JODI WILSON and her partner had never caravanned before when they embarked on an indefinite road trip with their four kids. Here are some of the things she learned after more than two years on the road:
1. All we have is now
I don’t think we can underestimate how quickly time passes, nor how fast our toddlers become teens. Every piece of research I’ve read on happiness, mindfulness and contentment has come back to the same concept: live in the now, be present, make the most of today. And it’s true. Looking back to that day when we decided to sell everything and travel, I was highly conscious of the racing years and the fact that if I didn’t make change, I would regret it. We never set out to see places but to just spend time with each other. It was always about time because time is all we have.
2. Slow travel is always a good idea
The fast pace of life naturally extends to travel, too. Stepping away from that “must go, must see” mindset is a decision I highly recommend – for the sake of your travel experience and the happiness of your family. Put simply: rush around this country trying to see it all within a short timeframe and frankly, no one is having a good time. After a few months of travelling, we threw the idea of The Big Lap out the window, because flying visits and long travel days are definitely not our thing. Instead, we chose the slower, country road. We drove for a few hours, stopping in small towns for a wander and some lunch before heading another 30 minutes down the road and settling in for a week or so. We sought out the quietest rivers, the smallest towns, the very best of ordinary op-shops. Travelling slowly allowed us the time and freedom to settle in and experience each place we visit whilst maintaining a balanced and gentle family rhythm.
3. You don’t need a lot to live well
Living in a caravan is the epitome of small space living. Every single thing you own needs to be considered for its size, weight and purpose, hence vanlife forces you to be an incredibly conscious consumer. Whittling down our possessions to fit in a 24ft van was one of the most rewarding experiences of our travelling experience – the opportunity to really consider every item for its purpose – and then realise that there are so few things we need to live abundantly. Being mindful of what you carry with you in your tiny home is a constant reminder that you don’t need a lot to live well because ultimately, your daily joy is found in ocean swims, campfire conversations, walks around newfound towns, a cup of tea next to a river, walking barefoot on the grass – all the things that so easily get pushed aside when you’re consumed by the busyness of daily life and a cluttered home.
4. Simple experiences are best
My favourite travel memories aren’t grand or unattainable, and they don’t include tourist-destinations or must-sees. Perhaps they are memorable because they’re so simple; early morning drinking tea outside, my toddler playing at my feet. Dinners made from the day’s market haul, eaten alfresco. Late afternoon walks that only end because it’s getting dark and we’re hungry. A mountain climb and a cold ocean swim. Reading a book in the sun while the kids ride scooters up and down the street. Falling into bed tired and happy and grateful after a day of exploring.
5. Time in nature is always worthwhile
Adventure doesn’t mean packing up your house and living on the road. A one-month caravan trip is a wonderful opportunity that you should embrace if you have the chance; just because it’s not a year-long adventure doesn’t make it any less worthwhile. You can live simply and with less without moving into a caravan. You can intentionally stop consuming by being mindful of your wants versus your needs. It has nothing to do with the size of your abode and everything to do with your choices. You’re allowed to say no to after-school activities so your children can play barefoot and free till dinnertime. You can discover new places each weekend by driving away from the shops and towards the mountain ranges, the sea, the gumtrees. Regardless of where and how you live, time spent in nature helps put all your priorities in place and reminds you what matters.
This is an edited extract of the book Practising Simplicity: Small steps and brave choices for a life less distracted by Jodi Wilson, published by Murdoch Books. RRP $32.99