Travelling the country in a school bus. With kids.
FOUR kids. All girls. For almost a year.
This is for the family’s who have considered taking some time out of their regular life and stepping (or driving) into the unknown.
First up, lets look at what it wasn’t.
It wasn’t relaxing, it wasn’t economical and it wasn’t easy.
We travelled Australia for eleven months in a big orange school bus, converted by my Husband into a space to suit the six of us.
A kitchen, bathroom and bunk beds. We spent our days either driving or pulled up at a beach, park or forest. Then we explored the beach, park or forest.
The effort that went into getting our four girls ready to do so, and organising snacks, carrying beach, picnic or hiking equipment was great preparation, both physically and mentally. Tenfold the effort went into it that time we spent three months parked up at the snowfield (yes, in Australia).
There wasn’t downtime.
After the packing, unpacking, spending time at the place, packing, unpacking, there was dinner to prepare, bedtime routines and our bedtime routine, the parents? Not exciting, typically we landed on the fold out couch we called our bed (for eleven months) and were snoring before long.
Keeping house was another thing. The girls made their beds and kept the bathroom clean (all 0.9m x 2m of it). I could tidy the whole space in less than an hour. But the contents of kitchen needed to be stored away, behind locked cabinets, same as every other cupboard and the fridge locked in three places. What happened if we forgot?
On multiple occasions the girls would fasten their seatbelts and I’d position myself behind the drivers seat (and my Husband) and we’d take off. Then, the cupboards, drawers and fridge would vomit their contents, sending all six of us into a chaotic mess! I’m talking last nights curry, smashed bottles of kombucha, scoobies flying through the air, glass jars, pots, pans all crashing down with the abrupt stop of the bus. The screaming was deafening, from the girls, myself and my Husband who was ever so protective of the beautiful wooden floors he laid painstakingly by hand.
Needless to say, as a result we developed and implemented a rigorous procedure of safety checking. We quickly learnt to all comply with the procedure, yet a nauseating sense of impending doom remained just prior to take off and for the rest of the trip. I remember when leaving the kitchen was easy as putting on the dishwasher before you left. It was stressful to having to be so obsessive.
Financially, the trip was draining, although we worked hard the year before and squirreled away every cent to purchase the bus, renovate the inside and revolutionised the power supply (solar panels, batteries and an inverter). The initial dream was to customise the paintwork with beautiful Indigenous Australian art and words, we liked “Florence The Machine”, however handing over any cash that wasn’t intended for function seemed ludicrous as we were green to this experience and we felt having money for a rainy day trumped aesthetics.
Once on the road we realised to cost for fuel was higher that anticipated, especially in remote towns and either side of The Nullarbor (the longest road in Australia). We paid $1.70 per Litre a few times (150 Litre tank) and it really stung the pockets. So, our mostly organic, healthy and super food enhanced diets fell to the wayside very quickly and was replaced with staples of rice, potatoes and boxes of whatever fruit happen to be in season wherever we were.
Its important to note, this isn’t a story aimed at deterring families from taking the leap but it’s a personal recount and my Husband has his own version of events. And this adventure was peppered with real emotional struggles, I mean we were away from our support network, our creature comforts, there were 5/6 of us studying/we were on a very tight budget and we were living within an arm or twos reach of each other ALL THE TIME.
What did that do for us as a family? Look. There was conflict on the daily. But there was also a whole lot of bonding going on. Especially for the girls, who have grown up to this point in a regular house with a bedroom of their own or sharing with their sister and land. A really decent amount of land. Surrounded by rolling green hills, in a valley with a view of a mountain and a quick car ride to the beach and just space to stretch and move.
Living in the bus was like an unregulated relationship incubator. It either got cooked and exploded of it was kept at the right temperature and grew in a lovely way. The later example is what happened for my Husband and I. We strengthen our position as a team and prioritised listening to each others dreams and gifted each other earplugs to drown out the trucks on the highway and the kids in their bunkbeds.
Whats funny is, although they have their own rooms now, the girls still pile in together, bed sharing and best of all, they have their own memories, aside from ours, that they laugh together about. So now living in a house with too many walls, I can stand by the saying “love grows best in little houses”.