Not Grey Nomads

Its day 29 of our 6 months away and we seem to be finding a groove. It seems pretty straight forward – go on holidays, hit the road and just have a good time. But what does that mean exactly?

Are we ‘grey nomads’ now?

Well, I’m grey for sure, but I honestly can’t imagine this experience being my life for ever and a day. We bump into people who are ‘full timers’, even people making a living out of caravan travel, being real live video ads for products that get used while camping. Its a small industry!

We watched a few of the ‘Trip in a Van’ youtube vids as they were coming west we were heading east and what was noticeable as they hopped in the car to leave Warnambool for the 4th consecutive year, was dad (Justin) said something like ‘ha… I don’t really feel excited about this. It’s kinda like going to work.’ That’s probably because it is their ‘job’ now, to travel and make weekly videos about the places they have been to.

That’s all well and good if that’s your thing, but I feel like we are generally meant to be based somewhere with a community. We are supposed to have relationships that are significant and intimate even. It generally doesn’t happen on the road. We just spent a week in Adelaide and got to know the people we lived next to a little bit. Nice people, but in a week we barely scratched the surface of life.

For me being on the road means finding new rhythms, basing life in a very small space and accepting that the upside of exploration is not ‘belonging’ anywhere. I say that because I think the ‘grey nomad’ life is sometimes romanticised as the ultimate ‘destination’ for those who are a bit older. Reality is it may not be your thing at all and that’s totally understandable.

So right now we are in the little town of Kingston where you can camp 3 nights for $10 – pretty good deal! The next few days we will get close to Melbourne and free camps will largely disappear as we get closer to the Great Ocean Rd. There is too much money to be made from travellers! so far in 29 days we have spent $420 on camp sites – about $15/night. We have free camped where we can and used low cost sites as much as possible.

In my last post we were headed for the The Flinders Ranges, a truly beautiful part of the world. Danelle got to walk and she even got to drive the best 4wd section of the tracks we were on. The surf was a bit average 🙂 I must admit this was my favourite part of the trip so far – sheer beauty!

From here the question was ‘do we head down the Yorke Peninsula and hunt for surf, or head for the Adelaide Hills?’ The weather had turned cold – sub 20 degrees most days and onshore breezes were forecast for the Yorke so I suggested we head for the hills and hope that we can pick up the Yorke on our return trip.

So we left Hawker and headed south. We got as far as the tiny town of Orooroo. We drove thru on a Saturday late afternoon and noticed they had a Baptist church, so we figured we would drop back the next morning, after spending the evening in a free camp just out of town. So we had a beautifully quiet night in the bush before returning for church at 10am. We almost didn’t make it as ‘someone’ forgot to unplug the anderson plug from the car and managed to completely kill the car battery! A local farmer gave us a jump start and we made it into town just in time to join the 15 other people who were there.

Like most smaller churches it was a handful of people all giving it their best shot and trying to make things fly. We loved being there and hearing one woman’s nervous story of finding the love of God as a constant in the middle of a life where she was perpetually unloved, abused and abandoned. This was followed by a quick 10 minute message encouraging us to ‘chew on the word’, rather than just skimming or neglecting. It was pretty simple but he cut to the chase, made his point and then sat down. Scones and cream followed along with a lazy morning tea where we had a chance to connect with the local people. It was energising and inspiring just seeing a small community do their best with what they have. Did I say ‘we loved it’?

Our hope as we travel is to visit the more off-beat churches and try to bring some encouragement to the people there. Inevitably you end up leaving feeling blessed and strengthened yourself anyway.

We left Orrooroo at lunch time and headed for the equally tiny town of Blyth, just out of Clare where there was another local sportsground set up for free campers. A couple of days sniffing around here was plenty so we hit the road again. The weather was still icy, so we kept with the plan of heading for the hills and finished up booking 7 days in a campground in Ironbank. I’m not really a ‘hills person’, preferring the beach any day, but I have to say the Adelaide hills were pretty spectacular and make our own hills look pretty lame by comparison.

