes to have to deal with. 

Toilet training goes backwards when the weather changes, etc, so with more consistent good weather, some things are easier.

Biking and toilet training so much easier in warmer weather as the kids have to ask for less help.

Moving back to Czech?

Thoughts on moving back to Czech?

How do people respond to you coming back? Assumptions?  Jealousy?

With closest friends.. its same, they are close and Jana is there, so nothing else matters.

Before she was “the one in Prague”. Now, she is “the one in Australia.”

You must be rich if you’re an expat?

The funny thing (which as well we experiences as European and American expats in Prague), is that everyone assumes they are rich, in Australia.

Yet, the irony is that people in Czech, more often, own cars, houses, apartments, etc and have much more than they do, in material things.

They don’t have that in Australia.

Jana’s family doesn’t have this. So, they are free. No mortgage, payments for things, etc, so less to worry about, in one way.

We have the same. Are we grown ups, yet we only rent, here in Prague (though partially for different reasons).

We also have everyone expect we must own and so on. But, smile at the reality that so many people we know actually own multiple flats, not just one.

Jana’s mom saw changes when she went to Prague, but otherwise, no one seems to say much about it.

Do people comment on your caravan plan?

No one says anything about the caravan plan. But, surely they must think something about it. 

They don’t give little Tom many sweets and so on and others do and might comment. But, no one says anything to their faces about them being crazy for caravanning etc.

The next caravan phase awaits

Now, they go back to Oz, the caravan is 1/2 ready and they have nowhere to go, so are looking for house-sitting or something until they are fully prepared for the road.

It’s all a bit unsure.

Back in Sydney with no place to rent, their caravan with a bed and sometimes shower/toilet when plugged in, somewhere, waits for them.

This adventure will help them to decide what is next.

A bit scary. 

No quiet place.

Only 5 meters inside.

But, they can always go back to what they know, if it comes to that.

Transition from working woman to full-time mom

The last big transition for you was working woman to working mom, correct?

How was that?  Jana worked a ling time while pregnant.  Or, longer than some.

In Czech, society allows women yo be off 2 months before birth.

In Oz, it’s usual to work longer.  It of course

Depends on the type of work you do and situation.

Jana’s office work was fine.

But, cafe work she finally stopped at 7 months.  Felt people wondering and maybe felt weird about it.  It was local and nice when people brought gifts for the baby coming.  Then it was just clear that it was time to stop.

2 weeks before Tom was born. Excellent work was the nice beach time before he was born.

Birth stories and help

Husband, Michal, home for a month.

Then, Jana’s mom came, so 2 months help, plus Tom was an easy baby.

Some friends were not as lucky with easy birth and baby.

Jana inspired me to hope for a good birth after I heard her story.

She introduced me to hypnobirthing with Kathryn Clark which transformed my fears and worries and helped me prep and do Ella’s birth.

A calm birth also seems to make a difference for the baby.

Now she hears stories and sees how she and her family have been lucky.  It’s not always in your hands to decide what will happen.

Jana’s birth had the easy dream birth

Jana arrived at the hospital, in Sydney and after a 1/2 hour, he was born, then back home in afternoon.  So, a big difference compared the trauma some experience.

Jana amazing and cool with mom there.

Ariel would have had harder rime with Mom there, though she offered.

Jana’s mom easier as she arrived 1 month after birth and didnt push unwanted advice.

New procedures run in Ariel’s family

Following in the footsteps of Ariel’s parents, Mats and Ariel were “the 1st” in a handful of thing during this birth. In this case, like my father who was the 1st man to ever be in the birthing room at our hospital in San Francisco, in 1970, Mats would have been the 1st one in C section birthing room, but we paved that way for another before us, so .. almost same;). In this case, Mats was the 1st man alone in the Maternity ward over night with our baby girl. They wouldn’t even let him share the toilet with the others, so he would have to go down some floors each time, to finally they gave in as they wouldn’t let him take the baby with him. I still laugh to think of the stress we created by breaking so many rules. Yet, thank the incredible doctors from Africa and our lovely Midwife, Martina for making it all happen.

Ariel and Mats’ birth story

Mats and I started very natural, yet evolved into near death and other choices, mainly because of Ariel’s stubborness to let Ella come when she was ready.

They felt a little like they were prisoners after the birth. However, were lucky to have a cool head doctor, though otherwise it was sometimes a bit too ex-communist experience, post-birth.

