Losing My Travel Mojo

I don’t know what happened last week, but the shine fell off a bit. I lost my travel mojo.

I felt like I wasn’t seeing anything except the inside of a supermarket.

I felt like I wasn’t doing anything except waiting around for the boys to come back from fishing.

I felt like none of our systems were working, that nothing had a home.

I didn’t want to go home, and seeing as how we have tenants in I don’t think they’d really dig me turning up on the doorstep either, but I just wasn’t loving it sick anymore.

And feeling like that didn’t really make me a joy to be around.

But I’ve discovered that I’m not alone. It seems to be a bit of a phenomenon that around about the three or four month mark, some of us wanderers get a bit…homesick isn’t the right word but it’s a similar emotion. And I think that slowing down, and not really having a plan for what’s next, and wondering where we are going to spend Christmas, and chomping through our financial buffer zone a bit (hello new windscreen) certainly compounded that feeling.

And it probably sounds ridiculous and spoilt and entitled and a whole lot of other things too, to be living this amazing lifestyle and have even a moment of not enjoying it. But the reality is, we are five people living in very close quarters and we don’t all think the same or want to do the same things all the time, or have all the same interests or priorities. And that can cause a little bit of tension, especially when you’re not right on top of your game anyway. Let’s face it, life’s not all unicorns farting rainbows when you live in a house; it’s a bit ridiculous to think it will be in a tent.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that even when you’re on the trip of a lifetime, bad days happen. Bad weeks happen. It doesn’t always mean you’re not doing the right thing, or that you should pack it all in and go home. Sometimes it might. But I think for the most part, if you push past it you’ll get your mojo back. A good pack down, a smooth move and a dip in the ocean and I am back. Bring it on.

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Cai’s Wild Life

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Yesterday started out with rescuing a lorikeet out of the river and taking it to a vet in Gladstone and ended up with an email from Bindi Irwin.

A few weeks back, Cai decided he wanted to enter a competition being run by Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors to find a Visionary Wildlife Warrior ages between 5 and 17. And while he didn’t win, he was one of 8 finalists for 2014. I’m so proud of him for his passion and his commitment to that passion, and I wanted to share his entry with you all. Cai expresses himself much better verbally than in writing (I think I’m the opposite so I don’t know how that happened) so he spoke this to me and I typed it up for him.

My name is Cai and I am 9 years old. I come from Brisbane, but at the moment I am travelling around the country with my family in a camper trailer.

Steve Irwin inspired me to become involved in wildlife conservation. When I was little, I was a pretty sick kid. I spent a lot of time in hospital. One day, my mum and dad got me a Crocodile Hunter DVD to watch while I was on a drip. I loved it so much I watched it over and over. And from then on I was interested in wildlife and wildlife conservation. I used to walk around with a pillowcase full of rubber snakes and do snake shows for my family and friends. Mum says that I would only wear khaki clothes and she used to have to take my Australia Zoo shirt off me when I was asleep so she could wash it. When I got older, mum and dad let me have some snakes of my own – a friend of ours is looking after them for us at the moment – but mum is still saying I can’t have my own freshie. Yet.

I am passionate about saving our saltwater crocodiles and changing people’s ideas about them. Salties are my favourites. When I was in Cape York I saw a big saltie on Jackey Jackey Creek and it was just awesome.

Because we’re living on the road, the whole of Australia is my community. We meet heaps of new people all the time, and I always talk to them about wildlife. I explain to people why they shouldn’t catch and kill sharks when they go fishing, and if dad and I catch a shark we always let him go. I also started a petition at my old school to send to Campbell Newman asking him to stop shooting the crocs in Far North Queensland. I took my whole family to a protest rally to try to stop the shark cull in WA.

I always talk to other kids about why crocs, sharks and snakes are awesome and why we shouldn’t kill any of them, and I’m working with my family on putting together information packs for kids to help them understand why we need these creatures in our environment. I think that most kids really like them as much as I do, but they learn to be scared about them from their parents. I’d like to help kids teach their parents all about wildlife. I’m also working on making some YouTube videos too.

