Friday, July 30, 2010

The Trip of a Lifetime….

So here we are, several weeks back into normal life and reflecting back on what the past 7 months have been about for our family. For many years I fantasised about a trip where we just jumped in the car and took off, leaving our cares behind us and only the road and great beaches ahead. Was it all worth it, would we do it again? You bet we would, in a heart beat! As a father, whilst I have probably spent more time than most with my kids and Bec I still hadn't had that 24/7 opportunity to just be there for an extended period of time. This was the highlight for me. Every morning just waking up with my family, no real plans for the day, starting with cuppas on the beach, watching Gus run free along the water's edge, exploring with the girls, having quality time all together. It really doesn't get any better than that. Truth be told we could have been anywhere but the scenery just added to the magic of it all. We have always been a close family, gee for years we all slept in the same room, single mattresses on the floor next to our bed, but this trip somehow brought us even closer together. You get an opportunity to see your kids differently when you have that much time together, you get to know them better, understand the intricacies of their personality and build even stronger relationships. For Bec and I we have had some challenging times that we have lived through in the past so for us to have this time, with no real hassles, just an opportunity to be with our kids, creating a loving environment for us all to share it was pretty special.

Favourite memories, every day really, how do you pick. It wasn't so much the big days like seeing the great barrier reef or doing the sky train in Cairns, it was probably more the quiet days, exploring depot beach, exploring Pambula river mouth, walking along one mile beach at sunrise, nights in the camper watching episodes of seachange, cooking our favourite prawn and fresh pea risotto with a glass of shaw & smith sav blanc, while the kids ran around the park. This being like groundhog day for us and was just so satisfying and ofcourse incredibly enjoyable. This after the challenges of East Timor, the cultural journey in Thailand and the life changing experience of our second home in India. There are days when I have to pinch myself that we have actually done all of this.

For me having had an incredibly busy 10 years, well 20 years really, to have this time with really not much to occupy my mind was very stimulating. There were so many ideas, reflections, dreams and possibilities that came flooding in and out of my thoughts. For many weeks I let them come and go and despite feeling a little pressure to record them I just sat with them for a time. Toward the end of the trip I found the motivation to sit down and write. I wrote about what I felt I had done with my life to date and what I still want to achieve. I wrote about what I stand for, which for me is a big thing because I have spent the past several years just trying to escape the conflict we had been experiencing and now finding that spirit to want to stand up again and fight for what I believe in, was incredibly liberating. I was able to capture a vision for what would make my life ideal, listen to Bec's thoughts about the same for her and see how our vision for the future was now so well aligned.

On a practical level I was able to finalise a draft strategic plan for my business which has provided me with a sense of purpose about my work. Interestingly I have been without business cards for about 5 years, not sure if this was my own passive aggressive resistence to my work or what it was but I return with new cards and a new plan and the energy to put it into place. Whilst in many ways I have been very successful at what I do, there has always been a sense of a lack of confidence, or a lack of belief in my ability to meet the constant needs of the people I was working with and due to my energy being very low I just couldn't chart a course out of the mire I had entered. It has been a bit of a Tom Cruise Mission Statement moment, about less clients and more attention, less work and more learning, less quantity and higher quality.

I read in a book that Bec had purchased about the power of meditating on your death. Sounds dark, but not really. It encouraged me to think about dying and what it was that was important, what I had done, what was it that really mattered and what was it that would matter in that moment of death. For so long I have been terrified of the thought of dying, of a life that never quite reached its potential and the decisions I had regretted and the time wasted and not well spent. It was so compelling for me to be able to put myself in that space and feel like I had in recent times made some really big and important decisions, felt really comfortable with where our lives were at, comforted by the time I have spent with Bec and my kids and knowing they are well on their way to growing up to be happy and confident and feel like we have been able to leave a legacy that will live on well beyond our time. For the first time in my life I felt completely at ease in who I am and where my life has come. Now don't for a minute think this means I am going anywhere because now that life has purpose, pleasure and is incredibly enjoyable I just want to revel in being happy. It is so great to feel genuinely happy. To be so in love with my wife, to be so connected with my three beautiful kids and to feel a real sense of meaning in our lives. My relationship with important people like my mum and my sister are very close and becoming closer and to feel so comfortable with these relationships is like a chapter in my life that is very important to me and is now giving me so much pleasure.

Today I went to India's assembly at school. She was invited to give a talk to the whole junior school on her trip overseas. There she was our little moochie, up the front microphone in hand, confidently sharing her experiences of India, the orphanage and what we were doing to help. You know when I was 11 I never would have been in a position to do what Indy did today, she was amazing. Since we have been back we have had a number of people come up and tell us how great our kids are, how easy they are to talk to and how knowledgeable they are and it just makes Bec and I feel great to see our kids so happy and confident in who they are and what they have experienced. The other day I put our photos on a revolving slideshow on my laptop and it was amazing to just watch photo after photo come up and reveal another page in our life story and the experiences we have shared together. There is no doubt that over the past couple of years we have truly committed to the spirit of adventure and whilst it has had its moments of worry it has created a wonderful environment of learning and experience for our family. To do this together has been priceless. I am incredibly proud of my family, my wonderful wife, Bec, my deep thinking oldest girl Indy, my special fun middle one Maggie and our little man of the house, Gus.

