On the road again … ding a ling a ling ling ling. Healesville and Traralgon

Naughty me … behind in blogging! We have been far too busy being in the moment, and soaking up Victoria and NSW for me to get my laptop out and get typing away. But here I sit in Bermagui, NSW, and the time has come. The girls are lying in the van having a rest after a big snorkel and explore at the Blue Pool Bermagui, and I am sitting outside listening to the birds and enjoying the sea breeze.

So where were we?

Take your mind back and mine … lol. After we left Bendigo, we went to Torquay to visit our dear friend Nat @secondloves.

We spent a couple of nights at Torquay attending the festival and feeling topped up with beach vibes. Then, via the Great Ocean Road Chocolatier, we drove to Healsville – where we popped into another chocolatier! The girls thought it was a dream – starting the day at one chocolatier and finishing at the next!

Checking into Healesville Big 4 was like a dream. Our site was on the bank of the creek with a clear view to the playground, jumping pad and pillow, and there was bird life galore. Badger Creek runs along the edge of the park and it is just simply stunning; park guests take their chairs into the creek to cool off. It feels like you’re bush camping, but with all the benefits of a Big 4 park. 

The night we checked in happened to be the night that the neighbouring property was hosting a birthday party, and we were treated to live music across the creek. Nat and I enjoyed pasta and wine by the creek listening to the sweet tunes. Although I’m sure some people weren’t happy with the volume or perhaps the music selection, we felt like it was a treat you couldn’t have organised if you tried. This park was definitely to become a favourite

The days here found a rhythm – up early to play and swim, and then arvo naps to avoid the heat and a session at the waterpark on the lake. Must note here the amazing kindness of the Big 4 staff who watched Gem for the hour so I could take Harps on the water – solo parenting win here! This waterpark is part of the Yarra Valley Big 4 which makes up one of 4 Parklane parks, this is the second one we have visited and they are awesome! Check them out here Parklane Parks .

We took a morning trip to Healesville Sanctuary, which is super close to the park (short drive) where we saw the elusive platypus and also had a run in with a cranky (as his space was disturbed) tiger snake. This snake scare has become one of Gem’s favourite stories – she insists on telling everyone we meet. She also loves the eel story (will tell you when I see you, lol). We happened to be there while the Healesville Sanctuary festival was on, which meant live music and a bush dance. I can’t resist the heel and toe – took me right back to childhood and memories of attending the bush dances at the local hall. 

Next stop was Traralgon Big 4 where the focus was some reconnecting with far away friends, and this was the best place to do it. The park is like a child-parent combo planned it! The best coffee is available from reception, and there’s so much for children of all ages to do! I’m talking mini-golf, laser tag, a high ropes course, a pool, jumping pillow and go-carts, along with a playground, gym and indoor play centre! Once again, happy kids, happy mum! Harper loved the high ropes course (I was a little scared) and we really could have stayed a week and just ‘holidayed’ at the park. There’s also great BBQ facilities and a camp kitchen, and the park had a lovely friendly vibe to it. Happy days and fun nights were spent here . Check out Traralgon Big 4.

I am marvelling at the stories the girls choose to tell people we meet along the way, and the highlights that stand out and get shared. From bugs we have seen to the police boat, snake and eel, and not forgetting the funny noises the lifeguard made! Memories are being made!! 

Some of my fav pics for you x

Chocolate stop 1
Big 4 Healesville camped on Badger Creek
Love Harper’s face in this pic . So many birds
No words needed
Games by Badger Creek with new friends
Healesville Big 4 water park! The best
Horse rides along the creek
Traralgon play days
My little golfer. We putt putted while Harper climbed
Up she goes
This guy makes the BEST coffee
Sisters and go carts at Traralgon
This park Traralgon Big 4 is so shiny! Love it x
Checking out of this park was hard! Girls wanted to stay and so did I x

Bendigo … who knew?!


Having driven from Nhill to Bendigo, it really felt like we were far, far away from home now. It was the narrowing of the outback roads to one lane that got the “ You’re not in Kansas anymore” feeling happening, and I had a moment of feeling a little out of my depth, a little like I should have studied the map better. But then I came across a truck which pulled over for us, so Frankie could have the whole single road to himself, and I asked the driver about the way I was going. He was super helpful and explained the roads ahead to me and calm returned!  

