What Inspired Us To Start Traveling Around Australia
The time had come where Brad’s daughters had grown up and moved out of home, so we decided to sell our house with the plan to move into something smaller that would suit just the two of us. The house went on the market and a few weeks later Brad was suddenly made redundant. With both of us out of work, we found ourselves at a crossroads and started asking questions about what we wanted for our life. We were tired of the rat race and realized that everything we were taught to aspire to and strive for was not actually making us happy. The jobs, the cars, the house, etc, just didn’t make sense anymore. It felt like we were so busy acquiring ‘things’ that we had forgotten what was really important. We craved a more carefree and simple life, so decided to take a leap of faith, selling virtually everything we owned to embark on a life of experience over material gain.
Our initial goal was to reduce our cost of living, and after many discussions, we started making serious considerations about a move to Bali, Indonesia. We hoped that getting away for a year or two would allow us to slow down and seek other options for how we live our lives.
In the middle of planning our relocation, the outbreak of Covid suddenly changed everything, and with overseas travel being restricted, we quickly realized that we’d have to make other plans within our own country. This is when we decided to buy a caravan and set off to explore Australia instead, and to be honest it was the best thing that could have happened to us. Australia is unbelievable, and we are so lucky that we have the freedom to explore it right now. We are true believers in things happening for a reason, and after 7 months on the road, we wouldn’t change a thing. We are so happy that we are experiencing this amazing country now, and not putting it off until later when we are older, which is probably what we would have done in the future.
How We Get Around the Country, the Accommodations We Prefer, and How We Keep Costs Low While Traveling
We bought a second-hand Jayco Expanda caravan (16 ft.) and we tow it with a 200 series Toyota Landcruiser. The Expanda packs down nice and small so it is relatively easy to tow and we can usually fit it into most places we want to go to.
Whilst we occasionally stay in caravan parks, we usually free-camp as much as possible. Our caravan is well set-up with solar power and extra water storage which allows us to stay for 10-12 days off-grid before we need to top up with water. We also have an internal ensuite, which allows us to stay in places that only allow self-contained vans. This means we can keep our costs down as caravan parks can be expensive!
Food is by far our biggest expense, but unless you want to eat baked beans and 2-minute noodles every day then I think it’s the same for everyone. Australia is a big country with a relatively small population, so many of the towns we pass through are quite remote with limited resources. Food in remote areas can be very expensive, so we always make sure we do a big shop in the larger centers and fill our fridge/freezer with as much food as we can store. We shop at big chain supermarkets like Coles or Woolworths and sometimes plan our itinerary around these. We very rarely eat out and prepare all of our food in our van…one of the benefits of having a kitchen with us!
Fuel is our second biggest expense, so to help save money we use an App called FuelMap (Australia) which shows the location and cost of fuel in any town, so we can fill up at the cheapest place. On long trips, like across the Nullarbor, we will plan ahead and top-up where fuel is the cheapest, so we aren’t paying the high prices that some roadhouses have. Keeping the discount coupons from our grocery receipts can even get us a further 4c per liter off, which adds up when you’re filling a large tank.
This may not be for everyone, but we try to do most of our laundry ourselves in a collapsible bucket, and only go to laundromats for our sheets and towels. Even then we don’t use the dryer, we take it all back to the van and hang it up to dry. Every dollar counts!
Tourist attractions and experiences are tempting, but we try to keep any costly ones to a bare minimum and save our money for special times or bucket-list items. There is so much natural beauty in Australia, we find that it isn’t usually worth paying for organized tours or attractions. We see and learn so much more by exploring things ourselves, and we also save a lot of money by avoiding the tourist traps.
How We Choose Our Next Destination and How Much Time We Spend on a Location
Whilst we don’t have a formal trip plan, we certainly do move with the favorable seasons and we are slowly making our way around Australia following the warmer and milder weather patterns. For example, we don’t want to be in the north of the Northern Territory during the wet season (Nov-Mar) as it’s super hot and humid and it rains every day. Equally, we avoid the extreme cold weather as we personally don’t enjoy it.
In regards to specific locations, whenever we hear about a place that sounds interesting we do a bit of research on it before adding it to our list. The best resource we’ve found is Instagram as you can simply search the name of a place and then scroll through the photos to get an idea of what it’s like. We keep a list of places we like on our phones, and then we mark them out on large paper HEMA maps that we have for each state (available online or at most service stations). That really helps us put things into the scale and visually see what we have coming up in an area. We sit down and loosely plan our next move around those places, looking at campsites in the vicinity. The rest we just make up as we go and fill in the gaps with whatever looks good driving by.
We always use the Wikicamps app to find places to stay and often find great points of interest listed on there as well. Sometimes we visit local Information Centres to grab pamphlets and find additional things to explore in each region. Speaking to the locals, or the caretaker/host of your campsite is another way of finding out about some hidden gems.
