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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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
Flying high! Family fishing adventures at Dampier Archipelago

The couple who fishes together, stays together? [Part 2]

Flying high! Family fishing adventures at Dampier Archipelago

Dave:

I clearly remember watching a documentary during my final year of high school on the battle to stop the Franklin and Gordon Rivers in South-West Tasmania from being destroyed by proposed hydroelectricity dams. One of the masterstrokes of those who pushed for the protection of this World-Heritage listed wilderness was to take a bunch of politicians on a whitewater rafting trip through some of the pristine canyons that were facing destruction, so that they could actually see what all the fuss was about. When interviewed at the end of the multi-day expedition, an elected official was openly weeping on camera as he described how passionately he would fight for protection of this wilderness, now that he had actually experienced what was as stake. And so it is that personal experience can make all the difference when it comes to one’s perspective.

That being the case, maybe I am a world-class bonehead for not having sooner taken Kim on a proper fishing trip in one of the plethora of spectacular locations that I have been fortunate enough to frequent at some point over the past sixteen and a half years!

Whilst there is no doubt that our family fishing experience on this trip has reached a crescendo (as I expected it would) whilst exploring the Dampier Archipelago with my good mate, Simon Tocas, the first murmurs of the tectonic shift in Kim’s attitude towards angling pursuits (and boating generally) began to show when we were a few hundred kilometres further south in the mining town outpost of Onslow. Having checked into Onslow Beach Resort for a couple of nights to escape the confines of Chelsea the Caravan, our post-breakfast conversation turned to what the day’s activities would entail. Whilst not verbatim, in what can only be described as a bizarre role-reversal between Kim and I, the discussion unfolded something like this:

Dave: Why don’t we just spend the day lounging by the pool? The kids can swim and we can relax, maybe read a book…

Kim: Nah. I want to take the boat out to the Mackerel Islands. Let’s do it!

Dave: I dunno honey. It’s over 10kms of open ocean crossing, our boat is pretty small, and it might just be a bit much. Maybe we should just chill and enjoy the resort?

Kim: C’mon – let’s do it. I’ve double-checked Windfinder and the forecast is perfect. You can even take us fishing while we’re out there. Let’s make the most of it and go on an adventure.

Dave (by this stage wondering whether he is hallucinating and/or still asleep): Umm… Ok. I’ll get the gear ready.  

As it turned out, we had an unforgettable day exploring Direction Island. Not only did we do a bit of fishing, but as we came up into the shallows of a coral flat adjacent to the island, we unexpectedly crossed paths with a huge dugong that was completely unperturbed by our presence, allowing us to admire it from near touching distance for several minutes before cruising away. Then there were the two nesting White Breasted Sea Eagles that perched proudly on the corner of the Island. As I have said so many times to Kim, going fishing is just like being part of a David Attenborough production.  

I think Kim has done a far better job of describing her ‘conversion’ to a bona fide fisherwoman in her blog than I possibly could. So, whilst I will resist the temptation to simply say, ‘I told you so’ and leave it at that, I will just add my take on a couple of snippets from each of our three family days on the water in the Dampier Archipelago. Hopefully they will provide a glimpse into the angling evolution that my dearly beloved has undergone.

On the first day, Kim became fully initiated after landing an impressive Golden Trevally all by herself. It turns out that I was not the only one who was startled by the transformation that was taking place – when she posted a photo holding the fish (wearing a characteristically dazzling smile), on her Facebook account that evening, the image would ultimately rack up more ‘Likes’ than the proud social media announcements she had made for the arrival of any of our three kids!

On the second day, Kim (not a typo) enthusiastically suggested an early morning start, so we were on the water not long after 6am. One of the aesthetic consequences of that decision was that, at least for first couple of hours, Simon’s boat had no less than three occupants who were fishing in pink pajamas. Mia was not to be outdone on the fishing front on this day, valiantly landing a solid Queenfish (which was longer, if not heavier, than her mum’s now famous Golden Trevally). Whilst my passion for fishing has never been motivated by a desire break records, I have no doubt that Mia achieved a world angling first by landing her ‘Queenie’ attired in both shorts and shirt emblazoned with matching unicorns!

