Why did I do it?

Just over two years ago, I was unhealthy, unfit and struggling with overwhelm. My husband was FIFO and I had three young children. I had been pouring my time, money and heart into a business I loved but that was not thriving.

Then, my sister, founder and owner of ALF Health, dragged me up a mountain. Tabletop Mountain in Toowoomba, to be exact. It was muddy, rocky, slippery, steep and so, so flippin’ hard.

I was the slowest. I wanted to quit. I told myself I couldn’t do it.

But then I did.

Summit of Tabletop Mountain with my daughter, then 7 (almost 8) years old.

And I loved it.

And I wanted more.

I found my “thing.”

I found self-care, fitness and the beauty of nature, all in one.

From that point on, I went hiking whenever I could. I climbed that mountain multiple times, as well as countless other local hikes.

When we decided to pack up and live in a caravan, and I knew we were planning on going to Tasmania, I decided I wanted to challenge myself even more. The Overland Track went on my bucket list, as one of Australia’s iconic multi-day walks.

I knew without a doubt that I was capable (what a change from that woman who was dragged up the mountain!), and that even if it was hard, I would just keep going one step at a time.

When did I do it?

I did the track in January 2018.

Who did I do it with?

I had planned to do the track with one of my dearest friends, but it wasn’t to be. Another friend I had been hiking with offered to come with me, but then she got pregnant!

I was left with what I thought was the only option – going alone. The thought terrified me, but excited me.

Then, Luke (my husband) joked about how I hadn’t asked him. There were two main reasons why – one, because he was going to be looking after the kids, and two, while he had been on a couple of hikes with me, I didn’t think it was something he would want to do for six days!

Anyway, in the end, we did go together. I feel like it was meant to be that way. It transformed our relationship, and it was amazing to spend time together, just the two of us (even if we barely spoke, because we were concentrating on making it to the next camp!)

At the start of the Overland Track, not really knowing what lay ahead.

We flew his parents down to look after the kids, which was a win-win for everyone. We got to do the hike, the grandparents got a holiday and were able to see their beloved grandkids, and our kids were excited to spend the week with granny and grandpa!

How much did my pack weigh?

We were able to share some gear which was great, but our packs still exceeded 20kg (we aren’t sure of exact weight as we didn’t have scales, but thinking 22-23kg each). It was way too much, but by day three we were getting used to it. Ideally, they would have been 15-17kg each, and if I ever do it again, that’s what I would aim for.

What did we pack?

We shared gear, so for two of us, here’s our list.

– 3 person tent (so we could store our packs inside with us)

– 2 x Black Wolf sleeping bags

– 2 x Sea to Summit sleeping mats

– Jetboil Flash stove

– Jetboil pot

– 2 x 470g gas cylinders for the stove

– 2 x collapsible silicone mugs

– 2 x collapsible silicone bowls

– 2 x cutlery sets (spoon, fork, knife)

– Clothing

– Gaiters

– Trowel

– Toilet paper

– Toothbrush and Toothpaste

– Sunscreen

– Duct Tape and Zip Ties

– Food (and coffee)

– 2 x 3L water bladders

– DSLR camera + extra lens + extra battery + 2 filters + filter holder + tripod

– Journal and pen

– Book

– Deck of cards

– 2 x pairs of hiking poles

– First Aid kit

– Water treatment tablets (plus dissolvable vitamin C which made the water taste nicer)

– Ziplock bags for rubbish

– 2 x Torches

– 2 x Headlamps

– 2 x iPhones

– Spare batteries

– Battery pack for phone charging

– ID and credit card

– Satellite phone

– Hiking boots

– Thongs

– Small stuffed Yoda toy (#takeyodatravelling)

What clothing did we pack?

We each packed…

– 2 Hiking shirts (mine were both long sleeves, sometimes rolled up)

– 2 Pairs of zip-off pants

– Underwear (I packed 5 pairs)

– 1 Bra (plus one I was wearing)

– Thermals

– 2 Pairs of socks

– Fleece jumper

– Beanie

– Gloves

– Hat

What food did we pack?

Firstly, let me just say we didn’t pack enough. I really recommend creating ration packs for each day, as well as having an extra bag of nuts/dried fruit/trail mix to snack on. We were far too haphazard and just threw stuff in and thought oh, that’s heaps. Not recommended. At the end of day three, I did a stocktake and rationed the rest. We had enough, but more would have given us more energy and less grumbly tummies. We were hanging out for a real meal, that’s for sure!

Anyway, here’s our food list (what I can remember of it):

– 5 x Back Country (2 serve) dehydrated dinners

– 1 x Dehydrated rice pack

– 3 x Salmon pouches

– Salami sticks

– Brown rice crackers

– 4 Bread rolls (eaten day one and two)

– Protein bars

– Muesli bars

– Condensed milk tubes (almost made up for lack of chocolate)

– Dried apricots and mangoes

– Cream cheese mini tubs

– Coffee sachets

– Half a block of chocolate (not enough) that was in the fridge and my mother law insisted I take so she didn’t eat it)

We usually had protein bars/trail mix for breakfast (wish I had porridge!!), bread rolls and cream cheese or salmon and crackers for lunch, plus rice one day (that was fine but wish we had more), a dehydrated dinner (wish we had some soup, too) and then just random snacks.