It seems like only yesterday Bec and I watched Julie and Julia and got inspired to start our blog just days before we headed off overseas. I think this has provided a great way to keep in touch with friends and family but also will provide an incredible keepsake for our family to look back on for years to come. I have enjoyed the challenges of putting my deepest thoughts and feelings on a page and whilst in some regard it is quite indulgent and perhaps even narcissistic, it has been very therapeutic and liberating. For those of you who have shared this journey with us, thankyou for listening, thankyou for your very kind words of encouragement that enabled me to be very honest and feel safe to write from the heart.

Our spirit of adventure trip may have ended but in many ways our life has entered the next chapter, what it has in store for us only time will tell but whatever it is we will face it together and seek to enjoy every minute.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Winter has arrived!

We are certainly not in Cairnsas any more Toto! Yes we have moved from the tropical weather of the north to now be experiencing -4 degrees in sunny Canberra. Our little heaters have been working overtime and we are using every spare bit of clothing and all of our rugs in an attempt to keep the icicles at bay. We have also been a little slack at our blog postings and have to admit we are on our way home mentally and soon to be physically. We have decided to push home a few days earlier to enable me to prepare for a return to work and also to finalise the renovations on our home. Last time I wrote we were in the gold coast awaiting the arrival of the Harry clan. It was fantastic to have some time with Kate and Matty and the kids. The cousins were all so excited to see each other, they had been counting down the hours until they arrived. We all spent the first two nights together in the camper which was very cosy but also a lot of fun. I imagine the kids will have great memories of bunking down together in the cammie. The kids went with Kate and Bec to dreamworld and whitewater world and had an absolute blast. The weather was a little cool for the waterslides but the rest was great. Indy our resident adrenaline junkie showed her courage yet again with two rides on the rollercoaster and even Maggie had a go second time around. Bec had to go on first time around and is still putting her vital organs back into place even now after two loop the loops! After our second day on the goldy it was time to head to Byron where we stayed in a beautiful home in Tallows right on the beach. The kids had an awesome time and loved the space of a large home to explore. Gus just kept running around in circles in the lounge room again and again, it was like a wild caged animal that had been let loose for the first time. The beach was incredible and just a short walk out of the back yard. We had a bonfire on the beach the first night and then the kids made this huge cubby house on the beach the next day which stood there until we left, much to the annoyance of a few of the Byron locals! My little nephew Maxie showed he is our very own Bear Grills. We had some great activities for the kids on the beach and also in Byron itself, it was a great time all around.

We left Byron and the cousins struggled with their goodbyes. We initially headed for one mile beach, about four hours away but as we took the turn off realised it was an 80km round loop of our route and decided to push forward towards Canberra. On the way it started to get dark early and the weather was coming in so at the last minute we decided we would stop at a place called Norah Heads. We drove in the park ready to set up and noticed we were on a boggy grass site that just wasn't going to work for us. So we stood there in the lightly drizzling rain, darkness approaching very quickly and pondered our options. Well not really, I said "we're not staying here" and got in the car ready to drive off, Bec just kind of stood there trying to process our options. So we were in the car again, after about 7 hours of driving and heading in the general direction of Canberra with the rain coming in heavier and approaching Sydney's peak hour traffic, only we could put ourselves in this position. We were well on our way to Canberra when we realised that the parks may not allow us to check in after dark and sure enough a couple of quick phone calls confirmed there was no check in options available to us in Canberra. In desperation Bec pleaded with one of the parks for some guidance and they suggested we bunk in at Goulbourn for the night. Good old '1234' and we were connected with a Best Western that had one family room available for the night and plenty of parking space for cammie. Do you think we were all happy to arrive and just be able to put the kettle on, have a hot shower and get in to bed after 10 and a half hours of driving! And that's what we did. Next morning we had a very short 40 minute drive to Canberra and proceeded to try to find a decent park. After about the fifth park we drove into we realised that this was an impossible task and we settled for what resembled an old drive in movie theatre, the Canberra motorhome park.

Canberra has been really great and we have had fun filled days packed with various iconic venues and experiences. Over a few days we visited the National Gallery, the national portrait gallery, the war museum, questacon, parliament house, the royal mint and frequented many nice eating places. Canberra is an awesome city to take the kids and for the most part these amazing attractions were free, a very different story to our experience up North. We caught up with the Wade family (Bec's cousin and her family) which was fantastic and the kids loved playing with the big kids. We decided to push straight for home, shave a couple of days off our trip and get ourselves organised for the challenges ahead assimilating back to 'normal' life.