Here we go!
I’d never been shy about how much I loathed camping!!
Our decision to travel around Australia as a family must have sounded quite ironic to anyone who knew me. I’d never been shy about how much I loathed camping!! I was not raised as a camper. My Mum used to say, “Why have your stars in the sky when you can have your stars in a hotel!” We were not ‘well off’ growing up but my parents prioritised funds in their budget for family holidays and they were never in a tent. I didn’t know how to camp (no one had ever taught me), so when we announced to our family and friends that we were going to take our three small children across this country in a caravan I think everyone secretly laughed at us!
We called it a five-year plan. That’s how long it took us to save enough leave, save enough money and convince ourselves that we would and could survive! In those five years the plan was off and on again so many times everyone stopped believing or listening to us. In every phase, we had no idea what we were doing. We learnt pretty much everything we thought we might need to know from travel blogs, YouTube and friends who had previously travelled. I estimate I’ve camped less than a dozen times in my whole life, and in no way felt prepared. Everything I knew had been taught to me by someone else and not from any personal experience. Making decisions based on no experience was tricky.
What sort of caravan did we want? Where would we really even be going? Did we need a toilet? Nah, we think not! (what was I thinking?). After looking through many, many caravan yards, counting our money again (and again), reading blogs, and talking to a lot of people, we decided on our Dreamhome (named by Ava, as in Barbie’s Dreamhome). It’s a 17-foot Offroad Regent X-treme that could basically take us anywhere we imagined that we wanted to go. Other decisions made tricky by our lack of experience were things like what table we needed (we had never even owned camp chairs), what clothes to pack (I do need nine pairs of shoes, a hairdryer and hair straightener, don’t I?) and what upgrades were necessary for our car. How on earth were we going to home school the children? The list was endless! I am forever thankful for having good and wise friends who had done this before.
So why were we attempting this? Something I asked myself OFTEN leading up to our departure. We loved our life in Brisbane, we had great friends, the kids were settled in a terrific school and we both had worthwhile jobs. Our family had a few health concerns, and as a Registered Nurse I was especially worried about leaving doctors and hospitals that I trusted; however, it’s easy to trust God when life is comfortable and everything is going well. I had a desire to increase our life, to live more abundantly, a need to trust God deeper and to broaden our horizons – to learn about ourselves, our God, our history and our country. We wanted our children to experience having both parents to eat dinner with and to tuck them into bed every night. We wanted to see for ourselves and to show our children the country that the rest of the world dreams about. We wanted to discover if there was more to our lives than just existing.
So together with my husband, and our three cute children, Ava (8), Henry (6) and Finn (5), we hooked up the caravan and left home, tearfully waving goodbye to our home and our friends. We had rented out our house so there was no turning back; besides, this paid for all our expenses back at home. We had a very rough plan as to where we were heading, travelling North from Brisbane in an anticlockwise direction around the coast of Australia, with a little detour down to the Centre.
I would definitely say the first couple months were tough because really I didn’t know what we were doing! I knew we would only survive and thrive with God’s help. And so I prayed. I prayed for new friends. I prayed for clean public toilets! I prayed for safety, I prayed for no killer snakes inside our caravan! I prayed for health and I prayed for our family relationships. But it was still hard. Our first month was spent travelling north along the Queensland Coast. We were so blessed to meet other fabulous travelling families who shared their expertise with us. We were blessed to have friends who had scattered north whom we visited. Both my flatmates from my early adult life had coincidentally married north-Queensland boys and so it was wonderful to stay on their properties. I realised people don’t really ever change, because even though we hadn’t see each other for ten years we sat and giggled late into the night as if we were all still 20.
We have always been a beach-loving family, which meant that as long as we were on the beach we felt familiar, carefree and happy. After four weeks it was time to leave the coast and to start our westward trip, which gave us mixed feelings. We felt we had seen enough rainforest and we were a little fed up with the rainy weather that had followed us up the coast. We spent a lovely night at Lake Tinaroo, even if I did almost have a heart attack watching Brendan reversing into our spot on quite a steep hill with the huge lake below us: I tried to relax but could only imagine my whole family rolling slowly all the way into the dam! My hysterics clearly annoyed Brendan (definitely a weakness that needed working on).
The further west we headed the more I completely panicked! We’d never been so isolated or remote. I constantly had this sick panicky feeling, I had completely lost control and was in unknown territory. I had seen pictures but didn’t quite realise Australia was really that dirty and dusty. I didn’t know that you could literally drive for days and days without phone reception or Facebook! I had lost contact with home and I felt awful – the honeymoon was definitely over. There was a point where I was so desperately unhappy, panicky, cranky and miserable that Brendan almost begged me to leave the kids with him and fly home as my struggles were affecting everyone. This persevering and persistent Mummy eventually accepted the challenge – and endure we did. Thank goodness that God gave me that spirit of tenacious determination, because from here the trip just got better and better!
Photos: © Inga Clancy