I want to help teach other kids about why our ecosystem needs apex predators like sharks and crocs, and what will happen to the environment if we keep killing them all off.

Steve Irwin taught me to be passionate about our amazing Australian wildlife, and why we shouldn’t muck with it. If you don’t look after nature, the whole ecosystem will collapse. I’ve always wanted to be just like Steve, and one day I will.

I know you will mate.

Sunday Roast – Sausage Sangers Evans Style

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Yeah, I know, it’s Tuesday. But we’ve had a hectic few days. We travelled to Rockhampton on Saturday, shopped and packed up a storm on Sunday and yesterday travelled to Calliope which, for about 120km journey seemed to take forever. We must have driven through (or sat at for a while) at least 10 sets of roadworks. But posting a Sunday Roast on a Tuesday is probably, like, a really apt metaphor for my life or something, so here it is.

The sausage sandwich. The snag sanger. Bangers on bread. Whatever you want to call it, it’s Aussie as. The only problem is, your usual humble snag contains about a million ingredients that Cai is allergic to.

Over the years, we’ve done some kilometres in search of a Cai friendly snag. We met a butcher at Maryborough who had a grandson with food allergies, and as a result he started making Failsafe snags. A health food shop in Hervey Bay used to order some in, along with nitrate free ham and bacon, once a fortnight for us from Brisbane. The first time he ever ate a sausage sanger aged 4, Cai proudly proclaimed that he was “just like all the other kids”, which was a pretty tear inducing moment I have to say.

We found a fantastic butcher in Brisbane last year who made Cai friendly snags and I’m pretty sure we were single-handedly paying his mortgage for a while there, until we realised that red meat was triggering Cai’s eosinophilic oesophagitis. So they went off the menu again.

I had mentioned that if we found somewhere on our travels that sold preservative and additive free snags that perhaps we would be able to give them a go, and ever since then Mackenzie has been like a dog with a bone. Every place we pull into, she asks, “are we getting sausages here?” I had thought I’d found a place in Townsville, they advertised them on their website but then didn’t actually have any. (Turned out they also sold crocodile meat so Cai wasn’t keen on us shopping there anyway.)

I put a call out in a Facebook group for possible sources as we moved down the coast, and found a Yeppoon retailer that had a market stall in Rockhampton on a Sunday. It was the first stall we saw as we walked in, and BOOM! Lamb snags in the cold cabinet.

They did have buckwheat flour in them which Cai would ordinarily avoid, but as a one off we decided to take our chances. He declared it would be worth a bit of reflux for his first sausages in almost a year.

Add some gluten free flatbread (easy as, 2 cups GF self-raising flour and enough water to make a pancakey batter and fry in a pan), and some pan fried onions and mushrooms, and it was certainly a Sunday Lamb Roast we’ll remember for a while. Definitely worth turning down a date with Tom Cruise. I didn’t manage any photos because it was scoffed too fast and also, well, not really that attractive, but the kids didn’t care. Because they were (almost) just like all the other kids.

Ever gone on a ridiculous food seeking quest? Or is that just me?

Free Camp Friday – Tell Us Where To Go!

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It’s becoming clear that we have NFI where we are headed in the near future. So we’re asking for your help!

We are pit stopping near Rockhampton this weekend to shop, shower, do washing and all that exciting stuff.

Then we head towards Gladstone for a couple of days at Calliope.

From there, we’ll spend a couple of weeks at Agnes Water/1770 before stopping in Hervey Bay for a couple of days to show Mackenzie where she was born.

In the words of that seminal classic “Dude, Where’s My Car?”

And then……

We don’t know where to go!

We probably should start heading inland from Hervey Bay, but then we miss the Sunny Coast. Which will probably be busy (and exxy) by then anyway.

Most likely we will start heading towards Toowoomba and then meet up with the New England Highway. Or maybe the Newell. We want to take the kids to Forbes to show the kids where Nan grew up and Matt spent his holidays, but we’re a mighty long way away from there yet.

