When we decided to make a short film about the benefits of slow living, we wanted to find a family who did everything at the right ‘speed.’ A family who values quality over quantity, a family with a deep connection to each other, to nature, to their country home and the rhythms around them. The Sawyer family fit the bill perfectly. Lovebirds Elisa and Rhys Sawyer and their four gorgeous bebes - Sonny, 7, Lola, 5, Scout, 3, and Tex, 1 - and live on a property with chooks, a tree house, a vegetable patch, tree swings, dogs, a creek and often head off on adventures in their restored caravan, Winnie. We spoke to Elisa about the benefits of living slow and finding happiness in the things money can’t buy.
Words: Amy Mills Images: Jess, Wilde Visual.
How would you describe your tribe?
I would describe us as one big organised mess but full of love, life and adventure. We don't live in the past or the future; we just live life day by day.
You and your tribe are the stars of our upcoming short film, SLOW. How did you find the experience?
We found the experience absolutely amazing. Leading up to the filming day, we were quite nervous not knowing what to expect and how the kids would behave or even how long their attention span would last, but they made us proud. They were excited to have so many new people in the house and seemed proud to show off their home. Rhys and I were pretty inspired by the creativity of the production and felt honoured to be a part of it.
We chose your family as you seem to be doing everything at the right "speed." It is so challenging these days to switch off from technology and really connect with your loved ones. Do you feel you have found the balance living this way?
Yes, I think we have found a good balance between fast pace and slow. I guess living where you are surrounded by nature tends to draw you away from technology and closer as a family. When there are bugs to catch, dirt to play in, ropes to swing on and campfires to make, you are way too busy for technology!
Why did you choose to move to the hinterland as opposed to be beach communities?
Rhys and I both grew up in a similar way to how we are living now and I guess we are drawn to the land and open spaces because of that. We kind of have the best of both worlds where we are living as we are only ten minutes from the beach. We wanted the kids to have space and a place where you can really escape the noise of the city.
We spent an entire day with you guys - from sunrise to sunset - and one thing I noticed was your kids did not whine or moan or ask for a single thing all day. They are truly happy, independent, resilient and fulfilled children. Do you think the way you live and the fact that to them, happiness is not defined by what they consume or what they own, contributes to that?
Well, first of all thank you that's a beautiful compliment. The kids were genuinely excited about the day and so happy to have lots of people around so we were off to a good start but I think happiness to our kids is being given freedom and independence and that's exactly what nature gives them; it's a constant source of entertainment. Over the years of living here, we have seen their needs change. With four kids, we used to have lots of toys but their interest in them started to last only days. Soon enough they were getting tire swings, sandpits, veggie gardens and cubby houses for their birthdays!
You have four kids, two acres, a tree house, a tree swing, a vegetable patch, dogs, chooks, motorbikes, a troop carrier, a caravan and are surrounded by farms. You really have created the dream childhood for your kids. What is the best thing about living this way?
The best thing is there is always something to do! It's not very often I hear the kids say, 'I'm bored!’ We love how the kids learn to care and be responsible for our animals and how they learn to grow food and understand where it comes from. It's so good to see them being creative and playing for hours outside.
As a mother, how do you feel this free-range lifestyle benefits your kids?
I see the kids using their creativity building cubby houses or making homes for different bugs they have found in the garden and having to learn to work together. Being outside they are always moving and being active and learning about their surroundings. But as a mum, the best benefit of all is that they are happy - just happy being kids and doing kid stuff!
Can you share one of the most special moments you've shared with your family since living at your property?
We have had some amazing bonfires with friends and family that were pretty special but when I think about a moment I still smile about is the six of us outside on a summer afternoon. Rhys and I were sitting on the driveway having a wine and a beer, the kids were laughing and playing, the dogs running around and playing, the chickens just pecking around [laughs] and the cows were mooing across the road and we just felt so happy. It was such a simple moment but one that I'll never forget.
What is your favourite thing to do together?
We love to jump in the troopy and head off on a Saturday morning adventure whether it be to the beach or a little town we have never been to before for lunch or coffee.
You are about to embark on a four-month road trip together. Can you tell me about that?
For the last two years, we have been restoring our vintage caravan 'Winnie' and old Land Cruiser Troop Carrier for a four-and-a-half month trip down the East Coast, across The Great Ocean Road and onto my hometown of Adelaide. We will travel as far as the Eyre Peninsular to show the kids and Rhys the farm I was so lucky to grow up on and visit places like Kangaroo Island and the Flinders Ranges along the way. On the way back, we will head inland and follow the Murray River then make our way home through rural New South Wales. We are hoping to take each day as it comes and not do too much planning!
What is one thing you hope you kids take away from their very special upbringing?
We hope our kids grow into happy, independent and confident human beings that are present and love a good adventure!!