It's been quiet here on AM Notes but the below will paint the picture as to why.
Happy reading and cheers to whatever adventure(s)– big and small, near and far– you and yours get up to this year.
Nearly three weeks ago, we were whiplashing through plans and airplanes from Raleigh to Los Angeles, trying to make the long haul connecting flight to New Zealand to Australia. A delay on plane number one of five turned into a two-night layover in LA, and six flights total. As hectic as it all was, we had prepared for this scenario (literally drafting up plan B's the night before we left our Raleigh condo), so it all came down to execution and going with the flow. The delay and layover turned out to be a gift because we got to spend a beautiful evening with my mom, sister, and nieces. The unplanned reunion, and rest between major travel days, felt so good and necessary that I picture my maternal grandma, and her squad of angels, feeling pretty satisfied with their orchestration.
Today we are in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia, settling into a countryside rental nestled between rolling hills populated by small private vineyards, fruit orchards, and eucalyptus trees. We share the property with a resident Koala that our eldest daughter, Hazel, promptly named Bramblehop. We share the rustic house with creepy crawly things, but they've seemed to adjust to us as much as we have to them. It's been a rainy day, and for the first time in weeks, there's been a calm and slowness in our household.
We cooked pancakes, bacon, and popped open a container of leftover fruit from yesterday's poolside picnic. Post-breakfast, Joe caught a grasshopper while checking on the water tank outside, and it prompted the girls and me to put on our wellies and raincoats to join him in stomping around the property, or paddock, as they say here. The girls were all-in on wading through tall grass as raindrops plopped on our jackets and our pj pants got soaking wet. Hazel gently caught a few bright green grasshoppers that hopped into plain sight, revealing their incredibly designed camouflage form. A few finger-length black slug discoveries later, we found Bramblehop hugging a different tree than the day before, curled up, sleepy as ever, and looking adorably wet.
Our nature walk was the kind of home activity we'd dreamed of for a good while. Not necessarily the resident koala part (which is very cool indeed) but simply being able to say "hey kids, let's get outside" and then actually be outside.
Until three weeks ago, Joe and I had lived in downtown and city-center apartments and condos for thirteen years without even a private balcony to step onto. Stepping "outside of our door" consisted of communal hallways that led to elevators that led to city streets. Urban living suited us well for a very long time, for many different reasons, but as Hazel got older and Nicola joined our family, we started imagining our home-life beyond closed-in walls and shared public spaces.
And here we are now, just one door away from stepping immediately outside(!)
Our collection of present moments is one and a half years in the making. I've cried out of joy twice so far: first when we stepped out of the airplane in Adelaide and second when we stepped onto the beach for the first time. So many choices and actions led to those happy tears. Step by step. (The third I cried was out of stress and PMS when printing a bank document at the city library proved to be a bigger ordeal than my emotions and energy were ready for–but that's a story for another day).
Our decision to seek a new kind of home-life drew us to a country that Joe and I have always wanted to come back to and call home. We weren't interested in major metropolitan areas, so Sydney and Melbourne were off our list. We wanted a more affordable place than fashionable, so out went Brisbane and other cities on the East Coast.
That's when Joe spotted Adelaide, South Australia, on the Economist's list of the most livable cities in the world (neither of us had ever heard of Adelaide before). He sent me a text with a link to the list while I was working at the store, I looked Adelaide up immediately, and thirty seconds or so later, it was an immediate "YES". It was a yes for the both of us–that's where we'd go.
We knew what we were looking for, and on paper, Adelaide, and South Australia, checked off all of the boxes: family-friendly, plentiful public beaches, a dynamic cultural city-center, agricultural hills (the areas is considered Australia's food bowl with a renowned wine region), and an international airport all within arms reach. Not to mention a climate that is indoor/outdoor lifestyle-friendly for stepping outside of our home a lot. Having previously spent time in Australia, we could anticipate what it would be and feel like living here. The decision to move was the easy part.
Joe and I have moved internationally twice before, so the considerations and logistics involved were simply a series of checklists (though some weren't as simple as we would have hoped). Our approach is pragmatic, and we trust our track record of taking on new adventures that take us out of our comfort zones, knowing that we'll come out alright, if not better than before. However, we've never done this during a global pandemic, and this was our first go at it with kids in tow. It's been a much different experience than previous pursuits.