I had decided to give up my hot chocolate addiction on the hike – and I bitterly regretted it ha! I’ve since decided that it is absolutely okay to have hot chocolate on a cold evening/chilly morning, and not to deprive myself of that pleasure. I never used to drink tea or coffee either, so I had no hot drinks! I’ve since discovered Chai, so would take some of that, too!

Is there anything I wish I took, but didn’t?

Hot chocolate/tea and more food, and a proper PILLOW! Oh, and the proper blister bandaids, which we didn’t have in our first aid kit. I would also consider a small, lightweight dress or something to wear around camp. I had filthy hiking clothes or thermals, nothing in between.

Is there anything I took, that I wouldn’t take next time?

Not reeeally. Probably my camera filters and book (would just load up on e-books). Not so many torches and spare batteries etc. We also didn’t need the extra Jetboil pot as the little one that comes standard was big enough. I have also since culled my first aid kit a bit, as we had multiple of many items and it was probably a bit unnecessary.

What am I glad I took?

Definitely my camera, and both lenses, even though it was noticeably heavy. Also, my hiking poles were a lifesaver and I’m not sure I’d have survived without them!! I’m glad I took my journal, even though I had considered taking it out before we left.

Which day was the hardest?

It was all pretty hard for me, to be honest. Not impossibly hard, but every day pushes me out of my comfort zone, mentally and physically.

Day one was long, steep and heavy. I had done some pack training, but not heaps. I was in good spirits, though. I did feel hot spots starting on my feet, and by the time we finally reached camp I collapsed, exhausted. My pack was rubbing on my shoulders, which improved when I came up with the idea of stuffing my gloves under the straps.

Day two I don’t recall as being particularly difficult, at least not compared to day one!

Day three was easier. I was a bit more used to my pack, and even though it was a long day, the terrain didn’t seem quite as tough as some of the others.

Day four was mountain day, which of course presents its challenges, but it can’t have been too bad, because we did a side trip up an extra mountain!

Day five was probably the hardest, physically. I did okay until we got to the ridge climb towards the end. It felt like it would NEVER end. On the way back down my legs were so incredibly fatigued, it took everything I had to plod along slowly to make it to camp. Apparently it was quite an amusing sight…(as seen in the following video hubby took in efforts to cheer me up).

Day six was a breeze in comparison, and Luke tells me I found another gear. It must have been the lure of the finish line and the promise of a good feed! We got the ferry back, although I feel like I’ve got unfinished business now, and would have loved to walk the last leg along Lake St Clair, but we were restricted with time.

We then celebrated with fish and chips/burger and milkshake/coffee before heading back to Cradle Mountain where the grandparents and kids had been staying.

What were the highlights?

There were so many! The wildlife (especially our first time seeing wombats, echidnas and snakes in the wild), the amazing flowers and plants, the epic views, the people…

The wombat that made day one worth it. The first wombat I’ve seen in the wild.

The wildness of the landscape, being out there, away from the modern, busy world and the to-do list.

Drinking straight from an icy cold waterfall (otherwise drank only treated water, just in case – but it was the most delicious water ever). Then sitting in the creek with the water washing over me!

The fact that there was little to no rubbish, and that the human footprint was minimal (which I believe is incredibly important). We were very conscious of packing out all our rubbish and staying on the track, as well as keeping back from wildlife and not feeding or touching them.

The chance to spend time as a couple, not “Mum and Dad.

I think more than anything, though, it was the incredible sense of personal accomplishment and strength I gained through it. The fact that I went out and did something so huge, for myself, helped me unpack and break through a lot of limiting beliefs that I’ve subconsciously held tight for so long.

I came out of the six days with more clarity of what I want from this one beautiful life, a stronger sense of self, a deep appreciation of our world and my place in it, and more love towards myself and my body.

The Overland Track has been a big part of the transformation I’ve been undergoing since we hit the road seven months ago. It is a process, and there is still a way to go, but I can feel the shifts happening within, as I shed the burdens of long-held beliefs that do not serve me, and learn to trade “stuff” and “busy-ness” for meaningful moments, contentment and joy.

Day One, standing at Marion’s Lookout with Cradle Mountain in the background.

What next?

I feel like my next step is to go solo. To be truly alone, for even just a few days.

I don’t want to do life on my own. I think that too often, we are all encouraged to carry the load alone. We are detached, from each other, from the earth, and even from ourselves. As a society, we are encouraged to be “busy” whether we want to be or not. The opposite of being seems not to be content, but lazy. I believe in the “village,” in sharing the load, and that many hands make light work. But somehow, it feels important for me to spend some time alone, as a way of learning to let go and ALLOW others to take some of the load (while still knowing that I am capable) and to stop being BUSY.

I’m thinking maybe the Northern Territory will do just fine for that!

 

***

Here’s a few more photos from our epic six day adventure!


“Mum, where’s my socks?”

“Mum, can I have a snack?”

“Mum, can we have a hot chocolate?”

“Mum, can we have some of [insert whatever I’m eating or drinking]?”

“Mum, can you take us to the playground/beach/wherever else we want to go?”

“Mum, can we get a new app?”

“Mum, can you put some new music on my iPad?”

“Mum, look at this!”

“Mum, watch me!”

“Mum, take a picture!”

“Mum, [insert name] [insert action – looked at me/touched me/etc]”

“Mum, where’s my [insert object]?”

“Mum, can you brush my hair?”

“Mum, can you pass me a towel?”

“Mum, can you put in the password?”

“Mum, can you help me [insert whatever they need help me]?”

Mum, Mum….Mum…MUM!!!!

