Our last day in Melbourne was not Fi’s best. There were endless delays getting out of the house and tricky transitions once we were out and generally lots of less-than stable emotions in between. Then, right before tucking into a delicious and low-key dinner at our friends’ house, something small set her off and boom, there it was: the major meltdown she’d been building to all day. The emotional deluge that, in retrospect, was utterly inevitable but, in the moment, caught us completely off guard. She ran to the guest room we were sharing, threw herself on the bed and started sobbing uncontrollably. “I want to go HOME,” she wailed.
Well. These are not the words you want to hear from the baby girl you love more than anything and upon whom you are trying to bestow a once-in-a-lifetime experience and whom you only want to feel safe and happy—especially when going home is currently a solid four months away (which is, like, a million years in little-kid time).
And that was just the beginning. As I gathered her up in my arms, the sobbing continued, as did a flood of travel-related grievances: “I miss my room and my house and my stuffies—I only brought uni and bunny and I miss sheepens!!—and I miss my ponies and my friends and my school and I even miss the park! Everything is just different here! I even noticed today that the money here is different!!” It was one of those big, loud, ugly crying jags that just needs to run its course, from beginning to soggy, snotty end. It was heartbreaking. It was also apparently cathartic. Ten minutes after it was over, she and our friends’ daughter Aelie were shut up in Aelie’s room giggling and playing, happy as could be.
But, you know, point taken. We were all a little worn down. Our campervan trek hadn’t exactly been relaxing and while we were graciously welcomed and incredibly well taken care of by our hosts in Melbourne, there was still the way you’re “on” when you’re staying in someone else’s home that you’re just not when you’re in your own space. Plus, while Melbourne is one of our favorite cities in the world, it’s still a city, which just brings with it a little more exhausting hustle and bustle than some other environments. In short, we were ready for some good old fashioned down time.
Fortunately, our next stop was in lovely Apollo Bay (which we traveled to, thankfully, in a regular-size rental car, nicknamed “Memory” by Fiona). It was also the first place we’d booked a proper full-house rental, including, luxuriously, two whole bedrooms. The weather played along by being sort of cloudy and cool—perfectly pleasant, but not the kind of thing you feel guilty about missing out on—and so we got down to doing a whole lot of not much. We FaceTimed with some friends and both grandmas. Dan and Fi read some Dragon Masters books. We watched My Little Pony and had a family movie night. Dan cooked Fiona’s favorite dinner with an Australian twist (lamb subbed in for steak, with bread and broccoli on the side). We walked on the beach and down the town’s teeny commercial strip. We hit the local playground every day.
Sure, we saw a few sights, including the Camp Otway Lightstation, AKA Australia’s Most Significant Lighthouse (a designation that cracks Dan and me up—it’s so significant!), but mostly, we laid low and kept things as homey as we could from 8000 miles away.
Because as it turns out, this trip is a marathon, not a sprint. And we’re not going to be able to see all the things at every destination because, in addition to being awe-inspiring and world-expanding and all-around wonderful, traveling can also be pretty tiring and emotionally draining. And sometimes you just need a few lazy days to recharge with your family… and My Little Pony.