The sound was grating – like the scratching of nails on a blackboard. It was the hissing of air being let out of tyres of the armada of 4WD’s packed around us. Then there was the intermittent melody of the girls whining, “M-uuuuuu-mmmm. Alice’s newly found mobility climbing all over me was not helping my rising body temperature as we had to wait to open the car doors. “I need to go to the toilet.,”I turned to Dave. “I really need to go right now and not take any children.” I repeated. This time my tone bore a striking resemblance to the hissing sound of deflating rubber. I sucked in my mama belly in and inched my way out of the vehicle – keenly anticipating my uninterrupted moment of peace and quiet ahead… just to go to the toilet.
We had loaded ourselves and car onto the vehicle ferry to explore Moreton Island for the weekend. Whilst it seemed like a great idea a few days ago, I now feared that we had bit off a bit more adventure than we could chew this summer holiday season. We were all pretty exhausted. After another night of baby-induced-sleeplessness, we had spent the morning bickering over the logistics of transporting a seven-metre boat through strip malls of outer Brisbane in the search to find a wholesome lunch. I questioned the necessity of bringing the boat and Dave questioned the inadequacy of a petrol station sambo on a travel day. It was in those moments that I contemplated a more stock standard way of travelling with kids. While I knew my slow loss of insanity was likely the result of sleep deprivation and the end of school holidays, the thought of sipping a cocktail poolside at a Club Med somewhere and only having to move to collect the children from kid’s club was a welcome daydream.
My daydream became somewhat of a reality when we arrived on the island and realised where we were staying. Having not brought the van this far north I had grabbed a deal at the Tangalooma Resort where the accommodation was inclusive of the opportunity to hand feed wild dolphins at sunset. Whilst less than an hour earlier I had fantasised about dumping the kids to lie around the pool, when the opportunity actually arose, I unexpectedly yet genuinely proposed that we ditch the resort, get back in Elsie and explore the island’s sandy tracks and beaches. This came as a surprise to my inner most being.
It took only moments to realise that, for our family at least, the road less travelled was worth all of the effort. As we navigated the soft sand tracks through the island not entirely sure of our final destination, the thrill and excitement of another family adventure was palpable. It proved true that all Alice needed to fall asleep quickly was the familiar rough and tumble of driving off-road. The older girls excitedly pointed out to each other all of the interesting old trees and wildlife on either side of the Island’s middle road. Without another car in sight, within minutes of hitting the eastern beach of Moreton, we spotted majestic white breasted sea eagles gracefully dive-bombing the shallows, catching fresh fish for dinner. We danced and sung together delightfully in the crystal-clear freshwater bath of Blue Lagoon.
I suppose that the unexpected beauty of family adventure travel should no longer surprise me after our extended trip to WA last year. Perhaps what surprised me most was that my memories of adventuring together had become more than a wonderful experience, but had actually permeated the deepest parts of my soul. While it would definitely be more convenient to not be the case, it now seems clear that what I desire for our family is no longer be fulfilled by an off-the-shelf, all-inclusive holiday package. Rather, I find myself seeking out those challenges and obstacles of travelling in quieter corners of nature. It is in these places where the cackling laughter of our kids to another bad dad joke can freely reverberate against nothing but vegetation, native wildlife and the depths of our true selves.