Our Big Lap have completed 5 months on the road and as they leave WA and head east, their thoughts are turning to home. What will it be like when they get there in a couple of short months? How will they cope? My stomach churns thinking about what this feeling must be like. Our own adventures have been short ones in comparison, but the feeling on the last leg home is not a great one. Once again, we thank Our Big Lap for your honest and inspiring updates…
Well here are… 17 September 2017. Today marks five months on the road for OUR BIG LAP.
The last month started with us camped up beside the turquoise waters of Ningaloo Reef at Cape Range National Park and has today finished with us camped up beside the turquoise waters of Lucky Bay at Cape Le Grand National Park. Not a bad couple of bookends to our fifth month on the road and pretty indicative of the amazing places we have visited as we have made our way south down the West Australian coast in the last four weeks.
The West Australian coast was something we had really been looking forward to and it has not disappointed us in the slightest… that said, while the coast has been consistently stunning it has also been consistently windy and this has served as a reminder of how good we had it when we experienced picture perfect weather day in and day out as we made our way across northern Australia in the dry. It had reached a point during our time up north where we didn’t even consider checking the weather report to plan our days. The weather was always the same: sunny, hot and not a cloud in the sky! It was certainly an adjustment heading south into windy, overcast and frankly cold weather, and as the air temperature dropped so too did the water temperature unfortunately!
Thankfully the wind, cold and chilly water temperatures could not detract from the amazing snorkelling we enjoyed from straight from the shore at Turquoise Bay in Cape Range National Park and a little further south at the aptly named Coral Bay at the start of our month.
Our next stop was a bit of a bucket list destination for us – Warroora Station and in particular the 14 Mile Campground where we had absolute waterfront with our van parked up on the beach. Even with the wind our stay at Warroora was magnificent in every way. From campsites on the beach to setting off to explore and fish at different spots across the station, we just loved everything about our time there. It is hard to believe that somewhere as beautiful and unique as Warroora is literally someone’s backyard – thank you to the McLeod Family for sharing your slice of paradise with us.
Our next stop was the food bowl town of Carnarvon and it was so incredible driving into the town and seeing the dry and scrubby landscape we had been driving through from Warroora Station all of a sudden give way to fields and fields of fruit and vegetables. There is something very comforting about seeing fields and fields of greenery and produce and it was just another sign that we were slowly but surely leaving the tropics and heading into a climate we were more familiar with at home.
As if we hadn’t visited some amazing places already in our fifth month on the road, our next stop was Monkey Mia in the Shark Bay area of WA. Monkey Mia is everything it promises to be with dolphins so numerous you almost don’t notice them after a while, but the whole Shark Bay area is one that deserves much more than the 3 nights we had to explore.
We loved the town of Denham, partly because it was home to THE BEST playground we have ever come across in Australia with a view to match, and it is also home to a jetty that is renowned for catching squid and crabs at night. We ticked all those boxes multiple times and very quickly fell in love with Denham. Aside from Denham there are national parks, places like Shell Beach and other tourist attractions that could have seen us happily camped up for three weeks – maybe next time!
Following the coast south we then enjoyed beautiful stays at Kalbarri, Port Denison and Jurien Bay before we made our way to the big smoke of Perth with Big Red! With Karrinyup Waters Resort as our base we crammed as much as we could into our three nights in Perth including a fantastic family day out in the Swan Valley, a trip into the CBD and Kings Park and sampling the family-friendly nightlife with dinner at Hillary’s Boat Harbour.
From Perth we headed south to Busselton where we based ourselves to explore the Margaret River area and the greater south west region of WA. Wow… what an amazing part of Australia! Impossibly green and lush farmland, ancient forests, ruggedly beautiful beaches and last but certainly not least, some very, very fine wines
From Busselton we have made our way fairly quickly to our current stop at Lucky Bay in Cape Le Grand National Park via some fantastic stays in Manjimup, Walpole, Albany and Esperance… some big driving days but plenty of exquisite scenery to keep us entertained along the way… no wonder we are feeling a bit exhausted… whoa – what a month!
BEC’S THOUGHTS ON RETURNING HOME
We have now ‘turned left’ once again on OUR BIG LAP and find ourselves heading east, and there is no doubt we are all feeling a bit sad about that! It feels like all of a sudden we are on the downhill run and there is that fear that the closer we get to home, the quicker time will seem to fly.
With that in mind, and as someone who needs to give myself time to mentally and emotionally prepare for big things like the end of the trip of a lifetime I have found myself starting to think about home: what will I be thinking when we reach our turn off on the Hume Highway on our last day of OBL? How will it feel to drive past the ‘welcome’ sign as we arrive at our home town? What will the emotion be as we turn into our driveway? What will it feel like to spend our first night back in our house? I have been imagining what life will be like once we are back home and things return to ‘normal’. It is as if I need to spend time visualising it so that it isn’t such a big shock to the system when it actually happens… that might sound strange to some people but it definitely works for me!
