Home Sweet Van

“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.

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A Proportional Reaction

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Kim:

‘I think that reaction sounds proportional to the situation,’ the GP assured me.  

‘You mean to tell me that you actually don’t think I need to be admitted to the psych ward despite me just telling you that I am slowly losing my mind and feel completely overwhelmed?’  I asked.

It was week two of the rainy term three school holidays. While we had officially returned home from Western Australia three weeks prior, Alice and I had more recently arrived back from a ten-day trip to Texas. There we had experienced an incredible gathering with one thousand of my colleagues from around the globe. While the trip bore much fruit, the extreme jet lag, excitement from the last three months, and transition back into Sydney life had hit me like a tonne of bricks.  

It was the first time that I had stopped in order to begin processing what had just been, while simultaneously trying to keep up with our ‘normal’ life back in the city. Our nights were like a circus. We had spent a week playing musical beds between jet lagged little Alice and the two older girls, who, from our months in the caravan, had seemingly forgotten how to sleep outside of arm’s reach of us and each other. Despite their newly-found independence, the older girls barely let Dave and I leave their sight within our home without worrying where each of us were. Our home suddenly seemed overwhelmingly large, and Dave and I continued to ask each other why we ever thought we needed such an obscene amount of indoor space. While I had spent so much time intentionally slowing down over the last three months, I was now overwhelmed by the pace that the city required of me just to keep up with my responsibilities each day. As I over-analysed the situation and what was causing me to become so stressed, it seemed the only thing that had changed while we were away was myself.

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Double rainbow on Sydney’s Northern Beaches

While there was no doubt that part of the way I was feeling could be attributed to post-holiday blues and the loss of the daily embrace of those turquoise waters, it seemed that I was also deeply yearning for the joy I had experienced in living simply and experiencing the divine in the uninterrupted natural rhythms that van life had to offer. As I allowed myself to experience those feelings, Dave and I also journeyed to the stage of acceptance together. Acceptance that we were no longer travelling and able to spend each day together, that there were bills to be paid and work to be done, and that the destinations now to be explored would require us to navigate Sydney traffic. We were also able to accept that we were not the same people that we had been three months ago, and that wherever in the world we were, we could choose to be intentional in slowing down, and choose to wander joyfully together. And so, as the school holidays came to an end and the sun finally appeared from behind the clouds, we have chosen to try to navigate this next season, whatever it may bring, with joyful hearts. While the next season of writing will not entail regular reports of world heritage reefs and swimming with whale sharks, it is my intention that it reflects the same joy and honesty as my previous posts as we continue to joyfully wander together.

We have also resolved, as a family, to actively seek out and experience the natural wonders and beauty in our neck of the woods. So, with that in mind, the photos accompanying this blog are a random selection of nature that Dave has photographed in and around the Greater Sydney area over the past few years.  

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Lane Cove National Park
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Lane Cove National Park
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Rock platform on Sydney’s Northern Beaches

Celebration and Grief… Returning Home

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Kim:

‘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.

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SUP’ing at Cygnet Bay

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.

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Sunset at Cable Beach

Happiness Like This

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Kim:

“I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

“This is what I imagined the whole trip to be like,” Dave commented. It was 3pm.  We were all crunching on salt and vinegar chips, still wet and sandy from our midday swim, relaxing in the van together watching The Greatest Showman DVD and reading books. Eat, swim, rest, repeat. The simple life. I immediately understood what Dave meant.  

There is no doubt that we made the most of every waking moment of our trip. Yet it took us until this point to really feel like we had found our feet as a travelling family. “I think I have worked out your perfect camp style,” Dave offered. A small free camp by the beach, remote enough to feel like we were in the wilderness, yet set up for all of the luxuries our tin abode had to offer (generator to run coffee machine, Thermomix, Nutribullet and potable water for drinking and a hot shower in the van). This time we had nailed it. We were set up at Middle Lagoon, a small Aboriginal Community about 30 km off the main thoroughfare from Broome to Cape Leveque on the Dampier Peninsula. Apart from a very small patch of signal several hundred meters away from the van, we were unplugged from everything but nature and each other.  

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Dampier Peninsula
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Kim SUP’ing at Dampier Peninsula

The rhythm of our day was controlled only by the tide and temperature. High tide gave us about three hours of swimming and SUP’ing in the bath-like waters of the bay before the heat of the day would force us to return to camp for food and rest. As we ventured back down to the bay late in the afternoon, our morning landscape was barely recognisable as six to seven metres of tidal movement had caused the water’s edge to retreat almost back towards the horizon. As the girls and I collected shells and hermit crabs, we watched the local kids use hand spears to fish for dinner. Incredible patterns in the sand left the outline of where massive stingrays had rested only hours earlier. Dave had found Ali the perfect rockpool for her to bathe, fully shaded, in the warm salty water as the sun set over her little head.