The realityI was that Ariel was pretty much the worst thing you could be:  Older, foreign, Californian, large fibroid and vegetarian.  What I mean by that is, the assumption was that I was “a problem”, so without even considering that I am a healthy vegetarian, who is rarely ill and who has family history of late healthy pregnancies (even 50 years+), they just gave me all tests without any signals that I should and in fact were asking me to book a C-section. No way. Yet, they were patient with my 8 page birth plan, even with all the demands and expectations never before done in that hospital of Rakovnik. 

The goodness of it all was that Ariel and Mats kicked off new procedures some months even before the baby was born, through educating staff and researching and getting approval from the head doctor, who never promised a “yes”, but clearly had already decided, thanks to some open docs in UK who shared a video (coming, soon)

We convinced the head doctor with our resources and set the foundation for another 1st dad in C-section operating room, just before us.  It was a priviledge to have been a part of that, even if that couple never knew what happened behind the scenesJ..

Though we started with water birth, I gave in and did the new procedure of gentle c-section and was shocked at what an amazing atmosphere they created there, even with multiple languages and one midwife and husband in the operating room.

Even though I was losing consciousness and didn’t even know that I had, had many transfusions, I saw and felt Ella come out and put on my chest, which was enough to keep me in the room as I was fading.  It was a power-full moment and I will never forget it.

Later, upstairs, was less amazing, though of the 12 people working over the course of our stay, 2 were niceish.  There was a lot of control and “don’t do this and that” with old communist reality circling around us.

But, Mats was the 1st man ever to stay alone with a baby in the maternity ward (while I was in the ICU).  It was a journey and discussion for another day, yet, another “1st” that was were happy to be a part of and which made a massive difference in Ella’s first moments on the planet.

Mats ended up staying longer with us, at home.  Instead of 2 days, I got 2 weeks of help.  I could hardly move, so that was essential.  

We just hope for the best.  That the trauma of that birth, though low, didn’t effect Ella for life.  But, all we can do is our best.

1 year old, new reality

1 year old a much harder reality.

Later, it was harder on her own, winter etc.

1 year was much more full on.  When they are little it’s much easier.

The 1st months seemed super easy. You go where you want and so on, then, they start moving around and, ha!

Later, help!  Now, they run around.

Attitudes about babysitting in Oz vs. Cz

Jana did a day with strangers and that was challenging. Having someone you don’t know at all taking care of your child.

Felt harder, empathizing with her child and the experience.

In Europe, it seems more people used family as care givers and less unknown babysitters.  Or, at least, that is our experience with Czech, Swedish and French.  I can’t say for every family.

What are Aussie Mother’s groups?

In Australia (and likely other parts of the world), when you have a child you are put into a local mother’s group. In is a mish mash of types and styles and is meant to be a resource. To get a true flavor of what this can look like, see the link below to one of my favorite series for moms.

Jana noticed some differences between mothers in her mother’s group.

There were 18 moms in her moms Jana’s mommy group. That is a pretty big group! A group like this can make for some comedic atmosphere and as well, very judgy (though often worst is you against you and comparing) . The down under Letdown series on Netflix shows this perfectly.  I didn’t realize it was a real thing!

It can be ok, usually it’s more multi cultural than hers was, with various languages.

In her group there were all English speakers and her.  They came from South Africa, UK, US and Australia and Jana somehow was the only non native speaker which was fine, yet not usual and maybe a bit less balanced in some ways, as a result.

Different mom styles in the Australian mom’s group

Most were ready for a year home then they would go back to work, which was different idea than Jana’s.

Groups sometimes meet for 20 years.  Not this group.  After 8 months many moved on and only small clicks continued to meet.

Overall they moms in the group had a very different attitude toward parenting than Jana.  Most decided to breastfeed the minimum amount of time, then started formula so they could go back to partying.

Jana feels motherhood is longer job and has different priorities.

In Czech, it’s supported to stay home 3-6 years.

She only clicked with 1 person in the group and a bit with 8 others. also did buy 2nd hand etc.

Different core values as parents

Most parents are not anti vaxx and of very different thinking.

Other big groups can be different, more poshe and corporate style.

Made Jana think and question her choices being in that other mentality.  But, no one was pushing their ideas.

Jana.. realized.. going with gut.. ultimately was essential and the only way.

Mats and I also have had this experience over here.  Often people have their ideas all over at park etc.  but, we have to follow our feleings an intuition.

Sometimes, we follow things that may not make sense, but, it works, somehow.  Being willing to go with the flow seems necessary for survival and intuitive parenting .

Vaccinations laws in Australia

Attitude about schools, etc and vaccinations in Australia and parents around you? Are there choices?

In Czech it has become more flexible.  US seems to have taken a hard turn and its harder to get kids into school without them.

How is Australia?

