This Weekend Edition I am writing from an iPad. With very little battery, and the slowest wifi ever, so I can’t even begin to pull up all the links I have been collecting to share with you. So, instead, I’m going to pen you a giant letter. We’ll return to normal format next week once I am on regular wifi and have constant access to power!! Woot woot!!
We have been over a week on the road now, and it has been a ridiculous, hilarious and wonderful experience. It has been the best of times and the worst of times. Just the four of us on the road, Marley, me, and my habits and my neurosis as the two additional guests. When you’re confined to a very small vehicle with no power, limited wifi and even when you do have it you find all your devices are dead, there’s a lot of space to reckon with who you really are. For those of you who follow us on Instagram you would have seen a lot of the stories – Van Lyfe Travel Tips certainly got a lot of laughs from everyone. Thank you for reaching out, it saved me from moments of insanity. I have become much to Marley’s horror particularly chatty with ANY adult, just for the sake of adult conversation. The guy at the petrol station, the lady selling fruit on the side of the road. The ranger collecting our money in the middle of nowhere whilst we bed down amid trees on a beach.
I have had the strange experience of when the van has been stopped, which is 90% of the time, I have almost no thoughts, just absolute presence. Which has been incredible and remarkable. Then, when the van starts up and we are navigating highways, and ALL the thoughts present themselves in a frenzy. So that’s about 120,000 thoughts in a few hours. Which is enough to send anyone crazy. But, you know this whole trip has been enough to send anyone crazy so I’m just rolling with it.
My lack of concern about staring at people is driving Marley nuts. It is a field day of staring when camping with other people around. I’m not a camper. Having a disabled brother, camping and skiing were things I never did growing up. As a teenager and in my early twenties I used to drive up and down the coast a lot surfing, and eating sausage rolls in the car with the heater on, and park at little grotty motels for the night – but all before I had Marley, and no actual camping. Music festivals don’t really count do they??
So the camping vibes are all new to me and there is SO much to catch the eye. People take camping really seriously. We roll up in our giant branded campervan, with all the gear and no idea and announce our novice-ness right up front. I have moved on from feeling like the idiot I am and now we just own it. We are precious, we are new to camping and we are enthusiastic. People have been wonderful. Because man have we gotten ourselves into some pickles.
People are also really kind if you ask them if you can check out their equipment, and I think proud to show it off. And honestly, I’m confident you could buy a holiday house with the level of commitment some people have in their vans! I have learnt more from chatting to strangers and hauling our van out of mud tethered to a four-wheel drive, and working out the weather without apps and navigating roads when the navigation isn’t working then I have learnt in a long time.
And it’s a strange experience, waking to go to the toilet early in the morning and saying ‘morning’ to the 84 year old man in his terry toweling dressing gown and slippers. Sitting to watch the sunset as a non-speaking group of people, that kind of feel like family as you have seen them in their pyjamas but they’re also really private and so you don’t converse. Just sit. You and them, cooking dinner surrounded by kangaroos, as the sun sets, all very quiet. Because honestly there’s not much else to say after 5 days straight of just you and your family to talk to. So it’s a rather quiet affair and I have fallen into the rhythm of not talking rather beautifully, (yes Arran, true story!!).
There is something poetic and it has struck me deeply about lying in the dark listening to my child breath deeply in sleep, that as they get older I miss. There is something magic about observing your own rhythms and those of others, like the elderly couple who fascinated me for a whole 36 hours. They each had their tasks, he pulled out the chairs to watch the sunset, she brought drinks and snacks. They quietly read their books in the sun together. He cooked dinner with a huge flourish on their incredible high tech kitchen that pulled out of the side of their tiny van, and they ate together before he retired into the van and she cleaned up. In the morning in grey light, I could hear the radio playing inside their van and smelt coffee as I pattered past as softly as I could, shortcutting my way in the cold too close to their van to get to the toilet. And then they packed up and left. I felt I knew them so intently even though we never spoke and was sad when they left. Like I said, camping is a strange experience.
I am even more convinced of the merits of boredom to stimulate creativity. The games we have played, the paintings we have worked on and the writing we have both done, have burst forward like a flood from the dam of ‘boredom’. No one is bored anymore, whereas I felt like I would DIE of boredom so many times as a child. Our devices are our little distraction machines. And without them, we have adjusted and clicked into another timezone. One where time passes ever so slowly. One where I’ll be damned with 8% battery and limited wifi I’ll be going down a wormhole on Instagram.
With the freedom, we have carved out entire new plans for the trip, now slowly winding our way to Queensland and then staying in Byron with dear friends kind enough to take us in, so we can all go to Splendour In The Grass a three-day music festival. The initial panic of Marley and missing her friends and my having a self-employed work conniption, we both reasoned we could in fact, make another 10 days away happen. I think we have this deep sense of this trip being pivotal, of it being enriching in ways we didn’t sense in it’s fullness, and of the passing of time between us, two females on two very different paths, living very different lives, yet joined tightly for the moment.
From this standpoint, if you have a trip that is lingering in your consciousness that you think impossible to make happen, just take the plunge. I am proud Marley and I will remember this trip forever, likely with a groan and a laugh. The worst of times and the best of times will teach you more than you can ever imagine, and isn’t that the whole reason we are all here?
Sent with love, and gratitude for this incredible experience we get to have called our lives.