A Proportional Reaction



‘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.

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.  

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

Celebration and Grief… Returning Home



‘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.

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