My How Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

Yes indeed, this week marks one year since the day we packed up our family, left home and set out on the adventure of a lifetime, casting off the bowlines, setting the mainsail and sailing off into the great wide unknown, armed only with the knowledge of where our first port of call was to be, from there on our lives were to be in the hands of fate.    In this post I will save you from the philosophical musings of what life is like as an Ex-pat (I’ll do that in a seperate posting), and rather try and share with you the experiences we have had together as a family in the last year.  I apologise now if this induces a nauseous feeling of wanderlust in your heart, but just want to chronicle some of our adventures as much for our kids to have something to recall them by in the distance of time, more so than gloat of all the fantastic adventures we have had.
Anyway in the last year;

  • We have travelled to The United Arab Emirates, Russia, England, Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Norway and Japan
  • We have been through immigration at Christchurch, Sydney, Dubai, Moscow Domededovo, Moscow Vnukovo, Moscow Sheremetyevo, Heathrow, Vantaa Helsinki and Tokyo Narita and flown into and out of Oslo Airport.
  • We have lived in Moscow, Helsinki and now Tokyo .
  • We have visited Castles, Palaces, Forts, Cathedrals, Churches, Shrines, Prisons, Historic houses and Kremlins throughout Europe
  • We have visited War Museums, Forestry Museums, Nature Museums, Science Museums, Maritime Museums, the Vasa Museum, Farming Museums, Napoleonic War Museum, Museum of Cosmonautics, Viking Museums, Architecture Museums, Art Museums, Royal Museums, Armouries, Treasuries, Sports Museums, History Museums, Aquariums, Zoos, Living Museums, Madame Tussaud’s and of course the ABBA Museum.
  • The kids have been schooled in both Russian and now Japanese and home schooled through a Russian school, learning both languages along with French and English.
  • We have ridden camels, rollercoasters, river boats, dhonis, subways, trams, bullet trains, Nordic ferries, cruise liners, crowded buses, bicycles on the Baana, the highest Starflyer in the world (130m high) and driven on Tokyo roads higher off the ground than the highest building in Blenheim.
  • We have flown on Emirates, Trans Aero, Finn-Air, Flybe and Aeroflot and sailed on the Viking Line, and survived them all.
  • We have tried Nordic Skiing, Ice Skating, Street Ball, Fencing, Tolting on Icelandic Ponies, Gymnastics, Rollerblading, Unicycle riding and playing cricket on gravel fields.
  • We have visited the Lakelands of Finland, the Finnish Archipelago, the Yorkshire Dales, the Fjords of Norway, the White Cliffs of Dover, Geiranger (A UNESCO World Heritage Site, which we didn’t realise till after we had been through the village…), The Trollsteigan, and the Old City of Tallinn.
  • We have celebrated a White Christmas, Maslinitsa, St Patrick’s Day (Russian Style), Vaapu and Mid-summer.
  • We have heard both sides stories of the wars between various countries and the on-going tension between them, and even visited sites that have changed nationality 2 and 3 times (or more) through history.
  • We have met relatives we would probably never have met, and future in-laws we may only have ever met once or twice in a lifetime.
  • The kids have made friends from Russia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Zambia, Korea, Norway, Finland, England, The Phillipines and Japan.
  • We have visited Dubai, Moscow, London, Kent, Yorkshire, Helsinki, Jyuvaskula, Lahti, Lapaanranta, Savonlinna, Stockholm, Tallinn, Valdall, Alesund and Tokyo.
  • We have enjoyed eating Iranian Food, Georgian Food, Turkish Food, Sala (salted pork fat), Reindeer, Moose, Duck, Boar, Bear, Shish Lak, Karilian Pasties, Herrings, Horse Jerky, Squid Jerky, Cannibis Seed pate, Lignon Berries, Weeds, Rose Petals, wild Blueberries and raspberries, Soba Noodles, Korean BBQ, Lotus Roots, Kimche, Soya Beans and Suki Yaki.
  • We have suffered the despair of arriving in a strange land to find our furnished apartment was nearly bare and had no idea of what to do in case of an emergency as we had no idea where the fire exit was.
  • We had Christmas in a hotel and Roast Christmas lunch with Yorkshire Pudding and all in an Olde English Pub.
  • We found out what it was like to work in 1990’s post Communist Russia, where the workplace was cultivated with fear and distrust by the owner, including having a spy on the staff.
  • After Angela was laid off we were warned to watch our backs, make sure we knew where our children were at all times, locked our doors at all times, not to say anything about Angela’s position that might annoy her former boss and to leave Russia sooner rather than later, just to be on the safe side in case her former boss (or his father with connections) did something, now you don’t get that being a pre-school teacher anywhere in the civilised world.
  • We have experienced the coldest Moscow Winter in 100 years.
  • We have enjoyed temperatures from -35 C right up to above + 35 C
  • The kids have learnt how to quickly convert Dinhar, Euros, Roubles, Krone and Yen into US and NZ Dollars in their heads and vice versa.
  • We spent 4 months living in a 1 bedroom apartment, with the kids sharing the sofa as a bed.
  • We have experienced a Japanese fireworks festival (1 hour of fireworks)
  • We have been to the Vogue Tokyo Fashion Night Out.
  • We have enjoyed a Finnish Sauna with a naked dip in the sea afterwards and a traditional Japanese bath experience in our own apartment.
  • I have been able to realise a lifelong dream and work in an architects office, on large scale projects.
  • We have visited The Mall of the Emirates, Burj al Kahlief, Dubai’s Old Souk, GUM, Evropievsky Mall (the largest in Europe), Gorky Park, Red Square, Hamleys Toy Store in London, Harrods, Piccadilly Circus, Regent Street, Carnaby Street, Harajuku Street, Roppongi, Shibuya, Omotesando, Akihabara, Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park and Kings Cross Station (we did not pass GO and did not collect $200)