Arriving in Bendigo we were all full of ooohhhs and ahhhss at the stunning buildings and gardens in the city centre and the massive Bendigo Bank (must research how Bendigo bank started … assuming once they found gold there!) 

First stop was the Frida Kahlo exhibition that is currently on at the Bendigo Art Gallery, and then it was time to check in at the Park Lane Big 4 caravan park that we were all super excited about – mainly due to the indoor play centre and impressed we were!! Socks on, and off they went! The park is great, check it out if you fancy here:  https://www.parklaneholidayparks.com.au/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI0LuJ8s3d3wIVzQ0rCh1GHwOkEAAYASAAEgIu3vD_BwE

The play centre and holiday program really were a highlight for us, along with the camp kitchen that looks out to the bouncy pillow (win win) and the super friendly staff. Must mention here we were so lucky with our site; on either side of where we parked Frankie, there were children of the same age as the girls, so instant friends were made, adding to the experience.  

So here are my top 3 things to do when visiting Bendigo: 

  1. The Discovery Science Centre
  2. Bendigo Art Gallery
  3. Deborah Central Mines

Science Centre: http://discovery.asn.au

We arrived at 10.10 am and didn’t leave ’til just after 3 pm! This says it all! It wasn’t the plan to stay the whole day but the girls were just so engaged with all the activities and little shows and talks that we just stayed and stayed! For me, the highlight was the planetarium; for Harper, the science show, which she watched twice and the vertical slide which she went down about 15 times. And Gem just loved the toddler area, with its pulley system designed like a mine where she spent ages playing with other kids who came and went. 

It was during our visit here, while I was going back to the robot room with Gem to experiment with programming the little beetle, that it occurred to me that vanlife is giving the girls and I a very big gift – time. It was so special to be able to stay at the centre all day; to go back to the activities that were favourites; to have time to see the girls master a new concept, a new skill; to watch a show twice and see the deep learning that occurred – to go deeper with learning and playing and not have to rush off to something else.

Bendigo Art Gallery

My love of Frida Kahlo took us here and although Gem wasn’t interested until she saw pictures of dogs, Harper and I got a lot out of it. Although the Frida exhibition isn’t there all the time, the gallery is impressive and has a variety of changing exhibitions. If you have a big love for Frida, go and check it out. I have always been drawn to Frida Kahlo from the moment I heard her story, which was right before moving to Mexico in my mid-20s, where I continued to learn about her life. Her life story is moving; she lived a short but passionate life (Harper was quite shocked after reading the timeline at the exhibition about how many affairs Frida and Diego had). And her expression through art is captivating. Last year, I went to a Frida Kahlo exhibition in Sydney which was amazing, so when I saw this was going to be on when we were in Bendigo, I knew I had to see it and I loved it. It’s photographs and organised into themes like Casa Azul, Politics, Family etc and added further to her story for me. 

Deborah gold mines was GOLD… literally. We took the tour underground and it was guided by a passionate and engaging woman who brought the history of the mine to life. We learnt about blasting, rock support (it has a better name but that has escaped me) tools and advances in mining. Aside from the tour there is lots to do on the ground level including panning for gold, which I discovered is quite addictive. Harper loved the tour … the whole experience of wearing the hard hat, the head torch and being the volunteer to operate the drill. Gem on the other hand was a little scared and insisted on being carried the whole time, hence the lack of photos and my back feeling like I had been shovelling rock for the length of the tour. So great learning about the past and so great finding a tiny (don’t sneeze) piece of gold.

When it was time to leave I found myself wishing we had another day or two … but as a wise woman once told me … always leave something you want to go back and do … and for me its Bendigo Pottery … that will have to wait ‘til next time!


Holiday activities at Parklane Big 4 Bendigo were a hit

Frida exhibition


Panning for gold (I found some)



Happy days and instant friends ❤️

The time has come

Well, the time finally came! We moved out of our house and into Frankie a couple of weeks back, and since then have done a combination of housesitting and driveway camping, which I can highly recommend.

  

It’s involved lots of catching up with friends and family, time outside and lawn picnics. Just make sure you have your ampfibian  power adapter , so you can plug into the power at your friends’ house. [I must say, the Jayco FD19-1  has a super sweet aircon that has been a saving grace in this 40-degree heat, along with the fridge for cold drinks and freezer for ice blocks.]