Our nights were sometimes spent around the campfire watching our girls figure out how to make new desserts with toasted marshmallows. In the aftermath, only the best industrial grade steel wool would make any ingress in cleaning the burn marks off the various kitchen appliances used. As we went to bed, the billions of night stars were visible through the fly screen of the caravan bedroom window where we lay our head in the blissful sea breeze. “I wish for happiness like this forever,” I mouthed along with Michelle Williams as The Greatest Showman DVD did its thing.

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Exploring Dampier Peninsula
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Fatbiking and fly fishing near Middle Lagoon

Middle Lagoon was not entirely different to other places we had stayed. Yet it was here that our experience of simple pleasures had transformed from the novelties of travel to habits and characteristics of daily family life. That it has occurred only days before our trip ends has not dampened its impact.

I have also intentionally altered the way I interact with my children. Prior to this trip, I spent many hundreds of dollars and hours unnecessarily complicating both their play and the quality time I spent with them. The last few days, the girls have been overjoyed to play for hours climbing a nearby tree and making new inventions with empty beer cans and juice containers from our recycling bin.  While there is no doubt that upon our return, I will still enjoy fancy Mummy dates with the girls, it gives me some pause that they have been most impressed by my newly found oyster-shucking abilities and willingness to serve them absolutely 100% non-organic hot dogs on white bread for lunch.

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Special mother-daughter moments at Cable Beach

What do you want?

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Kim:

We have begun the final stretch of our trip. In less than two weeks, the girls and I will be preparing to board our flight back to Sydney and Dave, the six or seven day drive home. To say that the trip has gone too quickly is an understatement. Dave and I have caught each other in the past few days feeling both contemplative and melancholy about returning home. Yet there have also been those precious moments of reflection when I am able to celebrate the beauty of all we have experienced, and our growth individually and as a family.

A few years ago I undertook a team building exercise with a work colleague where she repeatedly asked me for two minutes, ‘What do you want?‘ In turn, I was to respond with the first thing that came to mind. I got about thirty seconds in before I burst into tears and sputtered, ‘I want someone to come and do all of my laundry.‘ While my response was clearly an overreaction to an extremely large pile of washing, it also spoke to my feelings of being exasperated with not perceiving myself to be in control of either work or home.

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Stand up paddle boarding at Willie Creek Pearl Farm

Another pre-trip experience that now comes to mind is the spiritual formation course that Dave and I did together and which required us to articulate and refine our individual and family values. This helped me to develop a deeper conviction that I wanted to more fully live and walk in the freedom of God. However, applying what I gained from the course to this trip, prior to leaving, I must admit that I failed to see how, as a naturally anxious person, removing myself from everything I knew and felt comfortable with could leave me with feeling anything but fear and worry. Fast forward several months later, and I can honestly say I have walked almost daily in the freedom of a growing relationship with God that I so deeply desired. It took leaving my Sydney life and experiencing just how small I am compared to the vast yet intimate beauty of nature to realise that I can’t hold onto controlling things that I actually have no control over. Most people who know me will probably be surprised at the deep contentment, peace and joy I have found in wild and remote places. ‘Going bush’ to truly recharge had always been Dave’s thing, certainly not mine. Yet if the past sixteen years of Dave trying to convince me that it might be worth a try has taught me anything it may be that timing is everything. Who knows, it may be that Dave experiences some kind of equivalent spiritual growth the next time I drag him shopping in New York City!

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It may still be my overflowing dirty laundry pile or screaming children that attract sympathy glances from onlookers but there have been many times on this trip that people have made unsolicited comments about what a ‘brave’ effort we are making with such a young baby. While I don’t say this out loud, the response in my head is one of bewilderment. It would seem to me now that it was more appropriate for those onlookers to comment on how lucky we are to get the opportunity to travel together as a family for such an extended period of time and fall more deeply in love with this beautiful country, and each other.

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Our little wanderers wearing gorgeous dresses by Little Kimberley
The couple who fishes together stays together

The couple who fishes together, stays together? [Part 1]

The couple who fishes together stays together
After sixteen years with Dave I finally caught a fish!