Most days, I choose to find gratitude in the incessant questions and requests.

Gratitude that they’re mine.

Gratitude that they’re healthy and safe.

Gratitude that we have so much time together.

Gratitude that we are sharing this experience as a family.

Gratitude to bear witness to their curiosity and learning.

Gratitude to have the opportunity to watch them grow.

Gratitude that I have good food to feed them.

Gratitude for the sound of their chatter and their laughter.

Gratitude in knowing that I am a safe place for them, and that they want to ask me questions.

But there are some days I just want a mute button for them, or to say, “Ask Dad.”

I want to get through a page, or even a chapter (!!) of my book without questions.

I want to have a hot chocolate without having to make four.

I want to nap in the car without being woken with another “Mum, Mum!”

I want to be able to go to the bathrooms without someone asking me where I’m going.

But I know that when they’re teenagers, I’ll want them to talk to me and feel safe asking me questions.

I know that one day, when they’re grown up and out in the big wide world, I will miss their little voices saying, “Mum, Mum.”

I know that I would rather have them asking me “too many” questions, than not asking me at all.

So, even on the days where I want to reach for that non-existent mute button, I will still choose gratitude.

And maybe just go and hide for half an hour with a book and a hot chocolate, all to myself, somewhere.


10 Roadschooling Ideas: Numeracy

Homeschooling doesn’t have to happen at a desk. We are travelling Australia because we want to see it, not to be stuck in a caravan forcing our children to complete math worksheets or do their times tables for a few hours a day.

In our six months of travelling (so far), we’ve found so many ways that numeracy skills are incorporated into our everyday lives. Yes, sometimes it is a conscious decision to create the learning experience, but there are many times that it just happens, all on its own.

Here are just a few of the examples:

1. Distance: This can happen in so many ways! Calculating distance between towns (using road signs, for examples) is one way, adding up and keeping track of the distances they’ve hiked is another. Essentially, you could cover addition, subtraction, multiplication and division using distance, particularly when you begin to factor in times, fuel economy etc.

2. Cooking/Baking: Measurement, fractions etc are SORTED – and you end up with food, too!

3. Finance: Again, can cover addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Including them in budgeting, grocery shopping and those sorts of things is one way. They also have Spriggy accounts, and often will calculate how many weeks until they could have x amount of money to buy y thing.

4. Business Skills: It’s very possible for children to gain numeracy skills using real life business situations. For example, Miss 9 made and sold some seashell necklaces, through which she learned about expenses, profit, loans, etc. This could range from the simple to the most complex depending on the age and capability of the child. They could (if done well) end up with money AND a very rich learning experience.

5. Counting Anything and Everything: This may be a bit simplistic for older children (but could always make it more complex by counting in multiples or something), but we’ve had lots of improvement in numeracy by counting steps we take, particularly counting the number of stairs!

6. Mathletics: We have a subscription for the kids, which offers more structured learning.

7. Number Puzzles: Sudoku and other number puzzles are a great boredom buster and numeracy tool.

8. Measuring tape: I don’t know if all kids are like this, but our kids love measuring, and a measuring tape is a much coveted “toy.” It would be easy, and fun, to ask the kids to measure certain things, and have them arrange the measurements in order. And they love helping to measure things when we actually need to, as well.

9. Matador: The kids got a Matador set for Christmas, which is fun, engaging and gets them thinking! They can follow instructions or invent their own creations. They learn spatial awareness and how things work together.

10. Card Games: There are so many options out there for fun card games that incorporate numeracy skills (as well as things like memory and strategy). A current favourite of ours is Zombie Run. Newsagencies often stock things like this, and they’re small, light and portable – roadschooling win!


Hike/Bike the Year 2018

Late last year, I stumbled upon a Facebook group called Hike The Year 2018. Meaning, hike or bike 2018kms within the calendar year.

And I decided that we would do it!

It sounds like a lot – certainly more than we’ve ever done before – but the goal is for the five of us, together, to hike/bike 2018kms in the year 2018.

This means that if all 5 of us do a 10km hike, we add 50km to our combined total.

I decided NOT to include my morning walks (approximately 3-5km, 3-5 days a week – so potentially 450-1300km over the course of the year!!!), but ONLY the walking/hiking/bike tracks we do. Of course, if I do one of these AS my morning walk it still counts, but if I’m just walking along the beach or the roads, it’s not a part of our total.

I chose this to inspire me to seek out some of the many amazing walks Australia has to offer, and as something to aspire to TOGETHER.

To take it a step further, I came up with the idea of recording our distances and the tracks we walk on “hike the year” shirts. This has been a cool little activity for the kids, and I must admit that I’m already pretty damn proud of mine, particularly the Overland Track and the Three Capes Track, my first ever multi-day walks. I’m excited to see where else we go (it’s all Tasmania at the moment!) in 2018.

As part of our little project, I’ll be sharing more about each hike we do – including photos, in terms of how we found the experience, challenges, highlights and general information for undertaking these hikes, particularly with children.

For now, here is our list so far (up until February 7th, 2018)

~ Lady Barron Falls circuit, TAS (6km) – all of us!

~ Montezuma Falls Track, TAS (9.6km) – all of us!

