There’s someone I’ve been meaning to introduce you to…
…meet: Tilly the Tvan! Isn’t she a beauty?
After we sold our Carry-Me Camper ‘Carrie’ after having Eleanor (Carrie was a slide-on camper for a single cab ute, she was our home for 18 months traveling around Australia on our honeymoon, but was pretty much rendered useless/unusable with children in the mix) we had been using Matt’s parents Cub camper trailer, an ideal situation: we didn’t own it but used it almost more than they did – ha! The Cub convinced us that we would eventually ‘upgrade’ to our own hard floor camper trailer…and Track Trailer’s Tvan’s had always been ‘the ultimate’ on our wish list. Matt’s pie-in-the-sky dream turned into an obsession, trawling forums and websites looking at different Tvan’s for sale all over Australia.
Then, on a bit of a whim… we decided that from August until Christmas this year we would travel around Australia. Or half of Australia. Or somewhere. We are not even sure yet where we are going – we are just going. But the decision was made – not one to be made lightly, you can imagine aaaaaallll of the questions bouncing around in my brain and aaaaaalll of the lists that I have going on?! Last time we did this it was just us in a ute…things were a lot simpler. But why couldn’t they be simple now, too? Obviously there’s some considerations to make with the girls, but generally they have proven themselves to be exceptional little campers and travellers. Our parenting philosophy so far has been to just roll with the punches… and my fabulously optimistic husband is always up for an adventure. There is nothing in his ‘too hard basket’ – if there is a problem, he fixes it. Basically our marriage is one big Emma freak out and one big Matt solving it scenario. But, if we were doing this, really doing this, we needed a camper trailer.
Enter: Tilly. A 2010 ‘Canning’ model Tvan which we bought from Tasmania – sight unseen! A bold move from my usually very measured and considered, indecisive husband. We looked at several here in Victoria, contemplated driving to northern NSW to look at another, and then Matt flying to Hobart to look at this one…but we had definitely made the decision we were going to buy a Tvan, of this vintage and budget and condition – so bit the bullet and bought her, chucked her on a boat and picked her up on this side of Bass Strait! I can’t tell you how happy the sight of a Tvan behind our Patrol is making Matt… (he says he’d be a lot happier if it were behind a 200 series Landcruiser #semantics)
Tilly has a queen sized bed, with the hard floor/tent area where Eleanor sleeps in her swag and Harriet sleeps in her portacot. I did consider transitioning Harriet to a bed…but the fact of the matter is that I need her contained! We put the girls to bed together and even with Harriet in her cot there is a fair amount of monkey business as it is. Hurricane Harri needs containment, or else Mummy loses her marbles (and drinks all of the wine!) Tilly’s kitchen is a bit schmancy – a pull out drawer housing a two burner stove, stainless steel bench space, a sink, storage for pots and pans and kitchen ‘stuff’ and a cutlery drawer near the sink. I custom designed our kitchen in Carrie and it was hands down the best kitchen I’ve had (although I’ve had some dooooozies in some ramshackle farmhouses we’ve lived in!) Obviously with camp cooking we lack an oven…the jury is still out as to whether we will bring the camp oven or not… Tilly also has solar panels on the roof, storage under the bed where we think we will mainly store clothes and food, and handy pocket organisers beside the bed and hammocks for clothes above the bed (we also had this sort of set up in Carrie which was perfect). The beauty of the hard top camper is that you can literally pull up, open the hatch and in you hop to bed! This appealed greatly to us, less canvas and a quick set up – plus, those skylights you can look out of lying in bed. In the back of our car we have a storage system we put in when we go camping – a fridge slide and drawers. On our honeymoon we took two 40L fridges, sometimes running one as a freezer if we needed to. We sold the fridge with Carrie though, so now are contemplating whether we need another fridge (probably) which will sit at the end of the bed area in Tilly. Decisions, decisions…
So now we have the camper trailer – our home for the next four months. Tick!
This adventure is something we have talked a lot about, thought couldn’t be possible, but we’re making it possible – I vividly remember traveling through the Gulf country of far western Queensland/Northern Territory in 2012 and being struck like a lightning bolt with the need for a baby. A screaming urge – I wanted to have a baby. But we had no home, no jobs, no money – we literally had no end plan when we set off, no destination and no time limit, going where the wind blew us. We talked around camp fires and on 4am hikes to avoid the November Kimberley build up humidity, about these ‘one day’ babies of ours. About how we would bring them back to these places as a family, show them what we had experienced and build resilient, resourceful little campers. Fast forward six years…the opportunity arose. So we are grabbing it, despite the doubt and questioning and what-if’s and the work load and inconvenience that is living out of a bag, without a bathroom, doing a lot of driving, with small children for months on end. The benefits completely outweighed all of that. We could sit for ‘one day’ – one day when the kids are older, one day when we have more money, one day when it’s more convenient, one day, one day, one day… We’ve decided that now is one day. If not now, then when?
Our girls often don’t see Daddy during the week – he leaves for work before they get up, and is home when they are in bed. Something had to change – this adventure will be so, so, so important to us as a family. We always imagined we might do this sort of trip with older children, mid-primary aged, but the time is now – before Eleanor starts school, she hopefully will remember the trip, Harriet won’t, but it all builds and grows to something bigger. Growing character and imagination and adventure in Eleanor and Harriet is just the icing on the cake with this trip – I just know how much they will bloom and grow, and us as a family. Spending time just the four of us, but mostly Matt with the girls, Matt with me, me with Matt, co-parenting and sharing the load, working together and just… being. Slowing down, not looking at our schedules and calendars and phones constantly, not rushing to this appointment and this kinder pick up and meeting work deadlines and checking bank balances and mortgage payments (well, actually…that will most definitely still be happening!)
We don’t get this time again with our family just as it is right now – we want to make it count. Make memories and experiences and add so much richness to the fabric of these little people we are raising, and our family – our marriage, our relationships with each other, all four of us. It doesn’t just happen – adventures like this build it and strengthen it and test it and validate it. So, off we go… on our grand adventure north… or west… or somewhere. Just together, that’s all that matters.