Don’t have time for a hangover? How a group of friends found a way to…
Veronika Cox has spent the past year on the road around Australia with her six-year-old daughter, Madelyn.
As co-founder of Canberra Baby and Beyond Expo and an events and media professional, Veronika was already used to juggling motherhood and work. But a year ago, she had a realisation that would change both her and Madelyn’s lives.
“I can remember when Madelyn started at preschool and I was doing events and working in an office job as well, and I realised we were missing all of our time together and struggling just to stay afloat,” she explains. “It felt like such a relentless cycle and I just thought ‘This is our life, right now. These days are so precious. What are we doing to make the absolute most of them?’
“About two weeks later we had a big garage sale. Well, we actually just stuck stickers on everything in our house where it was and sold it all. We bought a van and converted into a camper with the help of a friend and then we just took off.”
With Canberra winter in the rearview mirror, their first priority was finding some sunshine. Since then, they’ve travelled most of the eastern third of Australia, taking their time and learning along the way.
“We fell into a nice natural rhythm while travelling. We travel quite slowly, and we spend a lot of time with other families who are travelling as well. So it’s a lot more time outdoors, a lot more time together, and from an educational point of view, Madelyn is absorbing so much from hands-on experience.
“Instead of a day in the classroom or the office, now we wake up by the beach, sandboard down dunes, climb lighthouses, and wander mountains to find falling snow. Instead of the stress of our old routine, we go to bed exhausted and happy, and wake up excited for the next day.”
At the same time, Veronika has continued to manage the Canberra Baby and Beyond Expo, now in its fifth year. Just like the road trip, the idea for the Expo was born out of a desire to connect families and share useful resources. Back then, Veronika was working as a journalist and had just returned to Canberra after a stint in Melbourne.
“I really wanted to find a way to stay home with Madelyn, and at the same time I was meeting a lot of local mums who were making beautiful products and I felt like it was quite hard for people to find those businesses because they are generally working from home without a shopfront.
“Madelyn’s dad and I started talking about how to get more exposure for these small businesses, and decided to organise something that became Muddle Puddle Market.”
The rest, as they say, is history. Muddle Puddle Markets became a popular monthly event offering pre-loved and handmade baby clothes and accessories, and soon afterwards the pair created the Baby and Beyond Expo to showcase an even broader range of products and experiences.
“It really started off from a place where I was a new mum and I suddenly became aware that there wasn’t a big expo in Canberra like in other capital cities, where families could find everything in one place, whether it was service organisations, support groups, new products – it was much harder to access here.”
Products like Love To Dream baby swaddles—which were a lifesaver when Madelyn was a baby—can still be found at the Expo, and this year even parenting guru Pinky McKay, and toddler superstars Peppa Pig and PJ Masks will be in attendance.
While Veronika and Madelyn continue their adventure, this is the last time Veronika will be involved with the Expo. She intends to go out with a bang.
“It feels like the Expo has created a stronger network for parents. The idea of it taking a village to raise a child is something I think we all sort of yearn for these days, and the to some extent the Expo built that up around me. Hopefully, it has done the same for some other parents too.
“It’s definitely been a bit of a juggling act, but it was completely worth it because it turned into a much bigger event than we even expected. Now we have wonderful brands coming to our town from around the country, to create a weekend that is a really good resource for families.”
What: Canberra Baby and Beyond Expo 2018
When: September 8 and 9, 9 am to 3 pm
Cost: $10 for adults, free for kids 16 years and under
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