Kim:

For the past sixteen and a half years, the ‘issue’ of fishing has, at times, been the single greatest point of tension in our relationship. It wasn’t the sport itself that had caused so many arguments. Rather, it was the sheer amount of time that the man who I loved most spent completely consumed and obsessed by something that I had absolutely zero interest in. As the duration of ‘me time’, shortened with the arrival of each of our daughters, I found it completely unacceptable that Dave’s need to relax was at the mercy of tide, wind, boat, and barometric-pressure. In fact, it really infuriated me that the need to have a bit of time out could not simply be satisfied by joining the local gym or catching up with a friend for coffee. Given this context, it is little surprise there was a serious shift in relationship dynamics following the day I caught my first proper fish.

For almost as long as I have known him, Dave has been fishing the Dampier Archipelago in WA with his mate Simon, who also just happened to be the best local fishing charter guide. ‘It’s my favourite place on earth,’ I would so often hear Dave declare as he virtually drooled over piles of photos of him and the boys holding big fish caught from Simon’s boat. When the penny dropped that leave passes to fly himself over to WA once a year to go fishing were not as readily available with kids, Dave took it upon himself to take up a side gig as a fishing journalist for one of Australia’s top fishing magazines. ‘This is an opportunity of a lifetime‘ I remember Dave proposing shortly after Olivia was born as the fishing magazine had just offered to fly him to the Kimberley to board an exclusive week-long charter consisting of helifishing and exploring literally uncharted waters. Accordingly, it was no surprise that as we arrived at the Dampier Transit Caravan Park, Dave had big expectations for the week.

Persuaded by the promise of deserted islands, crystal clear waters, a decent surf break, incredible marine life, and the epic company of Simon and his lovely family, I was also excited about several days on the boat exploring the Archipelago. I went from stand-up paddle boarding next to turtles, to surfing the unique beach break at Angel Island. I also found myself repeatedly asking Simon how tourists had not overrun this paradise. Indeed, Dampier did not disappoint.

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Stand up paddle boarding at pristine Dampier Archipelago
Not a footprint in sight - swimming at pristine Dampier Archipelago
Not a footprint in sight

It was about an hour into the first day that I caught my first fish. To say that the experience was nothing like I had expected would be an understatement. For many years, I had imagined sitting for hours with a rod in hand on a muddy river bank waiting for luck to strike and for the so-called prize to be a smelly, slimy sea creature. This was not the case. As I felt the rod pull and buckle, I was filled with a huge surge of adrenalin. I had no idea that when a big fish was at the end of the line, there was actual skill required. My inner competitiveness kicked in and I was not going to let this fish off the hook. To some I may have looked like I was running around the boat like a crazy woman, perhaps even a slightly negligent mama with my determination. I used all of my strength to pull my first catch briefly out of the water before experiencing the satisfaction of releasing it back to the depths. I was overwhelmed with satisfaction and joy. There was also a part of me in awe that, when the tastiest species came along, I could participate in the harvest of something that our family would later enjoy over a meal together.

There is no doubt that my newfound enjoyment in fishing has left Dave most pleasantly surprised and excited about the prospect of future family fishing adventures. Actually, scratch that, he is absolutely frothing! This trip has really provided each member of our family, on an almost daily basis, with the time and space to learn new things about one other and ourselves.

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Olivia, Mia, and I on our way to our fishing spot in our PJs

Peedamulla Campground

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Kim:

I stood in awe of the sunset over the beautiful red earth of the Banyjima people. I pinched myself. Perhaps, like the beautiful stories told by the traditional owners of the land at Peedamulla campground, I was, in fact, dreaming.

It was thanks to a recommendation from friends that we had found Peedamulla campground in the heart of the Pilbara, between Onslow and Karratha. This hidden beauty is a Tourism Western Australia initiative called, ‘Camping With Custodians’, which enables visitors to stay on Aboriginal lands and engage with indigenous members of the local community.  

Just hours prior to writing this, Olivia and Mia had been sliding through expansive mudflats on the mouth of the Cane River. ‘Come on Mum, we’ll show you how to have some fun,’ Mia excitedly urged. ‘You need to make the most of this,’ she continued with wisdom that could only come from a four-year-old covered head to toe in mud. Given her age, there was really no way she could have understood the significance or complexities of what we were experiencing at Peedamulla. That we privileged white fellas were able to explore such significant country and hear stories about the history of the land through eyes so different to our own.  