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Livy fishing in her PJs
Family fishing adventures at Dampier Archipelago
Mimi in her unicorn PJs, with her big Queenfish

Our third family day on the water was spent on my boat, which seemed comparatively puny after being spoiled rotten on Simon’s stalwart vessel. Despite a vastly reduced range in our capacity to explore the archipelago, we still managed to find fish without much effort. As a rod buckled over in the holder during our first trolling run of the day, I made the all important inquiry, ‘Who wants to reel in this one?’ Despite the fact that my question had clearly been directed towards Olivia and Mia, Kim made the impassioned declaration that it would be she who would be doing the reeling in on this one. Before I could offer any words of moderation, she sprung to her feet and grabbed the buckling rod, nearly toppling our two eldest daughters overboard with her rampant enthusiasm. Whilst a man can dream, I never really thought that three of my precious princesses would actually be fighting over who got to reel in a fish…

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Kim photobombing our fishing photo to show off her latest catch

It must also be said that our unforgettable family days in the Dampier Archipelago were marked by a different dynamic than the many previous trips when I have fished with Simon (who was formerly a full-time fishing guide) over more than 15 years. Those times have included bruising sessions of absolute tunnel vision; with the earliest start being around 2:30am and the latest not finishing until many hours into the full dark of night. In contrast, even on our days that began on the water PJ-clad, the family fishing time for this trip was still interposed with frequent and generous interventions for other activities, including paddling the SUP in the aquamarine waters, surfing a unique island beachbreak, swimming, and just chilling on deserted beaches whilst marveling at the total absence of footprints. This time around, I didn’t have a chance to cast even a single fly at a rampaging Giant Trevally or the ever-flighty yet enigmatic Permit. But, here is my confession as a hardcore Fisho: quite frankly there is no contest – I’ll take the shared family experience any day. Unicorn PJs and all.

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SUP time at Dampier Archipelago
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Kim having a break from fishing on her SUP among Pilbara Islands
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

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

Grand Adventures and Domestic Joys

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Kim:

Three days ago, the girls and I were astronauts at the Carnarvon Space museum. Despite being in the middle of nowhere, this was the spot where the signal was transmitted to Apollo 11 as it orbited earth following lift-off, to proceed onwards with its mission to the moon. Two days later, the girls and I were surfers, riding the tubes (or, more accurately, bumping through the whitewash) of Wobiri beach in Ningaloo, as the sun descended into the Indian Ocean. Tomorrow, if the wind stays down, we might even try our hand as squid fisherwomen. In anticipation, our salt and pepper batter is all ready to cook up some delicious calamari.

I am so proud of the new things that the girls have already got stuck into on this trip. It is my hope that these rich and adventurous experiences will instil the confidence that they need to become strong, resilient women who love God and their fellow humans. While Dave and I contemplate, on an almost daily basis, that, because of her age, Alice is missing out on such special memories, we hope that she too is being positively shaped by having us all around to overstimulate her during her every waking moment.

Travelling with children is testing at times to say the least. As a family on the road, we have found that pronounced highs and lows often roll in a very short period. Within minutes of returning from our extraordinary surf session, we had all three girls screaming to the point where the van was literally shaking. They were sandy, tired, hungry and completely over it. While chaos at this time of day is usual for any young family, confining ‘witching hour’ into 18 feet of aluminium proves to be quite the circus. Just when we thought 3 out of 3 kids were asleep and had kicked back to enjoy a few cold beers and Kombuchas, our firstborn reappeared and inquired:  “Mum, Dad, do you ever get the feeling when you are reading a really good book and that you are told to go to bed that it is really annoying because you just want to know what happens?” Ahhhh holidays… Who doesn’t want to extend bedtime until the book is finished? Needless to say, the extension was granted.

