A very dear friend called me the other day to tell me that her family had found the most perfect home in the same village that we live in. The pair of us were very excited, but, she said she wanted to know, truthfully, if the driving was too hard. Given the current economic climate and the cost of fuel and various unknowns ahead of all of us mortgage belters, it was a more appropriate question than the standard most commonly asked by friends when we first moved out here 3 years ago: “Isn’t the driving a problem?”
First, a reality check. Our nearest city, Canberra (the capital of Australia, BTW) is between 18 and 40 minutes away depending on the time you leave the house. In actual cities, this can be the time it takes to get to the next suburb. So straight away, it isn’t bad at all. But for the first, very hot summer we lived in Murrumbateman the trip from Canberra home seemed like an hour. The trip into Canberra never seemed as long, but returning home with tired kids and full bladders, it seemed a little difficult and there were a few times in that first month, where you would have seen a sweaty crazy woman gesticulating madly and pulling over, to cool down while she ordered her children to repeatedly drone the mantra “The car is a deadly weapon; the driver has the right to concentrate at all times…”
Take comfort: that didn’t last long.
Driving through the country side is a pleasure. Let me enumerate (I’m feeling all worded up today) the joys:
1. You can watch. You look out the window (yes, the one in front of you with the road in it) and notice things like the effect of the light on the landscape, the seasons change: from lambs gambolling and growing up, to the fields of flowers and colors of leaves. You will notice these (you VILL NOTICE!!) and I dare you not to feel a little closer to Mother Earth when you do.
2. You can capitalise on the time by listening to podcasts, writing blogs in your head, enjoying your music, organising your thoughts, rehearsing a speech or conversation that is a bit tricky.
3. The kid who says only a sentence to you a day is trapped with you, and for some strange reason, this lubricates the jaw some. What I’m saying is you can have some nice, unexpected conversations with your kids. I don’t know if it’s the fact that you have to keep your eyes on the road instead of searching their face like spotlights for signs of drug use, or they just think out loud, or perhaps they hate your music so bad, they’d rather talk over it – but a kid in the car is 5 times chattier than a teen in the house.
4. You can plan your day, or your evening ahead without the jolt of oh-shit-traffic-lights or is that little old lady going to walk out? Heck yes! You’re on softly curving country roads, you watch the traffic in front of you and you glimpse the sunset from time to time. And you think without the distraction of things coming at you from every corner.
5. You and your kids will very quickly appreciate travel time in general. Our kids don’t really ask “are we there yet?” cause they’ve figured out travel isn’t instantaneous…we’re there when we stop the car and get out.
6. Kids learn to amuse themselves in the car when the trip is too short for the DVD. Of course, sometimes it is because they’re playing ‘guess what roadkill that is’, but that’s life Baby.
7. On the trip home, this is a good time to unwind and leave your stresses in the city traffic.
8. With a hands free kit, this can be a great time to catch up with someone. Not so much for me, but SH likes to do this. He pretty much uses this as excuse to chat until he has driven up to our gate – so then he can casually say “Could you send one of the kids out to open the gate for me?” I think it’s mean.
9. To make the most of driving into the city, you become more organised. If one of the children has a birthday party or sport function to attend on the weekend, we figure out what shopping needs doing, who needs haircuts, what opshops are open, and if my parents are going to be home and whether there’s any cake at their house.
10. As soon as I post this I’ll think of a ten. In the meantime I hate the uneveness of having thought up only nine things, so …oh, I know! If you need an excuse to leave a meeting/social event/bad date/boring dinner party; or if the party has overtaken you and the drunks are no longer comprehensible you can, perfectly legitimately, say “I have to go, I have a long drive home ahead of me.” This sounds trite, but believe me, it’s valuable, used often and, well, true.
Now, I don’t know what the theories are for the amount of fuel used for long continuous driving as opposed to the start stop type stuff we do in the city, but the difference of 30 kilometres in 20 minutes versus 15 kilometres in 45 is a deal breaker for me. I like driving, but I like it less once I hit the city and believe me, my friend, the diriving is not a problem at all. It’s a pleasure. Now get your moving truck ready and get your bum out here!