Life on the Road: Of Weddings and Engagements
While Aussie on the Road has been doing the ‘on the road’ thing since 2007, the end of 2017 saw Adventures Around Asia and I trading our pseudo-permanent base in Beijing for the nomadic existence.
For Richelle, it means an end to nearly five years living and working in China. For me, it’s the end of two years back in China.
With no set destination and a desire to be digital nomads who live and work on the road, I’ve decided to create this Life on the Road series to document the next step in our lives together.
Christmas in Australia
After our epic time hiking the Kumano Kodo Iseji in November, Richelle and I were well and truly excited for some downtime in sleepy Ben Lomond.
My folks have a gorgeous little hobby farm on the outskirts of the tiny little village, and the cottage they built a few years back was the perfect place for us to knuckle down and work on our sites and businesses.
(Oh, and play a shit tonne of Skyrim and Sims 4)
I’ve written before about why I love Christmas in Australia, and this year exemplified everything I adore about spending the holiday with my insanely big family. Seriously, there’s fifteen of us these days!
- Delicious food? Check!
- Plenty of excellent boutique beer in the fridge? Check!
- Board games and movie nights with my brothers? Check!
- A day of baking on Christmas Eve? Check!
- Carols at Christmas Eve Mass? Check!
- A mountain of presents under the tree? Check!
Richelle and I must have dropped around $2,000 on gifts for everybody, but we got some amazing gifts as well. Richelle got me a Nintendo 64 and a bunch of retro games, Dom got me some ‘sexy man candle’ cologne, Heather grabbed me a new Kindle case, Leigh indulged my nerdiness, and my folks sprang for a bunch of awesome travel swag and a private photography session with a local photographer.
There were the requisite socks, cans of Lynx deodorant, and mountains of candy too, of course!
All told, it was another epic Christmas for the books. The holiday was soured by one thing: the absence of my brother from another mother, Ben.
My foster brother, Ben passed away suddenly in October after a long and painful struggle with terminal illness. While we’d always known his time with us was finite, it was a devastating blow to the family (and my folks in particular) when he succumbed last October.
Christmas was always Benj-Bob’s favourite time of year, and this year’s holiday was a bit of a tribute to him.
We exchanged gifts in Ben’s name, sang carols over his grave in the local cemetery, and shared teary-eyed reminiscences over Christmas dinner.
Ben was a part of our family for eight years, and I don’t think Christmas will ever be quite the same without him.
New Year’s at Green Valley Farm
Hot on the heels of Christmas, my family decided to pay another visit to Australia’s strangest theme park, Green Valley Farm.
After spending a few days there in early 2017, we decided to make it our New Year’s destination this year. All fifteen of us made the pilgrimage out to the dusty little corner of Tingha, took over five cottages, and proceeded to have a merry old time.
Three days of water slides, delicious BBQs, Cards Against Humanity, and a much needed digital detox. It was just what we needed after two solid weeks of Christmas chaos and frantic writing.
New Year’s Eve saw the boys with glitter-painted beards, champagne popping, beers flowing, and everybody in high spirits. Glow sticks and sparklers kept the little kids entertained while the big kids played What Do You Meme? and Cards Against Humanity.
A Bellingen Escape
Mid-January saw Richelle and I in dire need of a wee break from the peace and quiet of Ben Lomond, so we packed up into Dad’s car and decided to head down to the Coffs Coast for a few days.
As luck would have it, one of my mother’s former students offered to put us up for a few days in the hippie town of Bellingen. We spent three laid back days enjoying beers and BBQ, browsing the famous Bellingen Community Markets, and catching up with old friends.
Of course, it wouldn’t have been a proper Aussie introduction for Richelle without some beach time, so we hit up Sawtell Beach.
Another highlight? Catching up with my old mate, Stu and his wife for seafood on the waterfront. I hadn’t seen the mad bastard since a friend’s wedding in 2014, so it was great to rekindle that old friendship.
I hadn’t been back to Coffs Harbour since my short-lived return to school, so it was nice to rekindle my love affair with the place and do a little scouting for… well, that’s a surprise.
Hitting the Road Again
Our six weeks in Ben Lomond passed all too soon, and we suddenly found ourselves trying to once again condense our lives into a single checked bag and carry on each.
We’d had a fantastic month and a half of backyard BBQs, day-long work sessions, and exploring my backyard by climbing The Brother and making the long walk to nearby Glencoe.
You always have so many plans when you come home after a long time on the road, but it seemed like we left with more undone than we had managed to achieve.
I’d not found time to paint some Warhammer miniatures or play my new Nintendo 64.
We hadn’t found time for a romantic dinner in Glen Innes or a day hiking in one of the nearby national parks, nor had we managed to get the hammocks out and do a little lazy reading.
Still, it was great to be home again, and we’re already looking forward to getting back this October.
Old Friends in Sydney
The first stop on our big trip would be my former stomping grounds in Sydney.
My oldest friend, Magro and his wife were kind enough to put us up for a few days as we played tourist in the city.
We made the obligatory stops at places like the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Manly Beach, caught up with a lot of old friends, and hemorrhaged money like it was going out of style.
Seriously, I forgot how f***ing expensive Sydney can be!
