Project Simplify – so far so good

Project Simplify* has been progressing well, down in the wild weather at Wilsons Promontory (with many sunset pics on instagram). We are just a twelve hour drive from Sydney but already are worlds away from our previous existence.

Wilsons Promontory is the southern most point of mainland Australia, and very much on the tourist track (so much so that there are signs everywhere telling you to drive on the left – I wonder how you have gotten all the way to the bottom of Australia if you haven’t figured this out yet??). We were surrounded by holiday makers, but we were there getting used to a new way of living.

One of the reasons we wanted to do this trip was to get away from bills, schedules and city life dramas – ditch all the stuff and keep it simple for a while.

Well, so far so good re Project Simplify.

Bills, schedules – gone

Back in the lawyering days, it cost a lot to work so much. I could easily spend more than $100 a day just on keeping my belly full. Brekky ($10), coffee ($4), more coffee ($4), green smoothie ($9) (mainly for the smugness factor of carrying the green sludge around accepting comments about how healthy it must be), lunch from a food court ($15-20), possibly more coffee ($4), a few drinks after work to vent with colleagues ($30 – at least) – then either eat dinner at work, or get home and be so tired, and greeted by the hubby who had just battled with the kids’ after school activities, homework and bed and was also exhausted – so takeaway it was ($50). Now, we can pretty much feed the family for a week on what I used to spend at the MLC food court (and surrounds) in a day.

Important qualification – we have simplified but are still Sydney coffee snobs at heart. Our powerless Nomad espresso machine has kept us nicely caffeinated in the manner to which we have become accustomed.

Then there was the outsourcing and streamlining of outside tasks / personal admin to allow even more time for working. Cleaner, before and after school care, taxis, dry-cleaning – could easily account for $300-400 a week. Gone, gone, gone. The Shack takes about two minutes to tidy up, and we do our laundry (of our few changes of clothes) in a bucket, wring it out by hand and hang it on the side of the Shack (and there aren’t many ubers in the outback). With the mortgage and all other house related bills gone, now our only other day to day expenses are petrol, camping fees (when we’re not free camping), and occasionally going nuts at a winery.

We had three over scheduled little inner westies, who were a few thousand dollars into getting black belts in taekwondo after years of lessons two or three times a week, gymnastics twice a week, rugby, cricket, swimming, flute and chess. Expensive and exhausting, and kept us gridlocked in inner west traffic most afternoons, evenings and Saturdays. Now, they run around all day and keep up the cricket and gymnastics on the beach – though unfortunately they mainly use their taekwondo moves for evil rather than good (and thank god, the flute was left behind).

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Beach gymnastics and cricket

The kids are slowly weaning themselves off their iPad addictions and in the last week, the withdrawals seem to have lessened, they have stopped whinging “I’m boooored”, and have started inventing games, using their imagination, exploring a bit more on their own, and (I hate to jinx this by writing it down) – getting along (sometimes). Simple boredom, lots of space and fresh air seems to be a winning combo.

No more need for a personal trainer, expensive gym membership or yoga classes. Walks on the beach, 10km bush walks, carrying the world’s largest four year old when we realised 10km was a bit much even for the world’s largest four year old, the physical effort of unhitching, re-hitching and putting up the trailer, lugging things in and out, and from the roof, of the car, chopping firewood** — has replaced twelve hours+ a day of sitting on my arse and feeling guilty about not having the time to get to gym/ yoga / personal trainer that I had already paid for, in the vain hope it would actually get me off my arse.

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Beautiful walk at Mt Bishop
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Though was a bit much for little gem

No more of the grooming, and office level of personal maintenance. No manicures, pedicures, make up, hair curlers. I have cheap shampoo, sunscreen and zero makeup (oh and shitloads of deodorant – we are all getting a bit woofy). So no change whatsoever for the hubby, but for me it’s so easy and liberating. Hey, I’m not saying it’s pretty. Far from it – there is a reason I only do selfies with big sunnies and a massive hat. The hair and face situation may be very simple – but I am still totally, completely vain.

