On March 1, the Hattersleys drove out of Orange with a caravan hooked up and adventure coursing through their veins.
Nearly 10 months later, after 28,354km covering five states and one territory, Al, Jenna, Angus and Matilda drove back into town, unpacked the van and sat down.
Their first thought?
“Let’s do it again.”
Despite countless naysayers when the family announced their trip over 12 months ago – selling their house and putting their jobs and lives on hold – they are more determined than ever to spend as much time and money as they can travelling.
“People said we’d be struggling and turn back in the first six weeks but we never ever had that moment when we thought ‘what have we done’,” Mrs Hattersley said.
“It was the best decision we made to do it, but whatever negative thoughts you have about something that could go wrong … but if there was any lingering doubt it was erased almost instantly,” Mr Hattersley agreed.
Despite next to no prior experience in a caravan and a high risk of ending up creating a Russel Coight-style highlights reel, the couple admitted it could not have gone any more perfectly.
And the best bit?
Despite countless opportunities to catch waves, see the most beautiful parts of the country, meet new people and have a pod of dolphins play with them on a stand-up paddle-board – Mrs Hattersley had no hesitation in selecting the best part of their holiday.
“Being with the kids,” she started before her husband interjected with “and each other!”
“Just being together and seeing things so differently,” she said.
The life of constantly being on the move – the Hattersleys rarely only stayed in a single place for a night, instead trying to soak up the vibe of a place over a few nights.
“We’d do an activity in the morning, and during the day we’d relax around the caravan parks at fun parks or splash parks. Al and Angus would do that while the little one had a sleep and and then we’d get back into it in the afternoons,” Mrs Hattersley said.
“The days just tended to fill themselves in,” Mr Hattersley said.
Even in the car, the Hattersley children were “amazing”.
"We didn’t give them iPads or anything like that,” he said.
“There were lots of very boring games of I Spy which never seemed to end … we had one day we did 640 kilometres and they were fine.”
All four Hattersleys have struggled to break back into the routine of living in a house, of not being on the move every day, – Angus and Matilda not riding scooters and bikes every day.
“Angus and Tilly [Matilda] are still finding it difficult to be back, Matilda’s finding it the hardest because she’s never known what it’s like to be in a house,” Mrs Hattersley said.
“When we left she wasn’t one yet so she’s spent just under half her life in a caravan.”
The two parents are yet to return to work – they’re slated to pick their jobs back up in the new year but Al said they would try and find something before then, but instead of working to pay for a mortgage or any other regular adult things, the couple have a goal in mind.
They’re going back around again.
“It’s our goal to save now for two years and go do Western Australia and we want to do it when Matilda can swim or snorkel,” Jenna said.
“Every family we met said you need to do WA properly and take your time so we decided to come home early and do it some time in the next few years.”
However, they’re not sure if they’ll go around in a caravan again. Al has his sights set on something bigger.
“I want to do it in a bus, like a big old-school bus,” he said as Jenna rolled her eyes laughing.
“We met another family doing it in a bus towing a car with a boat on top and that’s what Al wants to do… I tell him he’s dreaming,” she explained.
But one thing’s for sure: the four of them can’t wait to get back out there.
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