- Time: Monday, 09 January 2017 00:00
People often ask us for advice about taking prams and baby carriers when travelling Australia.
This is a typical day for us on the road with our 21 month old daughter and 4 year old son. Today we walked 8km of the Bigurda trail in Kalbarri National Park, WA. We've walked bushwalks of similar lengths all around Australia with both our children. Our 21 month old was carried the whole way in our Soul Full Buckle carrier (similar to an Ergo or Manduca) and our tall 4 year old walked 4km before being carried comfortably in our toddler Tula carrier. If you have children under 5 years old and are planning on travelling, I definitely recommend investing in a suitable carrier for each child. We use our carriers numerous times each week and they enable us to explore amazing places without us worrying how little legs will get there. I also recommend a soft structured carrier like those pictured here over a hiking carrier as they take up hardly any space and are much more comfortable. Happy travels and happy babywearing.
- Time: Tuesday, 09 August 2016 00:00
We’re currently in Katherine in the Northern Territory and this week I have learnt two things:
- That Australia is a very big place with not that many people in it.
- I am still terrible at remembering names and faces.
When you’re travelling Australia with a caravan in tow and you’re in the northern part of the country during winter peak season, it’s easy to be blown away by just how many people are doing the same thing as you. Everywhere we look there are grey nomads and other families travelling this beautiful country of ours. Every caravan park we stay at is full. Every free camp is packed out. It seems to be that everyone has had the same idea as us.
But then we stop in the one place for more than a week and I realise there aren’t as many people as doing this epic trip around the country as I think, because I keep bumping into the same people.
There are plenty of families we keep crossing paths with who we met early on in our travels in NSW or QLD. A lovely little family from Adelaide kept finding us in different spots all the way up the East Coast. We met another family at Yeppoon in Queensland and saw them again at Alice Springs and Uluru. This week Jarrah had a playdate with a friend he made over two months ago at a caravan park in Cairns. There’s lots of travelling families, but also very few. I will always remember the families we’ve met in our travels as our kids connect with each other and we tend to chat about all the things we have in common. It’s the grey nomads I have trouble remembering.
We’ve stayed in countless different campsites across a 6000km stretch of Australian Highway across almost 5 months of the year. We’ve met hundreds of retired grey-haired couples in caravans who are travelling the country and in my mind they’re beginning to blur together. This week alone I’ve had four different people approach me smiling and telling me we camped in the same place at the same time a few weeks ago, or maybe months ago, somewhere in Australia. I recognise these people’s faces but I couldn’t tell you a single other thing about them.
What’s the problem then, you ask? The problem is that it gets a little awkward because these people remember us. They remember where we’re going. They remember where we’ve come from. Some even remember the names of our kids. Because, whilst they’re just another grey haired couple in a shiny white caravan driving a silver or white 4WD, we’re those dreadlocked hippie-looking characters in the caravan with ‘Tree & Pixie’ plastered on it with the cute but loud baby/toddler and the three year old who NEVER ever stops talking. So I guess we kind of stand out.
Those conversations are always awkward. Where the person I’m talking to knows everything about my life and I know nothing about theirs. And it’s not just now that it happens, it’s been happening most of my life. I’ve always had a terrible memory for names, I’m pretty bad at listening and I’ve always dressed a little weird. I don’t really know why people remember me, but they always do.
So, to all the grey nomads out there I keep bumping into and not recognising, I’m sorry. It’s not you, it’s me. Next time I’ll try a little harder to listen when you tell me your name and where you’re from, because we may just meet again down the road, in this big (but small) country of ours.
- Time: Sunday, 24 July 2016 00:00
There’s something about Central Australia that really resonates with me. Every time I’ve visited this part of Australia I’ve felt relaxed and at home. Every time I’ve visited, I’ve left feeling a little bit bigger and a little bit stronger and I’ve left wanting to return. It could be the relaxed way of life, influenced by an indigenous population who are still firmly connected to their culture. It could be the remoteness of this place that just screams ‘adventure’ or perhaps it’s the striking desert landscape of reds, browns and muted green. Either way, this place is amazing and it will always hold a special place in my heart.