So – tell us where to go. Know any great spots we should visit? Obviously we’re interested in cheaper options, and we love to support van parks who don’t charge us exorbitantly for the kids. Dog and camper trailer friendly are our only other requirements.

It’s travelling Choose Your Own Adventure style!

Budget Travelling – Frugal Food Update

When it comes to budget travelling, I think we might be as budget as they come. “How much does it cost?” is probably the question that we and other travelling families are asked most often. And obviously the answers vary pretty widely. But it doesn’t have to cost a bomb. We left home with $7000 and the income from renting out our home. I’m going to start exploring our budget in a bit more depth for you shortly, but for now, here’s an update on our not going to the shops every five minutes experiment. It’s going gangbusters. We’re on Day 10 today, and here’s what’s left:

3 GF Pasta
5L Rice Milk
500mL Olive Oil
1 pack wholegrain Sakata crackers
1 big and 3 small tuna
3 tins mixed beans
6 tins tomatoes
1 tin baked beans
5 tins assorted veg (corn, beetroot)
4 meat meals (2 bacon, 1 steak, 1 mince)
2 cups GF flour
Motherload rice
Assorted jams, honey, coffee, tea, popcorn kernels etc
2 onions, 2 cloves garlic, shallots, half a sweet potato.

That is a Masterchef mystery box waiting to happen, is it not? Realistically I think we could probably make it 14 days if we had more fruit and veg to pad things out, but as it is I think we’ll make it to 12 and then shop. Which is still much better than every 4 or 5 days.

I spent $340 last shop, which works out to $28.34 a day for a family of 5 and a dog. I’d estimate I’ve cut between $10 and $12 a day off our last few week’s food bills, which is enough to give us a bit of breathing room as we come into the parts of the coast where free camping isn’t as accessible. I’m pretty happy with that for a first effort, although there’s definitely a few things I’ll do differently this time.

I didn’t meal plan or make a shopping list.

I KNOW! I committed both of the cardinal sins of frugal shopping. Last time we shopped, we were going to buy either a freezer or a vacuum sealer, and I had no idea which so didn’t see the point in making a list. I also didn’t stocktake the pantry stores before we went either, so quite frankly I’ll be surprised if I’m kicked out of the talking about food on the internet club. This time, I have redeemed myself by making a fortnightly meal plan which is as scintillating as it sounds, but all jokes aside it is a sensible thing to do. Otherwise you find yourself in the position of trying to work out whether you can put tinned beetroot in a curry (I’m thinking no, right?)

The vacuum sealing worked well, but it does take practise.

My bag cutting minion cut the bags way too big, which is neither frugal or environmentally kind. You do need a bit of a gap between the food and the top of the bag, but we ended up with a bit of plastic waste which made me feel guilty. Also, I did have an air bubble or two which isn’t ideal, and although the food didn’t spoil we ate the same thing a couple of nights in a row to get rid of it before it did.

I didn’t buy enough fruit and veg.

I wasn’t sure how it would all fit in the 60L fridge, so opted for a few emergency cans as backup. Turns out I had plenty of room for fresh. I also struggled to find a good fruit and veg shop in our last location, which didn’t help, but we’re hoping to hit a market this weekend. I’ll buy a heap more this time, and vacuum seal some of that too.

I bought coconut milk instead of coconut cream.

Like a der-fred. Coconut milk is basically just watered down coconut cream, no? So half as many tins and use half coconut cream and half water. (This is why you make lists, people, and don’t just blindly grab stuff of the shelves while you cry.) (May or may not have happened.)

GOAL: 14 days under $400 – is someone playing the Rocky music or is that just me?

What do you spend on groceries? Any top budgeting tips you’d like to share?

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Old school fun for kids

One of the things I love about living on the road is watching how the kids play now. Because for the most part, there’s only the two of them, if they don’t want to play alone they only really have one other option. That’s not to say they don’t still fight; of course they do but they are playing better together now than they ever have.

It’s also been interesting seeing them come out from behind their screens. Although we had substantially cut back on tv time anyway, they did tend to be pretty attached to their iPads at times. Not having 200GB of data to use up a month put paid to that pretty quickly though, and I think the iPads have only come out for schoolwork, and even then only a few times.

