We recently returned from almost three weeks adventuring around the Kimberley region of WA. We flew into Broome, before embarking on a journey of a lifetime, travelling over 800km on mostly unsealed roads, taking in the red dirt, gorges, rock faces and wildlife. We connected with other travellers, made friends, created memories and explored parts of our home state that we’d never in our lives seen before.
Upon returning to Perth, I wanted to share 10 things I learnt whilst travelling on the Gibb.
- Less is more
This saying has never been more true than when travelling in a 4×4 hilux with three kids, carrying all clothing, sleeping gear, tents, food and water onboard. There is no room for luxury items (although I did mistakenly bring my hair straightener!). After a few days in the red dust, you realise that everything gets filthy and there is literally no point in bringing out fresh clothes. Also, it’s virutally impossible to get to most of the items, especially if, like me, you packed too many clothes. Choose a few pieces of clothing to be your sacrificial lambs, let the kids wear them every day and make the decision to either bin or burn them at the end of the trip.
- Health is all that matters
Another saying that many of you will nod your head to and agree with. This came into such sharp focus for us when our 9-year-old daughter had a fainting spell (that looked a lot like a seizure) at a remote station, some 300km of unsealed roads and a river crossing away from Kununurra. Suddenly, the whole world froze and all we cared about was seeing our little girl come back to good health. A huge shout out to the kindness of the station manager (Logan) at Ellenbrae Outback Station, the Royal Flying Doctor’s GP Telehealth service, and the many kind strangers who enquired after her and showed concern. Your kindness was overwhelming and we are so grateful.
- Keep it simple
Another motto that served us well. Things like simple, nourishing dinners (my fave was our campfire fried rice), campfires and conversations and swimming in some of the most beautiful remote outback locations are the things that stick in my mind. No devices, no social media, no ‘noise’. We all need more of this in our busy, overstimulated lives.
- Present parents are better parents
Without easy access to our phones, internet and social media, we were able to be more present and more present with our children – and they noticed! Simple things like card games, tree swings into the water, long walks with sing-a-longs were mentioned by our kids as some of their favourite moments on the trip. I also loved the feeling of the long walks across the rocky landscape where my total focus was on where I would put my next step, the ultimate act of being present, no time to lament on the past or worry about the future. My mind was wholly focussed on the now, I was in my body, completely.
- Dont wait, do it now!
There is always going to be a better time if you let yourself listen to that story. The kids are bigger (or all grown up and you can go without them), there’s a better time of year, you’ll have more money and can do it in more style next year. My advice – don’t wait, do it now! We did it with two families; six kids between us aged 2-9 years old. I’d say, we challenged ourselves, especially with the toddlers needing to be carried everywhere (another TIP: bring a great ergonomically friendly carrier like an ergo baby or travelling/hiking toddler pack), and we had to watch them very carefully around the deep water and steep drop offs. Plus it was HOT, some days there was no relief and we had to hide under the shade of our annex until the heat died off enough to venture back to the water. Honestly, it was all worth it and I wouldn’t change a thing. You never know what life is going to have waiting right around the corner, so I always say, the time is now.
- Dont pigeonhole yourself too soon
All my friends will happily tell you how many times I’ve told them ‘oh I’m not a camping girl’. But I tell you what, after this trip, I can assure you – I am a camping girl. I’ve got red dirt running through my veins and I can’t wait for our next outdoor adventure. I even confess to watching some 4×4 Youtube outdoor traveller channels, looking for inspiration on our next place to explore. This is a great life lesson, don’t define yourself in absolutes. Life can change and certainly so can you!
- You can create community anywhere you go
Something I never accounted for, was the great relationships we built with total strangers along the way. We had some groups that we met at our first stop; Windjana Gorge, and met up with at every stop along the way. It was amazing sharing the journey together, exchanging tips and experiences. There is something so magical about sharing a journey like this together, in some of the most remote places. We loved hearing people’s stories and were inspired by the number of travelling families we met. It certainly made it seem like a more tangible idea, seeing families actually doing it. Some had been on the road for years, moving from place to place. Freedom.
- Sunrise, sunset and stars
You must make sure you see at least one sunrise, one sunset and look up at the stars (even better if you get to make a wish upon a shooting star) whilst on this trip. It is totally worth waking up to sit in the quiet of the bush with a cuppa tea in hand, watching the world come to life. Likewise, to sit and reflect with a cold beverage of choice as the sun sinks into the sky is another incredible moment. After dark, I loved nothing more than to lie back on the ground and stare up at the stars. It is a humbling and invigorating experience.
- Dance with strangers under the stars
To me, you haven’t had a real outback bush experience until you’ve danced to iconic tunes like ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’, ‘Sweet Caroline’ or ‘True Blue’ with a group of strangers and a one man band playing under an open roof bar. I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face as we sang and danced together. This is the stuff memories are made of.
- Outdoor experiences build resilient kids (and adults)
I take my hat off to the kids during this trip. We asked a lot of them, and they gave it their all, barely faltering. We walked a long way in harsh conditions, it was hot, dry and rocky. We threw them in black water with freshwater crocs on the bank, we fed them basic food and we expected them to do it all with a smile on their face. For the most part, they did. I was pleasantly surprised at their attitude. There were some days where I felt exhausted, hot and grumpy and I was tired of red dirt. They must have felt that way too at times, but they just kept going and they found new and innovative ways of entertaining themselves. I learnt so much, just through the eyes of the kids.
There is so much more I could tell you about this trip, maybe I will write another blog soon with some more of my reflections. But I will leave this with you for now, and share just one parting thought. Life is a precious gift, let’s wait to enjoy it. Experience life now, grab it with both hands and go for it. Thank you to our travelling companions and lead on the adventure – The Cribb family. Thank you to my amazing hubby for driving us all the way and keeping us safe. Thank you to my beautiful children for creating memories with me and teaching me so much about how to live your best life.
I’d love to hear about your experiences travelling to remote locations (or anywhere!) with young kids. Please share.
Live, Love and Laugh,