Friday, July 29, 2016

Reflections on Life in a Camper Van

Our 6-week, 7500 kilometer long journey in Australia has come to an end so, as we reflect on our experience, we wanted to share some details on what life in a camper van looked like for our family of four. Although we had upgraded to a camper van, in many ways, this experience was not far removed from the backpacking days of our 20s. A link to a compilation video of the trip is included below. As always, Ash loves to share the details to bring the experience to life. Enjoy her summary below!
In the 40 days we had the camper van, we only spent two nights in a campground. Instead, we slept on country roads and tried to be discreet when parking overnight on residential roads in big cities.  The kids thought it was a  fun game and would scream, "Car coming, car coming! Turn off the lights quick! The cops may get us!" They would giggle and we would turn back on the lights when the car or people had passed.  We never got into trouble with the cops and no one seemed to care that we parked a camper near their land, home or condo.  This also meant we did not have access to bathrooms during the night and parts of the day.  We got creative, real creative and let's just say what happened in and around that camper, stays in Australia! We had to remind our boys on the way back to Singapore, during our overnight in Bali, that "No. No. No! We are not going to continue to pee in water bottles anymore! Stop it!" They had grown accustomed to our new life so this came as a shock to them. 

We took two showers in six weeks (but swam in the ocean and bathed in rivers and under waterfalls often), never shaved nor wore deodorant and wore the same clothes for at least 2 weeks at a time.  It was liberating!  The boys had to be reminded that, "Why, yes, you do need to wear underwear again now that we're back in Singapore."  

One of the gifts of simple travel is that you begin to really appreciate the small pleasures in life, such as food and warmth. You really, really appreciate it.  The boys began shouting and dancing every time we found a grocery store - it was one of their highlights every few days. They were even more ecstatic when every three days we found a cafe in the evening, where we could sit in a warm place, share an entree or two and play our new board games.  The only entertainment they begged for was new books and if we snuck away to get a book and came back with it as a present they showed more excitement and gratitude than on Christmas morning.

I drove 0 kilometers in total. Maciej drove 7,500.  I cooked 5% of our meals. Maciej cooked 95% and prepared and dissembled the beds every day, did all the dishes, and cleaned.  I'm the primary cook at home when Maciej is bogged down with lesson planning so it was good for him to take over for a change.  I did read thousands, literally thousands, of pages of stories to the boys and made sure to meet our other needs.  If we ever drove by a organic grocery store, book store, antique shop or Salvos (and this would happen often), I would instantly and frantically scream in excitement, scaring the living daylights out of everyone else in the car in the process.  We found the boys some great book series, warm winter clothes, funky sunglasses for all, and the best cheeses we have ever had among all the other great food. I also purchased everything we needed and did not need for our home, depending on who you asked, but did only buy one skirt which, if you know me, is quite the feat in self-restraint.  

And last, but certainly not least, here was a typical day: the boys would slide down from their "bedroom" in the van's tiny loft around 6:30 a.m. and cuddle for about an hour with me in the bigger bed down below. We'd drive to a picturesque spot and Maciej would make breakfast for everyone while we cuddled and gazed out the windows.  Then I would read with Rai and Ko with Ko often taking breaks to "colour in" pages in his growing collection of colouring books. Maciej, meanwhile, would plan the next leg of our trip. Our days revolved around meals, sights, nature, spotting wildlife, collecting seashells, seeds and leaves and, of course, driving.  We danced, ran, sang, laughed, played games and bonded as a family in a way that made this vacation a family vacation that will last in our memories for our lifetime.  We highly recommend Australia and a camper van to anyone who loves nature, small towns, great cities, nice people, wildlife, good food, and feeling off the grind.  Thank you Australia!  We'll be back.....

FIND THE VIDEO LINK here (it begins with the sounds of the animals around our camper our first morning waking up on a country road):

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Summer in Australia: Getting Home

Following the long, sleepless night we had in the Bali airport on the way to Australia, we knew that we deserved a night in a hotel on the way back. It was just an overnight stay but Bali is a great place to spend any amount of time at all.

Summer in Australia - Days 40, 41, and a half: Brisbane

Of all the big cities we were to visit, we expected least from Brisbane. It was just to be the place to get to in time to return our camper van and catch our flight back to Singapore. All the attention is always given to Sydney and Melbourne with Brisbane getting little mention. Brisbane turned out to be much more than final stop. It's a great city, vital and inviting. We quickly got our bearings and, in just two and a half days, it became a home base for us. We knew the historic center well, the riverfront, and had our go to cafe and happening playground for the boys. It was a great place to end our journey through Australia and a comfortable place to slowly make the transition back to life in Singapore. We cleaned up the camper and returned it, spending a night in a nice hotel, not very different from our condo. We ate out a bit more and we got some a taste of the heat back in Singapore. It was time to go home.