~ Overland Track, TAS (70km) – Luke and Jen

~ Enchanted Walk, TAS (1km) – the kids

~ King Billy Walk, TAS (2km) – the kids

~ Kyvnet Falls, TAS (1.5km) – all of us

~ Ronny Creek to Dove Lake (6km) – Haylee

~ Three Capes Track, TAS (48km) – Jen and Haylee

~ Waterfall Valley, TAS (6km) – all of us

~ Painted Cliffs (Bikes), TAS x 3 (3km) – all of us

~ Fossil Cliffs (Bikes), TAS (3km) – all of us

~ Wineglass Bay, TAS (5km) – all of us

~ St. Columba Falls, TAS (1.2km) – all of us

~ Bridport History Walk, TAS (5km) – Jen

This brings us to a total of 462.5 kilometers in 51 days – pretty impressive if I do say so myself – almost a quarter of the way already!


22 Roadschooling Ideas: Literacy

When families go on the road, or are thinking about going on the road, a common concern is how they will teach their children.

In almost six months of travelling, and with a very relaxed roadschooling philosophy happening, I find myself not “teaching” my children to become literate. Instead, I find myself noticing all the opportunities for them to become literate.

Here are 25 of those things:

1. Reading Books: We borrow books from caravan parks, trade them at opp shops and have a few special books of our own. For example, Master 7 loves Star Wars, so he has some Star Wars books, which he uses to research his favourite characters and everything else about it!

2. Listening to Books: There is a commonly held belief that children have to read to become literate. But listening to books, and even podcasts (which we also do), improves their literacy skills. We have 3 subscriptions for Tales2Go, so they can listen from their own device.

3. Reading Brochures or Researching Locations: We often stop at information centers to see what’s in the area, or the kids will use google to research things to do at our next stop.

4. National Parks: National Parks have so many informative signs, so they don’t just cover literacy, they often cover history, geography and/or science! We get the kids to read – including Miss 5, who can’t read but wants to, so often ends up either telling us the letters (which she’s learned in the last 6 months) or making up stories according to the pictures on the signs.

5. Word Cookies App: The kids were obsessed with this for ages, although it’s slowed a bit now. Basically, it’s a word-building game, which increased their vocabulary and general literacy skills. They also helped Miss 5 by telling her the letters to use – which meant she learnt her letters.

6. Words With Friends, and Boggle With Friends: This one is a 2 birds, 1 stone scenario. Miss 9 plays with her Ma, so it keeps them connected AND increases literacy. Thanks, Internet!

7. Writing Shopping Lists: When we are writing shopping lists, or any list really, we will sometimes ask the kids to help out – they usually know where the pens.

8. Journalling: Journalling is a great way for kids to practice their writing AND create a special keepsake of their travels.

9. Researching Animals: We keep a list of the animals we find, and the kids will use a great app we have to identify them and learn more about them. There is an app for each state, released by the National Museum. If you search “Field Guide to [Insert State] Fauna” in your app store, you should find them easily enough!

10. Writing in the Sand: It’s been fun for the kids to draw and write in the sand. Often, it will just be their name or the name of the place we are staying, but I think I’ll encourage a bit more – perhaps beach hangman would be fun!

11. Find-a-Words/Crosswords: We mostly use electronic versions simply to save space, but they’re a great boredom buster!

12. Reading Eggs: We have a subscription for each of the kids. They did use this as school, so there’s some continuity there for them, and gives a bit more structure.

13. Story Cubes: Miss 9 loves writing stories. She will often just write them on her own, but we have some story cubes in case she needs some extra information. You can also create your own!

14. Monster Messenger: The kids use this app to chat with their friends and family. We aren’t super strict on spelling and punctuation, but it gets them reading and writing/typing, so it still counts!

15. Writing Blog/Social Media Posts: This is a FAMILY trip, so for me it’s important that the kids be included in documenting it. It hasn’t happened as much as I would like, but it’s something that we hope to do more of in the future.

16. Cooking/Baking: Cooking and baking from a recipe means they have to read and follow instructions – and we end up something delicious at the end, hopefully!

17. Board Games: We don’t have a lot of board games simply because of space, but there are loads out there that require (and strengthen) literacy skills, such as Scrabble, Boggle, Quiddler and Articulate. There’s also a great post here with some games I’d never heard of but that look amazing!

18. Writing Postcards and Letters: Again, this is a win win – keeping in touch with friends and family, and writing!

19. Poetry: Not something we’ve done yet, but while I was writing this post I thought about how much fun it would be to make up poems for the places we visit!

20. Learning Another Language: Duolingo is a fabulous app for learning another language. It’s structured, simple and easy to use.

21. Letter Chocolates (or other yummies): We have a silicon alphabet mould, which can be used for letter recognition, creating words/spelling, or creating your own fun letter/word games (Chocolate Boggle, anyone?). For a healthy alternative, you could make your own healthy chocolate or make your own gummy lollies)

22. Learning Auslan: Sign language can not only be fun to learn, it is a fabulous skill to have, allowing your children to communicate with the deaf/special needs community and fostering a sense of inclusiveness.

We are surrounded by and immersed in literacy everywhere we go. Reading, writing, speaking, listening. Paper, signs, internet. The opportunities for learning are endless.


About a year ago now, I decided it was time to stop allowing my children to be an excuse to neglect myself, especially my health.

This was not only for me, but for them. I didn’t want them to sense the resentment I was holding towards motherhood and how I felt it had robbed so much of my identity. I didn’t want them to feel responsible for my unhappiness, not even subconsciously.