A seven day stop felt like what we needed. I wanted to get some writing done and Danelle was excited about the various walks on offer in this part of the world. We did the touristy stuff of visiting Handorf and an 8km walk down and back up Mt Lofty, as well as just chilling and enjoying the hillsy vibe. The car was due for it’s service so we took it down to the local Holden dealer and while there we walked the beach, caught a tram into town and then strolled back to pick the car up, serviced and washed – awesome – because it was feral!

Our neighbours adopted a magpie.

While in town we walked past a church and I googled their website to find their ‘about’ page was almost identical to the vibe of our own community back home. So we tripped down to ‘Holdfast Baptist Church, for their Sunday morning service – one that had no community singing and with kids part of the service the whole way. They were a very simple and open crew and we enjoyed being part of an experience that felt a bit like home.

As a surfing trip this was turning out pretty lame – the board has left the roof twice… We set out for the coast again, the town of Kingston where we are now, hoping it might be offering a wave. I scouted around for a couple of days, but between messy swells and onshore winds it just didn’t come together. Such is life… It’s been pretty icy cold too so those messy onshore waves just didn’t hold much appeal.

So, our next significant destination is Tasmania and we board the ferry on Thursday May 6th for an evening trip across. In the meantime we will continue to head East and spend a couple of days in Port Fairy and Torquay before driving up to Melbourne for the ferry. Danelle gets seasick watching the ocean so we’re hoping its not gonna be a trip like this one!

Anyway that’s all for now.

When Will I Ever Learn?

When will I ever learn
To live in God?
When will I ever learn?
He gives me everything I need and more
When will I ever learn?

On our last Sunday in church I opened our gathering with these words. They sound like a Psalm – like something David would say. And people guessed as much when I asked where they were from.

Trick question…

In actual fact they are the lyrics of a Van Morrison song by the same title, but they speak to the enduring challenge of genuinely, consistently putting our faith in a God who provides. 

My experience has been that God has always  – always – always provided for us and we have been blessed to always have enough. But the last 12 years have been unusually stable, steady, prosperous and devoid of risk, so when I hear the call to risk and adventure again one part of me comes alive, feeling this is what I was created for – but another part winces at the possibility of a life that is less ‘safe’ – that may involve a decrease in my ‘standard of living’ – my comfort.

And yet ironically, comfort is never the place where I find the greatest joy. It’s a trap. I know it – to want to enjoy the benefits of being safe, secure and comfortable, while also experiencing the thrill of adventure, uncertainty and faith.

One of the things I have tried to teach my kids is that life is a constant series of trade offs. Want a house, steady job, mortgage and all the bells and whistles that go with that? Then don’t expect to be backpacking thru Europe any time soon… However if you would like to buy a kombi and travel Australia then you can also expect that to come at the cost of significant relationships and financial stability (unless you are a clever cookie who can make money on the road). But – you just can’t have everything, all the time – and it’s not good for you either.

It was around 10 years ago I removed a quote from the bottom of my emails, one that I had allowed to form and inspire me:

‘Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all’

Helen Keller

The advent of children in our lives meant a degree of stability was needed to help them put roots down and feel safe. I couldn’t just change jobs and move house at the drop of a hat. They had to be considered. Ironically enough it has led to my son perceiving my life as boring. Umm… yeah… But with our youngest now 18 and both increasingly independent, we no longer have to consider their security and stability quite so much.

This era of life is one where both Danelle and I can both explore some new adventures (although that isn’t so much her thing). I am hoping the spark that fuelled previous steps of faith and new initiatives can be re-kindled and I can listen to the Spirit as he leads us into this next phase of life.

Of course adventure always comes at the expense of safety. It has to, otherwise it just isn’t adventure. It doesn’t have to be foolhardy, but it will call us to move into places we haven’t been before and with no guarantees of the outcome. Or we can just keep doing what we have always done…

Yeah, nah…

As card carrying God botherers adventure is also rarely just for adventure’s sake (unless it involves waves and 4wds), but this is more about listening to the Spirit and trying to discern where he is taking us next. And then trusting that the God who has always provided before will also provide enough in this next stage of life.