These transition weeks – of having moved out but not having left the state yet – have been great for tweaking the finer points in packing up Frankie. This has resulted in us leaving a trail of belongings at each stop, as I gradually figured out that we had packed way too much and that less is best.

 

Having some time to practice putting the bikes on and off multiple times, and loading and unloading the under storage has been good for my confidence and organisational skills. I am always amazed at how some things feel so daunting initially, and then, before you know it, you’re doing it without any fear.

This has certainly been the case with putting the bikes on the bike rack. I found a great instructional video which I watched several times beforehand and then again during the process of fitting the bikes on, and now I feel quite confident. I plan to get Harper to make a video of me doing the bikes when we leave this spot, then one at the end of our trip to see how much easier it has become. [I’m loving the before-and-after concept.]

Now that we have moved out of our house and into the van, life feels simplified, and the strangest thing has happened. I hear myself saying to the girls, ‘You play. I’m just going to do some housework’ – and I am actually happy … happy to do the housework! Frankie housework is more like a little contortion workout, and it’s fun and rewarding.

We are all settling into Frankie Dean, and after this driveway camp at our friends’ house, we will be on the open road. I feel like this has been a smooth, gentle start to our AdVANture. Already the time to read, play, ride, talk, listen has increased exponentially, and I see this time as such a gift to us as a little family.

Where is the dipstick?

Today, I spent a LOT of time searching for the lever to pop the bonnet of Frankie open, so I could check the oil and, most importantly, fill the windscreen wiper water up again. To ease my frustration and humour myself, I imagined making a little book for a new car owner’s entertainment.

I’m sure many of you mums and dads out there are familiar with the great children’s book Where is the green sheep?

  • Where is the bonnet popper? (What’s the actual name?)
  • Where is the dipstick? (This would have to be the title, right?)
  • Where is the spare tyre? And the jack?

And so on … this got me thinking…

Frankie Dean is the new FD19-1 Jayco van-based campervan. It’s a Jayco conversion on a Fiat Professional Ducato van. So having a camper van/motorhome is really like a 2 in 1 – a new vehicle to drive at one end and a conversion at the other.

When I picked up Frankie Dean, the handover at Jayco was fab. The Jayco guys went through all the details about the conversion side of things super well, with loads of detail, explaining things in a variety of ways and showing me how to do things, then letting me have a turn etc. I couldn’t fault the experience. Jayco do this so well, ensuring you feel confident operating all of the conversion side of things.

However the Fiat side of things has been different, and I had thought at times that I needed a Fiat handover too.

There is a learning curve with both these areas. I realised that although I had got comfortable driving Frankie, there were some questions I had and some things I wanted to understand better.

So I  put on my big girl pants (while imagining they were mechanic’s overalls) and rang Fiat Australia. They popped me through to a place in Richmond Adelaide (after a diversion where they tried to send me to Salisbury) and I spoke to the owner Bruce. It was like a match made in heaven …  I had some questions and he suggested I come on in and he would run me through the Fiat side of things, and teach me how to check all my levels etc. He told me he likes to do this to help people develop good preventative maintenance habits when they purchase a new van/motorhome etc. How cool is this guy, I thought!

So I booked me and Frankie in to see Bruce to get some serious answers to all of my ‘where the hell is the …’ scenarios.

The day arrived and what a day it was. Whoever would have thought I’d have fun learning about car maintenance and the technical details of how a car works … but as they say… never say never! I actually had fun!

When we arrived at Manta Automotive Services at Richmond Adelaide – a small workshop bursting at the seams with vans, campervans, motorhomes and vintage cars – we were welcomed with a warm smile from the lovely receptionist on the front desk. (I say ‘we’ because I took my friend Dean who is a retired mechanic, in the hope that he would be able to remind me of all the bits I was likely to forget, plus, I like his company – thanks Dean!)

Bruce arrived in the office shortly thereafter, and, with a warm handshake, we all introduced ourselves and into his office we went. Bruce is one of those men who clearly is passionate about his field and wants to share his knowledge. Bruce has been in the automotive industry his whole life and is an engineer. Bruce was prepared and has done this handover many times; he covered  topics such as the battery, braking, the automated manual gear system, oils, fuel, tyres, servicing, warranty, checks etc. He showed us photos and car parts to explain how things worked and what damage could be done if the vehicle wasn’t cared for correctly.