Seven weeks ago we crossed the border from Queensland into the Northern Territory. We stopped at the border sign and I cried with excitement and happiness. You see, whilst I have visited this place three times, Dave has never been here. Every time I have flown into Alice Springs, it was for a university placement and my husband could not join me. I have had amazing and life changing experiences in this place, but I have never been able to share it with him. The number one place I wanted to visit on this trip around Australia was the Northern Territory. We’re here, and the past seven weeks have been spectacular.
We stopped off in Tennant Creek where Nella took her first steps and I had fun revisiting places I hadn’t seen since 2010 when I spent 5 weeks in the town completing my teaching practicum.
After Tennant Creek, we headed to a tiny place on the Stuart Highway called Ti Tree. After three years of maternity leave, I spent two weeks teaching the upper primary class at Ti Tree School. It was challenging but a good experience for all of us. Dave had his first stint of being a stay-at-home dad and tells me it’s easier than I make it out to be. I hadn’t taught in years, had never taught primary school students and it had been a long time since I’d taught indigenous students. Suffice to say, I felt like I had literally thrown myself back into teaching. By the end of the two weeks I started to feel like I knew what I was doing, just in time for the school holidays to start and us to continue on our journey.
In Alice Springs we enjoyed chilling out for a week. Dave caught up on his TAFE studies, we went to the annual Beanie Festival and explored the West Macdonnell Ranges. I had a stall at the fortnightly Todd Mall Markets, which are my favourite markets so far. I sold loads of stock, every customer was friendly and I met some very interesting people.
We then headed to Uluru (Ayers Rock), Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) and Watarrka (Kings Canyon). There’s a reason these places are such popular tourist destinations. They were absolutely amazing. We walked around 30kms over 6 bushwalks over 8 days. We were very thankful for our Ergo and Tula baby carriers. We got lots of positive comments from fellow bushwalkers when they saw us walking some difficult trails, each with a child on our backs. We realised we are stronger and fitter than we ever imagined and that even though our children are only one and three, we can complete almost any single day bushwalk we come across. Even Jarrah walked over 5km one day before needing carried in the Tula. It was awesome to see our three year old climb to the top of Kings Canyon, whilst many adults around him struggled. He’s learning that he’s fit and strong and I think that’s important.
We spent another week in Alice Springs before heading out to Gem Tree on the Plenty Highway. I’d read on camping forums on Facebook that it was an interesting place to visit and it didn’t disappoint. We camped in the red dirt under the Mulga Trees at Gem Tree caravan park. The kids dug in the dirt and ran around and rode their bikes. I had never seen them so filthy! We fossicked for gemstones and came out with a small bag of garnets, 3 of which were big enough to cut and make into jewellery. Now we just need to decide what to do with them. Twice a week the caravan park puts on a camp oven roast dinner under the stars which we partook in. It was delicious and definitely worth keeping the kids up late for.
This morning we left Gem Tree and drove over 500kms to Tennant Creek. We’re back in the same caravan park we began our Central Australian adventure in and it’s time to head north. Soon we’ll leave Central Australia and see what the northern parts of the Territory have to offer. I’m excited about the next bit of our adventure but also a little sad to be leaving this part of the country. I know I’ll be back here again one day.
- Time: Saturday, 16 April 2016 00:00
We haven’t quite hit the one month point of our travels which means we’re still finding our feet. Social media is usually filled with the positives: beautiful holiday pics, posts about how wonderful everything is, how wonderful we are, how the sun is shining out of our arses. We tend to only share the good things. We don’t want people to know when we’re struggling. Well, here is my little reality check. Travelling Australia with two kids under four is tough. Really bloody tough.
