I have to admit that I had a little tear reading this honest and transparent story from Our Big Lap, especially the closing comments from Our Big Lap Dad, Lloyd – A reflection on how life on the road is changing his family, their relationships and their hopes for the future. Their vision of what life would be like “living the dream” and the reality of the whole experience is inspiring and heart warming…sit back and enjoy…especially all the Dads!
This month’s blog post comes to you from what is arguably the jewel in the crown of the Ningaloo Coast, Turquoise Bay… or more accurately the Turquoise Bay carpark where I am currently sitting in the car with Finn who is snoring his head off while Lloyd and Ava are having their first snorkel on Ningaloo Reef. Thank goodness I happened to throw the laptop in the car before we left our campground so I could put the enforced “down time” to good use.
This month has been one of stark contrasts taking us from the East Kimberley to the West Australian coast. We started the fourth month of OUR BIG LAP chasing barramundi and anything else we could catch in Kununurra before heading up to the most northerly town in WA, Wyndham, where one of the highlights was the Five Rivers Lookout which gives you a birds’ eye view of where five of the Kimberley’s mightiest rivers – the Ord, Forrest, King, Pentecost and Durack rivers – converge to run out to the ocean via the Cambridge Gulf. What a sight that must be during the wet.
From Wyndham we continued our journey west via Warmun, Fitzroy Crossing (where we enjoyed a cruise up the stunning Geikie Gorge), and Derby where we experienced the second largest tides in the world. The movement of water is a sight to behold and shouldn’t be missed if you happen to be in the area!
Our journey across the southern Kimberley took us through some majestic scenery – mighty boab trees, some seemingly as old as time itself; rocky escarpments that provided the backdrop to Baz Luhrmann’s Australia; red dirt and muddy rivers that promised barramundi but only delivered big catfish and big crocs!
Our next stop was Broome and as we rolled into town and saw the beautiful turquoise waters of Roebuck Bay there was a quiet sense of relief and joy that washed over us. Not because we hadn’t loved where we had been, but because being on the West Australian coast was something we had been looking forward to probably the most out of any destination planned for OUR BIG LAP. The entire West Australian coast has become a bit of a bucket list destination for us, and there we were. In Broome, on the West Coast. We had crossed the country and this was our new home, our new reality for the next little while.
Our initial stay in Broome was only an overnighter to allow us to park up our van early the next morning and head to Cape Leveque where we stayed in a Safari Tent at the Kooljaman Resort. Hands down this was one of the highlights of our trips so far. It was so memorable in so many ways but perhaps most of all because it was the first time since we left Heron Island in the third week of OUR BIG LAP where we could actually swim in the ocean. Damn it felt good! The entire Dampier Peninsula is a magical place where you can’t help but feel relaxed and at ease. To us it felt like paradise and we can’t wait for the day when we can return.
From Cape Leveque we returned to Broome where we were able to spend an entire week sunning ourselves and enjoying all the delights of Cable Beach and the famous pearling town.
All too soon it was time to say goodbye to Broome and start our journey south along some of the most pristine and spectacular coastline in Australia. We have enjoyed stays at Barn Hill Station, Eighty Mile Beach, Pardoo Station, Point Samson, Onslow, Exmouth and now, here we are, in Cape Range National Park staying at the beautiful Yardie Creek Campground, and Ningaloo Reef is literally our backyard!
To us this is living at its best… and this is why we love our current caravanning lifestyle.
At four months into OUR BIG LAP we have officially passed our halfway mark and there is something about passing this milestone that caused us to reflect just a bit more on our trip and how the reality of being on OUR BIG LAP stacks up against the vision we had for our trip, and what we hoped to achieve by undertaking this journey.
For those of you that have been following along from the beginning you will remember that we were the quintessential hardworking Australian family. We were fortunate in that Lloyd’s ‘big important’ job paid the bills and allowed me to be home to raise our young children, but all that hard work and long hours for Lloyd, and the 24/7 nature of babies and toddlers inevitably began to take its toll on us all. We needed something that was going to be a circuit breaker. Something that would allow Lloyd to completely de-stress, something that was going to give us the opportunity to take a step back, take a deep breath, refocus on our family and simply be a family for more than a long weekend or that annual week-long break between Christmas and New Year.
So, at this point of the trip I thought it would be appropriate for Lloyd to share his thoughts and experiences on having time away from a job that is all consuming for the first time in his adult life. How has he handled the adjustment from being at work all the time to being ‘at home’ all the time, the influence of OUR BIG LAP on his priorities and what the legacy of OUR BIG LAP will be once we return home – if we return home… 😉
THOUGHTS FROM OUR BIG LAP DAD, LLOYD…
With the benefit of hindsight, the build up to OUR BIG LAP was pretty full on. Right back from the decision to “call it” and hit the road, to the massive preparation efforts, to spending the GDP of a small Pacific nation on a van, our rig and all things associated, to the build up to my last day at work and the huge task to handover my role, to departure day… day zero… the day we drove out of our driveway and headed off on our adventure.
Looking back, all of that was pretty epic… and I am pleased to say the trip itself has been pretty epic too.
The transition from ‘Work Dad’ to ‘OUR BIG LAP Dad’ was pretty big also I have to say. I had shifted from a pretty full-on role where dealing with fairly major matters occurred daily. Big decisions. Lots of meetings. Managing multiple stakeholders. Assuming significant accountability. A role I had become comfortable with and a role I had been really enjoying. OUR BIG LAP Dad had the promise (in my head) to be so much easier and just a massive seven month holiday – the reality however has been a little different and took some adjustment.