There is a new law in Australia,  from last year, that you have to pay full fees if kids are not vaccinated.

Now, they cant go at all, if not vaccinated.

There was a transition period, for a while, where the kids could stay in school if they did at least partial vaccination schedule.  But, that was only to stay in their current school, so you couldn’t move to another day care and you were required to pay full fees  Full fees for example for Tom, who was nearly 3, was $130 a day.  Wow.  That is nearly $3000 a month!  That is more than San Francisco, California prices.

Outside San Francisco, in Marin, often similar to what Jana spoke about.  Often it is too much money for daycare or pre-school, so like Jana, many moms don’t go back to work unless their wages makes it worth it.

Solutions to the anti vaxx new law reality in Australia?

People who are like-minded are getting together to sort some solution for caring for kids.  But, there are now, no daycares that will take the kids.

No religious beliefs are allowed as a reason to not have vaccinations, anymore.

Only chance is if the kids have an allergy to the vaccinations and then you need a doctor’s note.

Otherwise, only friend circle you can do shared care as solution.

School age there seems to be no requirements for vaccinations, yet.  I guess they assume that you will have to vaccinate your kids by the time they get to school, as it will be so expensive and difficult, otherwise.

Vaxx issue another reason for traveling, now

In deciding, “what next”, Michal and Jana would basically look at either having a 2nd child, going back to work or travel?? It was a time to decide. 

Given all circumstances, traveling was the best option.

Australian attitude about long travel with family

From my experience and Jana’s, Australia’s attitude is very different in regards to traveling with family, long term. I have met few Aussies who haven’t lived or traveled their own country or the world. So, caravanning is quite common. This means it’s much easier to do than in Czech and some other place.  Australia is even more flexible with school etc when people decided to go travel.  Some friends have even taken their kids out of school for 7 weeks and it is Ok.

In the U.S., it is a bit tricky.  In grade school, yes its cool, though these days seems more stressful than in the past.

Yet, all kids are different and each situation and school is different, so each family has to make the right choice for them.

The tricky thing is that kids are missing activities and they sometimes miss important moments other kids share together.

Sometimes, as teacher it was hard to see kids suffer with strange parent decisions, like pulling them out before the end of the school year (better to have closure), or going on far away holiday and coming back in the middle of the night before a school day and the kids are destroyed and acting out and suffering for some days after.

Learning about diversity and “different” through travel

I believe that travel is important.  Kids need to see and experience diversity and different cultures.  And, balance is important as well.

In Northern California, I remember kids freaking about “different” and that always made me sad.  Granted, we lived in a super white area where there were very few people of color, though many cultures around.

Last thoughts on caravanning prep and kids

“Poor Tom”, Jana says.  Jana had to take away a lot of his toys away.  Giving away things was tricky, sometimes getting rid of things when he wasn’t looking that he hadn’t seen in a while.

Jana will have to get rid of a lot more things, when they return to Australia, before he remembers about them.

Jana expressed concerned about Tom and moving.  People say that kids are flexible, but, still kids seek stability.

They will find a way to keep some familiar things so he knows he is like a turtle, taking his home mobile.

Now, Tom is bouncing around from family to family, as Jana and Michal take him to see various people.

Tom sleeps with them, could do something else, but he feels good there and it works.  

It’s about Jana feeling grounded, then he will be secure.  Tom has his parents there and feels good.

More Conscious parents

We have to be very conscious as parents.  You can’t fake what you are and aren’t managing, because kids reflect all true reality. 

Jana and I, there seems to be a similar path, being aware of our kids, paying attention to their messages and needs and responding to that, rather than only pushing forward with our own agenda. 

Everyone does what works for them.  Ultimately, all parents are on their own path, according to their core values, choices and what is important to them individually.  The challenges that can come are often when both parents are on different pages and one just gives up or is silently, or not so silently suffering.  This was somewhat the case with my husband and his ex and sometimes is the same with us, as well.

Jana’s tips and tricks for toilet training on the go:

  1. When using kids toilet, recycle a plastic bag by placing it in the toilet when your child needs to poo.  That way, you can tie it up and dump it in the next trash.  And, as well, no big cleaning job to deal with, out on the go where no sink is close by.
  2.  Coconut oil wipes = low diaper rash and are excellent for daily use and if not using cloth diapers and eco.

Jana’s Easy All Natural Wipe Recipe: 

A big spoon of coconut oil, melted into 1 liter of water and mixed and poured over a roll of the thicker paper towels (in a bowl), then pull out the center roll and put in a sealed container to use, as needed.  This is a simple, easy, cost effective and ecological. (you can also use textile wipes with this recipe, as well)

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