“Look at the view! Look at the beach!” we demanded, but they were more excited about finding a big stick.

In two days we’ll board the first of four planes to return us to Idaho. We’ll come home tired, tan, grateful, and with a nice little chunk of debt to whittle down over the next few months. This is debt I’m happy to have and which was worth it all the while.

We’ve traveled by plane, car, bike, boat, and camper van, visiting dozens of cities and staying in hotels, houses, apartments, cabins, a ship’s berth, and, of course, camper van. My aversion to sand has not deterred my husband from seeking out pristine, picturesque beaches along the east coast of mainland Australia and throughout Tasmania. Every beach we found was both pristine and picturesque.

This is the land of little pies (shepherd’s, mince, curried scallop) and enormous bacon (meriting the word slab over strip). We’ve had disappointing meals in highly touted restaurants, fantastic food from a Fish Van, and more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches than a third-grader.

Fish Van, Triabunna

The most adorable thing about Tasmania has been their teeny tiny police stations. These are similar in size to the Fish Van.

The second most uncomfortable experience in Tasmania was willfully entering the solitary confinement cell at Port Arthur’s “Separate Prison” where no light or sound can reach you. I was hit with the enormity of how inhumane humans can be. I lasted thirty seconds. This experience was the most uncomfortable until we visited MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) and I had to shield my kids from a picture of a large penis ejaculating onto a leaf of lettuce, then explain an endless wall of plaster casts of vaginas. Oh, glorious art! How you made me long for the solitary confinement cell!

I thought the wombat would steal my heart, but it’s the echidna I’ll struggle to leave. Its appeal lies in the fact that though quilled, it still manages to appear cuddly. When scared, it doesn’t bare its teeth but hunkers down into a ball to wait for calm. I like that.

I nearly caused a traffic accident over this guy. Sorry, angry driver. Echidnas make me weak. 

Today is my husband’s birthday. This morning the girls sang to him and handed over an odd assortment of presents (cashews, pen, coffee mug) purchased yesterday at the ferry gift shop during our return to Melbourne from Tasmania. Like Christmas and Thanksgiving, we celebrate today in unique, ragtag, and unexpected means.

In two days we’ll leave the roundabouts and wallabies, amazing trees and wild cockatoos, markets for which the word market is wholly inadequate (Eumundi in Queensland, Salamanca in Hobart, Queen Vic in Melbourne). We’ll return to things we’ve missed: friends, community, ice machines, and garbage disposals. And yes, my countdown to returning to the States has been secondary to my countdown to when the children return to school.

We’ve abused the word home during this trip. Right now it means a hotel room on the 13th floor. A week ago it was an odd, dated, but comfortable home on the Tasman peninsula where all of the door handles were placed inexplicably high, as if to prohibit the movement of small children from room to room. 

The only time we don’t call our accommodations home is when they are so atrocious as to insult the very concept of home (I’m looking at you, Great Southern Hotel Melbourne). But otherwise, all of the sentimental sayings of what home is are true. Home is where the heart is. Home is wherever I’m with you. It’s all true. But we’ve been temporarily placed for so long now that we’re elated to return to our familiar home, where we’ll have friends and neighbors and a garbage disposal and coffee maker and the children can open doors all by themselves. 

Displacement has been wonderful, but returning home will be divine.

“The more one does and sees and feels, the more one is able to do, and the more genuine may be one’s appreciation of fundamental things like home, and love, and understanding companionship.” 

-Amelia Earhart