“In order to write about life first you must live it.” Ernst Hemmingway
The words jumped out at me as I turned the first page of my new book. Perhaps the timing was serendipitous given it was the first day back in the van at the beginning of our summer adventure. It had taken us next to no time to switch off and the change in our vibe was palpable.
“Do you think it is just the fresh air?” Dave asked as he described the feeling of a rapid wind down. We both knew that it was more than that. We had arrived in our happy place (embarrassed to admit it…the caravan) after three months of transition back into our old life. Despite our best efforts, we had not transitioned well. On the surface, things appeared relatively normal with our weeks filled with kid’s activities, work and the start of the silly season. The truth was that both of us had been somewhat disappointed by our inability to transplant our joyful transformation of our Western Australia trip into Sydney life.
We had used the excuse of sleep deprivation, busyness, and bouts of ill health as means of dulling our deeper discontent. It had become clear over the last few months that we no longer desired the fast-paced Sydney lifestyle that we had returned to. We had, at least, admitted in vulnerable moments that the past weeks had been merely going through the motions.
“How is it possible, that we work so much better together in such a confined space?”I asked Dave earlier in the day after contemplating how settled we all were. Almost immediately, feelings of being frazzled and overwhelmed as an inadequate wife and mother dissipated into feelings of joy and contentment into being ourselves with each other for the coming summer weeks.
The girls immediately found their feet back in the caravan. Their pride was palpable as they befriended first-time campers like they were old hands showing them the ropes as they burned around on their bikes. We were curious to see if Alice’s newly found mobility would make caravan travel a potential disaster. Fortunately, she developed a quick sense of familiarity, bordering perhaps on instinct given the proportion of her life to date that she has spent in a van. Besides a few technical adjustments to convert her old bassinet space into a playpen (or perhaps more accurately, mini-prison cell) she was as good as gold. She has also continued to earn her reputation as “the Chiller”, and is winning the hearts of all those around her.
After a full night of blissful sleep (another first in months), we began to unplan our days, making the most of opportunities as they arose, and intentionally being present enjoying the abundance of time as opposed to the abundance of stuff we didn’t really need. The girls and I found an incredible strawberry farm near Port Macquarie laughing out loud as we filled our buckets with hand picked strawberries soon to be drowned in home made chocolate sauce and devoured for the rest of the day.
I had spent so much time contemplating whether those deep feelings of contentment that I had felt while travelling this year would return or whether I had arrived at accepting the reality that the holiday was over. On day six of our summer adventure I realised something… contentment is not a feeling but rather a choice. As we basked in the afternoon sun on the boat on Wallis Lake, a pod of five gorgeous dolphins surrounded us. Inspired by the chance to adventure again, I jumped on my stand up paddle board reminded by the breaching marine mammals that sometimes the best way of displaying your life was jumping from beneath the surface to take a breath.