It was rather a starry-eyed vision that we had. A family all together at home, the mortgage and credit cards paid off, owing no-one a penny. Dreams of casual work outdoors, picking fruit, doing labouring jobs, fit and healthy bodies full of sunshine and fresh air! A little bit of study just to keep the mind alert and agile. Formulating plans to develop a home business to make a quid and thinking up austerity measures to save a quid. It was a beautiful dream of an all-inclusive routine, working together to become the perfect ‘grass roots’ family. It was to be a glorious brave new family world that would be the envy of all those trapped in the 9 to 5.
- ‘Wildflowers‘, summer February 2014
Late 2011 was a watershed in the lives of the Bell family as a sense of dissatisfaction with our circumstances grew. In November of that year we crossed the rubicon and burned the bridges behind us when Richard left his position with government. Now the familiar but soul-destroying routine was gone and there was great relief at not having to be on the chain gang every day. We cashed in the superannuation and paid off all our mortgage and debts, with a bit to spare.
There was, however, one major thing that we had overlooked- and we really had no way of knowing what it was until we actually tried to make our dream happen. We had overlooked the fact that our dream had been nurtured in the secure cocoon of a comfortable suburban house, enjoying a well-paid, permanent position with the Government. The reality proved to be very different.
It did not take many months, for us to realise that a dream and a vision for the future does not miraculously become a reality when you dispose of the irritants of your past lifestyle. As someone said, ‘nature abhors a vacuum’. The initial jubilation quickly dissipated and it began to dawn on us that our minds and bodies were very much attuned to the ‘easy life’ and not the ‘good life’. We had cast off the anchor, sailed out from the safe harbour and now we were ‘all at sea’. Not many farms want to hire 58 year old labourers, study does not pay any bills and home businesses require skills or products that are saleable- we had neither. The veggie garden on our quarter acre block would not keep one person in food for a week, never mind a family of five.
With reality flooding into the vacuum, and going back not an option, we decided that we would break entirely with the past (for a while at least). We decided to go traveling, to take the gypsy road. That decision instilled us with renewed energy. The way ahead opened up into a new and horizonless vista of freedom, simplicity and adventure. We would escape the Adelaide winter and head north, to Queensland maybe. We rented out our house, bought a four wheel drive and packed it with all that we thought we would need. Then, in June 2012 (2 months later than we had hoped) we headed out there, northwards, into the freezing cold South Australian outback; and then beyond.
Eight months later we arrived back in Adelaide with a Toyota full of memories- brilliant experiences and hard lessons learned, all gathered up between Adelaide and the most northerly point of Australia.
Some say there is no going back and so it was with us. Our suburban home remains rented out and we now caretake a 25 acre property in the Adelaide Hills. It is a little house in the woods, very basic but a place we love, a place where stories are made that will shape our family in the years to come. It is a place where our youngest child was born and where our girls live ‘out there’ in nature and we try our hand at living on the land. That said, it is far from plain sailing- we still sometimes hanker after the comforts and the security we once enjoyed.
Two years on the question still arises- why on earth did we do it? Two years on we are still being reshaped. Sometimes we are thrust into the furnace until we are red hot, then placed on the anvil to be hammered and formed before being thrust into the coals again. Despite how uncomfortable and frightening this can sometimes be, we are increasingly liking what we see happening, untidy as the process may seem.
This phase in our adventure is for a season. We are sure that God has other things in store for us that will take us out there, beyond our comfort zone. How much longer will this process continue? We don’t know, we are beginning to think that the journey is more important than the destination. So…..join us as we recount and reflect on our ‘out there’ experiences.
Richard and Liadhan.
‘Wildflowers’, Adelaide Hills, March 2014