Buying Freedom

The Cost to Travel around Australia in a Caravan


It’s a bit cliche but TIME waits for no one. And it’s sneaky. When your busy not paying attention it passes by so quickly. One day you realise that there’s only a finite amount of it left.

And there’s so many things on your bucket list left to do.

Number one on our list is a big one – travel Australia in a caravan. A whole year of really living life – hiking, exploring, beach combing in new places instead of just being busy ‘making a living’. Or just existing to pay our bills.

If like us, you are still of working age, the concept of giving up your source of income for a lengthy period to idly circumnavigate Australia is fraught with complexity.
I won’t deny that there are many competing emotions. There is the occasional battle between head and heart. Our minds are so traitorous, so good at destroying what the heart wants.

But we have taken a leap of faith because here we are. On the cusp. In a few short weeks we hit the road.

So what is it costing us to buy complete freedom to travel around Australia for an extended time frame? How much did we have to save?

Firstly, we are completely debt free with very few expenses. It’s a great feeling of freedom and it’s much easier to save money when a big portion is not going to bills and loans.

There’s only three necessities for life on the road. A vehicle, a home and money to spend. It’s that simple.

We had the car already, our trusty Landcruiser ute, so that was easy but we purchased a caravan within our means and saved cash dollars enough to last the length of time we envision.

We know we need $900 per week minimum as our spending budget – it’s been tried and tested on previous trips. That’s for food, fuel, camp site fees and a small amount for miscellaneous costs such as tours, entry fees and gas. $45K was our savings target. Enough to last us 50 weeks. PLUS another 5K in the bank is set aside for car and van expenses – registrations, insurance, maintenance. PLUS another 10K tucked away as an emergency fund – which hopefully we won’t need to touch.

To be comfortable with the thought of giving up work to travel for a long period these savings goals were absolutely essential to achieve prior to departure. I wouldn’t do it otherwise as I don’t want to spend the trip fraught with worry about money.

And we’ve worked hard to achieve this target. Long hours at work have been worth it because I knew there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Every fortnight it got a little closer.

To keep in perspective we remind ourselves that we went on a three week holiday tour to Italy in 2019 which cost us $30K. I love holidays and it was absolutely fabulous but only 3 short weeks.

Double that amount of money and we are buying a whole year of freedom to travel this beautiful country. That for me is priceless. The memories we will create over that time span will be amazing.

The benefits to our mind, body and soul cannot be under estimated either. We will be in a perpetual relaxed holiday state of mind for a year. Communing with nature out in the fresh air every day with no stress or pressure. It’s gotta be good for our health. Every sunrise and sunset will be ours to enjoy. We will learn to eat simply. We will exercise more naturally just seeing new things. We will socialise with like minded people more. We will read lots and learn a different pace of life.

So, we are buying ourselves a year of freedom to travel Australia in a caravan. I have a feeling that it will be the best value for money purchase that we have ever made.

Some things in life are priceless

2022 – Going ‘Waltzing Matilda’ in a Jurgens Van

Our Jurgens Tooradin Van. Light weight and 23 foot of travel comfort

THE COUNTDOWN HAS BEGUN FOR OUR YEAR OF TRAVEL

Finally. We are doing it. 2022 is our year of doing the lap of Australia. We are going ‘Waltzing Matilda’ in the caravan.

No surprise I guess. We had a couple of practice sessions. Four months in 2017 and four months early 2021. Both times travelling with a Trayon Camper. We loved the lifestyle but at the same time learnt some lessons along the way. Hence, we now have a Jurgens 23 foot Caravan. Never thought the day would come but there you go – we are now caravaners. No matter the weather we have accommodation with all the comforts of home (albeit a bit smaller). Short term you can handle a bit of discomfort living under a canvas roof (put it down to adventure) but long term, definitely not. The disadvantage is that some places will be inaccessible with a van but we still have camping gear and a 4WD.

In our previous travels living under canvas sometimes wasn’t ideal – but what an adventure this was in Tasmania

WHY ARE WE DOING IT NOW AND NOT WAITING UNTIL WE GET THAT RETIREMENT PENSION INCOME?

