Put on Your brave

Put on Your Brave:  Part One

You can do it”, “Put your brave on Mummy,” Just think you can”, Olivia and Mia coaxed me gently.  I was frozen with fear.  Stopped in my tracks, knees wobbling and unable to take another step.

For as long as I could remember I had been petrified of heights. As a child, this fear had caused embarrassment. As an eleven-year-old, I froze in front of all of my peers half way up an 8ft rock abseiling at school camp. However, as an adult my fear of heights had become easily managed through avoidance.  This approach had served me well until today when Olivia and Mia dragged me from the pool chair begging me to join in their fun on the waterslides at the caravan park.

It had been almost a year to the day that we had left for Western Australia. We found ourselves in Yeppoon, along the Capricorn Coast of Queensland for a quick mid-year school holiday adventure.  Dave and I had recently reflected on what a significant milestone the 12-month mark had been since we decided to travel as a family and the ways we had grown as individuals and as a family.  The biggest growth in the family was by far baby Alice who was now 15 months old toddling around the caravan park like a boss, causing smiles and mischief wherever she went.

Navigating her toddling on the boat in 2metre swells may have been a different story for us on this holiday if our little mariner wasn’t so instantly lured to sleep by the gentle rocking of the sea.

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For the rest of the family, while the day to day had largely returned to the normal chaos, we had all made changes that reflected our hearts desire for the freedom that we had experienced defying traditional notions of ‘normal’.

Six months ago, I had decided not to return from maternity leave to the job I knew and loved but rather start my own law firm practicing in an area I believed deeply in.  To begin with, the flexibility of working for myself meant surfing with Dave in my lunch hour and being able to pick the girls up from school every day.  However, those close to me knew that lately, I had been working around the clock, struggling with the juggling of the demands of work and trying to be a near enough satisfactory mother, wife and friend.  While overall, we had adjusted relatively well, as we approached the end of term it become clear that we were all desperate to reconnect as a family and enjoy each other beyond day to day logistics.

So, here we were on our first day of holidays at a cross road. Would I show my two oldest daughters’ vulnerability and courage or was I just too scared? I backed down the stairs twice returning to my pool chair before I found my brave. Finally, with Mia in front of me and Olivia behind me I slowly crawled to the top of the waterslide stairs screaming at the top of my lungs all the way down. The girls too were screaming too with delight as my biggest cheer squad…our next adventure had just begun.

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Part 2: The Capricorn Coast

Stand up paddle boarding, snorkelling, caving, biking, fossicking for thundereggs had filled nearly every moment of our last five days. With an amusing but failed attempt to make it across to Great Kepple Island on our second day of the holiday (20 knot winds and large swells), we decided to make the most of ‘waiting the weather’. We were not disappointed.  While we had initially chosen the Capricorn Coast in Central Queensland as our holiday destination for the white sandy beaches and warm crystal- clear waters, when the weather turned, we were pleasantly surprised by the natural inland beauty.

We started our wet weather adventure at the Capricorn Caves, where we explored 390 million year old limestone caves. Every little palaeontologist dream was fulfilled as the caves provided a real fossil tour where the girls got to sift through sand and dirt to find real bones of marsupials who had inhibited the marvellous caves hundreds of thousands of years ago.

Our family’s love of playing in dirt and mud was brought to the next level on our second wet weather day when we fossicked for thunder eggs at Mr Hay.  While I have never really been a rock person, I admit that repeatedly sledging a metal pick at hard stone was quite cathartic and became the perfect opportunity to vent those minor school holiday frustrations associated with five people being living inside an 18ft tin can in the pouring rain.  We all found our fortunes in the mud and the excitement on the girls faces as the lovely volunteers cut open our thunder eggs with circular saws revealing the inner beauty of the agate, jasper and quartz that had been formed beautiful patters and colours was very special.

Finally, after the skies cleared, the winds dropped we decided it was time to explore the islands.  While figuring out how to get both a caravan and boat back to Sydney with one vehicle and child wrangling three kids between the two of us on a former commercial fishing boat in the open ocean has caused some logistical hurdles the absolute beauty of the Kepple Islands overwhelmed us.  Within a stone’s throw we had our choice of any number of deserted islands in the Great Barrier Reef National Park.  Surrounded by the crystal-clear waters of the Southernmost part of the Great Barrier Reef, the girls explored back in their happy place of nature. This transported us all to a state of joy from simple pleasure.  The days on the water filled all of our contentment cups. Dave finally got his peace and quiet and a moment of pride on one of the rides back home with four out of four of his girls fast asleep on the boat.

I truly hope that none of us ever get too busy to stop together enjoying the precious and restorative moments of simply being.

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Confirming our travel style

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The sound was grating – like the scratching of nails on a blackboard. It was the hissing of air being let out of tyres of the armada of 4WD’s packed around us. Then there was the intermittent melody of the girls whining, “M-uuuuuu-mmmm.  Alice’s newly found mobility climbing all over me was not helping my rising body temperature as we had to wait to open the car doors.  “I need to go to the toilet.,”I turned to Dave.  “I really need to go right now and not take any children.” I repeated. This time my tone bore a striking resemblance to the hissing sound of deflating rubber.  I sucked in my mama belly in and inched my way out of the vehicle – keenly anticipating my uninterrupted moment of peace and quiet ahead… just to go to the toilet.

