family

Week 1 – The Places and the Lessons.

nelson glenelg river VIC

Well, this may or may not be another short post as I consume a cafe’s internet for the price of a hot chocolate – and Michael and Emma play at the playground down the road in Coonabarabran. By the by, that’s something you certainly notice on the road – our place names. No wonder the tourists are confused – i’m Australian and have no idea how to pronounce half of them! Sad really…

Nevertheless it didn’t hold us back – the first week was a beautiful blur of camping and ocean views, with the obligatory specky coastline the Great Ocean Road is known for of course.

We had not done the Great Ocean Road before. I’m so glad we decided to make it part of our trip – it really is beautiful. And there were so many postcard nooks, lookouts and towns around every corner – not just the stuff they put on the tourist maps. In fact some of the other sites we stopped at were nicer in our opinion (and less populated). For example this picturesque beach below was completely deserted! Hello lunch spot.

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But before we even got to the ‘Road’ itself, we already had a bagful of fun. In fact when I asked Emma and Michael what their highlights were, they came from the places beforehand. Michael enjoyed cooking on the fire at our ‘rest stop’ camp just outside Beachport in SA.

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And also swimming in the Great Southern Ocean at our next camp spot, in a little vacant block abutting the bush and on the esplanade of a quiet beach.

collage camp allestree beach

Emma’s favourite was Portland and watching all the goings on between ships, trucks and mountains of grain.

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Portland, Victoria – down at the busy activity of the port foreshore. If you look carefully you will see what looks like sand is actually a monster mountain of grain and a truck (yes, a whole truck) being tipped up to pour out.

As for The Great Ocean Road itself, it was smaller than I anticipated, not that it mattered. What I found interesting was how it seemed to be a shapeshifter – moving from dairy country and sleepy little towns to drier scrub, then mountainous forest – dotted with mega tourist hot spots, surfer havens or family friendly & funky locations. What a kaleidoscope!

Port Fairy was a quaint, quiet and pretty place – would be lovely for a recharging hideaway I think.

collage port fairy

Apollo Bay was my personal favourite – we hauled up at the local Recreation Park, right on the river overlooking the range and endless farmland. Then a short stroll down the street reveals a vibrant High Street with rolling grass, playground and views to die for of the coast, ocean and range – just gorgeous.

camp apollo bay rec park

And the surprise of the trip – Cape Otway Lightstation. We thought it might be nice to visit a light house so we drove down the (rather longer than expected) road to see the touristy looking car park and frontage – ok, here we go. We needed water so we went inside anyway. Without seeing the entry fees (that should have been our first lesson) we said we would go in and Michael coughed up what turned out to be $50 for all three of us – he did a great job of not choking on his drink. But it turned out to be  a whole complex of lovely sprawling grounds with lots of interesting things to do in addition to the lighthouse (which by the way is staffed by a guide up the top so you can ask him anything you want – (I thought that was cool). There was also an aboriginal culture centre (which is actually a super cool hut) – also staffed. Dale offered to let Em throw a spear he’d made with an aid called a ‘woomera’. She loved it. Michael and I had a go too – of course Michael picked it up straight away as he usually does! And they had a beautiful map and activity book for the kids – Emma took great delight in following the map and ticking off our adventures. Talk about value for money – it was a great spot to see the ocean, take a walk and learn about history, physics, electricity, maritime navigation, aboriginal culture and a myriad of other things – including how there used to be dolphins and flamingoes living in the centre of Australia (ahem…millions of years ago in the permanent inland lakes) – that blew my mind!

collage cape otway lightstation collage cape otway 2 collage cape otway 3

And speaking of surprises, we found out the hard way that Emma gets car sick on long, windy drives…… oh dear. Poor poppet!

So those were some of the places. There were also ‘lessons’.

What became painfully obvious to me, almost immediately after setting off, were the lessons we were being forced to learn – and quickly. You would think that after 15 years together Michael and I would probably have the whole communication thing down, right? Apparently not!

What seemed like a new phenomena for us was more likely just my amplified reactions to our situation. It was hard to believe just how immediately these things cropped up, and the ferocity of it. Up until now I have been able to avoid dealing with some of my shortcomings by escaping to another part of the house or busying myself with some other task. I no longer have that option here. My issues have been dragged out into the stark light of day by the challenge and change we put ourselves in. I don’t like seeing that side of myself – it is ugly and bitter. But, at this point in time, it is part of me – and part of why I put myself here. I knew those issues needed to be faced – so I keep choosing to do things which make me decidedly uncomfortable.

But the upside is growth, hard won strengthening growth.  And awesome, mind-opening experiences. To my amazement, Michael and I are already so much better at making plans on the run now – that’s been great!

Of course just when you think you’ve got it, something else comes along. In fact it seems to go in waves. We will do really well, then hit a hole again. I realised why – there were two lessons. We had both gotten better at communicating more effectively by being open, honest and forthcoming about what we want and what we think. The problem was the second lesson (and me) – doing it diplomatically. I hadn’t (and seemingly haven’t) figured out how to do that when i’m struggling. There’s nothing like being lost, late or constrained to make me really uncomfortable – and therefore less than pleasant to be around. What can I say – I’m a work in progress!

I love what this trip has given us already – not even two weeks in:

I love the experiences we have had, the things we have seen and the people we have met.

I love how astonished I am at the intensity of work my character is being put through, and equally by how fast we are all learning.

