Reducing to Island Size

 I’m reluctant to blog too much about this island wonderland we are moving to – some see it as bragging and I don’t want anyone to feel that we are rubbing it in (much!!) I have however been asked by multiple people how we manage to move around so freely uprooting our lives at will – trust me, not as easy as it may seem but also not as difficult as people think either.  It’s not like we planned to turn into nomads but military backgrounds help – we were used to being shoved around the countryside like chess pieces from our younger years in uniform, but back then all our worldly possessions fitted into one room on a RAAF Base..which was a lot of fun when young and free and meant it was incredibly easy to pack up and leave – especially when the military footed the bill for you and then stuck you on a plane or bus to your next destination!

That is the key to the whole thing of course, minimising what you have to lug around with you – things changed dramatically when we returned from a very exciting year in Canada to settle into our own house in Brisbane.  Acreage and a pole home with an entire under house storage area turned us (almost) into hoarders – more space you have the more you fill it apparently. By the time we had to shift into a little defence home in the sunny town of Sale we were drowning in stuff.. house, shed, garden, pool, dog, kids, grown up people’s things… you name it.  So we had the garage sale to end all garage sales and still filled a four bedroom house with the garage so overflowing the cars were in our driveway…

There are plenty of others out there talking about how to downsize, minimise, do less with more etc etc I’m not really qualified – but I can talk about our journey and how it really isn’t a one off job, it’s an entire mind shift that can take years.  In a way our trip around Australia is where it started, there is nothing like having to pay for storage of all that stuff to motivate you to minimise – we thought we had minimised anyway, in reality it was a tiny start.  It did dramatically show us how you can live indefinitely in a tiny space with very few belongings, even if it’s only on holidays and camping, it was a great lesson.It has literally taken years to get where we are now, owning about 30% of what we had in Brisbane – multiple garage sales, giving away things through pay it forward pages, selling items on gum tree and slowly, slowly having less and less and moving into progressively smaller houses which sort of forces the issue. The last bastion has been personal items – easy to get rid of furniture, toys (well if you aren’t seven but the little people are slowly getting on board with this business) but when you are talking treasured magazines, photo albums, knick knacks, CD’s, collectibles… it gets harder.  Then you get to ask the difficult questions…

  • why am I hanging onto it?
  •  Is it really treasured or just an unnecessary reminder of something or someone you would never forget anyway?
  • Can I scan these photos, keep the digital image or just get rid of some of the hoard without missing them?
  • Do I love this thing or do I need it?

The more you answer those hard questions though and the more you put aside, the easier it gets – it’s like an addiction, you walk around the house looking for the next thing you can remove and everyone else in the family starts aggressively defending their possessions because if it’s not tied down it’s likely to go! It’s a feeling like nothing else though, knowing you don’t have drawers of stuff or cupboards overflowing – even if you open a door you see space and air and it’s freeing.

I know now when we move to that little place on Straddie (not talking myself up too much as we are building an extension out the back – but we even downsized that from the original plans!) that the pain of packing and unpacking will be minimal and we don’t need to allow for a tonne of storage space. The other bonus is it will be near on impossible for us to increase our belongings again, we just won’t have anywhere to put it and we will be living far from main stream shopping centres and temptation to buy.

So that’s part of the secret to a mobile life, don’t have things…. collect experiences instead and that’s what we are (still) working on….

Try it – you might like it 🙂

Michelle

Why ?????

Why are moving to Stradbroke Island ?
 There have been a lot of questions asked since we returned from our Christmas break announcing we were moving to Strandbroke Island (I would be lying if I said the shock factor wasn’t just a bit fun!) Why would you move, why to an island, why away from family…. The flippant answer is because we can – of course there is so much more to it than that, but also it sort of sums it up nicely.  Also I’m not particularly superstitious but sometimes the universe does seem to put these opportunities smack bang in your path that are impossible to ignore.

We have visited Brisbane and caught up with our family and friends often since leaving to do our around Australia trip in 2013 (that turned into an oops we aren’t coming back now situation).  Christmas last year shouldn’t have been any different, fly in, feel surrounded by people we love, get really sad about leaving and then come home and get on with life while marvelling at how beautiful the Mornington Peninsula is and how lucky we are to live here.