We aren’t about to jump ship on the churches we are committed to – it doesn’t feel like ‘that’ kind of adventure, but there will be some changes vocationally and in how we use our time in the years ahead. We have some hopes and dreams that we think align with those of the Spirit and part of this road trip is to sit on those ideas for a bit and discern, so that when we come home we can move forward with confidence.

So – when will I ever learn to live in God?

It will probably never come completely naturally – if I am choosing a life of faith – because it will involve discomfort, but with discomfort comes new challenges and new adventures!

20 Years From Now?

If you’ve done any kind of youth ministry then you’d know that this is a question that often gets asked. It’s one thing to get teenagers to follow Jesus when they are young and impressionable, but the real test of a youth ministry is where they are 20 years from now – have they gone the distance? Are they still ‘in the game’ even?

Actually, now that I am no longer a youth pastor, I think it’s a bad question – because it assumes we have some level of control over a person’s choices and future directions. As anyone knows, people make their choices – some good and some not so flash. The best parenting is no guarantee of a child who will mature into a decent human being. They get to choose… What the question is getting at though is whether we have taken the time to form young people into Christ, to lay a foundation of discipleship, or whether we have simply entertained and maybe even ‘distracted’ them for a period of time.

Have they come to equate discipleship with chubby bunnies? (not any more I am told – too risky…) or with rockin music and hanging with the cool kids?

Another ‘youth ministryism’ that stuck with me – and one that has more teeth – was the idea that ‘what you win them with is what you win them to.’ If following Jesus is only ever about ‘getting the most out of life’ and ‘living your best life’ so you are truly fulfilled, then sooner or later that house of cards is gonna topple. It just isn’t all about you…

But if there is a genuine call to a life of counter-cultural submission to Christ and to daily make choices that advance the kingdom of God rather than my own pleasure or self satisfaction then when life gets demanding, when struggle comes and the great ideas for the future don’t go to plan then the ‘script’ can cope with that. Even when acidic doubts eat away at the very fabric of faith, there is a knowledge that we follow in the dark as well as in the light – and there comes faith to persevere.

I shared a post on Facebook recently about one of the best youth workers I ever had the pleasure of working with – a litle fella from Bassendean who curiously found his way into our church around 20 years old. He was affectionately known as ‘little Al’, because there was probably only 5 foot 4 of him. He wore his black ripple soled desert boots, black t shirt and black jeans like a uniform. He hadn’t grown up in a God botherer family so he saw the world a bit different to all of us churchies. He was a breath of fresh air.

And somehow he found Jesus. He started playing music with us before he found faith, he helped out with our youth stuff while he was on the road to faith and then one day he asked to get baptised. It was a big ask and he knew it. He was drawing a line in the sand – one that said ‘this is who I am now’. And it would have been confronting for both him and his long term Basso mates who turned up to watch him share his testimony and take the plunge. What had become of their mate?

He joined our youth intern team, became a much loved youth leader, did some Bible college and then one day an enquiry came from another church asking if I knew anyone who could join them and get their youth ministry up and running.

Sadly – I knew just the guy… ‘Sadly’ because I realised this was Al – and it was an opportunity to send this guy out to help another bunch of people. So I threw it to him as an idea and he didn’t flinch. What I always loved about his servant heart and his simple willingness to ‘have a go’. I know he felt a little overwhelmed at times and as a young single man entering a small, semi-rural church with few youth leader resources he was always going to be stretched, but he did a fantastic job out there in the little town of Chidlow.

A couple of years later he met his wife Brooke, a South Oz girl just in Perth on holidays to catch up with old school friends. He was married that year and four of us headed to Port Lincoln for the weekend, me to conduct the wedding and the others to be groomsmen. The two of them came back to Perth for a little longer and worked in ministry together, before it was just the right time to leave as the church tried to change direction and sought a senior leader.

