She is poised right on the edge, face illuminated in the sunlight and her smile about to bubble over into an exhilarated giggle.
One breathless “look at me mama” and she is gone, tearing down the sand dune and landing in a tumbling pile of joy 30 metres down the hill.
We are sandboarding the largest shifting dunes in the southern hemisphere. It is our new favourite thing. One month ago, we didn’t even know it existed. We hadn’t watched Australia’s first female hornet fighter pilots training then either, or seen a pelican feeding frenzy, or spent a night glamping by the beach, or patted a sting ray, or been up a lighthouse, or tasted tropical chocolate fruit fresh on the plantation. Not so long ago, I wouldn’t even have believed this life was possible.
One month ago, I was tired. Physically and emotionally. As a single mum, working as many hours as I could, we weren’t getting ahead. Staying afloat, but not swimming. Madelyn, my four-year-old daughter, was growing up. I started feeling like I was missing out on time with her, while I was constantly running uphill and trying not get too crushed by the daily grind.
I kept thinking there must be something better out there for us. It was a quiet voice in the back of my head whispering “this isn’t right.” It wasn’t a disaster. It didn’t feel like life was about to come crashing down around us. It was maintainable. More like the nagging worry that you have left the hair straightener on. And I didn’t have the time or energy to think about it.*
Until suddenly, I did. It was one of those moments that hits you seemingly out of nowhere. When you suddenly have that startling, soul-piercing clarity that this is your life. It’s not a trial run. It’s not a dress rehearsal. This is it. I think it was actually exactly because we could have just kept struggling along as we were, that I suddenly couldn’t face it anymore. If we didn’t do something drastic, life would never change.
A week later we sold almost everything. We packed the essentials into our car, stuck price stickers on all the furniture, toys, clothes and other stuff in our house, and threw open the doors for the mother of all garage sales.
We talked about shifting our focus from material things to experiences. It was easier than I expected. Madelyn was delighted at the idea of mama working from a computer rather than in an office. She decided to personally hand over each of her things, planning with each sale exactly where the money would go. This was for meeting a dolphin, that was for trying her first rollercoaster. Her pricing scheme was a bit dubious, but the concept was right!
And then we left. Thinking of that feeling I had driving out of town with only a car full of stuff and my babe grinning in the rearview mirror still plasters a huge smile on my face every time.
We are still tired, but now it is because we are spending the days exploring beaches, wandering through museums, climbing mountain and whirling down waterslides. Tired, but happy.
It hasn’t all been easy. We have had to make big decisions like trading in our relatively new car for an old campervan, finding ways to make money on the road and working out how to create a sense of stability and routine along the way. Not easy, but worth it.
A lot of people have suggested that this adventure is too risky, too unstable, too much for the two of us. They say we should stay home, get a regular job, try to (somehow!) buy a house and make a permanent home.
Sometimes it makes me wonder if I am making the right decisions – for me, but mostly for Madelyn.
Then I remember that instead of dropping her at preschool and going to work all day, then coming home to an emotionally overwrought slog towards bedtime, today we woke up to a spectacular sunrise, hit the slopes, met a shark, had a picnic dinner on the beach and fell asleep snuggled up together and smiling.
I think we’ll be just fine.
And as for home? We carry that with us.
So from one mama, who finally gathered her brave and followed her dreams, as crazy as they seemed, to mamas everywhere: you can do it.
You don’t have to do this – this is just what makes us happy. Do whatever you want. What is the dream that you keep pushing to the side, waiting for the right time, the right space, the right stars to align? Because I’ll tell you a secret. The right time is now. It could be travel, or a career change, or a tree change, or a sea change. It could be a white picket fence, learning trapeze, taking a bubble bath every night or even just making ten minutes of peace to drink your cup of tea. It could be dramatic, it could be a whisper. Write it down. Let it start to become real.
Hell, write it down right here, right now. Let’s take our dreams and say them out loud. Let them become real. I can do it. You can do it. We can do it. Whatever it is. And our sons and daughters will grow up knowing that they can do it too.
*If you feel like you might have left your hair straightener on, you should definitely make time to think about it.