Except this time my beloved best friend had moved herself and her family….to an island….. a decision which baffled and bemused us.  Although beautiful, it was isolated, difficult to get to, had limited services and what on earth do you do there? Don’t get me wrong, we have camped on Straddie in days gone by and it is truly one of the most spectacular spots in Australia, but that’s a completely different kettle of fish to living in a camping destination full time.

So we all squeezed into her tiny little house and hung out with people we loved. We piled the kids into the car and went to amazing beaches with rolling waves, rock pools and sand slides, walked around the Point trying to spot dolphins and turtles, had the most amazing Gelati (that could have been the deciding factor come to think of it), bought coffee at the groovy whole food cafe right across the street and watched the kids play on the access road under the Poinciana trees.  It recaptured some pretty warm and fuzzy feelings of how much we loved this place before and how far away the ‘real world’ felt when we were there. Admittedly we were on holiday and life always has that warm haze about it that causes you to start fantasising about giving it all away to live on a desert island (or even a dessert island – don’t forget the Gelati!)  

Then we left – waved goodbye and hopped on a plane to Vanuatu (yes I know, we were having a horrible time of it). Maybe it would have been a different outcome if we went straight home to reality – it might have just been another holiday pipe dream.  Instead the idea took root and grew while we had time on our hands to contemplate it. An opportunity for our kids to spend some of their most formative years in a beautiful natural environment that would encourage them to be outdoors and active.  To learn about aboriginal culture in a way most kids would never experience – by going to school with them, living next door, participating in their customs and traditions. To separate from our spiralling involvement in all things materialistic and online – no shopping centres or even much of anything retail, a smaller house, cheaper car, less possessions, more focus on the environment, friendship, connecting with people around us.  Kids able to walk to school from home, play in the street and be three doors down from their oldest and dearest friends in the world, everything you could see or do no more than a fifteen minute drive away. Less stress, less hurry, less spending, less busyness.

The question slowly became why wouldn’t we do it. You’re not always in a position to take this kind of leap but right at this point in time, we could. We both work from home, our kids were delighted at the thought of being near their mates and living on an island and we could make it work – so why not? It still might have slipped away from us – but we came home and without even really having that final discussion of ‘are we doing this’ we just made it happen. That’s seems to be a source of fascination for everyone as well – I’ve been told we are the most portable family ever and how on earth do we do make this work, packing up the family and moving all over the place.  I’m not even really sure, we just seem to do it – but I will try and explain that too.. but in another post as it’s late now and I seem to be keeping our ginger moggie awake – the only member of the family who doesn’t care where we live as long as there is food (although possibly that applies to our kids as well…..)

Night

Michelle

 

Travel Fatigue

I’ve found lately the blog has been a bit of a chore – instead of chronicling our trip I’ve let it slide in to a brief travel guide to each place we’ve been as it’s weeks afterwards I get to write it! It’s a shame as if I had written as I went it would be fresh in my mind – however in my defence the lateness of my blog posts is directly correlated to how much I have enjoyed the latter part of our journey and not wanting to waste a moment chained to my laptop. I know so many people would give anything to be on this journey we are on and it seems like a sacrilege to complain about a single minute of it however something that a lot of people might not know is that the excitement of travelling does actually ebb away after a while – we humans adapt to any situation quickly!

I think by the time we reached Perth, about half way through, we were all suffering a little from a lack of a permanent home and travel fatigue. Although Bali was hotly debated I am forever grateful that we took those two weeks out and got to live in a permanent room, with a real bed and nothing pressing to do but hang around the pool all day. Some people might question if we always have nothing pressing to do considering we are on holidays – but it didn’t feel that way. I was constantly reminding myself that we might never get to these places again so we felt compelled to see all there was to see in every place we went. We also still have the ever day to deal with, dishes, washing, cleaning, bed time routine for kids etc etc and doing all of this while living in a very small space and constantly packing up and travelling between destinations can become exhausting (not to mention actually being with ones loved ones 24 hours a day seven days a week…no stress there!) I can here the sound of tiny violins being played by everyone who is working while we gallivant around but remember it’s all a matter of perspective!

