Forgive me, readers; it’s been three months* since our last (and, yes, by that I do mean our first) blog post, and two weeks since we made our escape! It’s not that we haven’t thought of you (at least, I, as chief blogger, have – guiltily and often), nor that there’s been nothing to write about (there’s been no shortage of material: from mechanical issues and questionable customer service, to farewell beers, cheers and tears)… But here’s the thing: packing up your life to fit into a car and camper trailer** takes a great deal more time and energy – both physical and emotional – than we ever imagined it would. Despite my best intentions of tracking every task and feeling (the highs and the lows) throughout the final couple of months of our preparations to hit the road, the occasional Facebook update was the best I could manage.*** And although we earmarked the first two weeks of our new life as a ‘holiday’, they turned out to be nothing of the sort! We don’t expect sympathy, but we do hope that you accept our apologies for the hiatus in communications (please).
In the final three or four weeks before we left Melbourne, we were often asked ‘How do you feel?’, ‘Are you excited?’, ‘Are you all ready to go?’. There’s no denying that over the course of those few weeks there were moments of excitement, especially as we started counting down ‘last…’ milestones, but the most truthful answers we could give were ‘Tired…’, ‘Sort of…’ and ‘Sometimes…’. For two years we’d conscientiously avoided accumulating anything that wasn’t ‘going with us’, and we started ‘clearing out’ in earnest at the start of this year. Even so, on top of the usual routine of full-time jobs and household chores (and trying to maintain some semblance of a social life), managing the huge job of sorting and disposing of (be that selling, donating or throwing away) our ‘stuff’ demanded all of our project management and logistical skills, not to mention a lot of sweat and tears (literally!). And despite all of the planning, the carefully thought-out timelines, the regularly monitored and updated ‘to do’ lists, and almost super-human drive and effort, we still weren’t really ‘ready’ to leave when we did…
The countdowns on our website and phones were set for 9am on Monday 18 August. Right down to the final 24 hours, I had visions of us driving away on the dot, feeling exalted and accomplished, with huge smiles on our faces. Even when evidence to the contrary suggested that the reality would be otherwise, and I agreed when Paul said ‘We’ve got all of Monday, really’ (we didn’t have to return our house keys until 5pm), I was determined to meet what had for me become a ‘deadline’. The morning after our ‘last drinks’ with family and friends – when we’d headed out in the early afternoon of Saturday and got home at 3am Sunday morning – I was up early, cleaning the house (not for lack of a hangover, believe me!). Before the birds woke on the Monday, we were both up, still packing and cleaning. But as the countdown we’d started at around 650 days clicked over to 0 months/weeks/days/hours/minutes/seconds, Paul was off delivering the last boxes of goods for donation (including the vacuum cleaner and other household cleaning items) to very good friends who’d kindly agreed to pass them on to charity, and I was doing some final weeding and tidying in the garden! It was only the alarm on my phone, and several text messages from thoughtful friends and family, that alerted me to the ‘event’. I admit to a moment of teary delirium, an excited text message to Paul and a very succinct Facebook post (‘NO MORE DAYS!!!!!!!!!!!’), but then it was head down, tail up again…
A couple of hours later, having handed back our keys and collected Banjo from the kennel (where he’d spent his last week in Melbourne, avoiding the chaos of the final push!), we were at last on the Western Freeway heading away from our old life and into the unknown of the new. Paul let out a deep breath and said ‘We’ve finally done it’. Normally a ‘moment’ like that would stir me either to tears or an exclamation of ‘Woohoo!’, but I was so dazed all I could say was ‘Yeah… Well done!’. There was no real sense of occasion…just exhaustion. And certainly no sense of accomplishment; as we passed the last of Melbourne’s western suburbs, my mind was concerned with what we (read, ‘I’) might have neglected to do, how we were going to deal with the piles of ‘stuff’ that we’d had to cram into every available nook and cranny in the car and camper trailer, and what we should/could/would have done differently! (Ah, the benefit of hindsight.)
Fortunately, it wasn’t far to our first stop after leaving Melbourne: Wallace (near Ballarat), where we were treated to six-star-B&B treatment at my parents’ place, and were able to unpack, sort and repack before heading to Tatura (near Shepparton) to house-sit for dear friends. A week later, although the ‘fog’ of exhaustion had lifted, the reality of our new life – with no fixed address, no regular income and no fixed plan – still hadn’t really sunk in, partly because we weren’t yet living in the camper trailer (more on that later), and partly because we’d spent the week not only still sorting and repacking, but job-hunting and attending ‘interviews’ (more on that later, too!).
Two weeks on, though, with the camper trailer now set up in a caravan park, Paul today starting work and our house-sitting stint coming to an end, we can finally appreciate that we’ve achieved the first, and arguably biggest, step of our escape plan. We’ve thrown everything up in the air, given up our well-paid, full-time ongoing jobs, and left city living behind (for good). WOOOOHOOOO!!!!
* I actually had to count the months on my fingers – twice! – as I couldn’t believe that it had actually been that long!
** Disclaimer: We’ve also left a few (sentimental or important/necessary) remnants of our life in boxes with family and friends.
*** For those who are interested (especially in learning from our mistakes!), we’ll detail our preparations retrospectively in later posts.