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.
So we’re home. And home is lovely. After months of living in arid landscapes, red dirt and deserts we had forgotten just how ‘green’ Cairns is. It’s so pretty with the mountain backdrop and rainforest. The ocean isn’t the glorious aquamarine of the WA coast but its lovely in a north QLD kind of way. Isn’t it wonderful we have experienced it all?
So we did it, the trip of a lifetime, and it was just grand. No regrets. We gave up our jobs and drove 20232 kilometres across the top, down the west coast, across the middle and a quick dash down south. Fantastic. Australia is amazing.
So here are some random statistics on our experience travelling remote Australia by 4WD.
The ultimate trip cost
We were away for just over 16 weeks in total and we spent $18 681 in total. I’m happy with that. I had budgeted for $1000 per week plus an extra $4000 for car repairs and maintenance. We came in under budget in our weekly spending averaging at $800 per week and went over in the car expenditure which blew out to $5860. Three services in Kununurra, Tom Price and Kapunda, front wheel bearings in Broome, rear parabolic springs and 4 Cooper tyres in Geraldton and, thanks to the Simpson Desert, new rear shock absorbers in Kapunda. We didn’t actually need the new Coopers but we were getting frustrated with the flats we were getting on the skinny split rim tube tyres and opted to replace them with fatter tubeless. No flats since so it was worth it.
We travelled 20232 km and spent $4696 on fuel. The most expensive fuel was at Mt Dare Station SA just before the Simpson Desert at $2.15 per litre and the cheapest in Kapunda SA at $1.21 per litre. That’s a bit uncanny that South Australia wins the crown in both cases and it wasn’t even planned.
Food came in at $4514 and we ate way too much chocolate. We would stock up on chocolate and other assorted snacks when we got to a big supermarket as that sort of stuff is too expensive to buy in remote locations. We bought 6 blocks of chocolate in Broome (after 2 weeks on the Gibb River Road) as it was so cheap and ate them all in 3 days. That’s why I had to buy moo moo’s in Broome. We ate a little too well and were not as disciplined as we are at home. Let’s not talk about all the kitchener buns and chocolate donuts in Kapunda. I’m paying for that extravagance now.
Accommodation costs were very reasonable at $1957. A good mix of free camping, national parks, the luxury of three nights in a cottage at Geraldton and a couple of nights in a cabin at Kapunda because it was freezing cold.
Miscellaneous spending was $1654. This money was put aside for tours, entry fees and everything else. There were quite a few Op Shop purchases in there. It was one of my favourite activities in a town; pottering through an Op Shop in an exotic new destination. My wardrobe expanded unnecessarily and exponentially much to Kevin’s perturbed amusement and mild disgust. (Chuckle)
Between us we managed to read 28 books and listen to 3 audio books. Every book swap was taken advantage of with much gusto. That’s what we did in the evenings. Read books and ate chocolate.
Ugg boots are just the best footwear on holiday, even in warm country (clean feet with ease)
I made bread 14 times in the Weber Baby Q, and with home made lentil soup this was our most popular meal choice. (Chocolate for desert of course) We called our Weber ‘Baby you fat bitch’. A little harsh I know, but she was so big and heavy and took up a lot of space in the camper. We wouldn’t have gone without her though. She gave us so many awesome meals.
The two equally worst roads were the Simpson Desert crossing and the Kalumburu Road to Mitchell Falls in the Kimberly. Both were particularly punishing to our vehicle but the scenic reward was worth it so no real regrets there.
People ask what was the absolute highlight of the whole trip and I find it impossible to narrow it down to one place. We saw and did so much that was absolutely stunning, each in its own unique way. So many ‘wow, moments. I loved it all.
So the highlight has to be the length of our trip. Four months was an ideal time frame. We didn’t feel pressured for time and we felt the pure joy of freedom to explore at our leisure. That was a sufficient length of time though as by the end we were both weary. I don’t think you can keep appreciating it as much if you do it perpetually. It was time to come home and we actually started to look forward to a couch, a TV, our own toilet and a bed where Kevin doesn’t have to climb over me to go out for a wee. It’s the little things.