The Official Farewell
Every time I leave Australia (and that’s happened 7-8 times now), I like to do a little shindig before setting off. It can be hard as hell to meet up with everybody who you want to see in a limited time frame, so these gatherings have become something of a tradition.
After learning that Magro and Byron don’t actually like Korean BBQ (my usual go to) and having already met up with a long lost friend at Hart’s Pub, we decided to instead do something a little different by heading over to Manly and enjoying the beer and Sunday roast at 4 Pines Brewery.
It was a great afternoon out with old friends and blogging friends (shout out to the ladies from The Freedom Travelers for making it out), and Richelle and I even managed to sneak away for a romantic kiss and cuddle down on the very crowded Manly beach.
Wine in the Hunter Valley
Before we bid farewell to Australian soil for another indeterminate amount of time, we were lucky enough to pair up with Tastes of the Hunter Wine Tours for a day trip to the beautiful Hunter Valley.
Ever since I lost my wine virginity back in 2014, I’ve had a growing love affair with all things grape. Richelle, being a die-hard wine drinker, has been slowly but surely indoctrinating me into her Cult of Red Wine too.
We had a great time on the tour, but you can read all about that here.
Viva Las Vegas
Our first stop in the US would be Las Vegas. While I’ve been twice before and Richelle had been as a kid, we were both pretty excited to explore Sin City together.
As luck would have it, my Mum and my brother-in-law would also be there for separate conventions, so it was a bit of a family affair.
Staying at Bally’s, we didn’t do a lot of gambling or drinking.
Instead, we went and saw two shows (Vegas! The Show and Zumanity), ate a lot of delicious food, caught some Pokemon in Pokemon Go, and wandered about showing my Mum places like Fremont Street, the Container Park, and The Strip.
I’ve written before out how to enjoy Vegas without drinking or gambling, and we once again had a great time without a single hangover or massive gambling loss.
Our Slice of California Paradise
After the hustle and bustle of Vegas, we traded the lights and noise for the quiet of Southern California.
Richelle’s folks hail from Seattle but spend their winters down here in Southern California where 60F is a cold day.
We’ve definitely loved having a quiet little spice of paradise to use as our base for a few weeks while we work, get back into running, and try to eat a little healthier.
Seriously, Vegas did a number on our waistlines!
It’s also been great to get to better know Richelle’s parents over a glass of wine or a delicious home-cooked meal.
Valentine’s Day in Temecula (and a big question)
Valentine’s Day saw Richelle, her parents, and I heading out to Temecula Wine Country for a bit of a romantic escape.
Richelle’s folks had been kind enough to treat us to a night in a gorgeous little B&B and a delicious dinner at Wilson Creek Winery as a ‘thank you’ for us playing tour guide during their visit to China last year. Thanks, John and Nicole!
After a day of wine tasting, I invited Richelle out for a walk to ‘take photos of the sunset’.
Sadly, the sun was almost all of the way down by the time I got her alone, which meant she was more than a little suspicious of my motives.
Still, I offered her my coat when it got cold and asked her to pass me my phone from the pocket. There was no phone – just a ring.
I got down on bended knee, said a bunch of things I can no longer remember due to nerves, and made it official.
Richelle and I are getting married!
Not so surprising
While Richelle didn’t know the when and where of when I’d propose, we both knew it was coming.
Ever since our anniversary last October, we’ve been talking on and off about our hypothetical wedding. Where we’d tie the knot, where we’d eventually live etc.
During our visit to Bellingen in January, we’d even started scouting out potential venues. I’d asked Richelle’s folks for permission and she’d helped pick out a few rings she might like.
In fact, in the two weeks since we’ve been engaged, we’ve already arranged the venue, printed save the dates, and started work on our wedding website!
I’ll let Richelle tell the story of our relationship, but suffice it to say, this feels like the most natural, stress-free thing I’ve ever done.
A Wedding in Atlanta
Not our wedding, don’t worry! That’s a way off yet!
February finished with Richelle and I flying to Atlanta, Georgia for her sorority sister, Caroline’s big day.
It was a unique experience for me being a +1, as I’ve never done that before. It was also a good chance for both of us to put on our wedding planner hats and steal ideas.
We’ll definitely be doing a pre-wedding brewery night and a first look after seeing how awesome they were at Caroline & Seth’s wedding.
It was also a fun experience to meet and interact with some of Richelle’s oldest friends. While I’d hung out with Breanna and Sarah before when they visited us in China, spending a few nights drinking and late night binge-eating with the girls was a really fun experience.
Meeting Richelle’s sorority sisters and their partners was also a lot of fun. I found a few kindred spirits when it came to avoiding the dancefloor, although 5 or 6 Canadian Club and Cokes saw me out there busting a move by night’s end.
An Epic Two Months
As you can see, January and February were hectic and wonderful for me.
While I did have to endure having a tooth pulled and all of this travel ate into my savings like you wouldn’t believe, it’s hard to knock a time in your life where you get engaged, enjoy time with your family, make new friends, see old friends, and travel to such fantastic places.
How has 2018 been for you so far? What have been the highlights and lowlights of the first few months of the year?
If you’re engaged or married, what’s the story of your proposal?
Have you been anywhere exciting so far?
If you have any questions about Temecula Wine Country, Bellingen, Las Vegas, Atlanta, or Sydney – don’t hesitate to let me know in a comment below. I’m regularly checking comments and will always reply.