Over the next few issues you will be reading about my family’s caravan adventure in East Coast Australia. I’d like to introduce them to you. I’m Mary, my husband is Kieran and we have three children, Olivia (6), Harry (4) and Sophia (1).

This winter we have decided to leave the cold Hobart weather behind and head north on a caravan adventure. Our plan is to drive to Devonport in the north of Tasmania and take the ferry to Sydney. Then drive, via Canberra and the Blue Mountains northwards up the coast as far as Cairns. We’ll then head south again to Sydney and the ferry back to Tasmania. We plan to do this with three children and a caravan in 3 months. Do you think we can do it?

We have decided to travel along the east coast as there are short distances between interesting places which seems more compatible with the needs of our three small children. We have approximately 90 days in which to do about 9000km which is roughly 100km a day or 300km every three days if we want to stay in one place for longer. Three hundred kilometres in a day or three hours in the car every three days seems doable. Recently we went to Lake St Claire for a weekend which is about a three hour drive from home to test this theory. It went mainly ok, with a few squabbles and lots of stories and pipe cleaners (for bending into interesting shapes) to get us through. Sophia slept most of the way which really helped a lot. We now know we can survive three hours in the car (with stops) as long as we adults keep our wits about us and have a variety of entertainment to hand.

The trip away also allowed us to try out our new caravan. We have traded in our much loved 1976 camper trailer for a 1996 pop top caravan. We need something which doesn’t require a lot of putting up when we stop. It’s not a big caravan by any means. Let’s say its cosy…. There are two single beds and a ¾ length bed which is made by lowering the table in the dinette. This is just big enough for Olivia and Harry. Sophia and I have one single and Kieran and whoever is cuddling him at the time, have the other one. The sleeping arrangements worked well on our trip to Lake St Claire. We are taking a tent along though, just in case!

Kieran and I have been talking about taking a long trip around Australia since before Olivia was born. We have finally set a date, winter 2006. This feels like a good time for our family. Sophia is now walking, Harry is more independent and Olivia is in prep at a Steiner school. We feel the experience of a family trip will complement her school education. That’s one of the big reasons we want to go away, to see, do and experience new and exciting things, and to do this as a family. With Kieran working full time and doing some study he doesn’t feel he gets as much fun family time as he would like. For myself as a full time stay at home mum doing cooking, cleaning and other non specified home things, I don’t feel I get as much fun family time as I would like either. We are looking forward to leaving most of the work and home pressures behind and being able to be together and have fun.

I’m excited about seeing more of Australia as I haven’t seen a lot of this beautiful and diverse country since I moved here from the UK seven years ago. To be able to go with my family will make the experience more memorable. My major hope for our trip is to have some new shared experiences, to spend extended fun time together and gain a better understanding of each other. This and the closeness of our caravan lifestyle will, I hope, bring our family closer together, giving us a sense of sharing and togetherness that will see us through the rough and smooth times ahead. We will write a journal with photos and souvenirs as a long term reminder of the trip.

I’m sure there will be tensions. I worry about the close confines of a caravan. Will we manage to all be respectful and understanding for three months? Will we manage to meet everyone’s needs? What are Kieran and I going to talk about for three months? Will we still like each other after three months of being together 24 hours a day?. I am hopeful that we can turn my anxieties and fears into positives, to work through any tensions or problems and that this will be part of the learning and experience of the trip. It feels like we will be taking two journeys, one physical and the other spiritual.

Apart from my hopes and anxieties, thinking up ideas to amuse the children in the car, planning a journal, buying a caravan and booking the ferry tickets, we haven’t done much other preparation. We will just have to wait and see what happens each day and how our journey’s progress. I will let you know how we get on! Bye for now, Mary

Diary Of A Family’s Travels – Six Weeks On The Road