Week 39

Self-sufficiency tips

Traveling on a small budget

I’ve just spent eight days in Gladstone visiting family and friends.  Whilst planning this holiday I had to ask myself – how can I travel safely (no hitching) on a small budget and have an enjoyable albeit inexpensive holiday with family and friends?   I’ve just arrived back so I can fill you in on how I went:

Travel: Gladstone is nine hours north of my home.  A neighbour of mine, Dennis, travels all the way to Gin Gin (two hours south of Gladstone) for work so that I planned out my travel dates so that I could join him for the drive up to Gin Gin.  Fortunately, I had my mum, sister and nephew all wanting to drive down to Gin Gin and collect me. The incentive for collecting me from Gin Gin was two hours of quality one-on-one time with me in the car.  I come from a family of talkers and anyone who knows us will tell you that when we are together everyone talks all at once.   My nephew, Coop, won the battle and insisted that he pick me up.   Despite the distance, Coop and I regularly talk and joke with each other on the phone so we have a strong connection.  I have to thank the humble landline for that. Messaging doesn’t cut the mustard. 

So, in terms of money, it was a cheap trip up to Gladstone – I insisted on giving $20 petrol money to Dennis and $20 to Cooper, so the whole trip up cost me $40.  I travelled back by conventional transport – plane and bus.

Activities: how do you have an enjoyable time on a tight budget?  Believe it or not, there are lots of enjoyable activities that allowed us to have meaningful and enjoyable time together for a minimal cost:  I walked my sister’s dogs with her, had a go at seniors Thai Chi with my mum, watched a series on Netflix with my niece and sister (whilst eating ice-cream from the supermarket), did basket weaving and op shopping with my other niece, listened to some of my younger nephews music with him, and I had a homemade cocktail night – drinking Blue Lagoons –  with one of my oldest and dearest friends, Shaz.  My dad, who past away 5 years ago loved to whip up cocktails in the late afternoons and there are still a bunch of bottles at mum’s place that haven’t been touched for years so mum suggested I take some of them to Sharon’s.  Most of my time in Gladstone was spent chatting overt a cup of tea,  You don’t need to go to a cafe, when you can sit around the kitchen table and have a meaningful conversation.  I can remember (back in the day) when I first encountered the cafe culture, after I left home and moved to Rockhampton.  An uni friend asked me if I wanted to go to a cafe. and I remember thinking “why would we to go out and pay for a cup of tea when we can drink as much as we like at home virtually for free?”  We had a wide set of front steps at our share house and we used to sit on them to chat and drink tea for hours so I couldn’t see any attraction to sitting in a cramped room with a bunch of strangers.

Eating is another great way to spend time with family.  I’m a bit of a foodie, so I cherished the meals that we enjoyed together in Gladstone.  To show my family how much I appreciated the visit, I cooked a french themed meal one night for my mum and my sister’s family:  first course – Escargots a la Bourguignonne -this is a French snail recipe where the snails are cooked in butter, garlic, parsley, shallot, white wine and nutmeg.  Second course –  Coq au Vin – chicken in red wine sauce.  The meals were delicious, my mum, sister and I have loved snails ever since my dad came back from Spain and started cooking them regularly in 1981.  My dismayed niece and unadventurous nephews refrained from trying them.  That sat in wide eyed silence as they watched us shovelling the mouthwateringly delicious snails into our mouths.

Of course, both dishes were perfect because I was able to follow the recipe exactly and use the precise quantities that the recipe demanded.  When we’re cooking on the farm we often improvise with ingredients to suit what we have grown and the quantities vary according to how much we have and what we want to use up – this, in turn, impacts on the cooking times because sometimes we make a bigger or smaller meal.  I like this sort of cooking because every meal is different – which often leads to a splendid feast but sometimes can lead to a meal that is tough or lacks flavour.  That doesn’t bother us too much because perfection is a myth and sometimes it’s important to eat for health and not just for taste.

Apart from the myriad activities which we did for very little cost, we also went to a restaurant for my birthday –  my lovely mother insisted on paying the whole bill for everyone present- all of us being her children and grandchildren.   Also, my mum, sister and I went to the cinema and watched an charming movie called Ladies in Black, set in the fifties with a lot of attention paid the wonderful costuming and setting. The story, set in Sydney, dealt with the complicated relationship between unsophisticated, down to earth Aussies and the sophisticated European refugees, who fled from Paris and all over Europe following the devastation of WW2.  It’s a wonderfully kindhearted and respectful movie that inverts contemporary ideas about refugees.  Lately, I’ve seen a few movies that try too hard to be politically correct which unfortunately leads to a slightly contrived story – Ladies in Black did not have this problem.



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