Imagine this: hitting the road in a caravan with three small kids aged four, one and eight months, a kelpie and a labrador, and the knowledge that most people think you’re insane. Perhaps you are.
Imagine this: one year on the road with the above lot, tantrums in the red earth, meltdowns on the sand and recuperation in the salty sea, wildlife up close and personal and environmentally conscious choices that are indelibly linked to what it means to be a sustainable human. Can you see a pattern emerging?
Theresa Schlink explains: “It was our greatest achievement as a family. I loved how we connected with the Earth, and Ben and I loved watching our babies observe the ever-changing environment and wildlife while learning how to leave a lighter footprint behind. People said the kids were too small to remember such an adventure, but that’s not true. Just like learning manners when you are young, valuable life lessons stay with you for ever, and the realisation that their Earth needs to be looked after by them has affected them deeply. They understand that every living thing on this planet deserves respect. That trip was in 2016 when we had three children. We have four children now and are heading off again in July, but without our beautiful dogs this time as they have passed away.”
This Safety Beach family live a quiet life and that’s the way they like it. The simpler the better, says Theresa, who is proud to give her children the hands-on experience of learning how to look after their world now to ensure there will be one to look after later on. She continues: “We just figured the best way to teach our children about the environment was to show them. We want to grow eco-conscious kids and to create a new normal by encouraging them to speak up about their environment and step forward. They are the key to conservation and future sustainability. Our caravan is six years old now so it’s not the perfect eco-friendly set-up, but we do what we can. It has roof-mounted solar panels with extra portable panels for overcast days, plus two water tanks and a battery system. This can keep us self-sufficient for about a week when we go off the grid. We recycle and reuse as much as we can on the road and try to teach our kids that less is more. It’s about balance. If there’s one area where you use a little bit more of the resources available, then you cut back in other areas.”
Sanity is just a state of mind, right? Just like hooking up a caravan to a 4×4 with four kids in tow and getting ready to explore the great unknown may seem crazy to some, it seems like the ideal eco-learning solution to others. The Schlink family isn’t certain when they’ll be returning to the Peninsula but they are certain they’ll come home with more environmentally-conscious cogs turning. This time round they’ll be heading up the east coast first in their Caravan of Conservation and be doing environmentally-based incursions into pre-schools and primary schools and hopefully meeting like-minded eco-friendly people along the way. Kids and all.
Talk about sowing the seeds of sustainability through hands-on learning. Lessons on the environment are calling. Can you hear them?
Follow the Schlinks’ journey on Instagram @caravanofconservation