There are some aspects I am not looking forward to (mainly Lloyd going back to work) but lots of things I am excited about – being home with our little dog and chooks and seeing all our family and friends of course, driving an hour to visit a bestie and to have the second best laksa I have ever had in my life (the restaurant with THE best laksa closed down 4 years ago… it still hurts), seeing Ava skip back to preschool for the last part of term 4, and seeing both kids back together with all their buddies. I am also looking forward to being back on our property and seeing it through new eyes just like when we first moved there seven years ago… there are so many projects and dreams we have often discussed for our home and the property but in the busyness of life and then babies we never got around to realising most of them… maybe now will be the time!
Amidst all of these exciting things, there is the realist in me that from time to time wonders how long it will take for the ‘honeymoon period’ upon our return home to wear off and give way to the monotony of everyday life. In other words, how long will it take for life to return to a state of being just like it was before we left on OUR BIG LAP?
I try to catch myself in these moments and remind myself that we are in a vastly different position than before we left on OUR BIG LAP. Our perspective has been changed; Lloyd’s in particular, as he finally had his first break from work since he was 15 years old and has now fully experienced the challenges of being with toddlers 24/7!
There have been difficulties and trying (and tiring!) times in travelling with our kiddos, but the great moments certainly outweigh the not so great and there is no doubt we have all been able to strengthen our relationships – individually and as a family unit in our time away. It is amazing how small frustrations and stresses pass more quickly and easily when you are not stressed out and exhausted from the pressures and realities of work and everyday life in the modern age.
I also remind myself that upon our return home we are entering a new phase of our lives… everything will be changing and that brings with it a certain energy and excitement (and maybe just a few tears from me!) Our little boy Finn is not so little anymore and when we get home we will be packing away the cot and closing the door on the nursery and he will move into his big boy room (cue the first round of tears). Ava will return home to graduate from preschool and to prepare to go to big school in the New Year (cue the second round of tears!). As Ava heads off to primary school – the toilet-training Gods willing – Finn will head off to preschool and all of a sudden I will find myself with some child-free time on my hands a couple of days a week.
Maybe I will return to some sort of work (it would be nice to start contributing to the family finances once again); maybe I will take the time to work on being fitter and a healthier version of myself; maybe I will spend the time editing and working through the 10,000-odd photos (a conservative estimate!) and hours and hours of video from OUR BIG LAP. Whatever I choose, for me, it feels really exhilarating to finally reach the point where some time to myself is a genuine reality.
It remains to be seen how Lloyd and I work out a way to better manage his work/life balance, but I would like to think that we have learnt enough and grown enough from our time and experiences on OUR BIG LAP to ensure we are always striving to do better at the work/life balance thing than before our trip.
I am under no illusion, this won’t be easy. Lloyd’s work is what it is. It will cause stress for him, and it will take him away from his family more than any of us would like but there is something about travelling all over our vast and beautiful country that has made me crack a wry smile from time to time because so much of what we have travelled thousands of miles to see is replicated in the nature and landscapes around the area where we live.
Our travels have caused me to think about all the places we could visit on day trips or overnight trips with the van or our tent, and I think focusing on taking any opportunity we have to go on these little trips will go a long way to keeping the work/life balance in check.
As I sit here thinking about the crystal clear waters of Turquoise Bay or the pure white sands of Lucky Bay in Western Australia I smile and think that the famous crystal clear water and pure white sand of Hyams Beach is just two hours south of our home. As we hiked to all sorts of gorges and swam in Buley Rockholes at Litchfield National Park I was reminded that much the same landscape and rockpools can be found within my local government area at home… all waiting to be explored if we would only make the time to do so. And now with our kids being that bit older, more capable, and more aware of the joys of exploring and being in nature, the fruit is ripe for the picking so to speak, it is simply up to us to not get caught up in the daily grind and to make sure it happens.
Spending time visualising and preparing myself for our return home has helped me in so many ways. It has helped to reframe my view of returning home from an event that is, on the surface, a fairly depressing proposition and helped me appreciate that there is so much to look forward to about being home. I also now see more clearly that although, on paper and according to our itinerary, OUR BIG LAP is coming to an end, we are now fully set up and equipped to head off on adventures whenever time permits. I now realise that all the planning, preparations (and money spent!) wasn’t just about the six or so months we have been on the road, but more about the next decade of our lives with our young kids… while OUR BIG LAP had a beginning date, I now see that it really doesn’t have an end date and all our future travels be they short weekenders or longer stints are all part of the wider OBL journey for our family… my mind is already ticking over… I wonder where OBL will lead us to next?!?
Happy travels everyone!