“Wow. Who lives here?”
Close the door behind you and exhale.
It’s beautiful. It’s big. It’s exactly where it said it was. It’s clean.
“We do, kids, we do.”
So began our mini-break adventure at that most wonderful of things – someone else’s house.
Not mine. It’s not my house with its endless scurry of tidy-up, wipe, stock, sweep, cook, clean, collapse. Not my house with its discarded school bags and sticky hand prints, its impressive collection of bottomless washing baskets and the constant soundtrack of a ticking schedule that we are somehow, always, always running behind.
No. This is someone else's house. On a beautiful beach in a beautiful corner of the state. It's full of just everything we need and nothing else, no more. The bedding is pristine and fluffy, the bathroom is sparkling. The lounges are plumped with cushions. Thoughtful throws beckon tired knees. There's a bottle of something fizzy in the fridge. And I didn't do any of it.
This is an Airbnb. I KNOW. You thought that Airbnbs were for millennials visiting their web-designer cousin who moved to Brooklyn last year. Nope.
As anyone who's ever
had to chosen to travel with little children can tell you, sometimes, it just isn't worth it. It's less of a holiday, more of a relocation. And if that relocation comes with the limited joys of a small hotel room where you have to sit watching TV with your headphones in and drinking wine out of tooth mugs while the kids sleep six feet away (don't judge, we've all been there), then you'll know that really, you might as well not make the trek.
But. If you get to spend a weekend staying in someone else's gorgeous beach house, with a deck, a garden, a creek and enough room for everyone involved to stay sane, even to lounge around watching movies if the weather takes a turn? Well, that's worthy of the term 'mini-break'.
And that's how our small family found itself at Nel's house in Pearl Beach, about two hours north of Sydney, last Friday night. We'd found Nel's after a happy half-hour house-shopping. Scrolling through Airbnb is the kind of real-estate porn that doesn't make you feel hopeless when you close your browser. Of course, it's a little like Goldilocks' porridge - this one's too big, too small, too fancy (I have children), this one's too far. But when you find your 'just right', as we did with Nel's, the search is over and the swiping can stop.
Nel and I never met face-to-face, but to my mind, we were fast friends by the time my two kids, my partner Brent and I turned up at her door. She had sent me thoughtful information about shopping in Pearl Beach (there isn't much, but you could get a Woolies delivery to drop off on Friday night), where to eat (there's one really fancy restaurant, Nel told me, 'and if you want to go I know a good babysitter') and how close to the beach the house was (about 3 minutes walk around the corner, the kids timed it).
It all proved to be very good intel, although we decided against the fancy restaurant (Pearls On The Beach, FYI). We had one objective only - to relax as a family. Putting on a fancy frock wasn't part of the plan. In fact, if I could avoid wearing shoes for 48 hours, I was going for it.
I don't know if you've noticed (but it's April already and Christmas was only a week ago, so I think you might have), but life is really, really busy right now. There's a whole lot of work going on, and it doesn't stop when you walk out of the office. There's traffic and there's housework and there's homework and there's the gym. There's news, and fake news, and Donald Trump. There are the catch-ups with friends and date nights and taking-Johnny-to-soccer three times a week and there's Mum's birthday and Jessie's baby shower and 25 million other things that you've forgotten to RSVP to.
But in Pearl Beach, we pushed all that away. Right over the deck and into the impossibly green garden (only kidding, Nel, we wouldn't really litter your lovely place). At our Pearl Beach Airbnb, we did a glorious version of nothing.
We played board games, like families do on the TV. We went for evening walks to look for wildlife. We swam at the beach and padded back barefoot, leaving a trickle of sand wherever we went. We had lunch at the cafe and watched the little people making friends over in the playground while we did. We did a jigsaw puzzle. The children played explorer in the backyard creek in their pyjamas. We saw 10 different kinds of kookaburra, and the kids sang at every one. We cooked meat on the barbecue and scoffed it with salad on the deck. We watched a family movie with popcorn. We watched grown-up movies with wine. I wrote on the balcony, looking at the trees. I had a BATH, people.
Yes, at our Pearl Beach Airbnb we were such better humans we were almost Danish. Our family had space to do whatever we liked, and mostly that was nothing at all.
Now we're back in the big smoke, and I'm fighting the urge to return on the scroll, plotting whose house we can go and try on for the next long weekend. But I won't fight it for long.
"Wow, who lives here?"
"For the next few nights kids, we do."
Where is your fave family weekend destination?
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