I’ll qualify this by explaining that I am enjoying myself. I’m pretty sure my husband is enjoying himself. The kids are enjoying themselves. They’re adapting and changing and it’s magical to watch. In less than four weeks, Jarrah has turned from a kid who was shy in new situations to one who will talk to everyone and I mean EVERYONE. He will talk to every single person who walks through our campsite, or visits my market stall, or looks at him walking down the street. Nella is having a great time exploring the world and she is sleeping better than she has in months. I don’t regret our decision and I definitely don’t want to head back home. But, I never realised how tough it would be to live in a caravan with two little people.
Before we left I had plenty of people tell me it would be hard. Some people were jealous of our adventures but most people said they wouldn’t or couldn’t do it. I didn’t really pay them much heed. I’d camped before, plenty of times. I see myself as a pretty competent parent. Prior to our departure, I’d just spent six months looking after my children, helping run a community organisation AND running my own business. How hard could living in a caravan with two kids be? Pretty hard apparently.
So we’d camped plenty of times before. In a ute or a tent. This time we’d have a caravan. We’d be living in luxury compared to the kind of camping we were used to. What I hadn’t thought about was that most of our camping experience was pre-children. How many times had we been camping with Jarrah? Maybe four or five. How many times had we been camping with TWO kids? ONCE. Yep, we were really experienced. Ha.
So I suppose you’re wondering what exactly I’m finding tough. Firstly, I’m exhausted. Truly, deeply inside my very being exhausted. For some reason I imagined this trip as a relaxing holiday. What I forgot was that holidays with children aren’t really all that relaxing. They’re fun, but certainly not relaxing. With small children there’s always jobs to be done. Bathing, washing clothes, changing nappies, cooking, packing snacks and so on. These tasks all take longer when camping. You have to walk to the shower block to bathe the kids, or fill a bucket with water and dunk them in it. You have to cook a nutritious and tasty dinner in a small space with less equipment, you have to use buckets to fill your twin tub washing machine and complete three different steps to wash, rinse and spin the clothes. All of this is done on top of packing down camp and setting it back up again once or twice a week alongside finding time to sightsee, drive from place to place, take the kids to playgroups and run a handmade business. No wonder I’m tired!
The second thing I’m finding tough is always being in a state of high alert. You can’t really let your guard down in a new place with a one year old and a three year old. When you have a house, you can childproof it. Of course you still need to supervise your children, but you can duck to the toilet without worrying too much about what will happen. When you’re camping, there’s no way to childproof the great outdoors. From Nella eating rocks, to Jarrah playing on a riverbank, the kids need to be watched 24/7. Sure, we could lock them inside the caravan but a caravan is a pretty small space and even our one year old has worked out how to unlock the caravan door. Every time we lock her in she thinks it’s a game and unlocks it and falls two steps out onto grass. This is accompanied by howling. One year olds come up with the best games, right?
Whilst I type this Dave and Jarrah are at Bunnings looking at gates and pet fences. We’re trying to find a way to create a transportable and safe outdoor play space for the kids so we can spend less time chasing after them and more time relaxing.
Whether we find a solution or not, I’m happy. I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time. Dave and I are getting along better than we have in months. Every single day we’re meeting new people and seeing new things. This children are growing and learning at an increased rate. Despite the challenges and exhaustion it’s worth it. The most enjoyable things are often the most challenging too.
- Time: Thursday, 31 March 2016 00:00
In the two months we spent preparing for our trip, one of the things I spent the most time planning was how I was going to run a handmade business whilst travelling Australia in a caravan. The idea of having a Tree & Pixie stall at markets all over the country really excites me. I love what I do and having the opportunity to take my products to hundreds of different places and expose them to thousands of different people is truly amazing. When you’re a crafter and run a handmade business you do what you do for love, not money. What I do probably won’t make me rich, but I get real pleasure not just out of being creative and making beautiful things, but also from seeing other people enjoy the things I make. I hope to bring the things I make to as many people as possible over the next year.