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Back in Petersham, we had a fully stocked wine “cellar” (which is what we called the space under the stairs crammed full of wine). Down in the Prom, there is no bottlo, and due to space restrictions, and the perils to clinking glass bottles on dirt tracks, we had to drink – wait for it – cask wine. Ok, that is just desperately sad. And perhaps taking simplicity too far?

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His and her casks

And the easiest way to simplify the stresses, dramas and politics of being a corporate lawyer? Stop being a corporate lawyer. Simple.***

Still some dramas

We had a few incredible days in the Prom – in the wind, rain and sunshine (sometimes all three in the same ten minutes). Walks to Squeaky Beach, Whisky Bay, up to Mt Bishop, seeing where the ocean meets the river at Tidal River, wombat and wallaby sightings, and exploring the old military commando camps.

And then the day before we left, we had a truly crappy day. Lots of outdoor time and fresh air works a lot of the time, but is not a miracle cure to three kids spending every day together and sleeping in close quarters. There were epic tantrums, a runaway child, and a general vibe of everyone getting pretty sick of being together 24 hours a day. We had gone from a few perfect days where nothing went wrong and everyone got along – to a case of …

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And some pretty cranky parents too

After a cranky dinner we decided the best cure may be to just chuck the kids in the surf and wash away the day. We headed down to the beach, all dived in – and forty minutes of throwing a ball around in a spectacular sunset later, everyone was feeling happier, calmer, and pretty bloody lucky to be swimming as the sun set on (what would have otherwise been) a school / work day. I guess sometimes all you need is a dunk in cold water to sort everything out.

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Escaping the city

We are passing through Melbourne for the weekend, and I feel like it is way too soon to be back in a city. We have only been away three weeks, but already emerging back into the traffic, noise, bustle and well groomed public is quite overwhelming. On Friday night we sat on top of a four story building in an old train (so Melbourne) and spent the same on drinks and some burgers as we had spent in the entire week before to feed and quench the thirst of a family of five.  While the bearded and flanneled lumberjack hubby can blend in equally well in the bush or a hipster Melbourne bar, I, in my bush/beach grub gear felt like a fish out of water, and was missing my new local (ie – wines by the campfire).

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A train in the sky  – with excellent burgers and wings

Project Simplify still has a while to play out

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The kids have had their city/sushi fix (and a fun visit with their aunt). And tomorrow we are fleeing back to mountains, rivers, wineries and country Victoria to keep on keeping it simple (and sadly, sushi-less). It hasn’t all been easy but in our new life without all the stuff, I haven’t once thought about what we have given up. Yet, I am constantly being reminded of everything we are getting back by slowing down and keeping things simple for a while.

*my version

** I have not actually ever chopped firewood. Though I imagine if I am one day allowed near the axe that it would be quite the workout for the arms

*** Perhaps not quite that simple – but more about that another time – have harped on enough about it for now.

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I am (was?) a corporate lawyer who has packed it all in and hit the road. With my hubby, three young kids, Bonnie (our 4WD) and "The Shack" (our camper trailer), we are taking a year (or so) to forget about work and city life, enjoy our amazing country – beaches, mountains, outback, desert, food, wine and adventure – and figure out what we want to do next.

3 thoughts on “Project Simplify – so far so good

  1. Good to catch up every week Jack although the runaway kid sounded a bit scary for doting grandparents missing you all immensely. I can guess who they was.

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    1. Sounds like a whole lot more fun than being in an office all day! Here’s an idea that might work for you guys. When I drove across Canada with 6 kids many years ago, each child had a small bin with a lid with story books and some craft supplies, a note book to draw/write in and small toys that each child kept on the seat beside him/herself. The lids doubled as work tables. The younger 3 kids each had a small notebook for a travel diary in which they drew pictures about places we went to or if we went into a historical sight with any brochures they cut and pasted pictures and put them into their diary. The bins worked wonders at keeping them occupied when driving and at campsites though it meant me tidying them up each night. But they truly helped minimize the kid fights and encouraged them to be creative. And they used their diaries to tell people about their experiences. Have fun.

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      1. Thanks – great suggestion. The kids each have an activity bag with their journals in it but I love the idea of a lid to use as a table! We are getting through the long drives with audio books at the moment – Enid blyton has been a big hit!

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