Kevin and I, for the first time, spent 24 hours a day with each other, for four months in a confined living arrangement. We survived, we laughed a lot, we became more tolerant, we relaxed into a comfortable camaraderie and it made our relationship stronger. It was a fantastic experience to share.
We saw hundreds of emus in all states. They were the dominant wildlife on this trip which was great because I love them. They’re so quirky.
Lessons learnt along the way
Follow the weather. The perception of a holiday is 95% dictated by the weather, especially when living under a canvas roof. A place that is simply magnificent in sunshine becomes bleak and horrid in wet, bleak, cold and overcast weather. During the winter months the North of Australia is the place to be. Gotta love warmth and sunshine.
Less is more and will save you grief. We overpacked. Too much ‘stuff’. I tried to be minimalist when we packed but failed and it became obvious when at our first service, the mechanic assumed we were there to get our suddenly sagging rear springs replaced. We carried too much ‘just in case’ stuff and things that only got minimal use. The heavy generator and max tracks sat on the roof rack the whole way with no use, the boat only got used twice, the BBQ plate that got used once, there was too much stuff in our internal cupboards like the heavy camp oven that didn’t get used, too many clothes (in my section). The excessive weight of our vehicle became stringently obvious in Kapunda when the mechanic replacing the shockers couldn’t lift the vehicle with a 4 tonne hoist (our gvm is 3.3 tonnes). No wonder we suffered trying to cross the Simpson Desert and had the considerable expense of replacing our suspension.
It’s nice to have a home to come back too. We did actually consider selling up everything to travel perpetually prior to this trip. Sell the house, hit the road and be totally free. That’s a romantic notion though and I’m glad we didn’t go down that path. It’s wonderful to be free but living in a confined space, always on the move takes its toll. I’m positive that the thrill of travel wouldn’t be as great if it was a way of life rather than just a holiday. I guess it’s a personal thing because some people happily do it but we need a place to go ‘home’. Then we can plan and get excited about the next adventure. And there will be more………..
So to those people that faithfully followed my blog on this adventure, thank you for coming with us, thank you for the likes and nice comments and I hope you enjoyed the journey. I hope I encouraged other people to do similar and inspired you to visit these amazing places in our beautiful country. It is so worth it. We are much richer for the experience. Kevin and I have luckily both got our jobs back straight away so we didn’t even have to line up at Centrelink, which is a huge bonus. We took a risk and the reward was beyond our expectations.
Australia by road on a Budget: How much does it actually cost?
I’m keeping a record of every penny we spend on this trip. I roughly budgeted for $1000 per week when I was planning the trip so out of interest I’m curious as to how much it actually costs us in reality.
Australia is not a cheap travel destination, however, by road it is possible to reduce the financial outlay with some planning. A vehicle with 2 fuel tanks has enabled us to buy more fuel in bigger towns where it’s cheaper and travel longer distances between re-fills. Carrying a freezer and a fridge has allowed us to do the same with food. (The cost of food in remote small towns is outrageous – it was $50 for a carton of coke in Borroloola). The occasional free camp reduces the accommodation expenses so the Camps 9 book with every free camp in Australia listed is a worthwhile investment and National Park camp sites are much better value than Caravan Parks.
The boring numbers that follow are the statistics for our first month of travel from Cairns in Queensland to Wyndham at the top of Western Australia via The Savannah Way with a detour up the Top End of the Northern Territory.
Month One Stats:
Total Expenditure: $2730.93 (For a whole month of travel this is pretty good – that would just be our airfare if we went overseas)
Nil Sightseeing Tours purchased in this period – we walked and swam everywhere and they are way too bloody expensive to justify.
So, we are in fact doing quite well after our first month, slightly better than forecast. However, as we head across the Gibb River Road I anticipate a catch up will happen. High fuel and accommodation costs are unavoidable and we want to see everything this time. No scrimping here. We are getting a car service done before we go in the hope that prevention is better than cure and cross fingers our tyres hold up. Kevin’s itching to swap the split rims with tubes for tubeless fatties (please, please no more flat tyres!)