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Tribe Travel :: Lori Harding.
Packing up your life, piling your tribe into a caravan and setting off on a year-long sabbatical around Australia in the quest to live slowly and enjoy every precious second with your kids is merely a pipe dream for most families. However, the open road will be home for the beautiful mama Lori Harding, partner Matt and their three blonde-haired boys, Justice, Noah and Atlas, in 2018. The family recently had a two-month practice run down the south east coast of Australia in preparation for their big trip next year during which they will homeschool their kids and make memories that will last a lifetime. Lori spoke to Children of the Tribe about their recent road trip, raising conscious, connected and creative men and her desire to give her boys the most precious commodity of all – her time.
You just returned from a two-month trip exploring the south east coast of Australia with your family. Was this trip a long time in the making?
We spent six months living in the desert in Western Australia a few years ago and explored some incredible places as a family. It was there that we really fell in love with our land and promised ourselves we would show our kids all of it one day. But it was always a ‘one day’ dream; it wasn't something we had seriously planned for. We figured we would do it when the kids were a little older, work wasn't so busy, if we saved more money, when we had more time - the usual excuses. However after a very full year with the arrival of our third baby boy, Atlas, adjusting to our eldest son Justice beginning school and the lifestyle change that creates while attempting to manage a life that was overflowing, we started dreaming of ways we could spend more time together, live with less, and feel more connected to each other and the earth. We had recently sold our house and the dream of buying a camper and travelling shone brighter and we thought, ‘Why not?’
I saw your post from your recent family trip to Sri Lanka and about how much you loved the freedom of travelling with your boys - admiring them, playing with them, being fully engaged - as opposed to dealing with the distractions and expectations of modern life. Did that trip specifically inspire you to travel more?
Absolutely. We were quite nervous for our first time travelling with three children - Atlas was four months at the time - and we had no idea what to expect and actually we considered cancelling it several times! But I am so grateful we didn’t because our boys completely blew us away with how open and adaptable they were to different environments and meeting new people. Although we were still busy and tired and there were some very stressful moments, we felt alive, inspired and connected, which was in stark contrast to how we were feeling at home. We only planned the first three days of our two-week trip, relying on fellow travellers’ recommendations to decide where we would head to next and it was completely liberating that we could still travel this way. I guess that was when our goals shifted and our family travel plans moved to the top of the list. The rest of the stuff could wait.
What was the highlight of the trip?
As clichéd as it may sound, just exploring as a family. We made the habit of packing a backpack and jumping in the car to find a new beach and then spending a long time collecting shells, climbing rocks, finding sea life, swimming and being asked one million different questions about anything and everything by the kids and being given rocks and shells by Atlas. Being in nature with the boys was truly the greatest gift and being able to completely soak in these moments was so healing and will be what I remember forever.
What were the challenges you faced travelling in a caravan with kids?
It was pretty suffocating at times, especially when I was trying to cook in a very small space and had little baby hands pulling at my legs to be picked up, the big boys wanting to help or needing a drink and climbing over the lounges or wrestling on the bed less than a metre away from me. I felt like I was constantly yelling at everyone to get out of the camper! Our camper looked nothing like all those pins I had saved on Pinterest with their cute curtains and stacks of books; it was more clothes flung over the lounge, unmade beds – I could never ever get the sand completely out - Atlas standing on the table throwing the avocadoes out of the fruit bowl and dishes piled in the sink! Some car trips were very challenging but all was forgotten the moment we arrived at a new place.
What was your favourite spot?
We quickly worked out that we didn't love the caravan parks so much and much preferred national parks, with the freedom to set up wherever we wanted. It was usually just our family and the local kangaroos and no phone reception! We loved Gillards Beach, which is near a very cute town called Tathra. Bendalong also stole our hearts and Seal Rocks was very special but we enjoyed our time most at Crescent Head.
We stayed down the back road on Racecourse Beach and spent two weeks there over Christmas and New Year. It has so many beautiful beaches with good surf, beautiful rock pools and you can drive on the beach so most days we set up on the beach for the day with food and beers. The town has a small grocery store, a health food store, great coffee and the best bakery ever.
Did you have any plans at all with this trip or was it very much open?
When we first decided to go, we started researching and planning before taking a big step back and deciding to just let it all unfold instead.
You mentioned this two-month stint was a teaser for a longer trip next year. Is that still on the cards and will that trip be indefinite?
We called this trip our practice run because we are amateur campers. Before this trip, we had only used our pop-up camper twice since we bought it and we hadn’t quite worked out how to put up the annex properly! We travelled along the South East Coast of Australia, which is close to most things and civilised, in preparation for our trip all the way around Australia in 2018, which will be much more off-the-beaten-track. We plan to spend 2017 at home so our eldest boys, Justice and Noah, can complete Prep and Year One, and then we will homeschool the boys on the road the following year.
What is one thing you hope your boys will take away from this trip?
There are so many things I hope my children will experience and learn in their lifetime but really they can all be reduced to the same thing - I just want them to be happy. That’s all we want, right? So I believe it is our responsibility as parents to give them the tools to create their own happiness. We can show them how to be happy and teach them to follow their dreams and do whatever it takes to create it. I want them to feel so comfortable with taking risks and living by their heart that it is second nature to them because that’s the only way they know because they have watched us do it. I want them to understand their connection with nature, to learn to be resourceful and value time spent together above anything else. I feel a huge responsibility to raise conscious, connected and creative men and we feel like this trip is our own first step towards doing that. I also want them to think life is fun and light and shouldn’t be taken too seriously.
Did you guys pack up your house before your recent adventure and did you have a base to come back to?
Last time we moved away, we sold everything and came home to nothing but we didn’t want to do that again! We put all of our furniture and favourite possessions in a storage shed and with family but we made a conscious effort to store only the things we needed. We want to find a small place by the beach to rent and live as simply as we can until it is time to head off again.
Would you say you’ve always had a bohemian spirit?
We moved to Bali when the boys were younger for six months and it was there that I learnt I do not have a bohemian spirit! Although I love travel and feel as though I don’t need much, I definitely have a time limit on living out of a suitcase. My star sign is Cancer so my home is an extension of myself and I feel a little lost and unfulfilled without a space to call my own. It fills me with so much joy providing for my family and pottering. In Bali, our villa didn't have a usable kitchen and we had help with our housework so most meals we ate out or ordered in and I walked our laundry down the road to have it washed. Of course, that sounds like a dream but it quickly got old and I missed cooking for my family and caring for our home; it grounds me. But I feel as though travelling in our camper might be a wonderful, happy medium, giving us the freedom to travel wherever we please and feel connected to nature, but also have a small space to cook, care and potter in which fills me up like nothing else.
You are not only giving the kids the gift and freedom of travel and adventure but also your precious time, the most valuable thing we can give our children. The prospect of being with the boys 24/7 with no deadlines and obligations to meet when you head off again in 2018 must be an exciting prospect?
I was just saying to my friends the other day that although I am excited for the places we will explore and experience, I have only really imagined the unlimited time we will have together as a family and what that might feel like. I am so excited to create new rituals together that fill us up rather than filter us down. I can only hope that this time together will create a better rhythm for our family and one that feels right to us.