I began to understand how crucial it was to show them that I had needs, too…and that I honoured them. I realised how crucial it was to model to them a healthy view of a woman and mother who had hobbies, and passions, and a career that made her heart and soul sing. I wanted them to know that as a family, we ALL mattered. I had to care for my own physical and mental well-being, because I knew they were all watching and learning from me.

So, we began to walk/ride together most afternoons, around the block. It was about 2.5km, and took us about 30-45 minutes to complete.

Sometimes, my 4 year old got tired. Occasionally, my 6 year old did, too.

I came up with a strategy. I simply invited them to hold my hand, so I could share my energy with them. It seemed so simple, and a little silly, like a placebo, but it WORKED. They would have renewed energy, their pace would quicken and they would happily (well, mostly) continue along. It stuck, and since then we are often “sharing energy.”

Today, I was reminded of how important it is to give AND receive.

We were walking, again. We’ve done so much walking on this trip. Miss 5 was struggling a little up the hill, so she asked to hold my hand so she could share my energy. Her little hand bundled into mine, and I said to her, “I’m a bit tired, you’ll have to share your energy with me, too.”

I never want to forget what she said next. She said to me, “I already am sharing my energy with you, mummy. If we do it for each other, we will have even more.”

 

This was a profound moment for me. I have always felt like I have given, and given, and given. I have felt like everyone wants to TAKE from me. TAKE my time, TAKE my energy, TAKE my body, TAKE my affection, TAKE my love. And I had to give it, because they needed me to. Even when it felt like I had nothing left to give.

The problem was, I never allowed myself to receive. I didn’t feel worthy of receiving. I didn’t know how to.

This meant that my cup was often empty, and there’s the common (and true) saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”

When you feel like you have no choice to keep giving, though, resentment can grow. Resentment towards the people you love more than anyone in the world.

In recent times, I’ve started to realise that when you are open to giving AND receiving, that resentment disappears, and in its place comes JOY.

The more you give, the more you receive…if you allow yourself to.

Your cup begins to overflow, and you feel JOY in giving, and GRATITUDE in receiving.

You realise, as I did today through the profound words of my daughter, that we can be more than the sum of our parts when we are in it together.

 

 

 


When we were planning the first leg of our trip, most people thought we were crazy. Whilst the vast majority of the caravanning world headed north for the sunshine and swimming holes to ESCAPE the cold, we left sunny Queensland and headed south, straight TOWARDS it.

Why? Let’s face it, even though it’s cold, snow is FUN! And Miss 4 desperately had her heart on going to the snow, building a snowman and throwing snowballs at her daddy! It’s one of those “bucket list” items for kids and adults alike, I reckon.

Jindabyne was the destination, at the foot of the Snowy Mountains, NSW. I highly recommend staying there, mostly because it’s a few degrees warmer than up IN the mountains – and it was cold enough as it was!

If I had to give tips for travelling to the snow with kids, these are what they would be:

  1. Powered site. Self explanatory, really – though there were people camping in tents…brrrrrr…..We loved our heater though! We have a little $20 fan heater that heats our van up quickly and is compact and lightweight.
  2. Plastic bags. If you don’t have snowshoes/gumboots, and don’t think you’ll get use out of them or don’t have enough room, you’re welcome to use our hack. We just reused some plastic grocery bags we had, popped them over the kids’ socks and then they wore their sneakers. Yes, their shoes got wet, but all that meant was that we had to leave them in the sun to dry (and our caravan park actually had a drying room if we needed). When it’s only for a matter of days, it’s just not worth the space and expense of buying, or even hiring.
  3. Layers. Even though the snow itself is obviously very cold, the air isn’t always as cold as you’d expect. The first day we went up, Miss 9 had a t-shirt, and her jacket. No in-between. She got HOT in her jacket, but it was too cool in just her t-shirt. So having multiple layers so each person can adjust to the conditions is highly recommended!
  4. Snowman decorations. Don’t forget them – like us (eyeroll). Ever since Tasmania 2015 we have sworn we would make a “proper” snowman, with carrot nose and all. But do you think we ever remembered the damn carrot??? If you need to improvise like we did, using your own sunglasses for eyes, and beanie/scarf, at least makes it look somewhat like a snowman…..
  5. Sunglasses. The reflection from the sun on snow is SO bright, like eye-burning bright. So sunnies for everyone is a must! (I should really take my own advice, see squinty photos below).

While there’s a lot of things you COULD buy or hire to have the “proper” gear, most of it really isn’t necessary for short term, once-in-a-lifetime snow visits. Particularly buying, as it can be bulky, and by the time you next get to the snow it’ll likely have been outgrown. We did buy some waterproof gloves on sale, only because their normal cotton gloves got soaked VERY quickly, and much of what we wanted to do involved snowmen and snowballs! Also, Aldi has snow sales most years, so keep an eye out in the late Autumn/early Winter months!

Here are some photos from our snow trip – it really was great fun!

Highlights:

  • finally building a proper snowman (sans carrot nose)
  • going for a stomp around in the snow, and the giggles from the kids who ended up buried thigh-high!
  • having snow FALL one magical morning, and catching it on our tongues and in our eyelashes – SO MAGICAL!
  • tobogganing was a hit for sure, we had to go back and do it again since everyone had so much fun! The big kids went straight for the high slope, Milly was quite the daredevil too but Daddy didn’t want her going right from the top. I tobogganed for the first time in my life – initially I was terrified, but it really was loads of fun (just really really fast)
  • meeting Kate across the road from our site – she was like a big kid (she has worked as a nanny) and the kids adored her. She dyed the girls’ hair, and taught all the kids to ride a skateboard

While it was cold (which I don’t mind, myself), it was WORTH IT!

