We left our home in Sydney 28 days ago and I could spin a yarn about the trials, triumphs & tribulations of packing up our lives, our house and our jobs in order to hit the road but this post would be too long.
Instead I'll share a few things we've learned on our trip so far
Paper airplanes are great for making friends (mostly) but not so good for flying in confined spaces.
J and the kids love making paper airplanes, finding new designs online, analyzing their flaws & trying them out. We have a supply of paper especially for this purpose though the kids are getting more creative & turning their intricate drawings in to flying machines. After seeing the movie, Paper Planes, their enthusiasm was rekindled.
Most people would have had to have made a paper airplane or at least seen one and that's why, like a musical instrument, they are a universal way to connect with people.
B & P have made a few grey nomad friends by sharing their interest and these obliging grey nomads' eyes have sparkled as though they are taken back to a childhood. Not all grey nomads appear to like paper planes (or children for that matter) and that's okay. This was the life lesson for the past two days for the kids... how do you read someone's body language and what cues tell you that someone doesn't want to participate?
It's not always easy being a kid.
Needless to say we learned our first lesson fairly immediately. The confined spaces of caravan & the long trajectory of B's paper airplanes are not a good combination! Flying these things is definitely an outside activity!
Tinting will pay for itself.
I guess this statement isn't really fact so maybe it would be better read "tinting your windows will pay off in the long run." For some reason we'd always assumed tinting would cost a bomb (and perhaps once upon a time day it did) but we had our truck done before we left Sydney for $270 at Forest Tinting (www.foresttinting.com.au). The tinting has definitely made the car cooler & today I was forced to park in the sun. When I returned to the car two hours later it wasn't nearly as hot as I'd have expected. We want to protect ours & our kids' skin as much as possible, too, so the tinting helps with that.
The family bathroom is your friend
We've stayed in a few places now that have a family bathroom. These are commonly set up with a toilet and a shower or, better still, a bath. The bathroom at our current site has a little mini toilet like the kids use at preschool. My favourite baths are raised to adult chest height so you can easily reach in to bathe the baby!
Don't let pulling your hair out be the signal that you need 'time out'
I'm a strong believer in 'time out.' It gives the person an opportunity to retreat on their own, have mental quiet with the time and space to reflect on their emotional state. I'm talking about time out for adults (as well).
It's intense travelling as a family. When you have a house everyone can retreat to their own space. In a caravan your own space is everyone else's own space & you're trying to have 'time out' in your space because everyone's in your own space! Argh!
If you're travelling with one other adult it can be a challenge because, for each of you to have 'me time," the other person needs to recognise this and step up. Whether you go out or your partner takes the kids out, it might not matter but having regular time for yourself is essential as it breaks up the intensity.
It's 30°c here in Melbourne but I trekked up and down a mall today trying to find P a raincoat (hers was left at home). I didn't find one but afterwards I had a melting moment & a coffee & did the crossword on my own. Alone. I was a better person when I returned from 'time out.'
Even if you complete a list as long as your arm there'll still be more to do
In our finals hours in Sydney before we left we sold our car, found out the generic ("fits all vehicles") bike racks we'd bought probably do, just not ours. We had to wait for the courier to deliver to our farm which is only 30 minutes from the closest big town. The bikes arrived. In the town 39 minutes away because in the country that's what happens. City folk - there are benefits to living the hectic life in the city. Country folk - stop rolling your eyes at me. I know you find this annoying too. A friend recently drove the 12-hour round trip to Sydney to avoid using a courier. No joke.
Three days after we left I finally had time to breathe - and call the phone company to cancel our home phone and Internet.
Our fridge never really worked (luckily we have the car fridge) but two days ago the wonderful people at Elite Caravans sorted the problem - insulations where the fridge needed ventilation. And now I can dream up good things to eat knowing I can use the fridge & freezer.
Now if you've got this far and are still reading our tips I'd be surprised but here's our last tip for your perfect trip around Australia
When you've set up at a site & everything looks great, be prepared for an invasion.
And I don't mean of grumpy grey kind (though there are a few about), I mean of the wildlife kind. Yep - it turns out our caravan is literally sitting on a European Wasp nest. They've gone to sleep now (at dusk, two hours after our kids went to bed - they're so kind) but *rise n shine* they'll be up tomorrow!
It turns out European wasps are attracted to meat. They are especially attracted to the small amounts of food a 7 month old baby might drop at meal times. They also don't stink once like a bee but many times over. Attack would be a more appropriate word. And it's difficult to find their nest because they build it in the ground.
But they only attack when aggravated.....
think paper planes.