So I guess you could say we’re rocking it old school. And the kids have definitely had some old school fun this week.

We have a big tree right out the front of our camp, which has just been calling out for a rope swing. Matt hooked one up for them with a bit of firewood for a seat and so far no one has kicked anyone else in the face – win.

They’ve also been doing a heap of hand sewing. Mackenzie stacked it in her brand new hippie pants last week, so I had to grab some supplies to sew them back up. I will also have to grab some more should anyone else need repairs done, because they’ve been commandeered by the kids (as have most of my chux cloths, half a packet of nappy wipes and one of my tshirts).

And even though we live in a tent, you can’t go past a tarp cubby. A couple of spare poles and pegs and they had their own hideyhole to play, talk and create right on the beach.

How would your kids cope without their tech? (asks the woman blogging from her phone!)

Sunday Roast – Breakfast Dilemmas

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When you don’t have the options of eggs or toast, quick brekkies are hard to come by. If we’re hanging around camp all day, then a leisurely bacon, pancakes, soup or mince and veggies isn’t too much trouble, but on the days we are packing up and moving, Matt has my butt out of bed at sparrow’s, barking orders like he’s Michelle Bridges and I’m a very poor contestant on The Biggest Loser.

Something had to give for moving days. We’ve tried “everything free” cereal, which everyone but me likes (and Mackenzie will only eat dry). We’ve tried porridge which everyone except Mackenzie likes, but gives Harper a sore tummy. I was pretty much ready to just succumb to the idea of wine for breakfast (not for anyone else, just for me) when our friends pointed us in the direction of a delicious smoothie.

So on our OMG real shops excursion earlier this week in Airlie Beach, we picked ourselves up a smoothie maker/blender type hoosiebobbie. Not the George Foreman one, but similar with the bottles that click on and whizz it all up and Bob’s your aunties live in lover. It has a nifty 300W motor which is probably at the upper end of the scale of what we’d like to run through our inverter but in the mornings when we’d use it we’re pretty right for battery power, and if we’re in a park with a camp kitchen we can always use that instead. Of course, Mackenzie (who was drinking Vicky’s green smoothies with freaking KALE in them in Cape York) has declared she doesn’t like smoothies, but as you may be coming to realise Mackenzie doesn’t like much that’s not mashed potato or pancakes. She has, however, eaten three pieces of orange vegetable that wasn’t carrot this week, so I am calling that a win.

Cai’s Favourite Smoothie Recipe
1 Banana (or half if it’s a biggie)
1 tsp raw cacao
1 tsp raw honey or 1 Medjool date
1 cup of your preferred milk (we use rice or coconut)
1 tbsp oats
Ice if you’ve got it and your blender can handle it!
Whizz it up and drink!

What’s your favourite smoothie? Got any tips for a quick brekkie on the run?

A Surprising Week

Hurricane Harper

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I’m not mad keen on them, but if I had to name the thirteenth week of our adventure, it would be the Week of the Surprise. Some good, some not so good. Some – well, you’ll find out.

Let’s start with the good.

1. Watching the mighty South Sydney Rabbitohs win the NRL Grand Final for the first time in my lifetime. That was pretty special, even if we weren’t there but were in a caravan park in Airlie Beach surrounded by backpackers who had absolutely no idea what was going on.

2. How much I really enjoyed Airlie Beach. I thought it was going to be a bit touristy, and it is don’t get me wrong, but the colour of the water well and truly made up for that. We could probably never afford to live there in a million years unless we lived in one of the van parks, but that doesn’t mean I’m crossing it off the list.

And then, the not so good.

1. Opening my cutlery drawer and watching a mouse crawl out of it. It took me a minute to work out what was going on, because mice in the cutlery drawer isn’t something that generally happens, unless you’re Snow White I guess. Anyway, I was less than impressed, and the cutlery all got a big dunk in the bucket of Milton.