It is funny how many of your own childhood memories resurface as you watch your children experiencing things that you so distinctly remember as a kid. For me it was watching the pure joy the girls experienced as they caught wave after wave at the beach, begging us not to have to get out of the water, despite chattering teeth and a blossoming blue hue. I still remember the nights that I lay in bed after beach days, still feeling the waves crashing over me.  

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Our family seems to track sand wherever we go. Not just the usual amount that you could expect from a beach holiday but rather an oversupply that is constantly found in every crevice of the van, car and, somehow, deep inside Alice’s ears! I vowed to myself that I would come home from this trip a tidier person, but the confined space has so far provided a more concentrated zone of destruction for all our stuff. Combined with the fact we are daily packing and unpacking a veritable mobile outdoor convention including two inflatable SUPS, a foldable kayak, a fishing boat on the roof, three bikes, goodness knows how many fishing rods, a complete scuba kit (including tank), three snorkel sets, cameras, drone, Thermomix, coffee machine, Sodastream, a weber BBQ with pizza stone, and a legion of outdoor furniture. Given our total commitment to implementing the chaos theory, our campsite is certainly not going to win any tidiness awards.

People have given me both curious and sympathetic looks when I have told them that we are travelling with a three-month-old. To be honest she is not the most difficult child. In fact, while she is still nursing, not moving and on a reasonably stable routine, she generally wins the daily award in our family for ‘Best and Fairest’. Although, maybe that is because she has the best deal of all – who wouldn’t like lying stark naked in the tropical breeze, while everyone who passes by smiles and tells you how adorable and cute you are?

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The currency of the caravan park is unique and wonderful. Love thy neighbour is exemplified in different, special and usually utterly ordinary ways each day. For me, I try to spread the love through caffeinated beverages. They think I can’t see them, but each morning I spot the longing eyes of those who stand outside boiling the kettle for their Nescafe instant, enviously peeping through the trees as I fire up the Breville. Their faces when I surprise them with a latte is priceless. Generosity is quickly repaid as it seems a recurring theme for us that we always seem to be stuck for coins or laundry detergent for our never-ending pile of washing. Our next-door neighbours have been quick to come to the rescue perhaps feeling sorry for the lady with the baby, dropping her dirty knickers as she pushes that pram to the communal laundry yet again!

As Dave and I began to pack up the van again tonight, readying ourselves for the next part of our adventure, we agreed that there is as much joy, at least sometimes, in the simple act of daily tasks as there is in introducing the kids to a wonderful new outdoor activity.

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Stopping

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Kim:

I was paddling with all my strength. I had pushed myself to the end of the rolling red cliffs and although my wind navigation was not that of a fine sailor, I could feel from the current that if I didn’t turn my board soon my next stop may be South Africa. The foamy white ripples were slapping as the water got deeper. I was paddling in rocky waters.

I knew I shouldn’t panic but I didn’t have the energy to keep paddling, so I made the counter intuitive decision to stop. I lowered myself to a kneeling position.

Swoosh, swoosh, swoosh.  

The slapping ripples subsided as the wind, blissfully, eased. Stopping had given my body the chance to recover, so I turned the board toward shore. As the stunning shoreline grew into frame, I lay on my back, and was soon joyfully gliding through the gentle waves on a large sandbar. I could no longer see what was in front of me or behind me. I simply looked up, and enjoyed what I saw, heard and felt in that moment. Beneath me was the sound of rushing water and above was a brilliant blue sky occasionally marked by soaring seabirds. The cold splashing no longer stung but felt refreshing and invigorating.

My experience of stopping on my SUP to take in my surroundings and reassess my situation was a polaroid of the deep conviction I had that this trip needed be a season of stopping for Dave, the girls and me.

I have never been very good at stopping, or even particularly enjoyed it. Dave often teases me for my usual habit, three days into a holiday, of beginning ‘to do’ lists for our return.  