 


Self Care.

I thought I had it pretty down pat. When I lived in a house, anyway. When my life was somewhat more predictable, and certain things happened on certain days. Self care was practically scheduled into my calendar.

I knew I would need it when we left, too. I made the expectation clear from the outset, to myself and to my family.

Then on Day Three, the first of the children got sick. And then the second. And then the third. And then all of a sudden we were almost three weeks into the trip when I practically fell apart.

I missed my morning shower like many people would miss their morning coffee. The bathroom door was broken so even when I did get a two minute shower (instead of a “bucket bath” which tends to happen when free camping), I had it with the door wide open. I missed washing my hair every day, too (even if I know it’s not ideal to wash it every day).

I missed my dancing lessons.

I missed playing netball and socialising with other adult women.

I missed my bagpipe lessons, and making music.

I missed reading in bed in the evenings.

I missed “coffee” dates with my friends (I call them that even if I think coffee tastes like poison).

I missed that 15 minutes of silent bliss after dropping the kids off at school/daycare. And the occasional sneaky breakfast/morning tea I would have at a cafe on the way home.

I missed taking the kids over to visit their grandparents.

I missed hiking (and that was something I thought I could do MORE of when we were travelling!).

I even missed exercise class, even though I used to hate every minute of it (but felt awesome afterwards).

I had brought my bagpipes, my guitar, my hiking gear, some nice body wash, books to read…..and yet, it just wasn’t happening. Self care? What’s that?

My grand intentions were lost in a blur of parenting (sick children = 10x more intense), packing/unpacking, entertaining, organising, travelling, shopping, washing and just….LIFE.

Yes, we did stuff together as a family and that was awesome in its own right.

But I am an introvert. Introverts need time alone to recharge and refill their cup. My cup was well and truly below empty.

The only time I’d had alone was when the husband sent me off to do the grocery shopping (with the best of intentions, bless him). Needless to say, it wasn’t enough.

So, what did I do?

Well first, I cried. Sobbed, actually. I was a giant snotty mess. I was traumatised by the hell that was the first two weeks (and still didn’t know my turn was yet to come) and I wanted to go “home” – but this IS our home.

Then, I sat down and thought about what it was I missed, and how I could incorporate self care into each day.

I was also able to spend a week in Sydney surrounded by amazing, inspiring people who were all there to improve themselves and their lives. That definitely helped.

The biggest hurdle was guilt. Guilt about leaving Luke and the kids to do things on my own. Guilt about “indulging” myself. Feeling like I didn’t deserve to spend time, nor money, on myself. I was worried that Luke would get resentful of me if I wasn’t there 24/7 helping to parent, feed, entertain, clean….I even felt guilty about those things when I was WORKING! It all boiled down to my OWN feelings about being “unworthy” – because I wasn’t working and bringing home a paycheck, because I was “just” a mum??

It’s ridiculous, really. No person should ever feel guilt for meeting their own needs and creating their own happiness. We all know, logically, that to be the best we can be for OTHERS, we must give OURSELVES what we need first. “You can’t pour from an empty cup” and all that. It’s not just a saying, it’s TRUE!

And for years, I had done so much of the parenting and household management solo while Luke worked. Now that we are together, and our days are more free and relaxed, why SHOULDN’T I spend time focusing on myself and my own needs? Needs that had been put on the backburner over and over and over again in years passed.

In the past week, I’ve integrated self care into my days and it’s made a HUGE difference.

For me, self care looks like:

~ A shower in the morning: no matter how brief (just need to get my hair wet now, don’t have to wash it every day) and a washdown in the evening (either quick shower or a bucket bath if freecamping). I need to feel clean and fresh in the morning and the evening, which is indulgent but important.

~ Daily exercise: I’m still working on this one, hoping to establish a morning exercise routine that is fun AND exercise (possibly boxing? And if I’m really super keen, perhaps some burpees). But I’ve been taking walks or hikes, and if we need to go somewhere within reasonable walking distance, I’ll walk.

~ Daily music practice: There have been a couple of times I’ve had to go to extremes to make this happen (driving to an empty carpark at night and practicing in the car so as not to disturb anyone), but most days I have. Now I’m back in the routine of regular bagpipe practice, I’m aiming to incorporate some guitar and ukelele too (we are all learning the ukelele together). I even managed to score a lesson with a local bagpipe teacher this week!

~ Dedicated work time: I have hours now during the week that are allocated to working. For me that involves establishing my photography/videography business and working on some behind the scenes still-secret business. I’m also planning on picking up some regular editing and perhaps admin work for other photographers, and some other online work to supplement our cashflow until my own business reaches its targets.

~ Good f

ood: SO SO important, and still a work in progress. But I did some baking this week and that was wonderful. I just love it! Now need to drop out some carbs and add in some more veges and we’ll be pretty well on track. Also taking my supplements each day – such a small thing to do, but it’s crazy how we can get “too busy” for that two minute task.

~ Reading before bed: This one is self explanatory, there’s nothing better than a good book before going to sleep. Definitely better for my soul than wasting time scrolling on Facebook!

~ Journalling: I’m the kind of person who ends up with a “cluttered” mind very easily, if I don’t get it out on paper. I like to be organised and know what’s going on in my life without having to store all the data in my brain constantly! Since the course I did in Sydney, I’ve found journalling has been therapeutic in clearing my mind, and propelling me forwards. The goal is to do it every day, which hasn’t quite happened, but it’s getting there.