So they moved to South Oz, back to Port Lincoln and we lost contact for 18 years. Sure there was Facebook, but simply by reading the posts from their shared account I could tell it wasn’t Al writing them. He’s never been that big on sugar free food or vegan food…

So nearly 20 years later we had the opportunity to catch up. I smiled knowing we were going to be ‘seeing where they were 20 years later.’ What kind of life would he and his family be living now? What choices would they have made and where would they have led?

So we drove into Port Lincoln on Saturday and I got a call from Al around 11am to say ‘lets catch up’. We didn’t exactly have a busy schedule, so we went to his home where we we sat around the table with Brooke and his four kids sharing a cup of tea and some lunch. And as we did I literally felt my heart bursting with joy and my eyes welling with tears, because this bloke was still the real deal. I heard it in what we talked about, I felt it in our conversation and it was good – oh so good… Him and his beautiful family were all doing well and we spent the next 3 days going to church with them, sharing lunch and a trip to Coffin Bay.

As we spoke he shared with me about his work as a groundsman at the local school for the last 17 years. He has become known there – a part of the furniture. He shared with me of his 3 years coaching at the footy club where he won the best ‘clubman’ award – because that’s the kind of bloke he is. He talked about the culture of the footy club and how he made his way in that environment as a Christian man. Interestingly he shared that one of the most critical choices in him ‘making it’ in faith was the move to South Oz, away from his long term friends. I know he loved his mates and still does, but he could see that there was always going to be a tussle for his allegiance – Jesus or the old life? And in the culture he grew up in there was only one correct answer. I have always been an advocate for people staying connected to the world they were in prior to faith, but this was a reminder that for some that might not be wise advice.

As we ate lunch, Al mentioned that another of the young people from that period in our lives was also living in Port Lincoln and would be at church on Sunday. What are the chances? Again – what joy to see Kyle and hug his bloke after all these years, to hear his journey of faith thru the good and bad times and to be able to have lunch with him and his new wife.

So many people serve in our churches and do wonderful work, but go unacknowledged or just get forgotten as the new crop of leaders come thru. I know those who were around would remember Al fondly and were sad to see him go. But 20 years on he and his wife are still part of the same church they were in when they moved there, still serving and now working together in the same school. He knows who he is and where God has placed him. He knows he’s a bloke who serves, who fixes stuff and who is always approachable.

So this is simply a shout for joy at the sight of a life lived well and a cheer for a bloke who has gone the distance. The youth ministry days are long gone and life has changed for all of us. Our kids will never know the people we were 20 years ago, but I would just like to say ‘well done’ to one of the best youth leaders I ever had the privilege to work with and whose friendship I still value today.

Maybe one day his kids will read this and know that their ole man was a bit of a legend back in the day – and that he still is a pretty decent bloke today too – black ripple soles not withstanding 🙂

Moving Right Along

So we are at the two week mark of this 6 month epic! The odometer tells me I have done 3200kms and as I write we are sitting in a caravan park in the little town of Hawker, just at the south end of the Filnders Ranges. A very pretty spot and Danelle is in her element as a walker!

Perlubie Beach SA

Perlubie beach was the place we had landed in my last post and we spent 3 nights there – a beautiful spot and you don’t get any closer to the water. We ventured into Streaky Bay for our 30th wedding anniversary lunch – at a little cafe called Bay Funktion. Good food and coffee as well as a chat with a local bloke who gave me some surf tips – namely ‘Backbeach’ or ‘Granites’ are the place to go for waves.

Backbeach – first surf
This place would be great on a bigger swell!

So with the weather still sweet and the breezes still offshore I headed for backbeach where I managed to get wet for the first time on the trip. I imagine there would be some good waves here on the right day, but the breeze turned as I arrived folding them over prematurely and closing them out. The next day I headed to Granites, a cool local wave that peels left off a pile of huge granite rocks. It was only waist to head high so I headed out and caught some good waves, even if there was a fair degree of kooking… After nearly 2 months out of the water I am struggling to get my sea legs back as I would like.

Walker’s Beach Camp

We left Perlubie for Walkers Rocks Campground, another beachside campsite, but minus the waves. Not true – there were waves, but just bone crunching close outs in the middle of the bay and I wasn’t that keen. But again, for $10/night it was a sweet place to stay the night. Just a handful of other vans and plenty of room.