A week and a half into our trip and I’ve set up a Tree & Pixie stall at one market so far, in Mudgee NSW. My plan is to find a market around every two weeks to hold a stall at so I have time in between to create stock, look after the kids and enjoy our travels. I made quite a bit of stock before we left home, but had to maintain a balance between having enough to fill a stall and website, but also not have it take up too much space in the car. Mudgee markets were very successful and I found that I hadn’t quite made enough stock and that the car (thankfully) had a bit of empty space meaning I could make more stuff before the next markets.
We’ve spent the past 3 days staying in a lovely little caravan park in Armidale, NSW. This meant we’ve had mains electricity, access to running water and a laundry, perfect conditions for creating fabric button accessories and tie dying clothing. In two days I have tie dyed twenty two items of clothing and made twenty fabric button hair clips and ten bookmarks. There’s still more to do, but the messy part of the job is out of the way.
Before we left home, I thought long and hard about how I was going to tie dye clothing on the road. I set myself up with a couple of buckets with lids and stocked up on dye and salt. Yesterday I put my new set up to the test and tie dying whilst camping was easier than I expected. Our caravan has hot water, so I could fill up the buckets and mix the dye at our campsite. I just used the laundry sink in the caravan park to rinse the items when I was done and chucked them all in the industrial washing machines. I even found a great spot inside the caravan to hang up the clothes to dry. The only thing I forgot to pack is an iron, so I might have to pick one up along the way. I think I’ll very quickly get used to doing this on the road.
In many ways, tie dying has proved easier to do on the road than making fabric button accessories. It takes up quite a bit of space to lay out all my fabrics and design each item and space is something we don’t have much of these days. It hasn’t helped that the weather has been rainy and miserable. Thankfully the caravan park we’re at has a large rec room that seems to be empty at night. Once the kids were asleep, I sat down in front of the TV in the rec room with a glass of wine, some leftover Easter eggs and spent a good couple of hours crafting. Space! Me time! Bliss.
The one thing I didn’t think through before we left home was gluing together my fabric button accessories. The glue I use is industrial strength. You shouldn’t breathe in the vapours and it takes 48 hours to set. At home I just glued everything outdoors and then left it all my garage to dry. The only solution I came up with for completing this process on the road is to glue everything outdoors and then sit it in a container (with predrilled aeration holes) under the caravan for two days. The only problem is that the container I have brought with me can only hold around 20 items at once. I wasn’t anticipating selling so much at each market and having to make so many items as once. I guess I need a bigger container.
I’m sure in time I’ll streamline the whole process and find my feet when it comes to crafting and running a handmade business whilst on the road. Even with the challenges of such a confined and unique space, it really is a joy to be creating beautiful objects for others to enjoy. I can’t wait until our next market. Northern NSW here we come.
- Time: Monday, 29 February 2016 00:00
We’ve been on the road for just over a week and this is the first time I’ve had a chance to sit down at the computer and write. Our first week as a family of four, living on the road in a caravan, has been a bit of a whirlwind. We never got a chance to take the caravan for a test trip before we packed up our lives, so we’ve learnt how to use the caravan whilst travelling.
Our first four nights were spent in caravan parks in Western Sydney and on the Central Coast, saying goodbye to our families. We ate a lot of food, the kids had late nights and we celebrated Dianella’s first birthday not once but twice; once with Dave’s family and then again with mine. After leaving the Central Coast we drove to Mudgee, a country town in NSW where we used to live. We parked our caravan in a friend’s yard and then celebrated Dianella’s birthday again, with more cake. This time it was her actual birthday though. She must think that eating cake every day is the norm for a one year old.
Tree & Pixie debuted at the markets in Mudgee on Easter Saturday and boy was it busy! My new compact market set up worked out well, but I hadn’t made enough stock. I sold out of quite a few items and learnt that I need my set up to be compact, but not so compact that I run out of items and miss out on sales.
After Mudgee, we stayed a night at a friend’s place on their farm. We ate a lot of food, drank wine, played scrabble and the kids spent most of the time there running around naked and being totally feral. It was lovely.
