‘What do you mean, there’s no electricity?’ I asked. I was desperate for a hot shower. The girls and I had just arrived home after our flight from Broome. Even in the most remote areas on our trip our faithful generator had provided enough energy for me to take a hot shower each day. I now stood in the pitch black in our beautiful Sydney home in the freezing cold, desperate for the comforts the caravan had offered me only hours earlier. Ironic, right?
Our final days of the trip were filled with both grief and celebration. Aware that human grief extends to not only permanent but also temporary loss, Dave and I became increasingly aware of the things we were about to grieve as we packed up the caravan for the last time. We joked that our attachment to the van and the special memories we had shared in it were similar to Tom Hanks’ attachment to the volleyball Wilson in the movie Castaway. We attempted to prepare ourselves for arriving back to a city and a home unchanged while being acutely aware of the changes in ourselves. Three months ago I never would have imagined grieving the loss of living so simply.
We tried hard in the last few days of our trip to celebrate the three months that had been, filling our hearts with gratitude for every single experience and opportunity. On reflection, we may have tried a bit too hard to make the last few days perfect. We were not-so-gently reminded yet again that we are not in control as we travelled down the ninety-kilometre dirt road of the Dampier Peninsula with Mia developing a forty degree fever and me delirious from the hundreds of bites all over my body after being attacked by sand-flies.
I could not have expected that the most significant things I have experienced in the transition to life back home would be both surprising and funny. Firstly, after three months of wearing thongs I did not expect that putting on shoes would be so painful. After three days back, I have feet full of blisters.
It has also been surprising to me how disinterested Olivia and Mia are in their toys. Since returning home, they have continued to spend hours playing outside making up games and inventing with cardboard boxes and garbage bags. It has been equally interesting to see how well they both transitioned back into the normal routine of preschool and school just like we never left. That said, Mia did come home from her first day back at preschool telling me that she got in trouble for throwing mud… whoops!
Over the years, Dave and I have diligently put together a large feature photo wall in our home of our family’s special memories. Looking at that photo wall, not yet holding any pictures from our trip, feels like such a significant part of our life is missing from our home. On the first day of our return I looked at our prized photo wall and had a momentary thought of our life before the trip as somewhat boring compared to the memories that would soon be hung. I am looking forward to updating the wall with reminders of our family’s decision to live outside the square a little.
The sense of home to me has always represented a very physical space, and I have at times spent extravagantly to create the perfect ambience for my interior surroundings. Now to me, home feels more about the people around me and the memories that are created together, no matter where we happen to be.