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Earlier in the day, we had been bush bashing along 4WD tracks to the significant cultural site on the property where each year young Aboriginal men would complete their traditional month-long initiation into manhood. Our generous host was Preston Parker, whose family were the current owners of the campground and adjoining cattle station built in the 1880’s. Preston explained to us that up to ten tribes from the Pilbara region would gather on the land annually for Wardilba, a traditional celebration where singing, dancing and storytelling would continue into the early hours of the morning. This celebration continues to this day. This is most miraculous, and a testament to the determination of Preston’s family, given the context of devastating historical depopulation of the Indigenous people in the region. My heart filled with sadness when I viewed the General Certificate of Exemption under Section 18c of the Aborigines Protection Act 1909-1943 that actually prohibited speaking in native language; engaging in dance, rituals, and native customs; and associating with fellow indigenous people. Despite the near extinction of his family’s language during that time, Preston spoke with a gentle but fierce determination and hope that Peedamulla would become a place where Aboriginal people of the region would return to the land to share traditional knowledge, customs and language of their culture.

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We were fortunate enough to also be taken through the ruins of the original Peedamulla Homestead built for the pastoral station pioneer Edmund Burt in the 1880’s and destroyed by Cyclone Vance in 1999. We also sat and listened to stories around the campfire each night, as well as visiting a culturally significant waterhole surrounded by the most incredible rock formations. The girls made new friends with some of the local kids, who gladly let them ride along on the back of their four-wheeled motorbike through the red dirt. While they may not have appreciated its significance, it is my hope that the opportunity provided our girls with an experience that will become a small building block towards their proper appreciation of the history and culture of country.

There is no doubt that the Peedamulla land is a place of restoration. Beyond the beautiful setting, the land provides a catalyst of restoration. May this be so not just for passing tourists, but far more importantly, for the future generations of the traditional custodians of this harsh but beautiful country.  

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Bushwalking and Beyond

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Kim:

We completed our longest bushwalk of the trip this week. It was a whole three and a half kilometres, and a significant achievement for the little legs of our family. Despite my sports-filled childhood and Dave’s love for the wilderness, previous to this trip our daughters had become increasingly accustomed to the instant gratification that city life has to offer.

By the time Livy and Mia had reached the age of two, we were rarely a stone’s throw away from an ice cream shop for when they were hot, a babycino for when they were cold, and the ABC iView app for times of boredom, public misbehaviour, or parental desperation. Before embarking on this trip, our reward system for their behaviour had become so out of control that Dave and I regularly joked that they were being rewarded for wiping their bottoms. We had frequently lamented that despite our best efforts, our life had become like a pressure cooker about to explode, or a smartphone running way too many apps and in desperate need of a full recharge. A direct result of this was a mild dose of self-entitled children whose easily-tired legs rarely needed to transport them further than the length of the shopping mall.

The first kilometre of our bushwalk was full of joy as the girls were perfectly content to busy themselves jumping over rocks, exploring new things, and engaging in adventurous games. By the second kilometre, their little legs were growing tired and it was clear that they were looking for a way out of their discomfort. Their expectation was evident: either Dave would carry them, or they would magically grow wings and fly out of the forest just like Tinkerbelle. Either way, their fun was over, and much to our discredit they were not accustomed to being pushed beyond their comfort zone.

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Immersing our family in nature and bushwalking on this trip was an intentional decision to develop perseverance and resilience in our children. We hope these qualities will outlive the duration of the trip. While Dave and I made sure to point out all the world heritage listed beauty spots that took our breath away, it seemed that it was our own attitude towards the situation that shaped their experience the most.

On this trip, there have been no shortage of situations where we are positioned to shape the character and spirit of our children. With all of our instant gratification and bribery tools removed from our parenting belts, we stop checking the clock wondering how to pass the time between four and seven pm, and we become excited to engage in our children to the end of the bushwalk and beyond.

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Star light, star bright

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Kim:

I wondered what she saw as her tiny blue eyes fixated on the mesmerising night sky.  It had taken a few moments for the rest of our eyes to adjust before the skies opened and millions of sparkling stars danced around us. It was well past their usual bedtime as we loaded our tiniest wanderer and her excited sisters into Elsie and drove down the road away from the ambient light of the campground for some star gazing. Mia (with Dave’s assistance) drove us approximately 500 metres up the dirt road to reach the spot that Dave had scoped out for us the previous night. The Southern Cross and Milky Way were on brilliant display. To say we were completely awestruck is an understatement. The mystery of what Alice processed as she looked up to the skies was a completely humbling experience of the marvel of our Creator.