Here is my list of the top tips I have taken away from my time with Bruce. I recommend anyone who gets a new campervan/motorhome visits a dealer and gets to know the car side of things really well too. My time with Bruce has made me feel so much more prepared and confident with Frankie.

Top tips from my time with Bruce

– Always open and close the driver’s door before you start the engine (sounds weird I know, but if you get in from side door for example, you may forget to open the driver’s door, but the action of opening it actually engages a ‘thing’ in the engine that has an effect on the battery).

– There are checks that need to be done every 1000 km. These are important and need to be done.

– Carry some Selenia oil and Motul brake fluid with you if you’re doing a long distance trip.

– Read your driver’s handbook.

– The first service needs to be done at 24,000 km or 12 months, whatever comes first (not 40,000 km as the sticker may say – that’s a European guide; it’s 24,000 for Australia).

– Although the battery is under the floor and tricky to get to, if a jumpstart is needed, there are little positive and negative points under the bonnet that you can use (no need to access the battery directly). One of these jumpstart points requires your key to open the little door.

– The FD19-1 Fiat is actually a manual van. It’s an automated manual with very clever technology that changes the gears (I like to imagine a little car man in there changing the gears when needed). Although this system is great, being able to use the van in manual mode is important to learn, as it will assist in conditions such as driving up and down steep hills etc.

– Practice driving the van in manual somewhere quiet and learn at which revs the van wants to change gears (I’m getting the hang of it now and like it).

– NEVER use the brake and accelerator at the same time! It’s a one foot van.

– Always use the handbrake on a big hill start; do NOT ride the brake.

– Always check oil levels with the van cooled down and on level ground. Don’t overfill the oil.

– When filling with diesel, don’t fill to the tippy-top; leave some room (this has to do with fuel pump and heat from road and expansion stuff).

– When driving, turn the water pump off in the camper and drain water from taps; this is a preventative measure around not getting leaks.

– Toyos tyres are great and conform to Australian standards; they can even offer a service where they weigh your van and decide on what tyre pressure needs to be in each tyre (how cool is that).

– Check tyres and rotate at servicing to maintain evenness; this is very important for safety.

– When choosing where to fuel up, bear in mind BP  ultimate/ Caltex premium diesel have a great reputation.

– Tyre pressure should be at 73 PSI.

– The tool box is kept under the front passenger seat.

– There is a drawer for storage under the driver’s seat.

– There is a phone/device holder that pulls up and out on the dash!

– There is a box , like a glove box but different, at the top of the dash that is linked to the aircon, so you can pop your snack or drink in there and keep it cool up the front.

 

So there you have it!

Fiat car care in layman’s terms.

Although all Bruce’s car care information was amazing, the thing that stands out above all is that kindness prevails. There are so many people who want to help and share their knowledge, and it is this – along with knowing how to do the 1000km checks – that makes me excited to hit the road and have some AdVANtures!

Oh – and, by the way, the bonnet popper is on the passenger side by the door …

Getting to know each other

It has been many months since I first laid eyes on Frankie Dean (our Jayco FD-19 Campervan) and began dreaming of the AdVANtures we would have. Getting Frankie has been such a long-held dream, for what it represents and means for me and my girls. The main dream Frankie brings is time – time to slow down, time to play, time to explore, time to learn, time to bike, hike, read, play games … the list goes on!!

Dreaming about it has been great; it has kept me motivated and  working hard – whilst singing ‘Working for the van’ in the back of my mind all day, every day! However, what the dream phase failed to do was prepare me for the learning curve that is Frankie Dean himself! I don’t mean learning curve in a bad way – just an all-consuming, focus-on-task-at-hand kinda way, or a talk-through-the-steps-out-loud kinda way. 

I decided on a campervan after exploring options that involved towing. I spent time looking into camper trailers, pop tops and expanders, which I loved; but I decided – as a sole parent travelling with two children – this wasn’t what I wanted. So campervan life it was – and welcome Frankie Dean! 

Fast forward a couple of weeks since we picked up Frankie Dean, and I have just got back from Frankie’s maiden voyage – and what a trip it was! I have overcomes fears galore! I have put Frankie through his paces; he has been on a ferry – in fact, not just on but reversed on – thank goodness Sealink traffic marshals will reverse on for you, as I was freaking out!