Finally on Easter Monday we were on our own and headed bush. We camped out at Washpool Camping area in Towarri NP (near Scone, NSW). It felt so good to finally camp out in the bush instead of caravan parks and friend’s yards. As a family, we’ve done plenty of camping over the years but have never owned a caravan. Sleeping in the bush in a caravan felt like absolute luxury. We have a fridge, running water, hot water and electricity. I am so glad we chose a caravan and not a camper trailer.
As I write this, we are in a caravan park in Armidale NSW. It’s raining, the kids are asleep. We’re warm, and dry and incredibly happy with our new lives.
- Time: Wednesday, 16 March 2016 00:00
As our date of departure draws near, I have begun to reflect on the planning process that has occurred over the past two months. Everyone always wants to know how to plan such a big trip. They ask questions like: where do I begin? What needs to be done? How can we do it too? Whilst I am not going to answer those questions in this post, I will list 5 parts of the planning process I have found the most difficult.
- Caring for Children
Our children are young. Our eldest is 3 and our youngest is not quite 1. There is only so much self-directed play that can be expected of children so young. Planning such a big trip has taken a lot of work. One thing I found incredibly frustrating was the fact that I never got a chance to complete a job in one sitting. Every time I started to pack something, or organise something I would get interrupted. Nella would wake from her nap or Jarrah would ask me to play with him. I think it took me three days to pack 3 boxes in the kitchen! To add to my frustration, less than two weeks before our departure date both kids contracted a tummy bug and required extra attention and care. Everything takes longer with kids, and not just in the planning stage either. It’s good to remember that once we’re on the road, everything will still take longer with such young children. If Google maps says a drive will take 3 hours, I think I’m going to expect it to take 5 hours with kids!
- Paperwork & Phone Calls
When we decided to travel around Australia and I envisaged planning our trip, I always imagined purchasing the vehicle and caravan and packing everything. These are the exciting and tangible jobs. What I never really thought about was the stuff behind the scenes. I have spent hours and hours on the phone and internet over the past two months doing boring paperwork. I have spent my time organising car insurance, caravan insurance, contents insurance, transferring registration on vehicles, organising storage, Centrelink payments, applying to teach in different states (so I can work as a casual teacher on the road), disconnecting our internet and electricity, cancelling our lease etc. These jobs had to be done and I didn’t enjoy a single one.
- Deciding What to Pack
Whilst this part has been exciting, it has been difficult too. Our caravan only has so much space, and trying to decide what we should take with us and what can be left behind has been very challenging indeed. I’ve packed my own clothes 3 times and I still think I might have packed too many. We’ve never been caravanning before and have only been camping a handful of times since having children, so working out what we need is definitely going to be trial and error.
We haven’t even left yet and we are way over budget. I am talking at least $10 000 over budget, which for low income earners like us is HUGE. I am the money manager of the family and I run a tight ship. My husband loves telling everyone how much more money we have, now that I manage our finances and I happen to agree with him. I pride myself on writing a bloody good budget. We sat down and wrote a budget when we first made the decision to travel and have revised it numerous times since, but expenses have kept popping up that we never even thought about and boy have they added up. Some of these include: vehicle and caravan modifications, car servicing, transfer of registration, mobile business overheads, roadside assistance and the list goes on. I am hoping that our on road budget will be more accurate than our planning budget.
- Time Constraints
Most people take a year to plan a trip like this. We took less than three months! We spent a few weeks looking for a caravan and as soon as we’d bought our van, we set a date to leave 2 months later. This has meant that much of our planning has been rushed and has meant that it has been more expensive. We haven’t always had the time to shop around for the best deal, and have even had to ask mechanics, caravan repairers and auto electricians to bump us up in the queue so that work can be done before we leave. We also ran out of time to do a test run in our caravan which means the day we leave our house for a year will be our first day travelling in a caravan. I think our first few weeks on the road will be a steep learning curve.