In July this year, Justin and Lauren Jones set off across the desert on a 1,800 kilometre hike. The trek took them across the very centre of the Australian Outback, and lasted more than a hundred long days. The terrain was extreme. The walk was gruelling.
Oh, and they took their toddler with them.
Let’s start with the big question first: why (oh why) would anyone sign up for that?
“We did it because that first year was just so hard… and if it’s hard in a house, we might as well go for the big thing, because none of it’s easy.”
More importantly? “We really wanted to raise a resilient, nature-loving kid, and that’s really hard to do from an apartment,” Lauren says. “[We wanted] to see her running and thriving, hugging trees, saying hi to emus, knowing fire.”
LISTEN: The Jonesys talk about their adventures on Mamamia’s podcast about family life.
Aside from the obvious logistical issues (like how to cart all of a toddler’s paraphernalia cross-country for a month and a half, and how to warm up a bottle without a microwave), the Jonesys also had to worry about the dangers of the Outback for a little explorer.
“It was that fine balance between letting her explore and roam, and making sure she was also safe,” Lauren says.
“The dingos were something that really concerned us, because something the size of Morgan is very much in their prey size… and they sometimes can kill for pleasure,” Justin says.
As for snakes and spiders, the parents were always on the lookout, describing the way they would “pre-scan” everywhere Morgan walked to check the coast was clear.
Of course, the challenges of parenting a young child don't subside just because you aren't at home. At one point on the trip, Morgan began teething, with four molars coming through at once (ouch). Like a lot of new parents, Justin and Lauren weren't getting much sleep. Unlike most parents, though, they had to wake up and pack up their entire camp every morning, preparing to drag all their belongings in two carts behind them: Lauren dragging Morgan and all her things behind her, and Justin sometimes carrying up to 270 kilos (including 140 litres of water).
And as for the challenge of, er, baby waste disposal? Lauren and Justin used disposable, compostable diapers that they burned ceremoniously every night. Away from the tent.
After 102 days of expedition, the Jones family is finally back in "civilisation". They've showered, slept in a real bed, and let Morgan experience a whole new terrain - the inside of a hotel room.
And like most parents, they admit they're not exactly sure what's next.
"We don't know what we're doing," Justin says.
"But nobody does," adds Lauren.
Listen to the full episode below.