I have driven around Kangaroo Island – winding roads, dirt road , hills and  narrow roads. I have parked Frankie in a variety of places – car parks, caravan parks – and I’ve reversed into campsites too! This may not sound like much to some, but the learning curve of going from driving a little Suburu XV to a 6.4m long x 2.7m high Frankie has taken some getting use to.

Then before I knew it, I found myself sitting in the swivel chair with my feet up the other night at the Western KI caravan park reading a magazine and I nearly burst with happiness! I had a glimpse of life on the road and I liked it a lot!  The Jayco jingle and lyrics ‘That’s freedom’ popped into my head!! 

The learning curve went on and each day I set myself a new challenge like plugging into power, use the bathroom, reverse into a car park, use the navigation, hook up phone to stereo, use the heater, cook with the gas, empty the toilet. And slowly but surely, like any new relationship, Frankie and I are getting to know each other and it’s looking like we will be a great team! 

I don’t know if I will ever feel confident to reverse onto a ferry, but who knows after the big trip (coming soon!), driving Frankie might feel like like home and reversing onto a ferry might feel like a reasonable thing to do! 

Now I’m planning on doing some instructional videos for how to do all the ‘things’ in Frankie – for future reference and for other owners of the new Jayco FD19-1 – like swivel the chairs, emptying the toilet etc. So watch this space. 

If you would like to check out the specs of Frankie, head over to the ‘Our Frankie’ section or click here for a link to the Jayco website where you can see Frankie’s deets.

I’m off to learn about tyre pressure today.

Perspective

There are so many titles I want to give this blog post:
A false start
Van life to 5-star
One night stand ( lol)
One night wonder
Go with the flow
S*** happens
Keeping it real
Life’s what happens while you’re busy making plans

But after all the pondering it’s called:
Perspective

I was beyond excited Tuesday night to head to Melbourne to collect our new Jayco campervan. It had been 7 months since I fell in love with Frankie Dean (a Fiat Ducato) at the caravan and camping show, and I had been working hard – really hard – to pull it all together. The dream was becoming a reality, and I was a barrel of nerves, excitement and wonder.

I had decided to take Harper with me to be my ‘navigator’ and share the first journey , while Gem stayed with her Dad. (The thought of 3-year-old Gem listening to a 4-hour hand over at Jayco quickly made me realise it wouldn’t work!)

With a lift to the airport by a dear friend and neighbour – who humoured me through my nervous, excited 4.30 am babble – off we flew bright and early to Melbourne. It was a quick flight, followed by a drive out to the Jayco Dandenong factory with a fab fella called George who educated us on cars, skydiving and building businesses.

We had the best 4 hours at Jayco … Everyone was so friendly and helpful and happy to explain everything to Harper and I. And there’s a shop there too, where you can get Jayco accessories and campervan goods; it was an eye opener – toilet additives, hoses for this and that, even Jayco stubby coolers. Some introductions, paperwork and a cuppa, and next thing we are donning high vis and safety goggles, and getting introduced to Angelo, our teacher of all things Frankie.

We learnt about all the ins and outs and ups and downs and opens and closes of Frankie Dean. I was bursting with happiness – and also aware that there was a lot to learn and many manuals of reading to be done.

Then the time came …
Time to hit the road!

We headed out with a toot toot and we were doing it … really doing it ! Tears trickled down my cheeks – tears of joy, hard work and gratitude – then next minute, I was tackling Melbourne traffic, swearing, and big trucks were roaring past. I was out of my comfort zone, but I was doing it ! Sitting tall, proud, capable; then nervous again, like the beginner I was! All the feels … feeling all of them …

Visions of the future flashed before me … The girls and I in the van, cruising along, music playing , laughter – I knew in my heart of hearts, this was the beginning of many AdVANtures !!

Frankie drove like a dream. We wound our way up towards Daylesford and the landscape changed – country roads , bunnies, all so idyllic.

Next thing – hang on – was that a noise ? A new car noise? Was that normal?We arrived at the lovely Daylesford Holiday Park, the kindest hosts making us feel so welcome and guiding me as I learnt to reverse with ease (yay!! Fear overcome on day one). We plugged into the power, and we were doing it!!

Our evening consisted of card games and cuddles – and some rolling in and out of the awning – who knew that could be so fun!! Then it was time for a cosy sleep.