From there we headed inland to Cummins Caravan Park, as the washing lady needed to get some laundry done. This was a quaint little park in the middle of a very typical Aussie country town. We were one of two vans in the park so we enjoyed the space and even some coffee made from the espresso machine rather than the off grid ‘Rok’. If you’re travelling off grid and keen on coffee then you have a few options. I experimented with the Bellman CX25P on our July break last year and found it too messy, finicky and time consuming. Every coffee I made felt like a half hour mission both getting the coffee and then cleaning up afterwards! I sold it on and debated between the Rok or the Flair. The Rok won out mainly due to its minimal mess and minimal set up factors. The Rok simply involves grinding coffee into the custom made portafilter and then pressing the ‘arms’ down to produce a shot. It is supposedly a double portafilter, but I reckon its a 1.25 at most so I usually end up doing the shot pouring twice.

The Rok – does the job off grid!

We spent the night in Cummins and went to the pub for dinner. We liked the town, but the pub food was decidedly unmemorable, or maybe best forgotten… I ordered the seafood thinking it would be awesome given the area we were in, but it felt like it might have been defrosted just for me.

While in Cummins the weather changed from singlets and shorts to trakky daks, and ‘crank the diesel heater’! So quickly… And it stayed cool for the rest of our time in the south of the Eyre peninsula.

Our next stop was Port Lincoln where we pulled up in ‘Great Views Campsite’, another Wikicamps $10 special. It was basically a large sloping field with a long drop toilet onsite, as well as a small kiosk / shop that sold fresh fruit and veg, local jams etc. We ended up spending 4 nights here as it was quiet, well located and very cheap. The bigger attraction was actually some friends who we hadn’t connected with for almost 20 years, so getting to see them again was the highlight of the time in Port Lincoln.

Black DB’s – haven’t seen these for decades!

The last time I was in Port Lincoln it was for a weekend – a wedding I conducted for my mate Al. Four of us drove over and drove back for the occasion, so we didn’t spend much time checking the place out. If you’re a West Aussie then imagine Albany and you’re not far off the mark. Its a decent sized place with Coffin Bay National park on one side and Lincoln Nat Park on the other. We checked out Coffin Bay one day, but didn’t get to the Lincoln Nat Park this time around.

The colder weather meant ‘cloudier’ which meant the solar input we had while free camping was on the decline. On the final morning in Pt L we woke to the battery warning sound telling us we had run out of power. Ooops… And the slide out was stuck out. It seems that litihum batteries need some sort of a ‘jump start’ to get going so we set about sorting that out and fortunately it came back to life easily and we got closed up and on the road again. The intent was to climb our way up the east side of the Eyre. We stopped in at Tumby Bay and then Cowell for lunch, but didn’t feel inspired to stop and set up camp. There certainly weren’t any waves lurking and I’m guessing a combination of wrong swell direction and being further up the gulf just worked against us. We ended up driving thru to Whyalla, where we found another $10 footy oval special and we plonked there for the night.

Whyalla is a curious place with lots of houses that seem to lack any aesthetic – they look like little brick boxes dumped in place to create houses for those working in the mine. We walked the new jetty, took in the view from the top of Hummock Hill and then headed home to cook the feed of squid that Al’s son, Charlie had given us. 5 fresh squid were devoured on that evening and they were awesome.

Planning her attack on the walk trails

Again it was a one night stop over. We had debated heading straight down the Yorke peninsula or possibly heading north to the Flinder’s ranges. The Flinders won out so we drove thru Port Augusta, the little town of Quorn and finished up in Hawker, just at the south end of the ranges. It was washing day again so we are in a caravan park for two nights at least. Danelle seeks out and devours walk trail guides like I do with the google earth and the coastline! She loves to walk and I love to surf. Fortunately I don’t mind a walk, so I usually head off with her to complete whatever track she has found.

