Think the pandemic put your adventures on pause? Think again.

‘I’ve found the one.’ I excitedly told my boyfriend over a FaceTime dinner on a wet Tuesday in June. ‘It’s a low km Toyota, already fitted out with a full solar system, and totally within our price range.’

‘That’s sick!’ He rejoiced. ‘All things going well, I’ll be back in Melbourne in 2 months and we’ll be out on the road.’

It had been 7 months since he had left for Europe in pursuit of a masters degree. We had originally planned only 4 months of long-distance, but COVID-19 had other plans before I could join him over there. With Europe struggling to manage its third wave of the outbreak and the likelihood of my visit diminishing, we decided to wait for his return and pursue Plan B — Embrace #Vanlife and travel around Australia.

She’ll be right — We told ourselves.

Let the journey begin

A month out, things were starting to come together, he had been able to book a flight home, we had purchased a 2004 Toyota Hiace van, named her Yuki (Japanese for happiness) and the State borders were open. Then bad weather started to brew.

As July rolled into August and daily case numbers on Australia’s east coast rose, things were intensifying quickly. The likelihood of our van trip quickly slipped away and a new reality settled upon us — this trip wasn’t going to happen, so now what?

We went back to the drawing board. Not just because backup plans are always a good idea, but to reorientate to our true north and figure out our true reason for the trip. Was it to escape our corporate city lives? To hide from the commotion of COVID-19 and seek solace from relentless pandemic pandemonium in the news cycle? Or was it to reconnect, rediscover and redefine ourselves as we entered a new phase in our lives?

Honestly, I wasn’t sure. The whole situation had me in complete emotional disorientation. On the one hand, celebrating the return of my boyfriend after 9 months, on the other managing the disappointment of a cancelled trip.

Although I couldn’t put it into words, I knew our hearts longed for the coast. To slip away from the city and retreat to the surf. Within days of my boyfriend’s return, we had found a rental property, got the moving permits sorted and were heading down the coast in Yuki.

Welcome to the Surf Coast — Have a nice day!

Always take the scenic route

As we rounded the bend into Anglesea and spotted the caramel-coloured cliffs we immediately noticed the stillness of the town. Far different from its usual bustle of holidaymakers taking advantage of the natural adventure playground. The boardwalks were bare and only the birds could be heard chirping harmonically. I wonder if the birds knew they were in lockdown?

We pulled up to the house, a shabby surf shack nestled into the heathlands. Usually a holiday rental, now our home for the next few months. Over the coming days, we set about exploring the neighbourhood and falling into the flow of the day.

We rose to the Kookaburras at dawn and ate brekkie with the galahs. We had lunch with magpies and king parrots joined us in the arvo. Around dusk, we spotted the grey kangaroos and crossed paths with our housemates, a couple of freeloading ringtail possums who were living rent-free on the roof.

Our micro-adventures took us down to the beach, where we scaled the cliffs to explore the rock pools at low tide, dipped our toes in the icy ocean and scouted for unique shells washed up onto the berm of the shoreline.

Adventure is a state of mind

If you’ve ever spent some time in a quiet place with no real distractions, you’ll know how cathartic it can be to slow down and notice the little things. Our days exploring the coast reminded me of a recently watched animation by the School of life on the importance of being grateful for the little things.

“A standard habit of mind is to take careful note of what’s not right in our lives and obsess about all that’s missing.”

Instead of focusing on what’s not going right, like rainy weather or you know, the pandemic, the animation suggests ‘taking a moment to pause, to give yourself the opportunity to notice, acknowledge, and feel grateful for the things in your life that have not gone wrong.’

In a bid to cast out the demons of what could have been and instead focus on gratitude, here’s my list:

  • Being in nature and by the beach
  • Getting a tonne of sun on my face
  • Making a fire on the woodstove and cooking dinner with my boyfriend

The big lesson in all of this

The truth is: adventure is what you make of it. It’s the sense of experience and wonder in noticing the little things, cultivating a greater sense of self, and reconnecting to nature.

If you’ve felt the bitter yet unsurprising disappointment of suddenly cancelled plans this year, may I suggest making your own list of little things? What are you grateful for? What type of micro-adventures are you still able to do? How can you weather the storm until we can all hit the road again?

Exploring all things sustainability and enjoying life’s adventures along the way!