Hannah here: “Are you mad?” was the response we got when we told our friends and family that we were planning on camping for 5 weeks with our toddler. Chuck into the mix unexpectedly having to move house at the last minute and the answer to that question was almost a frightening affirmative.
But it worked. And it shocked and humbled us in more ways than one.
Some things we learned:
1) Kids don’t need toys.
Given some dirt, rocks or sand, and left to her own devices, Frankie played happily for hours. I just started reading Simplicity Parenting following a recommendation from Davina so this whole less-is-more philosophy is making a whole lotta sense to me at the mo. It can be difficult to not get swept up in toy mania, back in ‘real life’ though. (Currently having a major new house purge so wish me luck!)
2) Reading is ace.
Being stripped of the telly for 5 weeks was completely amazing. We hardly watch it anyway (we’ve been cutting down on it every year as part of our NY resolutions.) But we slipped into replacing evenings in front of the telly with evenings in front of our computers, working. Productive, yes, but relaxing, nope. To have night after night of sitting in front of the fire wrapped in blankets, in comfortable silence with my mister, reading until our eyes blurred; was blissful. And restoring. And relaxing. My previously book-avoiding husband has become a complete bibliophile (and consequently 100x sexier. ResULT.)
3) Campfire cooking is DA BOMB.
Eagerly awaiting foil ensconced sweet potatoes sizzling away on the coals, and slow cooked tomato and chorizo sauce, was one of the holidays most delicious memories. I love the wood-smoke flavour that permeates everything cooked on the fire.
4) Kids thrive in the extended company of their parents.
Frankie’s language leapt forwards, her story telling became more complex and imaginative and she faced quite a few of her fears with aplomb. For example, she normally has an obsession/totally terrified thing going on with horses but she rode on one, loved it, and tells anyone within ear shot that she did so. She figured out forward rolls, became ever bolder with introducing herself to the kids she met (language is no barrier to the kids) and we witnessed her taking ever more daring climbs. The realisation that it was time with us that spurred those changes on is kind of sobering.
5) The importance of Fatherhood.
Dave and Frankie’s time together was particularly special. He is normally around quite a bit, but it is rather ad hoc, depending on what freelance jobs he has on at the time. But after this trip he is going to be with her more formally for one day a week. Awesome!
6) A break from vanity is GOOD.
My wardrobe was extremely limited (although grew slightly with purchases as we travelled) but I found I just didn’t really care what I wore. I didn’t have a mirror and became accustomed to not looking in one when getting ready in the morning. Refreshing. Freeing. I started a no shampoo (or “no poo") thing whilst I was out there too (i’m so pleased with the results- much thicker, less greasy hair) and ended up with greasy hair in a head scarf most days. And didn’t care.
7) Simple living with very few ‘things’ and in a very small space, can be very satisfying.
Other than a bit of washing up and some clothes washing every now and then, there was no ‘housework’ to speak of. It was actually rather lovely to be close together for all that time. This experience of super-small-space living helped us to decide to move to a much smaller house which will require us to chuck out a whole lot of stuff. I’m excited at the prospect of simpler living and hope I can be brave enough to see it through properly!
8) Down with “man jobs”.
Although Dave is most definitely stronger than me, I am more than capable of dragging the heavy tent bag, doing my share in putting it up, lugging suitcases, looking for logs, chopping them, building fires, taking heavy bin bags to the rubbish spot, navigating foreign roads and other, some might say typically “man”, jobs. And I knew all that but it was good to enact it more intentionally.
9) Fires are awesome.
I know, we’re talking about the fire again . But i’m convinced that if everyone had an open fire in their sitting rooms then we’d all watch less telly (and have lower heating bills). There is something so mesmerising about watching the flames flash and lick and slowly consume logs. Our new house also has an open fire and again, having absolutely loved being in front of the fire almost every night, the fact that the new house has a fire cinched the deal.
10) That sometimes, being together in labour is good for a marriage
e.g. navigating strange roads together, collecting and chopping wood and erecting our tent. But sometimes doing those things together made us want to scratch each others eye balls out. We also learned that the amount of sleep we’ve had directly affects that heady pendulum of marital sanity.
In other news we are now in our new house! But we have downsized massively so are utterly drowning in boxes. I'll be selling and giving away tons and tons of stuff in the next few weeks, so watch this space if you fancy some vintage bargains.