I realised this morning as we headed off on the next leg of our journey that Wednesday 17 May marked the one month milestone of our time on the road. In a somewhat poetic coincidence, today was also the day we stopped heading north and started heading west. Having made it as far north as Cape Tribulation in the Daintree National Park we traded our Havaianas, sugarcane fields and beaches for our RMs, dry woodland landscapes and the beginnings of ‘the outback’.
Reflecting on our time on the road, in so many ways it feels like we have been on the road for so long. We have seen and experienced so many amazing things already, and yet the reality is that we are only one month into a nearly 7 month journey. It is almost overwhelming to think that we are going to experience all we have in one month seven times over, and when it is all done and dusted, what we will have seen of Australia will be just the tip of a very big iceberg and we will return home have left so much of our amazing country ‘unseen’…
Happily, one month in to our journey life as we knew it seems like a distant memory and life on the road seems very normal, and, truth be told, has done since the day we left. That is not to say it has all been smooth sailing, it hasn’t, but what I mean to say is that we haven’t once thought of home and wished we had been there, or felt like fish out of water living fulltime in our van. For both Lloyd and I there has been absolutely no regrets or misgivings. Lloyd has made the transition from ‘work Lloyd’ to ‘holiday Lloyd’ quickly and already I can see the changes in him that we both hoped a break from work would bring about. Our family has adjusted to having ‘holiday Lloyd’ around pretty quickly too and our little family dynamic had changed (for the better) in these first few weeks. Amazing what a clear head can do for a man!
True to our plan of scooting quickly up the east coast to maximise our time in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia (all places we can’t quickly, easily or cheaply get back to), we have had lots of whistle-stop stays in some magnificent places. In NSW we have made brief stops at The Entrance, South West Rocks and Ballina and then in Queensland we have had short but memorable stays in Mooloolaba, Rainbow Beach, Clairview, Mission Beach and Wonga Beach (Daintree Rainforest). Any one of these places could have been an enjoyable week-long stop alone and already our ‘Must Return and Holiday Here’ list is about a page long and ready for when OUR BIG LAP is but a distant memory.
Amongst all the travelling in our first month we have managed to squeeze in a week camping and exploring Fraser Island and a four-night stay on Heron Island to give Ava her first, and long awaited, taste of the Great Barrier Reef.
Like I said, it already feels like we have done so much, and yet there is still so far to go and so much to see. I remember returning from Fraser Island on an absolute high from an amazing week of being immersed in the pure beauty and majesty of Mother Nature and, although we were only two weeks into our adventure, we felt as though if it were to all end right there, we would go home thrilled with the holiday we had already had. But what a buzz to know it was just beginning for OUR BIG LAP!
Our Fraser Island and Heron Island trips are obvious highlights, but there have also been the more subtle moments that have made our hearts sing as they have been anticipated for so long: the first night of OUR BIG LAP – setting up the van and then once the kids were fast asleep, enjoying a fabulous bottle of wine under the awning as we listened to the waves crashing beyond the dunes; the first time we went fishing on OUR BIG LAP; the first time Lloyd set his crab traps, and better yet the first time we trapped a keeper; and just tonight, on our one month anniversary, the first time we have been able to light and sit around a campfire together and look at stars for as far as the eye can see. There is nothing quite like the smell and sound of a campfire to get all of us (even the kids) into our happy place.
As I alluded to earlier, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing and the root of our problem has nothing to do with our car, our van, the travel… no, the problem has sat squarely with our kids (aged two and four) well, being kids aged two and four!
Since we started planning OUR BIG LAP we have tried to take our kids (especially our eldest, Ava) along with us on the journey so she could try to understand just how lucky she is (and we are) to be doing what we are doing, and to try to help her appreciate the wonder and majesty of some of the places we would visit. I thought we had done a pretty good job on that front but it could be that I was wrong… very wrong.
It turns out that four and two year olds don’t really care if you are on an island in the middle of the ocean on the Great Barrier Reef, nor do they appreciate just stopping to relax a while and take it all in; they are not overly interested in cruising the Daintree River looking for crocodiles and other wildlife once the first crocodile has been spotted and they also have little regard for the dangers of skylarking on said cruises and the risks falling in the croc-infested river would pose; they certainly don’t care for generally following instructions, and in fact life would appear all the more entertaining for a four and two year old on the road if they are doing more or the less the exact opposite from what you have asked!
All of this probably sounds pretty familiar to any of you who have parented through the toddler years because it is not really anything to dissimilar to what I would expect to experience at home. I think however it is amplified when we are on the road because we are somewhat confined and we are all trying to find our true travelling groove: Lloyd is adjusting to fulltime parenting (and quickly learning the pitfalls of too much sugar and compromising with the kids too often!), the kids are adjusting to their new lives with mum AND dad at the helm, not to mention a travelling schedule which has seen them experience a new town nearly every other day and I am here trying to do my usual thing and trying to stay one step ahead of the kids to minimise the bickering and whining!
It is not all chaos and tantrums though. There are moments when the kids really connect and engage with a new environment and a new activity, there are “magical unicorn” moments when brother and sister get along in harmony, and there are small moments when you realise the kids are really and truly adjusting: they no longer expect to be able to do what they want when we arrive at a new destination, they know we need to get set up and then we can explore; and just this morning as we were finishing packing up we couldn’t find the kids… they were sitting up in the car ready to go!
I have read in blogs from other families on the road about what I am now officially coining the ‘Magical Month Milestone’. So many have spoken about the first month on the road being quite the challenge with kids, but then things tend to settle down and life on the road becomes just that bit more like they had hoped and imagined… and then (and I kid you not) as if like clockwork, as we hit our Magical Month Milestone today the bickering stopped, kindness was in abundance from both little people, the tantrum count was down to one (yes it was a steep walk back from a waterfall lookout and yes I made her walk the whole way!) and overnight it seems our kids have turned into two perfect little caravanning angels. Lloyd even asked me what we did different today to bring about the change and the answer was: nothing!
So hooray for being one month in to our journey! What an amazing journey it has been so far. There have been highs, challenges and everything in between and we wouldn’t change it for the world. I can’t wait to see what the next few weeks in the outback have in store for OUR BIG LAP!
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