Seven Months On the Road in Australia
It has been seven months since we started this trip, and even though we’ve covered 12,000km I still feel like we’re just getting started. We have traveled from Newcastle to far north Queensland and back, then hugged the NSW south coast through to Victoria, across to Tassie, and up to Adelaide, which is where we are now.
I have so much I want to write about, but it’s piling up in my brain and I have to move forward. I have to write about what’s actually happening, and insert the other stuff when I can. (Like Tasmania. I HAVE to write about Tasmania.) We’ve been living out of a car and a tent for seven months, and even though we travel slow, life is still outpacing me.
A few months in, my mom asked me if I missed working. Although I’ve been doing some freelance copywriting, it is nothing like putting in hours at an office or even sticking to a regular schedule. But as I told her, I didn’t miss it because I hadn’t stopped to think about it yet.
The parts of my day that used to be automated are now taken up with logistics. If it suddenly gets chilly and I need a jumper, I first need to find that jumper. That means opening the access hatch under the bed, digging through my five packing cubes, pulling out the jumper, then putting everything back together.
Camp kitchens have been fantastic, especially since we’re usually the only ones using them. The grey nomads tend to travel with a full setup, so they cook in their caravans. But there’s a process for cooking in the kitchen, too: first we have to do some recon to find out what facilities there are. Is there an oven? Do we need to bring our own plates, pans, cutlery, dishwashing detergent?
Then we do our best to get everything from the campsite to the kitchen in one trip, but it is never one trip. We forget a spice, a fork, the olive oil, the chopping board. Now I start by standing in front of the open drawer in the back, mentally walking through what it requires to cook a certain meal, placing the items in a box for easy transfer from the car to the kitchen.
There’s the inevitable set up and break down of the tent, which I still abhor. It isn’t actually that complicated, but it takes time. We are obsessed with the weather, because it determines whether we erect the awning, add the walls, or put up the tarp. Set up and break down days are my least favorite, because when you take the tent down in the morning, you know you’re going to have to put it back up a few hours later.
But all of this, it’s worth it.
As a rule, we try to stay in a place for at least three nights. That’s long enough to settle in, so you don’t feel like you’re constantly messing with the tent. It’s also long enough to make it feel like a mini-holiday, which then reminds me that is my life now and that’s pretty amazing.
We try not to drive more than 3 hours in a day, particularly since Jared does all the driving. Long story short, I have never gotten comfortable driving the manual beast and it doesn’t look like I will anytime soon. So, short drives are critical, especially since our air conditioning is increasingly unreliable.
Of course, short drives aren’t always practical, specifically when driving through central Queensland. We spent days on the isolated Gregory Development Road, bracing ourselves when the road trains whipped past, enormous trucks that do not get out of the way for anyone or anything.
Someone told us a story of how they saw a caravan’s windows implode when a road train passed, due to the sheer suction of the wind tunnel it created. I was once again glad we have a camper trailer.
Roadkill was a standard sight on that road; one day we saw what we thought was a cow carcass stretched across the oncoming lane of traffic. As we drove past, it dawned on both of us what it was: a wild pig. The biggest, baddest, deadest pig I’ve ever seen.
So yeah, we have to consider things on a day-to-day basis that we didn’t before, back when we were working. We’re constantly figuring out where we’re going to sleep next, scanning for housesits, or scouring WikiCamps to find an ideal caravan park. We spent $40 on a Top Tourist Park membership, which gives us a 10% discount on stays. It has already paid for itself.
Despite all of this camping talk, we’ve actually spent more nights in houses than we have in tents.
Nights in a tent: 71
Nights in a house: 116
Nights in a campervan (Tasmania): 13
I was surprised at the statistics, but we have had four housesits and an incredible number of friends and families have opened their homes to us, so it makes sense. And then there was that whole deadbeats-stealing-our-camper thing, which slowed us down for a week or so.
Luckily, people are good, and we got a great deal on a demo model from the manufacturer of our original trailer. We are vigilant about locking it up, eliciting funny looks from our elderly neighbors at the campsites who want to know if we think they’re going to steal our trailer.
But our trailer has been zipped up since late December, and will be for another six weeks. We’ve had two housesits in Adelaide, and as of next week we’ll be renting a small apartment halfway between Glenelg and the city.
Part of the deal when we started this trip was that we were eventually going to have to work. Jared’s got a short-term contract at a nearby university and I’m hoping to pick up some temp work to balance my freelance commitments. The trip is a lot more fun when it doesn’t feel like someone’s poked a hole in your bank account.
And so here we are, in Adelaide, preparing to eventually cross the Nullabor into the wilds of Western Australia, where I will no doubt be dragged behind life as she races ahead while I try to match her speed.