Don’t get me wrong – OUR BIG LAP has (at month four and counting) been beyond awesome. It has been sensational. I have never had a moment where I have dreamed of being anywhere else. It has changed our family and it has changed me (all for the better) and we have absolutely no regrets. I am so unbelievably grateful that we are able to do what we are doing and that our sacrifices and hard work over many years prior are more than paying off now on our trip. But it hasn’t all been easy.
Big changes for me personally were the pace of my old work day to now having time out for the simple things. Having lunch together as a family, exploring a new destination, setting up and packing up camp each day. I found the pace I had become accustomed to as Work Dad creeping into my new list of daily to do’s and my new list and that old pace were not compatible. Slowing down took some time and to be honest I am not sure I have yet slowed down completely. Work Dad always struggled for time in general, particularly time with my family, and now OUR BIG LAP Dad has plenty of it!
Reflecting on it now, I have come to realise that Work Dad had a lot of time alone. Just me alone in the car to and from work. Just me in my office between meetings and appointments. Just me and Bec when I arrived home at the end of a big day and the kids were already bathed and asleep. I didn’t recognise it at the time, but OUR BIG LAP Dad is pretty much on all the time whereas Work Dad was just there for bits and bobs.
Nowadays the kids are always there (I mean ALWAYS there) and the alone time I had previously and didn’t recognise, I was now missing more than I thought. Dealing with a 4 year old and a 2 year old 24/7 is bloody hard work – like really bloody hard… and I am even sharing the load with Bec!. I had shifted from being this hero Dad who waltzed in after a massive work day at 6:55pm on the nights when I didn’t have meetings for the kiss goodnight and tuck into bed; the guy who handed out weekend treats and fun times, into the guy responsible for his fair share of all dirty nappies, all 2 year old meltdowns, any serious sibling civil wars and the chaos of life on the road which I think is safe to say, lacks a certain amount of serious routine compared to normal home life. Suffice to say I have a renewed respect for stay at home parents and the constancy that comes with that gig. Hats off to you darling! In my usual everyday life I could always cancel a meeting if I wasn’t fully prepared or push something back if I needed more time, but with kids there is no escape… you just have to deal with it and get on with it!
What’s important in the interest of transparency is to share that what sits behind the public social media highlight reel of smiling children, perfect pictures of amazing landscapes and long straight roads and once in a lifetime experiences are some crappy bits… and the crappy bits are crap! A seven month lap of Australia is not merely a big extension of the annual family Christmas holiday where much of the usual everyday routine takes a holiday too. From the outside looking in I am sure it seems like one big holiday but it is definitely more like life on the road (albeit a pretty good life).
For all of the crappy bits in this “life on the road” there are priceless moments of “life” together that make everything worth it. Like watching your 4 year old snorkel with turtles on the Great Barrier Reef. Seeing both your 4 year old and 2 year old point out Jupiter in the night sky. Cooking fish caught that day over the coals of an open fire. Watching your kids engage with an Aboriginal elder and sit mesmerised whilst he speaks to them crouched beside a mangrove creek. Showing them their first croc. Their first cane toad. Watching their first swim in the crystal clear waters of Fraser Island or the Indian Ocean. Teaching your 4 year old how to snorkel on Ningaloo. Sharing their excitement of pulling into a new destination. Laughing at the things they remember of each of those destinations… and even teaching them (at their insistence) how to empty the dump point!
What has become clear is that our kids just adore having OUR BIG LAP Dad around. They are growing up really quickly and are at a critical time in their lives right now and are enjoying the benefit of a second prominent influence in the everyday happenings in their lives – and this seems to be working for everyone. For the first time in their lives I have been beside them for every morning wake up and I have put them to bed and told them a bedtime story every night on OUR BIG LAP. We have shared stories of our adventures, gazed at the stars and picked out planets and satellites, learned addition and subtraction on our 5 hour drive days between the endless repeats of Moana and Trolls soundtracks.
There is no doubt about it, Work Dad couldn’t do those things and only OUR BIG LAP dad could. I hope that when we pull back into our driveway and OUR BIG LAP comes to an end and life returns to normal programming that we are all on a better foundation and the kids (whilst they will not remember much of the detail of the trip itself owing to their age) will be reshaped into better little humans as a result of their experiences on our trip. As for me, I am hoping I return a more relaxed, balanced, patient and energetic Dad and husband and I hope I am able to align my priorities with respect to work and my family more thoughtfully.
In the meantime we still have two months (and counting) of OUR BIG LAP ahead of us and we ain’t done yet!
THANK YOU so much Lloyd…your honesty is refreshing… Happy & Safe travels..
Have you seen our Aussie made LOG BOOKS??
The Caravan/Camper Trailer LOG BOOK is an A5 2 part book that will help you keep track of the places you stay and the kilometres that your caravan or camper trailer does. The front part of the LOG BOOK allows to you note down where you stayed, rate it and jot down some notes that you can refer to later…
The back part allows you to keep track of the kilometres the caravan or trailer travels. In our 2016 edition we have added a FUEL column too and it is endorsed by the Caravan Industry. We found we would set up at a park, and then drive around taking in the sights…but then we would lose track of how many km’s our van was doing. For re-sale and servicing, this information can come in very handy.