We had loaded ourselves and car onto the vehicle ferry to explore Moreton Island for the weekend. Whilst it seemed like a great idea a few days ago, I now feared that we had bit off a bit more adventure than we could chew this summer holiday season.  We were all pretty exhausted. After another night of baby-induced-sleeplessness, we had spent the morning bickering over the logistics of transporting a seven-metre boat through strip malls of outer Brisbane in the search to find a wholesome lunch. I questioned the necessity of bringing the boat and Dave questioned the inadequacy of a petrol station sambo on a travel day. It was in those moments that I contemplated a more stock standard way of travelling with kids. While I knew my slow loss of insanity was likely the result of sleep deprivation and the end of school holidays, the thought of sipping a cocktail poolside at a Club Med somewhere and only having to move to collect the children from kid’s club was a welcome daydream.

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The crystal clear waters of Blue Lagoon, Moreton Island

My daydream became somewhat of a reality when we arrived on the island and realised where we were staying.  Having not brought the van this far north I had grabbed a deal at the Tangalooma Resort where the accommodation was inclusive of the opportunity to hand feed wild dolphins at sunset.  Whilst less than an hour earlier I had fantasised about dumping the kids to lie around the pool, when the opportunity actually arose, I unexpectedly yet genuinely proposed that we ditch the resort, get back in Elsie and explore the island’s sandy tracks and beaches. This came as a surprise to my inner most being.

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Olivia exploring the freshwater of Blue Lagoon, Moreton Island

It took only moments to realise that, for our family at least, the road less travelled was worth all of the effort. As we navigated the soft sand tracks through the island not entirely sure of our final destination, the thrill and excitement of another family adventure was palpable.  It proved true that all Alice needed to fall asleep quickly was the familiar rough and tumble of driving off-road. The older girls excitedly pointed out to each other all of the interesting old trees and wildlife on either side of the Island’s middle road.  Without another car in sight, within minutes of hitting the eastern beach of Moreton, we spotted majestic white breasted sea eagles gracefully dive-bombing the shallows, catching fresh fish for dinner.  We danced and sung together delightfully in the crystal-clear freshwater bath of Blue Lagoon.

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Olivia and Mia enjoying an afternoon dip off the beaten path

I suppose that the unexpected beauty of family adventure travel should no longer surprise me after our extended trip to WA last year. Perhaps what surprised me most was that my memories of adventuring together had become more than a wonderful experience, but had actually permeated the deepest parts of my soul.  While it would definitely be more convenient to not be the case, it now seems clear that what I desire for our family is no longer be fulfilled by an off-the-shelf, all-inclusive holiday package.  Rather, I find myself seeking out those challenges and obstacles of travelling in quieter corners of nature. It is in these places where the cackling laughter of our kids to another bad dad joke can freely reverberate against nothing but vegetation, native wildlife and the depths of our true selves.

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Daddy’s Girls, Blue Lagoon, Moreton Island

The Beginning: Smuggling Kombucha Across the Nullarbor

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Kim:

What do you mean, there was an issue with my Kombucha at the South Australian border?” I asked Dave worriedly.  He left more than forty-eight hours ago with the van in tow and I knew he would soon be deep in the bowels of the Nullarbor, losing phone signal rapidly.  “I mean, Kim, drinks containing live Scoby cultures are not common at the South Australia / Western Australian border crossing. I told you it was a silly idea to pack them.” One could, I suppose, add to the ‘silly idea to pack’ list many other non-negotiables that I have insisted on: Thermomix, espresso machine, and Sodastream, to name but a few.  

It’s approximately seventy-two hours until the girls and I leave for the big trip and I am feeling overwhelmed. Perhaps it’s the lack of sleep from last night with #daughterswhodontsleep, or this morning’s 5:30am start to edit final documents relating to legislation that just passed in Parliament – a culmination of two and a half years of my professional life. More likely than not it’s the niggling anxiety that, maybe, we have bitten off more than we can chew in packing up our lovely home, saying goodbye to everyday comforts and support networks, and deciding to travel with three small children (the youngest being not yet 12 weeks old).

Don’t get me wrong.  I am quite ok with roughing it for a purpose… just not necessarily for fun. Despite my vain motivations for bringing my GHD on a cross-cultural mission trip to rural Mexico in my twenties, it actually turned out to be a rich experience of community engagement. How? Well, I found the only generator in town and then proceeded to style the locks of a rural Mexican bride and her bridesmaids. That, in turn, led to wedding dress improvements and the distribution, amongst her wedding guests, of Aussie delicacies that I had transported across the globe. Similarly, I have spent a large amount of time in my thirties leaving my babies with Dave as I globe trot developing nations as part of a global mission to prove that justice for the poor is possible.

But… this coming trip feels different. This time we have intentionally decided to trade in the rat race of city life for adventure. Rewind twelve months ago, my self-assessment is that we were a stressed out, thirty-something couple who the Sydney ‘lifestyle’ had gotten the better of.

Despite our naturally positive and faith-filled outlook on life, the daily grind of intense jobs and mortgage repayments in between hours spent in heavy traffic driving to and from children’s birthday parties and activities was taking its toll. The catalyst for change was triggered when we simultaneously found out that I was pregnant with Alice (surprise) and that the NSW government was going to compulsorily acquire our recently renovated family home to build a very large tunnel under Middle Harbour (double surprise). And so, we embarked on a journey of reassessing how we really wished to live out our days and the precious childhood years of the three princesses whom we have been entrusted to raise.

So we did… and here we are now only hours away from leaving the city for life in a caravan, and I am minutes away from one of more of my #daughterswhodontsleep waking up (again).

I would love for you to take this journey with us. Not because I have any idea on how to introduce minimalism of any sort into my life, or declutter my pantry or, it seems, smuggle Kombucha across the Nullarbor. Rather, it is because I have a deep yearning to be part of a community with those who also have an adventurous soul, and a desire to take a joyful wander.