Hi! We’re a family of four – Tina, Ralph, Alexander, and Eoin. We live in Brisbane, Australia. I’m Ralph and I’m from Ireland, Tina’s Greek-Australian, and Alexander and Eoin are just confused.
We use this blog to document our travels. Despite living in Australia, far away from everything, we’ve been lucky enough over the years to have done a few big trips overseas: Mexico, Bali, Malaysia, and Barcelona being some of the latest ones. Our latest trip took us back to Ireland, taking in Denmark (Lego House), Helsinki, and Russia (St. Petersburg, Veliky-Novgorod, Moscow, and Smolensk) before spending the last two weeks in Zakynthos, Greece.
Isolated in Australia for the past couple of years, however, we haven’t been able to get back to our usual European haunts for four years now. Which made us turn our attention to the countryside around us, places like Mount Barney and Hervey Bay, with its passing whales. At one stage we bought a teardrop-style camper van to get us around, before selling it again to buy a house in Mount Barney.
But the bad times seem to be over and we’ve already booked flights in March back to Ireland, where we’ll spend two or so weeks paying our respects, and from there on to Greece where we’ll spend most of this year, either in Zakynthos or Athens. There will be jobs. And school. We don’t plan on returning to Australia until the first few virgin days of 2024. We call all this Project Frappé. As in the caffeinated, iced Greek beverage.
In recent years, we’ve begun experimenting with ways of travel that allow us to stay longer in the places we want to see and to meet some of the people who live there. If you just book a hotel for a week in Barcelona, say, other than the hotel staff you’re not going to meet many of the people who live there. Staying in an Airbnb will occasionally allow you to meet the people who live in the place you’re visiting, but even Airbnb has become fairly sterile, in our experience, with more and more places run pretty much as ordinary hotel rooms.
So a few years ago we decided to take eighteen months off to travel around Europe, experimenting with two social networks along the way: Help Exchange, and Couchsurfing. Helpx allowed us to spend a month in Vienna with a family that were, until the day we arrived, total strangers to us. Within a short amount of time we considered them friends. Ditto Poland. For smaller (two- or three-days) stays, Couchsurfing let us spend time in Budapest, Salzburg, Brussels, and Provence, to name just a few spots on that very same trip, and hang out and chat with some of the coolest people we’ve ever met.
On our last European trip we managed to do a couple of nights’ couchsurfing again, this time in Denmark, which as well as letting us meet some real-life, actual Viking descendants, saved us a few krone (that’s right; they don’t use euros in Denmark) since Denmark – anywhere around there, in fact – is so expensive.
The patron house of this blog, Koukla House, is the house Tina’s parents built in Zakynthos, the island in Greece from which they emigrated to come to Australia a long time ago. We go there as often as we can – usually about once every two years. It’s probably the thing we most look forward to in the world. Fun fact: I wrote a book about our time in Zakynthos in 2015 called “On a Greek Island” which you can buy on Amazon.