Pre-pandemic, buying plane tickets and getting paperwork was straightforward, predictable, and fairly reliable. New pandemic patchworks made traveling in the past look like one giant easy button. For example:
We purchased plane tickets six months out on speculation (on the airline's part, too).
Joe had infinitely more paperwork to complete as the only non-Australian citizen in the family due to pandemic restrictions (I was born in Australia, and the girls were granted citizenship by descent).
We diligently tracked the news in Australia for a year and a half in hopes that their intense 14-day government-assigned hotel quarantine would lift by the time we traveled.
And last but not least, taking COVID-19 tests as required for flights and arrival; between time lapses in results, and one shady test provider, each of us ended up taking four tests within one week.
Thankfully, arriving in Australia was a breeze compared to what we were prepared for; we barely had to bring out the stack of documents we had printed to show upon request. Strict quarantines were lifted on January 1st, making our overall arrival easier and more comfortable. I spent an entire year praying and journaling that we travel comfortably, safely, easily, and in good health; all were delivered.
What a crazy time to move your family across the world.
Pre-parenthood, moving was a whole lot easier, too. Time and energy were our own and we'd plow through our to-do's quickly and efficiently. New banking, grocery stores, new household chores, odds and ends...check check check. We'd even have the space, time, and energy to enjoy a nice dinner and drink to unwind and talk more about our plans. But we are deep into parenthood. From getting new mobile plans, driver's licenses, car shopping/buying, and grocery hauls, Joe and I have to divide, conquer, pivot, and plan accordingly. Not unlike every day in parent-land, but when doing it all in a new place without routine go-to's and resources (and babysitters), you have to research it all anew and make it up as you go. There have been some frustrating and exhausting moments for sure, but wow is it all worth it when you see your kids' world expand through their own eyes and hear the stories they begin to tell.
While relaxing pub talks haven't happened yet, we are grateful for and enthusiastic about the opportunity to take this new journey as a family of four. The girls are already thriving in small ways despite all of the transition: no longer fearing bugs, delighting in seeing and doing things from our favorite family show, Bluey, and recognizing that other places in the world have cool things, too (like playgrounds that are "cooler than the parks in Raleigh" according to Hazel). It's all relative, sure, but it's a new reality for them, and it's an exciting one for all of us.
This morning before everyone woke up and after journaling, I sat in the living area to read one of my favorite magazines, Breathe (I'm telling you, it was a rare and extra calm day). I paused to look up and saw a bright rainbow arching out of the tree-lined hill across the house. I jumped up to see if the girls were up—they were—and quickly rolled up their window shade to show them the view. WOW. Smiles. Morning magic.
Before this view from home, we spent seven years looking at concrete from our window—the most prominent concrete blocks were the Wake County Courthouse and the city jail behind it. If we wanted to see the moon, we had to wait for just the right time of night or early morning and nearly break our necks looking out the window. Sunsets and sunrises were also hard to see—we got glimpses of them as reflections from adjacent glass-covered high-rise buildings when not standing in just the right spot by the window to see the color of the sky between or above buildings. Forget about ever seeing rainbows.
Concrete views are a standard part of an urban experience, and as I said, a downtown setting created a perfect home for us for many years. Until it didn't.
What feels like a perfect fit now is seeing trees, grass, and birds outside of our windows and knowing that unless it's cloudy, I'll feel sunlight on my face while I sit with my morning cup of tea. With this feeling and connection to nature, this kind of place has been the goal. And yet we have more work to do and more choices to make.
This current home isn't our long-term home; it's our home base for exploring the Adelaide Hills to discover where we'd like to hang our hat for a long while. A house with enough indoor and outdoor space for dogs to run around (Hazel has been asking for them since she was two years old), chickens, a workshop for Joe (talk about long-term dreams), and dedicated office space for me. If we can get a setting like our current one with wide-open spaces, even better.
We're all eager to find our new home and start living the way we've been scheming up in our minds but here we are now, in this little valley where grasshoppers hop, birds sing, koalas hang, and rainbows appear front and center. This is home, right now, and the journey to get here was just the beginning.
Here are some pics from all of the above <3
PS. the day after I wrote this AM Notes we did have our pub dinner and drink! Thank you, Uraidla Hotel, for the onsite playground and overall setting that gives parents a chance 🙌