As this is our first year of travel, we are still in the ‘discovery mode’ so typically move camp every 1-2 days. On occasion when we find a place that we really enjoy, we may stop for up to a week, but at the moment we tend to move regularly. I think we are just too excited to see more!
About Our Bucket List
Our bucket list initially started small because we honestly didn’t know how many amazing things there are to see and do in Australia. We are always amazed at the new places we discover and some of our favorites so far include The Daintree, Uluru, West MacDonnell Ranges, and the Esperance area (which is where we are now). Some of the things we are looking forward to are diving with Whale Sharks at Ningaloo, a selfie with a Quokka on Rottnest Island, Surfing, and wine tours near Margaret River, Kakadu, The Great Ocean Road, and exploring Tasmania. But we know there will be many more!
How We Pack
When we left for our trip we had never lived in a caravan before, so it was a little tricky to know what to pack. There is very limited space, especially with two people sharing, so we had to be very real and practical about what we actually needed and what was unnecessary. We tried to pack things that have several uses and have accepted that we now have to live with just the basics. Going from a large home to a small caravan was a huge transition, and it was a little hard to let go of things. But now we realize that it is just ‘stuff’ that we don’t actually need and we actually prefer this minimalist life now. In hindsight, we did really well. There were only a few excess items that we didn’t really need and we donated them to charities along the way. We find that we can usually get by with what we have, but if we do need something it is better to buy it when we need it rather than carry it with us just in case. Our small cupboards get overcrowded easily and it makes it difficult to function, so the less the better. Like most people we do get bored of wearing the same set of clothes all the time, but rather than carrying a lot of different clothes with us, we often swap out items of our wardrobe at charity stores, that way we can change it up a bit for very little cost. We’re also helping the local charities by contributing to them.
Must-Haves We Carry
Some of the must-haves for us when traveling include:
A toolbox with a selection of basic tools and DIY items such as tape, cable ties, and spare nuts, bolts, fuses, etc. An air compressor to pump up our car tires as we often like to go beach driving. A battery-powered chainsaw for collecting firewood. A simple homemade clothesline that ties to our caravan awning. Good quality, comfortable camp chairs as we spend a lot of time in them. Fly net (goes over your head/face) for areas where the flies are bad.
A big warm jacket and a beanie are essential – they take up a lot of space and we don’t use them often, but in the times we do need them they are a lifesaver. Sometimes the weather can be unpredictable, especially in the desert, and the last thing we want is to be cold.
Other important items include a simple first aid kit, headlamp/torch, camera tripod to take photos of us together, comfortable shoes for hiking, a large collapsible bucket, tire puncture repair kit, and a shovel.
We are crazy about our coffee, so the only thing we can’t live without is our espresso machine, this is an absolute non-negotiable. We even carry a generator with us to power it up, which takes up a bit of space, but totally worth it when we have freshly brewed coffee every morning no matter where we are. We even order our favorite freshly roasted coffee beans online and have them sent to us anywhere in Australia!
Some Budget, Safety, and Travel Tips for Traveling Around Australia
There are plenty of apps available these days that will help you save money while traveling, allow you to record your expenses, and help you to budget. We keep a detailed spreadsheet of all our expenses on our laptops so we know exactly where our money is going.
Our biggest money-saving tip is to make all your meals yourself where possible and to only eat out on occasions as a treat. If you can, try to cut down on alcohol consumption as well. Food and alcohol are the biggest expenses, and it can be hard not to indulge when you feel like you’re on a permanent holiday. As this is a long-term trip for us we have to remind ourselves to treat food and alcohol the same way as we would back home in a house. We try to eat healthily and limit what we drink.
The best way to save money while traveling in Australia is to free-camp as much as possible and avoid caravan parks unless absolutely necessary. There are so many places to camp for free, sometimes you just need to stay a little out of the way and perhaps do day trips to the popular places you want to visit.
Our biggest piece of advice would be to not rush, make sure you take it all in, and try to explore places a little further than what the tourist maps tell you. There’s quite often a lot more to see and discover if you just ask a local or another fellow traveler. Don’t be shy to talk to people.
We try to connect with people on social media who are doing similar trips, and we reach out to those who have already been to the locations we’d like to see. You will gain a wealth of information from fellow travelers who are more than happy to share tips and stories, and you may even make a new friend in the process. In saying that though, always be cautious of other people's opinions (especially negative ones) about places they’ve been to, as everyone has different experiences and their interests may be very different from yours. What one person says is terrible could be the best place you’ve ever been! It’s always best to take the information on board but ultimately discover things for yourself.