The last few days of our trip have been unexpectedly awesome. We had heard from a few fellow travellers that there is a working cattle station about 100 kms south of Exmouth that provided a great family farm stay experience. With strong winds interrupting our costal plans, we decided it would be the perfect time to head inland. We were not disappointed.   

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Exmouth Gulf Bullara Station

We arrived at Bullara Station at dusk, just in time for the nightly communal campfire where the owner of the property cooked and shared delicious damper and hearty burgers. With about 100 people from all corners of the country cosily gathered on camp chairs, drinks in hands, listening to a recital of Banjo Patterson’s timeless, The Man From Snowy River, it was the perfect setting for new friendships to be made. Given I had been longing for sharing a cup of tea and a chat with a female over the age of seven for a couple of weeks now, the opportunity to meet other travelling mums was particularly welcome. Normalising crazy travel stories was such a relief, especially when our new friends displayed no judgment the following morning when Dave and I had to make the 120km round trip to the nearest mini-market after running out of nappies!    

Given Olivia and Mia have watched the movie ‘Little Rascals’ on repeat throughout the trip you can imagine their delight when their new friend at Bullara Station showed them a REAL treehouse, complete with a pile of old timber pallets for them to continue the complex architecture of their very own fortress. Watching the simple beauty of our daughters climbing and playing among the gorgeous eucalyptus trees brought much joy to my heart. Society tells us that times when ten-year old boys could ride bikes, play tip, and build treehouses with seven and four year old girls without a parent in sight and for hours on end are over. There is a real richness is experiencing otherwise.

As Dave and I drove back to the coast, contemplating how our experience differed from our other holidays, I turned to him and said without a second of thought, “I feel like I am really living.”

 

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Stand up paddle boarding at Coral Bay
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Swimming at Coral Bay

The Picture Perfect Adventure Fallacy

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Kim:

Harder…faster…don’t stop!’ I encouraged Dave with great enthusiasm as he rhythmically… rocked Alice’s bassinet back and forth, desperately trying to get her to resettle so that this would not be just another 20 minute power-nap. ‘Waaaaaaaa! Baahhhh! Waaaaaaa’, our smallest team member howled in response.

I stepped outside. ‘Girls,’ I began to raise my voice, now on the verge of tears. ‘I am not negotiating with you. The next piece of food you eat will be fruit.’ Dave appeared and announced, ‘I need to get out. Go for a walk, take a shower, something, before I snap.’ We were both exasperated. It was pack-up camp time again. While we had somewhat gotten used to the process of essentially moving houses with three young children every four days, this pack up was by far the worst. The weather didn’t help. The winds had escalated to over thirty knots, which meant we literally had to try to pack up camp with all three girls cooped up in the tin can. Our usually chilled wanderer Alice has hit the four-month mark and is going through the notorious sleep regression. I thought by the third child I would be able to more easily put this phase into better perspective, but I was presently overwhelmed by the fear that I would never sleep again.  

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I walked passed the van and momentarily imagined throwing eggs at it. I didn’t actually do it – egging the caravan would require me to undertake more washing, without a dishwasher or laundry. Our dishes were already piled especially high after the dinner party we had hosted (caravan style) as a farewell to our surf instructor.

I have repeatedly questioned, given my current circumstance (being on a trip of a lifetime), whether it is ok to complain, especially in public. I have decided (for the time being) that it is not only ok but, perhaps, important. Important, not only because I felt somewhat lost without my usual support outlets surrounding me to debrief over a cup of tea and tell me exactly what I needed to hear, but because I think it is important to be real about the fact that the idea of picture perfect parenting (or family adventures for that matter) is a fallacy.   

The frequent neighbour to the many magical moments we have been experiencing are demanding children and exhausted parents, often not bringing out the best in each other. The difficulty of navigating the effects of changing family dynamics should not be underestimated. While it was wonderful to have Dave around so much, I perhaps had romanticized my expectations of spending 24/7 with each other and having him as such a significant part of the girls’ and my routine during usual office hours. Similarly, I am sure Dave has gotten pretty jack of my constant nagging, snapping, and shorting the van’s electrical circuit by running the entire contents of one of our 90L water tank through the hot water system (it was a great shower) whilst simultaneously cranking the air-conditioner. Allowing vulnerability to be disclosed and become part of our story during this wonderful season of our lives has led to significant personal and spiritual growth. Meeting each other where we are actually at instead of where we think we ought to be has been surprisingly cathartic and enabled us to try to never take ourselves too seriously… at least most of the time.

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