Our government policy deems that I must continue to work until I’m seventy before I qualify to get the pension. Blimey that’s ludicrous. Seventy! Honestly, who knows what the future holds? The only time that’s relevant is now and we are daring to live the life we want. No excuses. The most important thing is we know 100% that the travelling lifestyle makes us happy. It’s that feeling of ultimate freedom. Each day is different. We wake up to different views out the window – sometimes ocean, sometimes outback, sometimes forests. Different sounds – the sound of waves crashing, or the sound of dingoes howling, or the sounds of wind and birdsong in the trees. We don’t think about household bills, monotonous work routines or feel our restless souls getting frustrated. Each day holds a bit of mystery. Always new things to experience. We have our health and physically right now we are still capable of hiking, exploring and immersing ourselves in the natural world. Why put it off for a day that may never come?

For me happiness is just being out there

TO DO THE BIG LAP OF AUSTRALIA SOME PEOPLE RENT OUT THEIR HOUSE OR SOME SELL UP COMPLETELY. WHAT DID WE DO?


It has been a process getting ourselves in exactly the right position to do it our way. We like the ‘keep it simple’ philosophy. We sold up. Not really intending to do The Lap at the time but we happen to be in that position so the timing is perfect. Embracing a minimalistic lifestyle we literally now own nothing but cars and a van. It feels good to not be encumbered by stuff and reduces our expenses. Maybe a little unsettling to realise we don’t actually have a bricks and mortar base anymore but our home is now where we tow it. Maybe on our travels we will find “that” place that we want to call home but now is our time to travel.

For now home is where we park it. Looking forward to an ocean view after enjoying red centre life.

SO HAVE WE RETIRED? HOW WILL WE FUND OUR TRAVEL?

So no doubt people will think we have ‘retired’. Nope. We have been saving hard to fund us for a while but if work opportunities present themselves as we travel we may well ‘top up the coffers’ along the way. If opportunity knocks we will answer as we don’t have the luxury of huge superannuation funds to fall back on. We are not using the proceeds of our home sale to travel – that’s to buy another home one day. I guess we have accepted the fact that we will never be wealthy but we won’t let that stop us travelling. Our wealth is in our experiences and the memories we make and I think that is more important at the end of the day.

DO WE PLAN OUR TRAVEL OR JUST WING IT?

I love a good plan. Our plan first and foremost is to follow the weather mainly. To the South Australian beaches for a bit over the summer. Learn to fish again. Do the post work wind down which we know from experience takes a while. Then head across the Nullabour to the West. At least until Easter in the South West and then up the coast toward Broome. From there is yet unplanned.
I have a rough itinerary for the first few months simply because it’s school holidays and the popular places are impossible to get into. So I have a few bookings to ensure we don’t miss something special. (A camp site at Lucky Bay in Cape LeGrand National Park near Esperance. I managed to get two nights in February. Crazy popular but stunningly beautiful. I’d hate to miss the experience)
I love to achieve that fine balance between planning a bit and being flexible. Do a bit of research before we go so we know what the best attractions are. I know that works best for us otherwise we wander around aimlessly and find out later that we missed stuff. I get immense satisfaction when a good plan comes together, like the time I managed to snag the best camp spot at Osprey Bay at Ningaloo because I booked 6 months in advance. We just kept the booking in mind and made sure we were in that vicinity around the right time. It was so worth it as the campgrounds were fully booked out. We wouldn’t have got in otherwise and it was so special swimming with the whale sharks.

WE HAVE NEVER BEEN IN A BETTER POSITION TO GO THAN RIGHT NOW

So a couple more months more working and tucking money away in Alice Springs and then mid December we hook up the caravan and finally tow it down the South Stuart Highway. We have been living in it since July so it already feels like we are on a working holiday anyway. Got used to the quirks of permanent Van life.

So, Cheers to Waltzing Matilda around this beautiful diverse country in 2022. It’s taken at least 30 years to get ourselves in the position to do it and we can’t wait.

May many more road side stops be like this one

Let the crocodile eat the bride first. A remote honeymoon tale.

I’m not sure what Kevin and I were thinking when planning our honeymoon 29 years ago. It was a bizarre destination but we were so excited, so eager and so bloody naive.

Other newly-weds honeymooned at 5 star resorts in tropical island paradises sipping cocktails and taking romantic strolls along palm fringed beaches.