2. The squashed spider on the chopping board. I can only assume that Spidey had been attached to the pumpkin I pulled out of the vege box, and then as I rolled the pumpkin to cut it, he met an untimely end. RIP Spidey, and another contender for the Milton bucket.

And finally

Harper is at an age where she’s starting to make a few connections about going to the toilet. We let her have a fair bit of time with no nappy on to encourage her to work it all out. She also likes to jump in and out of the tent when we are setting up or packing down, because it’s not difficult enough to do without having to worry about squashing a toddler.

We packed up and left Airlie Beach, and on arrival at Carmila Beach started to set up the tent. The initial unfold and getting the poles in is a two person job, so I jumped in to help Matt in what’s a pretty familiar routine now.
And then I stepped in something squishy.

Yep, Harps had pooed in the tent 280km earlier at Airlie Beach, and we had unknowingly wrapped ourselves up this little present and brought it with us.

Suffice it to say, no nappy time will be a bit more strictly supervised from now on.

How was your week? Step in anything you shouldn’t have?

Free Camp Friday – Carmila Beach, QLD

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It’s a bit wild and woolly here today, and we’ve seen our first rainfall since driving through Tully about 6 or 7 weeks ago. We were actually a bit worried about getting the tent wet again, as we’ve found that it can be a bit leaky after a prolonged dry period and seems to need that bit of reseasoning every now and then. Luckily, we escaped the 3am downpour with no rain coming inside the tent.
Carmila is one of those Queensland beaches where when the tide goes out, it really goes out. About a kilometre and a half. I think we were the only people here who weren’t eating fish for dinner last night as the soft plastics weren’t really cutting it. Luckily, there’s a petrol station up the road where you can buy bait, so we’ll see how that goes today.
There’s no drinking water here at the camp, but again just up the road (about 5km or so) there’s a water point where you can fill up. We stopped in here in July and it was chockers, but it’s emptied out a bit now and this time we managed to snag a spot on the beach front. We’ve had some pretty spectacular views of the lunar eclipse the other night, and another beautiful moon last night. It’s quiet, it’s beautiful, it’s free (72 hour stay) and it’s possibly my favourite camp so far.
Carmila Beach is approximately 100km south of Mackay. Suitable for all sorts of campers, however there is some pretty soft sand here, so heavier vehicles/2WD are probably best off up the top of the site. There are couple of toilets here, but they’re a bit of a hike from the further away camp spots so BYO – there’s a dump point here too.

Fridges and Freezers and Eskies – Oh My!

We’ve come to the conclusion that our current food storage solutions just aren’t cutting it. Admittedly, when we left home 3 months ago, our food requirements looked a little bit different from what they do now. And admittedly, living in a camper trailer is maybe not the best time to make massive dietary changes, but it’s just the way it’s turned out.

So where our 60L fridge was coping just fine when we were eating a heap more legumes, now that Harper’s tummy and my immune system seem to be saying no to beans, it’s bursting at the seams a bit.

We’ve been finding that we’re only able to carry about 5 days worth of fresh food which is not hugely practical for some of the more remote places we’d like to go, and it’s also expensive as our top up shops turn in to full shops and blow our budget right out of whack.

What we really need is a freezer, but that’s not really an impulse buy when you’re trying to live more frugally! So, while we’ve decided to put a savings plan in to place so that we can get a freezer in before next dry season when we plan to head to Arnhem Land, it doesn’t help us much for right now.

So, for now, we’ve gone with a vacuum sealer. I toyed with the idea of one before we left; I even borrowed one to see what I thought – and never got around to using it. We gave it a burl in the camp kitchen yesterday (although with only a 120W draw we would be ok to use it with our inverter and not drain our battery too much) and I was pretty impressed. It’s definitely created a lot more room in the fridge, and although getting it done was a little time consuming it’s certainly no more so than having to trek through a supermarket.

We’re hoping to get a fortnight out of this shop; if we do we’ll have cut our expenditure by $17 a day which is pretty huge when you think about it.

After all, a dollar saved is another day sitting on a beach somewhere.

PS – We’re nominated in the 2014 Bupa Best Blog Awards – check out our fancy badge!

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