There are SO many things we can do to care for ourselves. Things that make us happy. Things that make us BETTER partners and BETTER mothers. It is not “selfish” to do these things. I would in fact argue that it’s necessary, for our own mental (and physical) health, and also as role models to our children.

And I’m not just saying that, I’m living it. Not always perfectly, but with intention and love.

I hope you will too, other mamas out there on the road xx


Emus. Sheep. Campfires. Eggs. Opals. Lots and lots of cider to help with the trauma of Week One.

That about sums up Week Two.

We left from Foxbar Falls (Amiens, QLD) a few days late, after the horror story of Week One, with our next destination being Lightning Ridge. Turns out the anticipated 6 hour trip ended up being more like 8, after we discovered we nearly lost the bikes off the back of the caravan and had to stop for some emergency repairs. From that day, we’ve been travelling with the bikes on our bed during transit which isn’t ideal, but at this stage I’m just thankful we still HAVE the bikes!

When we pulled into Lightning Ridge, we finally got to take our first “touristy” photo! Woohoo!

We stayed at Carinya Station, which I knew was a good choice from the moment we arrived and were greeted so kindly by the hosts, despite arriving after dark.

The following morning, one of the friendly neighbours asked how I was and if we had settled in, and I responded by bursting into tears, and telling her the saga that had been our life for the last week and a half. I did manage to laugh a bit through the tears, and a hug – they told me I should write a book!

Fresh air and sunshine was the agenda – after being stuck inside so much, we were ready to do some exploring! Rather than paying money for our stay, we were asked to contribute to jobs around the station, which was a wonderful opportunity for all of us, including the kids.

From checking water troughs (and watching HUNDREDS of sheep and emus “race” across the road!!), to feeding pigs and collecting and stamping eggs, the kids were so involved. And many of the grey nomads were happy to take the kids under their wing, which was so lovely, as we all miss the grandparents back home. The sense of community was just what we needed as we recovered.

Evenings were spent by the communal campfire, and I learned that many grey nomads are quite hilarious! So many stories to tell! And with a bit of cider in me, I ended the days feeling quite relaxed and happy – so THIS was how it was meant to be!

Then it was time for what we came here for – OPALS! We decided on going to Opal Mine Adventure, where we were able to go underground, followed by some fossicking. We didn’t make our millions, but we did have fun trying! And I did actually find a small (non-valuable) opal, which was a bit exciting! The guy who worked there also gave us a handful to take home with us, I was very impressed with how he explained things to the kids and made sure they left feeling happy and with an opal in hand!

The Red Car Door Tour (and Amigo’s Castle) was the agenda for the following day, and the castle that was built by hand by an old guy who is referred to as Amigo (who still lives in a little home behind the castle). I won’t ruin the story, but it was really interesting, and a bit sad that it was never finished. I really would have loved to meet Amigo, but it wasn’t to be – he sounds like such an eccentric old man, much the same as I imagine myself being an eccentric old woman one day, ha!

After all the drama of Week One, we went a bit crazy with touristy things in Lightning Ridge, to cheer ourselves up. But I absolutely don’t regret fitting in the Chambers of the Black Hand tour on our very last day – WOW! It was like another world down there, and we all loved it! From Tony Abbott to Wonder Woman, the dedication it took to create this (from a butter knife and fork!!!) is incredible. We got to see him at work, too – and Miss 4 even got to have a turn “helping” which made her feel very special. I suppose you’ve got to do something when your opal mine doesn’t really have much opal 😉

Luke then gifted me with a beautiful opal pendant, which I will forever adore! They really are such beautiful gems, and what a wonderful reminder of this time of our lives.

From there, it was SNOW TIME, and we began the journey to Jindabyne! Stay tuned for more on that!

In the meantime, there’s a few more photos – just in case that wasn’t already enough!


It seems more than a little ironic that I’m writing this post on Day 13 of our trip. And yes, I’m a bit behind. Hopefully that can be amended, if things from here are a little less crazy.

So, Week One.

Week One was NOT what I expected. Not even a little bit.

In fact, Week One is one I would possibly rather forget. And yet, it’s etched into my mind. And so I try to focus on the glimpses of good amidst the nightmare.

Day One was exciting, but exhausting. It was very surreal. And I decided to celebrate by having four alcoholic beverages in one session – something that hasn’t happened for many, many years. It was fun, but I’m not going to make a habit of it, it’s too expensive and calorie-consuming! Maybe once a month is OK…

Day Two was fairly straightforward and quite relaxing – in hindsight I wish I’d done more, before things went downhill fast. But it was sort of amazing to read a whole book in one day – another thing I’d not done in years.

Day Three was where things went downhill.

I’m guessing that everyone who does this crazy travelling with kids thing, doesn’t do so without fear.

There could be the fear of breaking down in the middle of nowhere. There could be the fear of being in an accident. There could be the fear of losing children (that almost happened to us today eek!! Will save that story for later). There could be an endless list of fears.

My fear was gastro. I HATE vomiting. HATE it. And the thought of dealing with it in a caravan was literally my biggest fear.

Well, it took three days. THREE DAYS!!!!

And it was even worse than I imagined it would be.

Miss 4 felt sick in the morning – ended up vomiting and I’m like oh noooooo, but was hoping it was a once off sort of thing, perhaps from being a bit put out by the change in environment, or from food or water. Anyway, we needed some things from the shops so Luke set off with the big two and I stayed behind with Miss 4.