Being able to really stop on this trip has enabled space in my day to deeply engage in each precious moment. Not being in a rush to get from place to place has allowed my soul to connect with simplicity and value many things I had become far too busy to notice. If I am honest, I have had to intentionally let go and allow myself to spend time enjoying a stunning sunset; to sit and deeply engage with the sweet sound of my baby’s newly found laughter; or listen to my new next door neighbours’ life story. While I initially felt guilty that none of these things were contributing to the destination I thought our life needed to head in, I am so grateful that having the opportunity to stop has awakened my soul to embrace the journey.

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The cheeky wanderer
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Shark Bay sunset

 

Paddle Boarding, New Friends, and a Questionable Odour

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Kim:

I think that I relaxed more today than I have over the past thirty-four years combined. I mean relax in the restorative way that I have only heard people describe but not ever experienced (not even at the day spa). While it may be possible that such a deep sense of restoration and peace could be attributed to the OD of lavender oil last night as described in Dave’s last post, I think that my connection with God’s creation today brought a deep sense of freedom that my soul so desperately desired.

Our morning was spent in paradise. The crystal-clear waters of Turquoise Bay in Cape Range National Park (part of the Ningaloo World Heritage Area) became the perfect location for a long-awaited reunion with my stand-up paddle board. I had not paddled my trusty inflatable SUP since shortly before Alice’s birth and I desperately missed the feeling of having the ocean glide silently beneath my feet.

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The bliss of SUP-ing the impossibly azure waters of the bay became so obvious that Dave’s Dad, who had selflessly volunteered to accompany him on the 5000-plus km drive over here decided to give the burgeoning paddle sport a go. After doing a quick spot check of the nearest defibrillator location, we encouraged him to his feet on the SUP. We all thought he was doing quite well, so much so that the girls began chanting ‘Pa Pa, Pa Pa’ from the water’s edge. Perhaps it was the supporting words of his granddaughters’ voices that proved to be the untimely distraction, but poor Pa Pa momentarily shuddered before going down, with arms and legs flapping like the a fledging bird that is not quite ready to take to the skies. Such a scene caused great amusement for those in witness. For my part, I laughed so violently that I spurted out a mouthful of my precious Kombucha.

Parenting without school drop offs, over-scheduled and tired young children is something else. Dave and I got the privilege of witnessing the girls make their first friends on the road today. Due to the close proximity of the girls’ beds to ours, this morning we were privy to their usually private sisterly chat. The topic of conversation left us with little doubt that making new friends was clearly a top priority for the day. As we arrived at Turquoise Bay, they quickly scouted out children of the same age. It was agreed between the two of them that Olivia would approach with the offer to help build a sand castle and Mia would follow behind, as inquisitorial as she always is. Fast forward a couple of hours later and the girls had not only mastered the challenge of meeting new friends but had continued playing happily back at the caravan park during and following a fish-n-chip lunch date.

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Dave and I are challenging people to insure. Notwithstanding our previous travel mishaps, I was proud of the fact we are both being overly cautious regarding trip safety. This afternoon, we were relaxing back at camp when we both smelt a strong odour of gas. I saw the look of real concern on Dave’s face (far more so than the one he had worn during the Lavender Oil Saga). He swiftly checked each of the gas outlets on the van, trying to assess where the gas leak was coming from. I decided the safest course might be to take Ali for a walk in her pram (she was sleeping in a state of oblivious peacefulness). When I was no more than 20 or so metres from our van, I happened upon a lovely grey nomad carrying a gas bottle back to his own palace on wheels. “Can you smell that?” I asked, too concerned to commence our exchange with the ordinary pleasantries. He gave me a strange look before pointing in the direction of a gas truck and a line of travellers waiting to have their gas bottles refilled. After his quick explanation about ‘changeover residue’ and prevailing wind direction, I yelled to Dave, “Its OK… we’re safe!”. Another apparent asphyxiation crisis had been averted, and our blissful day continued.