· By Maria Nilsson
Always an Adventure
We all have those people in our lives that inspire us beyond measure, those whose view of the world constantly leaves you in awe and with the desire to try and become a better person.
For me one of these people is Siobhan, an old time friend who I met surfing The Pass nearly 10 years ago. With the life motto ‘Always an Adventure’ Siobhan has spent her days gallivanting around the world, no destination too far and no journey too daunting. Her passion and love for life is contagious, and the way she faces every adventure with such grace is forever inspiring.
With her Son River, Siobhan has just finished a two-year journey around Australia in an old Toyota Coaster named Ron. Leaving home in Byron Bay with a 3-year-old River at the beginning of 2017, the trip around Oz was so tasty that it was rude for Matt, Siobhan’s partner not to join them on the adventure and travel the West Coast together for 2018.
Lucky for us, Matt is an absolute wizard behind the lens. See below for some incredible photos he took along the way, really capturing the beauty of not only Australia’s fauna and flora, but Siobhan and River too.
After having a long catch up with Shevs over a video call where we got disconnected due to batteries on our devices running flat (we spoke for a very long time about life, recipes, books, love, plants, waves, social issues and pretty much everything in between), I received some messages from her of photos from the weekend where she, River and Matt had been kayaking and foraging for blackberries in their new backyard of the Southern Highlands. To me this summarised the essence of Siobhan, truly finding the joy and adventure in the day-to-day, and making the most of each moment- in every sense of the phrase.
She finished with ‘PS… I made the best blackberry crumble, I wish I could have a cuppa and some with you right now…’ See what I mean by one of the best people ever?!
This song might just summarises the essence of the trip
What was it that drove you to make the trip around Australia with River?
It has always been a life-long dream of mine to travel Australia, but I hadn’t necessarily planned to do it with a child. Once having River it really cemented the idea that it would be an amazing experience to share with a little human and the idea of ‘Seeing the world through the eyes of a child’ is a concept I really grabbed and ran with after having him. I could see how he would look at the world and really experience it again for myself. Everything is beautiful and innocent and that childlike wonder is so present – so I thought the earlier I could do this trip the better for him, for his life. I guess we will see in the future how it all pans out [LAUGHS] and if it has planted that seed inside of him.
I have met some kids who have done this kind of trip with their families and I’ve always thought they are pretty grounded and well rounded little humans because they’ve seen diversity and have had experiences at a young age. River has been able to spend time in Arnhem Land with indigenous kids, and in the outback hanging with country kids in home stays, and all the other people you meet in campgrounds and National parks – it is always pretty cool! Traveling around Australia has certainly always been something I’ve always wanted to do, and since having River it really made my dream come to life.
What do you think are some of the biggest lessons River has learnt being on the road?
Well River as a little one was really attached and super dependent, he would always have to be with me and wasn’t one of those babies that would be happy in anyone’s arms, but I feel like this trip has changed that in him. I just couldn’t be everything for him, especially at the beginning travelling as a single mum before Matt joined us. You know, like when I have to cook dinner or clean out and organise the bus or do the laundry he couldn’t just be clinging to me.
His confidence has certainly grown from the trip for sure! He isn’t one of those kids who holds onto my leg and is fearful in a new place or around new people. It is such a great thing! He is happy around anyone; he can run off and just be like “See ya mum!” He has also had to learn to be adaptable and well adjusted to new situations, daily.
He has had to learn to be patient too! We spend hours and hours driving in a car and being stuck in a seat. We don’t do screen time – so he can’t just sit there with an iPad or whatever, he has had to learn to entertain himself and look out the window and use his imagination and watch the world go by.
The independence he has had to just be free has certainly benefited him– our backyard has been Australia so he hasn’t been fenced in. He has been able to just get out and explore. I have been safely relaxed with him. I wanted for him to be able to go and explore and have freedom to follow anything that caught his eye and that wonder of what could be around the next corner. I let him explore as much as I thought was safe. He has learnt a lot, especially how to be safe in different environments, and I am lucky he is a pretty sensible little guy. As much as he is wild and free, he has this sensibility about him – I’m not sure where that comes from? [Laughs]
He just innately knows what is safe and what’s not, so I have been able to let the reins down a little and let him go a bit more. I have a lot of trust in him.