Australia is one of the safest places in the world, and we have never had an issue or felt unsafe. We do, however, always keep an eye on our valuables and we always lock up our car and van, especially at night. If we are ever unsure about anything we always read the reviews on Wikicamps as people tend to be very open on there with their personal experiences.
For safety on the road, a UHF radio is a useful tool as it allows you to speak to other drivers, particularly trucks. In the outback, the road trains can be over 50m long, and you often get oversize vehicles carrying large loads. Having the ability to speak to them can make a lot of difference, especially when you are towing a caravan. A little bit of road etiquette can go a long way, and may even avoid an accident.
A couple of other general tips would be to always keep a little bit of cash on hand as some campsites are cash only, and also some gold coins in case you come across a washing machine at a camp.
Some national parks require you to book your campsite online, so ensure you do this before you run out of phone signal if going into a place without mobile reception.
Set up an account with Australia Post so that you can have packages sent to you anywhere in the country. Quite often we need things, including spare parts (or coffee!), that we order online and have sent to the next town we are visiting. It can also save you money if you can get what you need online, especially when you are in more remote areas.
The Beauty of Traveling Is That You Meet So Many Like-Minded People
With so many people traveling Australia at the moment we are constantly meeting fellow travelers and making new friends. The beauty of traveling is that you meet so many like-minded people, from all different backgrounds, that all share a common interest and passion. We are all out here enjoying life, exploring and appreciating this wonderful country, and there is always time for a chat or a story.
Instagram plays a big part in the social aspect of our travels. We follow other travelers and keep an eye on where they are, that way we can get in touch to meet up with people who happen to be in the same place. It is a different way of traveling in this modern time, and we feel connected to a great support network of people willing to offer help or advice, share information, answer questions, or meet up for a chat. It is common to run into the same people from time to time at different locations too, and the familiarity of seeing someone you’ve met before often leads to stronger and stronger friendships as you go. We’ve made lots of friends along the way, some of them are for a moment, and others will be friends for life. It’s so easy to keep in contact these days too, which makes it easier.
Some Challenges We Faced While Traveling Around Australia
One of the initial challenges we faced when we started our trip was living together 24/7 in a small space. While traveling with your partner is absolutely amazing, it can also challenge your relationship in ways you never expected. Long days on the road, things not going to plan, differences in opinion on where to go, etc. can all bring out the worst in us. It took a little time to adapt to our new life, and while we still have our occasional moments when we need some time out (we’re only human), we do love being on the road together and wouldn’t want to be doing this with anyone else.
Our car and caravan are all we have, they are our home on wheels and we are very protective of them, so if something goes wrong or breaks down it can be quite stressful. We once blew a tire in outback Queensland, a long way from any town, and we couldn’t move off the road to change over the spare because the roadside was too steep. There were big trucks swerving around us and we were panicking a little trying to get it fixed, but a kind stranger pulled up to assist us and helped to get us back on the road quickly. Having someone else there to help definitely took a lot of stress out of the situation. There’s always going to be challenged on the road, and usually when you least expect it. As long as you are adequately prepared, and don’t take any routes that you have not properly planned for, then you can usually get yourself out of trouble.
Another challenge at the moment is the number of other people traveling to Australia. Due to Covid, there are a lot more people camping and caravanning and therefore the campsites are much busier. Because we don’t like to plan ahead, we sometimes struggle to find available campsites in popular locations so we occasionally miss out on the best spots. That can be frustrating when you arrive somewhere and can’t find a place to stay. We don’t like to plan ahead though because it changes the way we travel. We prefer to have the freedom to stay as little or as long as we like in a place and decide each day where we want to be, rather than be tied to a reservation.
One of the biggest challenges for us is accepting that we can’t see it all! Australia is such a huge and diverse country that it would take a lifetime to tick everything off. Our goal is to keep traveling for as long as possible, and not just to see all the highlights, but to enjoy this new way of living that we have discovered and love. Life is what you make it, and we are so happy that we took a chance to discover what else is out there.
Our Best Memory From Our Australia Travels
We get asked this question often, but with so many incredible places it’s hard to choose. For both of us, the private helicopter ride over Uluru was unforgettable, and it was an experience of a lifetime. It was one of those things that we had saved our money for and it was worth every cent. In fact, the whole Red Centre is incredible and it has a very unique feeling when you are there, it’s difficult to describe.
We both agree that some of our best memories are the quiet nights by the campfire when we are parked up for the night in the middle of nowhere, off the beaten track without another soul around. We love when it’s just the two of us enjoying some red wine and a chat, sometimes Brad playing his guitar, with the amazing stars above and the glow of the crackling fire.
It’s an awesome experience being able to take your home with you wherever you go. We feel the freest we ever have in our lives, and we’re doing what makes us happy. Australia has opened our eyes to the possibilities and we’ll never be the same again.
It’s not impossible to live the life you dream of.