I had decided to give Fiat roadside assist a call just to check on the noise. I was also catastrophising in a big way … how could this be?! Why me?! No way! What if this is really bad?! Arghhh …

From here on in, our drive home in Frankie Dean took a different turn … a turn of events that has resulted in a new attitude … and from the wise words of Dawn, who I called to arrange pick-up from the airport later (yes, we flew home!) … ‘This is the dream, you’re living it, it’s not separate from life it, it just IS life’. And then it Dawned on me (see what I did there?) … and a new feeling washed over me, like a movie, an attitude shift …

Harper suggested we take a walk by the Daylesford lake while we headed back to meet the tow truck. It is the most amazing lake you have ever seen. We took the lake path, and, at the last turn, 17 little fluffy ducklings appeared! The reflections in the water were dreamy – so much beauty we couldn’t believe it. It was overwhelming; we soaked it all up, breathed it all in.

Next came a trip in a tow truck with the best driver, who gave us the tow-truck tour of Melbourne, and with whom we discussed everything from motorbikes to war, to the population of each state in Australia, to family life and children.

Then we met with the Fiat folk, who mothered us and organised our accommodation and a way to get home in time for Harper’s netball grand final. As well as fixing Frankie up, of course.

Then Jayco, amazing! Checking in with us, organising to send Frankie over to us as soon as his adjustment has been made …

While we we were waiting, we chatted to the woman in the waiting room with us – and her dog. She was travelling in a Ducato too, and she shared stories and gave me a mini lesson in using WikiCamps, while we played with her dog. It  filled our waiting time so delightfully, it didn’t feel like we were waiting – just travelling .

I realised, this is all part of it , all part of the journey.

Then that night in Melbourne, we walked along Southbank, had Vietnamese salad for dinner, a swim in the hotel pool, and good conversations in the spa with fellow guests .

I am quickly reminded how wonderful, helpful, kind and connected humans can be.

Some advice I  was given by a much loved friend when I travelled to London back in my 20s – ‘ talk to strangers’ – never rang more true. What could have been a complete low became a time of letting go – of expectations, of the idea that things have to be a certain way.

And here we are flying home ! Who would have thought … Frankie Take Two will be next week.

Stay tuned x

Doing the lap, with no gap!

So I’m doing it, living out my dreams without the elusive ‘ideal’ body.

Although I have a vision of hitting the open road with my girls, wind in my never-knotting hair, instantly becoming tanned, thin and waif-like, with long limbs, a flat stomach and muscle definition. My children will never have melt downs; they will read endless books; and we will have family sing-a-longs and ‘I spy’ games for joyful hours on end.

I know well enough that wherever we go we take ‘us’ with us. ‘WE’ go wherever we go; we take our strengths and our challenges, confidences and doubts too. So I realise although I haven’t got the elusive ‘thigh gap’, and I will get the dreaded summer chaff, I’m still doing the lap … no gap! I just hope the camping locations are within the chaff-free walking zone (that’s where you can walk there and back without getting chaffed inner thighs!)

So this is what spurred this line of thinking …

A few months ago I was at the local pool with my girls. Harper was swimming laps with her swim club, and I was in the kiddy pool with Gem in my bikini. Gem announces she needs a wee, and I’m like, what kid doesn’t just do it in the pool? But I couldn’t not hear this, so out we get and off to the toilet! A woman sitting at the seats watching her daughter in the pools waves me over and says:  ‘I wouldn’t usually say anything, but you look really lovely in your bathers.’  I thought, ohhh that’s nice … She follows this with: ‘I just wanted to tell you, as it’s so nice to see someone like you in bikinis, having fun with her daughter.’ She went on to say she found it inspiring,  and that maybe she could do it too! It took all my strength not to stop her and say: ‘Let me rephrase that – you’re saying it’s nice to see a chubby mum, a woman carrying some weight in a bikini?’ But I didn’t. I took the comment as a compliment and thought of my little poolside chant when I’m feeling ‘not bikini ready’: ‘Love the skin you’re in and live the life you love’… And who knew? … It seems to inspire some women too!

This blog post, funny as it may be, has a serious side too. With the influence of media in all forms, the pressure to look a certain kind of ‘good’ are increasing and I’m going to try and keep it real! I’m going to do my lap, with no gap, and post pics that I hope inspire and encourage people to be comfortable with the skin they’re in – with or without gaps! Mind the gap, don’t mind the gap … just DO the lap!