Bali was a turning point for me at least, I returned to Australia feeling ready to really enjoy every moment remaining to us and feeling grateful again for this opportunity. It was a close call though – Craig didn’t feel quite so zen and was keen to just head home to Brisbane to find a job and return to normality so cue marital disharmony. Luckily I used all my charms and persuasive ability (read haranguing!) to convince him we had come too far to just abandon Western Australia and we did continue. For that I am now eternally grateful – in part it’s why my blogging has been so erratic, I don’t want to miss a minute of the last part of our great adventure, even the evenings when I would normally blog, I would rather be outside star gazing, hearing the stories of other adventurers on the road like us or just relaxing and getting an early night so we can get out and about the next day. Maybe it’s the end of it all starting to loom a little closer but all of a sudden the appreciation for what we are doing has returned and it feels like we could keep doing this forever ( well me, maybe not everyone else, Craig wants a job and the girls actually want to go back to school, what is wrong with people???!)

I will do my absolute best to write the remainder of our stories with as much wonder and awe that I felt at the time, Western Australia and the Kimberley’s was nothing short of soul inspiring (hearing about it and seeing photos does not do this country justice, it makes you understand how the aboriginal people feel about their emotional connection to the land). Currently we are lolling around in the Darwin heat catching up with very old and dear friends and contemplating how soon we will be done and dusted with this unforgettable chapter of our lives. I should be able to get through Tom Price, Broome, Gibb River Road/Kimberleys and Kakadu – although I feel cramps in my fingers even talking about it!!!!

See you all soon

xx

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My Beautiful Gang

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Us – Still Travelling!

Denham and Monkey Mia

This whole region of the WA Coast (in fact the entire WA coast) is stunning with it’s turquoise water and sandy beaches, really just continuing the theme that was started from the moment we hit the coast line of this State. Our primary intention here was to visit the dolphins of Monkey Mia but being homeless nomads we opted out of paying exorbitant fees at the conservation area itself and instead checked into the Shark Bay Caravan park in Denham, only a 10 minute drive past the Francois Peron National Park to Monkey Mia.

I’ve only been vaguely aware of Monkey Mia – there were stories of how you can swim with dolphins there and feed them but it wasn’t something I paid a lot of attention to. Once we were headed there however I thought it would be an exciting thing for our children to be so close to dolphins in the wild and have a greater appreciation for these beautiful creatures. That’s not quite how it went though!

The story of this area is a little sad, when it was discovered people would swim with and feed the dolphins at will and apparently they became so dependent on humans they would even leave their calves out in the deeper water to die while they came in to be fed (I’m not sure what that says about Dolphin maternal instincts, a free feed never enticed me to leave my babies?!) Now it’s a strictly controlled conservation area and the dolphins come in several times in the morning to be fed but within this area there is no interaction with them (unless you are one of the lucky ones to be called forward and give them a fish) and they are restricted to several fish each.

When you arrive there is a board stating when the dolphins had come in previously and how many people were on the beach watching them, luckily for us they had only been in the once and that was much earlier so we were expecting a sighting soon. We setup for play time on the beach and awaited the royal guests arrival. It was exciting sighting the first shadows slipping through the water near the jetties, and the park ranger (or whatever they were called!) started issuing orders about where to stand and what to do. We were able to stand in the water initially as three dolphins started slipping past the gathered crowd entertaining us all – once they moved onto feeding though everyone had to return to the beach and they selected three people to come into the water and hold the fish. We missed out on that count which might have held the kids interest a bit longer – as it was I was shocked to hear them asking if they could go get lunch while the dolphins frolicked right in front of them! I know my children like their food but really? Apparently natural wonders still only hold their attentions for a short period of time but as we were enjoying it they were ordered to entertain themselves on the beach.

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Arrival of the Visitors

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The Crowd

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Ready for the Close Up

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Showing Off

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Feeding Up

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Chilling at the Resort Area

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Turtle Sighting from the Jetty

 

We also went out on one of the two catamarans that operate out of Monkey Mia, once for a sunset cruise which was all about relaxing with a glass of wine and watching the sun go down and then the next day for a wildlife cruise of spotting dolphins, turtles and sharks – all of which were sighted. The girls had a great time as the catamaran was loaded with kids of a similar age and they all took over the netted areas between the hulls and screamed “dolphin” in unison when there was a sighting – I’m very surprised they dolphins came in for a bow wave ride with all that noise going on! We however had a very relaxing time with the short ones off with the gang, had almost forgotten how wonderful it is to be out on the water after so many months of looking at it from a beach (yes, I know, terribly hard life we lead)…

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Monkey Mia Jetty

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Our Ride

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Out at Sea

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Ahoy Captain

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Hello Sailor

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Sunny Days

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Sunset Cruise

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A Little Sisterly Love

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Bali (State of Australia?!)