So far it’s been a trip with minimal hiccups. We did manage to break the fridge door fascia as we went over some corrugations, but having pulled it apart, it was obviously only a matter of time before it happened. I’m currently working out a plan for repairing it as I get the impression caravan parts are in short supply everywhere.

We did make one significant change of plans, moving Tassie from Aug-Sep up to May-June, so we will try and get there in Autumn and it may be a little warmer. Of course there are no guarantees!

So far my reading has been ‘Jack’ (described by the Guardian as a ‘Calvinist Romance’ chuckle – how’s that for an oxymoron!!) which I wrote about below, and ‘Transforming – The Bible and the Lives of Transgender Christians. I wrote a poorly worded and just plain dumb Facebook post recently expressing my own more ‘binary’ convictions, so in the aftermath of that I felt I needed to hear more from those whose every day experience is defined as ‘Transgender’.

I hesitate to write about the book because I am not sure I can do it with sufficient balance and nuance, but I’ll give it a shot… Austen Hartke has written a book based on his experience as a transgender person (woman-man) and he has sought to understand his situation biblically. As a person of the ‘where can you find it in the Bible?’ tribe I appreciated this endeavours here.

I won’t write a lot about the book as it probably deserves a post of its own, but essentially he advocates for the eunuch in the Bible to be the ‘gender fluid’ person who was accepted into the church by Phillip in Acts 8 when he baptises him.

In short – its well worth a read if you are pondering these things and want to hear from a person who has sought to understand their experience thru the lens of scripture. I also intend to read Preston Sprinkle’s (his real name…) latest book titled ‘Embodied’ to hear his take as a theologian. I can see many fear to tread into these waters as it is volatile territory, but it isn’t going away… so we need to think it thru, listen, learn and then lead churches in this time.

Anyway – that’s where we are after 15 days… I feel the need to write some other posts more related to what i have been feeling and learning while away, but they will come in a coupla days when I get a chance to sit at the macbook again.

From here its Yorke Peninsula, Adelaide, Fleurieu Peninsula and then onto Victoria and the boat to Tassie…

Oh Jack…

If you are a fan of Marilyne Robinson’s Gilead series of books then you will inevitably find yourself reading ‘Jack’. If you haven’t read her stuff and you are in the pastoral type vocations then do yourself a favour. It’s unusual writing and stories that are generally bereft of ‘action’, yet full of significance.

Jack is the prodigal son of his preacher father. He’s the guy who just can’t seem to get it together – or if he can he is inevitably lured back to the vices that have previously snared him. He is a liar, a thief, an alcoholic and a self confessed ‘bum.’  He has no faith whatsoever in his ability to straighten out and have his life take an upward turn, and the story follows him (at times excruciatingly so) through multiple self inflicted moments of failure.

Truth is Jack is more like us than any of would want to admit. He is a struggler, a stray and one who appears to lack any hope in his ability to change. The focus this story is on his relationship with Della – a black woman who happens to love Jack in spite of all his foibles. Jack already has one failed relationship and a child from that encounter that he never sees, so his confidence is low and his capacity for human interaction also woefully inadequate.

Part of the strength of the novel is seeing inside Jack’s head to his second guessing his own decisions, his feelings of temptation and his desire to be better – even if he doesn’t desire it enough. Of course it is set in an era where inter-racial relationships are illegal so this is a large focus of the story. Two ‘outcasts’ in their own way come together much to the consternation of those around them. Della is the daughter of a bishop, so she has standing in her own black community. She has a bright future as a teacher, but not if she stays with Jack. Jack manages to secure one good job, but then quits on a whim in pursuit of Della.

It’s a story where there are no winners – just people making difficult and sometimes foolish decisions. Perhaps the remarkable thing is that Della genuinely loves Jack in spite of his complete inability to live a decent life. Don’t read Jack if you want action and intrigue, but do read it if you are up for exploring the darkness of people’s hearts, but also the beauty that is possible in those moments.

I enjoyed it – but then I am a Robinson fan 🙂

Hiding Out

PSA – Feel free to ignore my travel posts. They are as much for my own benefit and memory and for anyone else who may be planning a similar trip.