Working for the VAN

I have always loved music – especially lyrics. I have also found great pleasure in changing them intentionally and sometimes unintentionally. (Boy George’s ‘comma, comma, comma, comma, comma chameleon).

Life at present has a theme song, a family chant, an answer that’s musically delivered. It’s Roy Orbison’s song ‘Working for the man’ … adapted to ‘Working for the VAN’. It rings true on so many levels. I’m juggling jobs left, right and centre, and the girls have even created ways to save money for our upcoming adVANture. The Frankie Dean dream is ultimately to have some time out as a family, to play and to not be ‘working for the man’.  I am amazed how committing to a decision to get Frankie Dean and travel Australia has resulted in a level of family motivation and focus that is really special – for lack of a better word.

Harper, 10, has really embraced the ‘working for the van’ vibe , one Saturday afternoon a few months back we sat down with a big piece of paper at the kitchen table and talked money. I got the calculator out and did some sums with her, like 6 months travelling = 182 days, and if on each of those days you want to buy something that costs $5 – say an ice cream, a hot chocolate, a chai latte or a coffee (me) – it adds up to nearly $1000 each, so that would be $3000 for the 3 of us in the first 6 months, if we were to have such a ‘treat’ each day. I told Harper she would still get her $10 pocket money each week, but that if she thought she might like extra spending money we needed a business plan.

We slipped into business meeting mode, and an hour later the ‘Rags to Bags’ business was born, and her business plan had the what, why, how and cost elements all sorted (see picture) – and she was off. Harper has loved sewing these bags, and saving and has become extremely frugal since having her own money and I have loved watching her create, reuse, recycle and upcycle fabric into a product that will reduce single-use plastics and bring joy. I also love that Harper insisted that the bags have a charity element and has been precise in her collection of the 50 cents per sale to the RSPCA.

Since creating her ‘Rags to Bags’ business we have decide to take the sewing machine in the van with us so Harper can sew and sell on the road. A big thanks here to Linley who has taught Harper to sew pretty straight and has shown such love and patience .

Gem, 3, is now creating her own line of product too with a little (LOTS) of help from Linley and her amazing sewing talents. This will mean Gem has some wares to sell on our travels too; her bags are smaller, like her, and are called ‘Gem’s Produce Bags’. They come in a cute pair, made with remnant or recycled fabric and hand-made cotton rope drawstring. (I know what a talented 3 year old 😉 Couldn’t have Gem missing out!)

So ‘working for the van’ continues and as the pick-up date approaches, and the excitement builds, I am reminded of another lyrical line, this time from a Beth Orton song called ‘Central Reservation’…

‘If this is where memories are made, well, I’m gonna like what I see.’

I am genuinely enjoying the hard work, the preparation, the dreaming, the big shiny light at the end of the tunnel of juggling, work and school runs,  swimming and netball – not that that has not got its beauty too – but I’m longing for some time to really play and to get lost in the day and the starry nights with my girls.

There have been many times in my life that have had soundtracks to them, and what can I say, but right now its heading towards ‘girls just wanna have fun’.

Frankie Dean: the dream phase

So here I am, an adventure-loving, story-loving mother, dreaming up the Frankie Dean adventure!

I have often thought that the anticipation of a trip – the planning, the dreaming, the wonder – is as much fun as the adventure itself. I am in that space now and I love it! I wake in the night and think ‘Frankie Dean’ – because every campervan deserves to have a name – ‘my Jayco Fiat Ducato’, and I smile and go back to sleep.

It’s like a new love – full of potential, fascination and rainbows. I stare at photos of Frankie Dean on the internet. I gaze at the brochure I picked up at the Adelaide caravan and camping show when I met Frankie Dean for the very first time (I slept with that brochure under my pillow for a week!), and I obsess over the floor plan. I’ve highlighted what features it comes with; I think about the swivel seats and the indicators on the chunky side mirrors. It truly is love.

I’m calling this the ‘dream phase’ and I’m revelling in it. I see campervans and motorhomes wherever I go, and I get butterflies knowing that it will soon be us! I’m thinking about linen and crockery and cutlery and bikes and fairy lights. I know the reality phase is coming soon, and I will have to organise insurance and learn to manoeuvre Frankie Dean and somehow pack up for our big adventure, but for now I am loving the dream phase, and I eagerly await the arrival of our new great love … our very own Frankie Dean.