Ok, so Bali doesn’t technically qualify as part of our around Australia trip – however – since we were reliably informed by our Western Australian counterparts that Perth-ites often travel there three times a year I’ve decided that it can be an honorary State of Australia for the purposes of my blog. Why Bali?  Well until now we had resisted the Australian Bali craze however flights are so cheap out of Perth and it  was roughly half way through our mammoth tour of Australia –  there is only so much living in a campervan one can do before going slightly (or a lot) batty.  So we left our campervan parked in our friends drive way (love you KL and Cam), repacked our bags with summer clothes and hopped a plane to Bali. It nearly didn’t happen, Craig and I are both a little risk averse when it comes to travelling with the short people and there were many discussions about the fact that Sophia can’t resist experiencing her surrounding through her mouth (not advised for South East Asia) and how Bali Belly could ruin the whole two weeks. However, we hopped a plane and went and joined the ranks of thousands of Australian’s who flock to this Indonesian tourist hot spot every year.

Having spent time in Asian destinations before Bali was pretty much as expected – hot, humid, crowded, slightly unsanitary by Western Standards but also fascinating, charming and exotic. As usual seeing things through children’s eyes is a whole new perspective, they couldn’t have cared less that people looked different, that there were broken sidewalks or that nothing seemed like home – there was just endless fascination with the shops selling so many bright and unusual items, a love of travelling everywhere by taxi and spending half of each day in the pool.

As we were told by so many others who had travelled here, the girls were a source of endless fascination for the locals – not so much in the tourist hot spots of Kuta and Seminyak but when we travelled out into the regional areas of the temples where local tourists from Java frequented. After a dozen requests to take photographs with the girls (and one couple who tried to actually pick Layla up) our Nanny informed us that  many of the Javanese hadn’t seen white people before let alone twin girls so they were as fascinated by us as we were by the local Indonesian culture.  Layla seemed to take it in her stride (born exhibitionist) however Sophia took to hiding behind my legs as soon as anyone with a camera came near her!  We were also constantly amused by the local taxi drivers who questioned Craig every trip about why we weren’t having a third child – didn’t he want a boy??!

I loved the local culture, the colour, the food and being able to dine out every night in another beautiful restaurant and having a local nanny smoothed the way in regard to obtaining great local food, especially fruit (although I was a little bemused by the road side vendor in the mountains who attempted to sell me a rifle when we hopped out to buy strawberries!) Another highlight was the local man who was merrily bathing in the local drainage system completely naked (as you do when you bathe) right next to the main highway!  The amount of pollution and rubbish accumulating in local waterways was a little sad for me, it feels that we are contributing to their economy with our tourist trade but the down side is also generating a ton of plastic water bottles amongst other detritus that often makes its way into the environment or gets burnt resulting in a constant atmospheric smog.

We made some amazing family memories –  riding elephants at the Safari Park, stroking a sleeping tiger cub, being harassed mercilessly by the local cheeky monkeys,  watching the sunset over the water at Jimbaran Bay while eating seafood and visiting some stunningly beautiful temple locations – as well as spend a lot of time just idling around our hotel pool and reflecting on life in general.  Somehow in amongst the crowded busyness this became a time of being able to rebalance and refocus on what life is really about.   Although we were all more than ready to return to Australia after two weeks (the girls weren’t that chuffed about Indonesian food I have to say!) it was with a sense of gratitude and appreciation for how lucky we are to be on this trip and looking forward to the remaining two months.

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Sunset at Jimbaran bay

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Beautiful Temple Area at Tanah Lot

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Fire Dancers at our Restaurant One Night

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Elephant Safari – Complete with Silly Hats!

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Botanical Gardens – Welcome Cool Respite

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Star Attraction!