Boy, oh boy – what a crash course in how to be better – I love travel!

Lastly, I wanted to include this passage was that I thought was apt. It comes from a book a friend gave me to read – My Year Without Matches by Claire Dunn. In it she includes a little Rumi poem her friend sent to her:

Very little grows on jagged rock.

Be ground. Be crumbled.

So wild flowers will come up

Where you are.

You have been stony for too many years.

Try something different. Surrender.

mic & mel great ocean road

Mel x

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Welcome aaaaaand …… farewell (almost).

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As the title indicates, this is both a welcome and farewell. Hmmm, that’s odd you say – I shall explain……

This is our first ever post – hurrah! And thus, welcome to our blog!

We plan to use this section of our site to cover everyday happenings and info that seems relevant as we take on our new life.

It is also a talented little creature because it will morph before your very eyes, into a…… travel blog! Yup – that’s because, (for those who don’t already know – which is potentially very few, given these plans have been in the pipeline for over a year now!), we will be departing for a year long trip away. Woo-hoo! Hence the ‘farewell’ – but not until October 🙂

The decision to go away for a year was originally born out of a desire to do something and make a difference. It was at a time that we were kind of ‘waking up’ to the type of life we were living (as I explain in more detail here in our ‘Living Small’ article). I think we felt stuck and wanted to shake things off – do something positive. It seemed we could make more of a difference with our efforts in another country where life isn’t so gifted as here in Australia – so that the small offering we were able to make could be of bigger impact. Couple this with a wish to experience simpler cultures and Michael’s lifelong interest in the Himalaya, and suddenly the possible destinations became clearer. Our first thought was Pakistan (one of the villages in Kashmir actually). However, much to the relief of many family members, we decided we could probably reduce the safety risks and still meet our aspirations by going to Nepal instead. Did I mention that we are bringing our seven year old daughter with us? Then, with India so close by, it seemed a good idea to include it too – what an opportunity to see life in all it’s loud and colourful glory, as well as its despair. And we thought we would also take the opportunity to visit my mum who lives in the USA. So that became the plan.

Over the 14 months since the plan was initially hatched, it has seen some transformation. And I have to say I am sad for that in a way because the volunteering, which first set us on this path, had its spotlight shifted somewhat to also include opportunities for researching and seeing first-hand so many of the things we want to learn about – like intentional communities, tiny/small living and the myriad of different farming/growing techniques around. We still plan, as before, to volunteer in Nepal but we will also be using our time abroad to see the hotbed of activity going on in these areas. Don’t get me wrong, there is a bunch of stuff to see here in Oz too – its heartening to see just how much is happening. We plan to take some of it in as we drive up the East Coast to visit my dad on our way out! That said though, the more we look at what we want to learn – the more we realise we can do so in the countries we’ll be visiting. And so it shall be. In fact, Michael aptly likened this transition to a little quote that I not so long ago read, and consequently put up on our wall:

 

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It must be said that I have had some doubts cross my mind – like, it’s a really expensive thing to do – is it worth it? Would the money be better spent setting up our own place here? Or just donating it to someone else directly? Those are all valid questions, but in the end, it feels like this trip is just something we have to do – you know that feeling? You might not be able to rationalise it, or explain it enough for others to understand – but you know it is on your path. It seems this is a learning and life opportunity not to be missed for us. Its taking shape as a trip to inform and guide our future ambitions – I think these experiences will help us decide specifically what we want to pursue when we return.

As an aside, I have been struggling with what to call this ‘trip’ – largely because there are so many aspects to it – research, volunteering, sight seeing, family visits, mind expansion!. We have referred to it as a ‘holiday’, which just seemed a poor description really, given that it won’t be your average kind of holiday  and we aren’t planning to be typical tourists (although we are totally reserving the right to still do some touristy things that take our fancy!). We will however, be leaving behind daily life and sharing some wonderful experiences as a family, so I guess it’s a holiday in that respect. This ‘family’ aspect is a point I want to touch on and say that for us, bringing our daughter Emma to take part in the experiences is critical – it was another major reason for doing this trip. We want Emma to know that not everyone lives as we do, there are many ways to do things and that happiness is not equated with ‘stuff’. Having been lucky enough myself to briefly visit a few countries to see my dad when I was younger, I know just how much seeing these places affected me. There is nothing quite like seeing another culture for yourself. I remember it feeling, literally, like another world. For that, I am very grateful. What better way to open your mind, build understanding and tolerance and become a better person?

So if you have a more apt description for this adventure, perhaps you could suggest it in a comment below!

In the meantime, here is the itinerary as it currently stands:

  • October 2014: driving from Adelaide to Queensland’s sunshine coast – likely to be taking in some Great Ocean Road, Melbourne, Sydney & Brisbane
  • November 2014: Staying in Qld – sunshine coast and its hinterland
  • December 2014 to February 2015: USA – visiting California, New York, Virginia & North Carolina (also train-tripping from the West to East Coast so potentially stopping along the way also)
  • March to May 2015: India – starting in the North West (Uttarakhand & Uttar Pradesh) then heading across to the North East (West Bengal)
  • June to November-ish 2015: Nepal – starting in Kathmandu then it’s open after that

We would like to put the word out about where we are going and hear what others think would be good to see/places to go/people to meet – if you have such wisdom, please let us know! If not, please spread this around in any relevant circles 🙂

Until then, as Michael would say, enjoy today!

Mel x IMAG0570