    Camel Riding – Dubai
St Basil’s Cathedral – Moscow

These are probably only just scratching the surface on the things we have done as a family in the last year, but it gives you a pretty good feel for the kind of time we have been having out here in the big wide world. While things for our businesses at home haven’t quite gone as well as planned, we would do the same again if the opportunity was to arrive, not that we are planning on stopping anytime soon, after all Tokyo does have the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and the Olympic Games in 2020, maybe we’ll leave here after that.   This latest position is for three years minimum so in a way we are stopping to put down some roots however temporary, and will weigh up our situation after that and see where we head or whether we will decide to stay longer, or if indeed we are ready to go home.  I guess at some time we have to provide the kids with some normal schooling, Jimmy is now repeating Grade 1 for the 3rd successive year, while Molly is doing the same in Grade 5, so they do need to settle down again and move on through the system like normal kids.

Red Square – Moscow

The one unexpected factor in this whole experience has been how much we as a family have enjoyed the travelling, the uncertainty, the sense of being lost most of the time, not knowing how to communicate and generally just finding our way on our own.   I thought that Angela would get over the whole experience reasonably quickly and want to go home, but she has surprised me the most in that she is always looking beyond this placement to our options after Japan, expressing a desire to return to Finland or even Estonia (which is a beautiful and inexpensive country) to live, although that was prior to the Olympic Games in Tokyo being announced.   Sure we miss our family and our friends, but with Facebook and Skype they aren’t far away nowadays, and with some of them we are in contact more now than we were when we were living in the same town, such is life. 

Jimmy’s first Salmon – Helsinki

As I put together this post and list of a lot of the things we have done in the last year and looked for suitable photos to include, it even surprised me how much we have actually done in that time, things that we in our wildest dreams just 18 months ago could not even have envisaged happening, visiting places that we could never even plan to visit from our isolated little island at the bottom of the world.   If you have wondered what life would be like when you break the shackles of normality, but have resisted taking the first step for fear of the unknown, take a deep breath, take the step and experience life in all its uncertainty, its colour, its smells and history, go where life sends you with an open mind and you will never regret it. 

Vasa Museum – Sweden
Vaapu, Helsinki
Big Ben – London
Old City – Tallinn
Abba The Museum, Stockholm, Sweden.
Ruins of St Bridgets – Estonia
Viking Village – Finnish Archipelago
Holiday with Nana and Grandad – East Finland
Sea Harbour Museum – Tallinn
Meiji Jingu Shrine – Tokyo
Trollsteigan – Norway
Farewell Dinner with Family and In-laws, Finland
Vogue Tokyo Fashion Night Out 2013
King’s Cross – London



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Tony Fitzpatrick
Architect, Dad, Traveller & Head Rover at Around Rock 3
After a brief flirtation with Japan in the early '90's, and some occasional trips to Australia since, I have had an unrequited love affair with Japan and general desire to explore the world for the next 20 years while reality prevailed and I found myself pretty much stuck in my home country of New Zealand (not that is an entirely bad thing...).After a chance opportunity arose in mid 2012 to relocate our family to Moscow, Russian Federation I finally set off on my OE with my family in tow. It has been an amazing journey that has seen us experience life in Russia, Japan and now Finland, as well as visiting around a dozen countries so far in our adventure to date.While my family situation has changed along the way, I am continuing to explore the world with my tri-lingual son and enjoy sharing the adventures we have had with my followers.


  1. What are great experience you're having, even though it may have its ups and down. I'm in Blenheim and will be following your blog with interest from now on.

    I have read the whole blog with interest this afternoon, as I too went to Europe earlier this year, and spent time in Helsinki and Tallinn (April/May) – makes me wonder if you were there at teh same time!

    I also got to see 14 countries of Europe and just love visiting the medieval towns, museums, art galleries. I admire you for taking the road less travelled.


  2. Hi Robyn,
    Yes it has been the experience of our lives, and something that I am sure the kids will remember for the rest of theirs. We are now settling down into a bit more normality (if you can call living in the centre of Tokyo normal) and looking forward to our life here in Japan.

    Yes we would definitely have been in Helsinki when you were there, we arrived there on April 1st (seemed a pretty fitting day to leave Russia after our experiences with my wife's boss there…) It is a great city and if it wasn't for the fact that my wife already had a job organised in Tokyo, we would have gladly stayed there. Our kids were happy enough to commute around the city on their own and it was such a great city to get around on bike.
    We also loved Tallinn and Estonia is definitely one of the places we have bookmarked to investigate further with a view to settling there one day, we really liked the mix of Finnish purity and Soviet disrepair as well as the centuries of history.
    It is amazing the history in that part of the world and how easy it is to access when you are there.


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