Where was one of the high lights? One of the best spots you guys got to hang out?
Hard to answer, because half the trip was just River and I and the other half once Matt joined we had different experiences again.
But I really loved Uluru, like surprisingly really loved it. I had heard about this magical energy that you feel when you get to the centre of Australia [Laughs], this certain energy, a certain feeling – but it is really true! I felt it! It caught me off guard, and I nearly felt like I had finished the trip! Like you know that feeling of I’ve done this – almost as if that was what the whole trip was about. It was just a place I felt so content at. That was defiantly a huge highlight for me. Obviously the rock itself is incredible, it is amazing, but the feeling you have when you arrive there is even more so.
Ah this question is hard. There are so many good places. Western Australia is amazing. It has everything. It has surf, incredible beaches, remoteness; it has old growth forests, national parks, and desert. I really loved WA.
Where were the best waves you surfed?
Probably on the East Coast to be honest. Angourie! Oh and Seal Rocks, we scored there.
I had some fun waves around Exmouth, and also some fun waves down around Denmark in WA, but the highlight for surfing in WA for me was Gnarloo and Red Bluff. It can be super scary but lucky for us it was smallish when we were there.
Back at the start of the trip we scored waves down in Victoria, like at the start of 2017 we got epic waves around Philip Island, Lorne and Anglesea.
What boards have you been traveling with?
I have my hull, long board, actually two long boards, a mid length, a foamie, two surf matts and a hand plane.
How many wetsuits?
1, 2, 3, 4… oh hang on… about 8 I think? Between the 3 of us! River has one from Lost in the Wild, Matt has a vest and a couple of steamers and I have my Atmosea gear and a steamer. Its pretty ridiculous!
Have there been one or a few scenarios that have been challenging while you have been on the road?
The constant movement can get tiring. The bus is our comfort zone, but you are never really anywhere for all that long. The joy of traveling is not being anywhere familiar, it is the unknown; but also at the same time it can be the challenging part of it as well. You might not know where you are, or where you are going, and where you are going to sleep, and where you are going to get food and where you can wash your clothes and where you are going to have a shower, and that day in day out can become exhausting. But then at the same time it is so exciting in the morning waking up and being like ‘I have no idea where we are going to end up today!’
Another challenge was having three different personalities in a small space, we had a child and two adults in the bus, and we all have our days. Some days someone might wake up on the wrong side of the bed and it is just hormones, or energetics, or you know, who knows. Sometimes it is tricky, you wake up feeling great and ready to face the day and then someone else might wake up in a bad mood, and then it is just trying to navigate that and please everyone everyday. That is hard.
We never had any dangerous or scary situations, and if I ever felt a little unsafe I was able to just get in the drivers seat and take us somewhere better. We never had anything stolen, we never got broken into and we were never harassed.
We did have some confronting encounters particularly in remote indigenous towns where we were the minority, but I kinda like that feeling. I like the feeling of not being the majority, feeling what it would feel like to be in someone else’s shoes. It is a little uncomfortable and it is so different to what we know.
What were some ways you kept a minimal environmental impact?
We shopped locally and at farmers markets and stopped at fruit and veg stalls on the side of the road. We just tried to support local growers. Oh we also foraged heaps! We foraged for mushrooms, we picked berries off the side of the road, we fished and Matt spearfished. We foraged for seaweed too! We were pickling seaweed, Matt is a bit of an alchemist when it comes to things like that! We learnt a lot on the road and from books about foraging and bush tucker, there is so much food out there! We just tried to live seasonally. It wasn’t possible all of the time but we tried.
Obviously we don’t really have power or anything so we don’t really use much electricity, and I guess we are so minimal with everything that we use, and being in a small space means we don’t have much room for unnecessary things.
Not eating out and not getting take away really cuts down on plastic waste. We didn’t really buy anything brand new, looking in op shops is one of my favourite things anyway and just basic things like we don’t use straws and we take our own bags to the shops.
What is the next adventure for you guys?
I’m pretty keen to go over seas again, maybe to a developing country. Especially with River, showing him some way more under privileged areas of the world. I think is important for kids to see that. And somewhere with consistently good waves so I could surf lots haha. Oh Gosh there are a hundred million places where I want to go! I would love to go back to Mexico I think.
Words by Molly Oneill