I’m a fan of free camping. Not so much for the money saved as for the experience of pulling up in the middle of nowhere and simply stopping there. I’m less excited about crowded caravan parks where lights beam thru your window at night and other campers wake at sparrow’s fart to go fishing and leave their car idling outside your van while they pack their gear. ‘Grumpy Andrew’ shows up much more at these places, while happy Andrew loves the remoteness and aloneness that so often is found at the free camps.

So far we have stopped at:

Karalee Rocks – a pretty cool camping space well off the main road just out of Coolgardie. There was a dam for swimming and a rock for climbing- if you could tolerate the harassment by flies!

Caiguna Blowholes – we didn’t get to see the blowholes, but we did enjoy another perfect spot tucked away from the crowds and just 10km out of Caiguna itself, (not that there is anything in Caiguna.)

Great Australian Bight – Scenic Lookout No 4 – as titled by WikiCamps. Just 13kms past the border and we parked up overlooking the beach part of the Bight. It looks like you could walk to the beach as it’s only 1km (as the drone flies), but the fly plague is the worst we have seen right here and the temp is in the high 30’s so we will enjoy a quiet arvo of reading and writing instead.

Coorabie – a fourth generation Aussie farm about 60kms west of Penong. Friendly owners and good value for money, but with it being the Easter weekend there were around 30 small children running around, so the peace of the previous few nights felt like a distant memory. We did some exploring around here and found some beautiful beaches, but decided that one night was enough. we definitely weren’t in a kid friendly mood ourselves yet!

Ceduna – We had run of water after 5 nights of free camping so this was a stop to fill up, do some washing and get the ship back in order. There were a few running repairs needed as well as some shopping to be done. How do we choose caravan parks these days? Generally – look for the one least likely to be busy and go there. The airport caravan park was all but deserted while the ones in town were back to back. We will take the space over the bouncy pillow every time!

Perlubie Beach – So far it’s been one night stops as our goal has been to get to the Eyre Peninsula and sniff around here for a while. This place rated pretty well on Wiki-camps and certainly looked the goods, so we pulled in and found ourselves a spot on the beach where we will hang for a few days now. We managed to slide in as a lot of the Easter weekend trafiic went home. That said there are still plenty of people here. Its a calm beach, great for kids, but I’m yet to get the surfboard wet.

Its been good to chill, but a challenge to simply relax as there is an inner urge to always ‘go do something’. Sometimes the thing you need to do is stop. It can be hard. I felt that today, but then I did also have a two hour nap this afternoon so maybe I am doing better than I think.

On the road its Spotify (I like their ‘road anthems’ collection) and podcasts – Scot McKnight is always good, Pete Enns is interesting and Rob Bell is nice in small doses. We really enjoyed hearing McKnight interview Kirsten Kobes Du Mez, the author of Jesus and John Wayne. I read the book a little while back and found it really insightful as to how American evangelicalism (and other nations) has been co-opted by a political agenda and a particular image of ‘rugged masculinity’. I’d say the influence has well and truly reached us too, although our church is less driven by politics.

David Fitch made this comment on FB:

“I’ve seen a lot of people leave their church because it doesn’t match their political party. I’ve rarely seen anyone leave their political party because it doesn’t match their church.”

I don’t see this as much in Australian evangelicalism, or maybe its just the churches I am connected with. There is no doubt it is definitely there, with the ACL and the like.

In other news the car/caravan combo is working well. The car got pretty hot as we towed 3 tonnes at 95kph in 40 degree heat across the nullabor. We ended up slowing a little to ensure there were no unforeseen incidents, but all seems to be good. The Colorado tows easily and the van sits on the road nicely.

The van is great to live in, but its downside is probably its construction and suitability for rougher roads. It is definitely a ‘tourer’ – and built to be used on roads rather than tracks. There have been a few things rattle loose as we have taken a few dirt roads, but in the end it isn’t anything I can’t fix so we will keep looking for the ‘road less travelled’ as it really does seem to make all the difference!