Then came the poo. And the vomit. And the poo and the vomit. And I was free camping, with no phone signal, no car, no nappies or other supplies. And it turns out that rather than going to the town 20 minutes away, hubby couldn’t get what he needed, so went an hour (each way) away, cruising long getting lunch etc as well, and took FIVE HOURS to get back. And it was the peak of the illness. Poor Miss 4 was struggling to make it to the toilet, too – so I ended up with 6 or so sets of soiled pants. After the first 3, I decided to get creative and stuff her undies with toilet paper because that’s all I had at hand. It was terrible. She kept saying it was the worst day ever, and when I tried reassuring her (and myself) that it was just one day and then she would be better, she kept asking when this day would be over. Poor little chicken, it was horrible for both of us.

And it didn’t get better. The next morning she seemed a lot better, but after a little walk out in the sunshine, she faded quickly. She got feverish, and very lethargic, she still wasn’t eating and only having minimal fluids. The next day was the same, and that evening I decided to take her in to the local hospital as I feared dehydration and was a bit concerned that she wasn’t better after three full days. That’s when we learned that norovirus is pretty rampant at the moment and was likely what she had. Uh-oh, that was not the news I wanted to hear, because with us living in such close quarters, I know that meant that it likely wouldn’t stop with her.

And it didn’t.

Two hours after we got home from the hospital – so at 1am – I hear a little voice coming from THE TOP BUNK saying “I just vomited” – and by that, Mister 7 meant he had leaned over the side of the top bunk and emptied the contents of his stomach….from approximately 1.5m up you can imagine the splashback (waaaahhhh). Not. Pretty.

I had sat up in quite a hurry and taken a bowl over to catch the rest. When I turned back towards the bed, Luke had turned as white as a ghost….then proceeded to fall back on the bed and start convulsing!! TOTALLY FREAKED ME OUT!!! So I had that happening at one end of the van, and vomit all over the other end of the van – fun times! It was also FREEZING COLD and we were free camping with no power, so no heater either!

Somehow I found it in me to triage the situation – I told Mister 7 he had to stay put, gave him the bowl and said I needed to help daddy first. Not that I knew how to help besides making sure he was actually OK when he came to. I didn’t even know how to use the satellite phone and so begged him to tell me, in case I needed an ambulance. I think perhaps it was maybe his version of the virus – and not the fact he wanted to get out of more vomit/poo catching and cleaning duty since he’d missed the first lot, too!! Anyway, I made him lie down so I didn’t have to worry about him, and got to dealing with the other end of the caravan. I don’t even like to think about it, really. Copious amounts of paper towel were used in the process.

Then it was Master 7 and I bunkering down for the rest of the night on the couch. Lots of cleaning and comforting, but I must say that in between, he was the most ridiculously cheerful sick person I’ve ever known. In between the vomiting was questions and giggles – I sometimes laughed, and even cracked a “dad joke” – because let’s face it, if you don’t laugh, you cry. And I’d done enough crying already.

When everyone else got up that morning, I insisted on going to a powered site, so we drove into town (this was Day 6, by now) and proceeded to spend $60 on washing and drying clothes, and attempting to decontaminate in order to hopefully save Miss 9.

But it wasn’t to be. Miss 9 succumbed that night, when our little washing machine was rocking the caravan and she felt nauseous. I really felt for her – she’s a bit anxious about gastro, like I am, and was terrified about it. I had been feeding her with charcoal and she seemed to only get mild symptons and we still managed a pretty good night’s sleep, which was a relief!

As Miss 9 had said to me while I was catching her brother’s vomit at 3am and talking about how this had been my biggest fear……”someone once said that whatever your biggest fear is, if it comes true and happens to you, then it makes you not be afraid anymore”…..so, I guess I can now say I’ve conquered my biggest fear. Even when I didn’t think I could. And I just kept reminding myself that surely it could only get better from here!

So on Day 7, we proceeded to head to our next stop. We almost lost our bikes from the back of our caravan, and had to stop for emergency welding repairs (as well as travel with our bikes on our bed inside the van, which is how they’ve continued to be transported), but we pulled into camp at 6:30pm – exhausted!

The drive was actually really interesting at times – we saw wild emus for the first time, which the kids (and I) were super excited about!!! Lots of other animals too, both dead and alive (one road was renamed “Roadkill Road”). And we took our very first daggy “touristy” photo! Ha!

I was going to get everyone to share their highlights and lowlights, but they’re sleeping as I write, and I’m almost ready to join them, so I’ll do that as a sequel to this post!

We are still working on finding some kind of rhythm to our days, and I definitely feel like I haven’t found my feet yet, but I don’t regret it, even after the hell of Week One, and I’m excited for where our adventure takes us!

Foxbar Falls – my sister’s property (and campground still in progress of being built) – is amazing!!! I would have loved to do more explore – there’s lots of tracks and rock scrambling and things to see and do. It was great that we could have a fire every night, right on the waterfront. The playground area was AWESOME – I’m a big fan of nature/upcycled playgrounds. The balancing log and tyre swings were big hits with the kids. And it’s fantastic for bikes. The kids had a great time racing along the runway, and also mountain biking through some of the bushland. I’m looking forward to going back when it’s completed!

Here are some of the highlights from Week One – seeing these is such a good reminder of silver linings and glimmers of light in the darkness!



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