Not us. Its bull dust all the way.

Not a palm tree in sight. I get to pose against a magnetic termite mound on my honeymoon.

We spent our honeymoon in our 4WD travelling to the Kimberley’s up the top of Western Australia. From Alice Springs. Across deserts. In October.

Yes, we were ignorant Central Australian dwellers who had no concept of “the build up to the wet” in Northern Australia. The time of year when ‘mango madness‘ sets in and everyone goes ‘troppo’.

For the clarity of any foreigners reading this post, both terms are Aussie Slang for “the irrational behaviour of a person suffering from the effects of living in tropical heat”.

It was hot up North. It was so bloody hot. We slept in a double swag on the roof rack of our Mitsubishi Triton 4WD. Romantic in a distinctly Aussie kind of way I guess. It was so hot that we would spray each other with a squirty bottle at night and hope for a stray breeze.

Purely luxury accommodations. That’s me up there in the master bedroom. (Sorry about photo quality- 29 year old photos)

Our wedding gift from our work colleagues was a 12V three way travelling fridge, which was perfect and so generous. Except, we couldn’t get it to work on gas. So there we were at night, lying on top of our swag, getting bitten by mosquitoes, squirting each other with water and we didn’t even have a cold drink because the fridge didn’t work. “I’d kill you right now for a cold drink of water” we would say to each other. At least we were both in sync.

I do love that our honeymoon was an adventure though. As a result of our naivety we had a couple of bonuses. Firstly, there was hardly another soul travelling the infamous Gibb River Road in October. We had most places to ourselves because no one else was crazy enough. Secondly, because it was so hot we swam in every glorious, picturesque waterhole in the Kimberley. That was wonderful.

That brings me to Fitzroy Crossing, just after we had crossed the Tanami Desert and visited Wolf Creek Crater. (You know – Wolf Creek, a bloke called Mick Taylor lives there and savagely murders tourists) Fortunately that classic movie came out a few years after our honeymoon.

Fitzroy Crossing is a Kimberley town with character. We booked ourselves on a boat cruise of Geikie Gorge, which was carved by the mighty Fitzroy River. Its a spectacular gorge with towering white and grey walls. The cruise was great but it was just so HOT. The cruise operator told us where we could go for a refreshing swim in the river.

Irresistible. In we plunge, just Kevin and I. We splashed around a bit then were just floating serenely a few metres apart, enjoying the coolness.

Suddenly, right in front of Kevin, two eyes pop up out of water. Two armoured, evil, yellow reptilian eyes that look him straight in the face.

“CROCODILE” he yells, in a highly agitated voice, scaring the crap out of me as I was blissfully unaware. There’s a huge flurry of splashing as he literally runs on water to get back to the bank.

And leaves his new bride in the river to get eaten by a crocodile………

He’s very sheepish when we tell this story now. His excuse is “well, I didn’t really know you very well back then”

What we didn’t know back then was that there are two kinds of crocodile in the North. Very bad ones and not so bad ones. Saltwater crocodiles are real bad and you never, ever want to be in the water with one. They will make a meal out of you before you can blink. Fortunately, Geikie Gorge has the other variety. Freshwater crocodiles are quite harmless unless provoked. He was just popping his head out of the water out of curiosity.

However, my loving new husband didn’t know that. I did make it back to the bank safely under my own steam, just a few seconds after him. It seems that I too can run on water……..

Believe it or not, 29 years later, we are still together. We have a good laugh about that incident. Apparently he has finally gotten to know me by now and finds me quite valuable. We are still in sync. We tried a resort style holiday once and it just wasn’t our thing. Together our hearts still long for dusty roads and remote waterholes. Although we no longer sleep in a dusty swag on the roof rack. Our “Royal Swag” on the roof these days has fly screens, a sink and a really cold fridge. There will always be another adventure just around the corner and that is what my travel blog is all about. Read on……..

This is me showering ‘honeymoon style’ I coloured this photo in with texta years ago to make it appropriate and ‘g’ rated.

A honeymoon with character that’s for sure in our Triton with swag on roof
Giekie Gorge 29 years ago. The colours in the photo are dreadful now but it is the genuine article.
1989 So blissfully naive but the taste for adventurous Aussie road trips was there right from the start