Anyway these types of posts are more rambling thoughts than anything deep, so until next time 🙂

Oz Trip Mark II

It was April 2009 when we last set off on a major around Oz expedition – possibly the best thing we have ever done as a family. And now 12 years later we are doing it again. The first time was in a 1996 GQ Nissan Patrol with a Jayco Eagle and 2 kids (8 & 6), but this time it will just be the 2 of us for most of the 6 months in a 2018 Colorado and a Jayco Silverline of the same year. It’s day 3 and so far no one has cried, missed home or needed to do a poo 5 minutes after we had stopped at a roadhouse – give it time…

We didn’t plan on spending this 6 months in our own country – ‘but COVID’…  We have been anticipating long service leave for several years, just waiting until Sam finished high school and we could leave the two kids at home alone with no worries. The plan was to caravan across Oz to Brisbane, hop on a plane to visit friends in the US, and then take a couple of months in Europe before returning to the East coast and heading home.

On the upside this plan will be considerably cheaper. With long service leave funds coming in and my business being run by a friend, there’s a fair chance we will come home with around the same bank balance as when we left.

The ‘Silverline’ is a big step up from the Eagle. It’s nice to have the space, the comfort and the luxury, but I already miss the ability to smash down a bush track to ‘take a look’,  just in case there might be something cool there. We did 15kms on corrugations yesterday and arrived to several items having rattled loose! I brought plenty of tools as I imagine I’ll be fixing some stuff as we go.

Life has changed a lot in 12 years. We left for the first trip debt free and with $250k invested in a property development from which we expected to make 40% or $100k. What actually happened was we learnt an expensive lesson about greed, as over the duration of the trip it became increasingly obvious that the developer had stolen the money during the GFC to try and prop up his other failing projects. So instead of coming home to a comfortable life we rolled in to a $250k debt, a 2 day/week gig in a little Baptist church and a hobby business that now needed me to ‘turn pro’ to try and dig us out of debt.

Danelle made the call to start home schooling – another of those small choices at the time that turned out to be so valuable in hind-sight. I would never have seen it as an option, but she came home from travel excited to make it happen. It took her out of the work force and while it was a decision we made together, there were days I felt like I was literally carrying the debt on my own shoulders every day. I know $250K isn’t much by today’s standards, but something had shifted in my psyche when and it felt like a very personal weight of debt and regret at my own greed and foolishness.

Twelve years on we much better placed, but also ridiculously risk averse when it comes to investing. We have also just stepped out of our senior leadership role at both churches and became ‘the other pastors’. My hope is to do less pastoring, gradually devolve more of the business to good people and focus more on writing. I’d like to make writing the most significant component of my life – not because it will earn any $$, but because I have some stuff I’d like to say that I feel is valuable.

Part of the reason for this trip is to reflect and listen to the Spirit as he leads us. I have what I feel is some clarity already about future direction, but I’d like that to settle as we travel, or be challenged and reshaped. So part of this trip is ‘listening’ and discerning. We feel like we are headed in the right direction but who knows what curve balls may come out way.

A couple of days ago we pulled in at Caiguna Roadhouse, a couple of hours west of the SA border. Danelle’s mum, Val went in for a heart operation the night before and we had no way of knowing how it went as we had no phone reception. We were praying for a good outcome, but equally prepared to turn the ship around and come home if she didn’t make it out of surgery.  It’s ‘that time’ in our parents’ lives, so if we don’t make the whole 6 months without having to come home for a funeral we will be very pleased. And that’s not morbid – just realistic. The good news is that Val had a much better than expected operation.

As we left Perth we agreed to begin each new day of driving with a prayer for God to place us where he wants us that day – either alone and resting or with people and in connection. So far it’s been pretty quiet, but that was perhaps more due to the fly plague we seemed to encounter each place we stopped. No one wants to stand around and chat when they are being assaulted by a million bush flies!

We need the rest so we are enjoying the time alone in the quiet of the Australian bush and just grateful that we get to do this a second time.

Once was awesome so maybe twice can awesomer!