“Straya, A Privileged Holiday”
3 months ago I wrote a reflection piece where I tackled the big question "Is Grass Greener?". After all I had resigned from a senior leadership position and put our city lives/careers on hold just to go on a camping road trip around Australia on a shoe string budget. The answer to that question fortunately still is a resounding YES! And YES! It can be done on the cheap.
My best childhood memories are of my parents exploring Europe and US with me and my siblings. We travelled a fair bit as kids but for some reason our first trip to Europe when I was around 14-15 years old is what I remember the most of and have always wanted to give my kids a fond memory like that. After our trip around Straya I finally worked out why Europe was “THE TRIP” for me as a kid. Nothing beats a family holiday at any time and but if you can add a sense of privilege to it, all of sudden that holiday leaves a lasting impression for everyone involved. Let’s face it! not everyone can just go on a holiday be it for financial reasons, health reasons, family reasons or any other reason that makes it impossible to travel. Travelling anywhere for a holiday I believe is a privilege but as kids going around Europe we definitely saw how privileged we were to have stayed in Europe for so long and visited so many countries.
I believe we have finally given our kids that holiday, an experience they will remember for the rest of their lives and God willing remember it fondly. I know both Geanette and I will forever cherish the memories that left us jaw-droopingly speechless like Uluru, Ruby Gap & Kakadu wetlands and those that tested our resolve to complete the trip like our tent incident in Coober Pedy or the oil dip stick falling out of the engine in Cobourg Peninsula. Above all we will remember the day when we saw our kids “change” when they started to enjoy each other’s company in the outdoor as opposed to glued to their video games. We have both travelled extensively in our lives – From Africa to America we have visited and lived in a few countries. I can honestly say, and I am sure I speak for Nette as well, that our Australian holiday experience is one that not many places on Earth can beat or even come close to. Australia is a country bursting with beautiful natural sights, untouched white sandy beaches, and of course a culture that is so generous, you might think people are taking the piss out of you. I mean, crikey! people we met for the first time offered us their house to stay in and yes they were fair-dinkum. The first time it happened to us, I chucked a U-ie and took off in the other direction thinking they were serial killers.
Disaster at Coober Pedy
Many of our friends and family have talked about doing a similar trip with their families and I have heard of many reasons why it’s not possible now ranging from jobs to mortgage, kids school and of course the illusive money. So to those that do wish to go “walkabout” and are waiting for the right time or only travel overseas because “it’s cheaper” or “better”. I have a bloody ripper of a surprise for you all. Ready?
“Now is the right time to travel around Oz and it doesn’t have to break your bank”. I know quitting your job is hard and so is being on the road for months or even years living out of boxes. You might even lose your place on the corporate ladder and chew up some or all of your savings which I know is a little extreme but I promise you this – There is no other experience quite like it. It is so rewarding you wouldn’t want to do anything else once you have done it. I can think of at least 5 reasons why we should all go on holidays in Straya now:
- Aussies in the Never Never need us. They are fighting against water shortage and commercial greed on a day to day basis. Our tourist dollars are the only thing keeping some of these little communities afloat.
- It’s safer than practically everywhere else in the world. Most holiday destinations seem to have some kind of a political or religious trouble going at the moment so those of course should be avoided like a used syringe. If it’s not there, it’s happening somewhere in the neighbourhood and don’t even get me started on flying to these places and planes just vanishing without a trace. MH370 ring a bell? If you do end up finding a destination that is safe, chances are you will come across the crooks and crims that are looking to rort the system every chance they get. Even a shop keeper will try and pull a swiftie on you if you are not careful.
- You will save a quid or two as the Aussie $ is at a record low.
- There is something for everyone; from waterfalls, swimming holes and beaches where adults and kids alike would just LOVE to spend their entire time to beautiful bush walks and landscapes that will take your breath away. For avid adventure and thrill seekers, there is hiking, sky diving, scuba diving, water rafting, hang-gliding and rock climbing. For a more laid back traveller, there are cruises, flights, whale watching and fishing to name a few.
- Mateship is not just calling everyone a mate. Breakdown in the outback and you will get help. Strangers will offer you food and shelter. You will meet people with whom you will forge lifelong friendships and of course some dick heads that you will pay no attention to. What starts off as a middle finger gesture on the highways near major cities particularly if you are driving 75kms/hr like me, soon changes to lifting the index finger as a gesture of G’day. How cool is that?
Before I go on about some tips on how to do the trip on the cheap, let me first share some key stats from our trip:
- We travelled approx. 25K kms on a “Reverse D” trip – From Sydney headed North to Darwin and then drove down the West coast through Perth, Albany and back to Sydney.
- Spent $1.15 a kms for 6 people (complete with travel, stay and food). That’s approx. $800 per person per month for the entire trip. This excludes cost of car, trailer and camping gear.
- 34% of our budget went on food
- 15% went on Accommodation
- 15% went on Diesel
- 13% went on paid excursions
- Most expensive diesel was $2.00 at Cameron Corner
- Cheapest diesel was $1.16 at Port Wakefield
- Best mileage I got was 10.27ltrs/100kms
- Worst mileage I got was 23.14ltrs/100kms on Strzelecki Track
- Average mileage I got was 13.74ltrs/100kms driving 75kms/hr consistently
- The rest went in tent repairs, phones, car maintenance, storage, insurances etc
Let me also add that our shoe string included accommodation in cabins particularly when it was raining, we ate out in big towns and ate/drank better than we do at home. We also went on all key excursions like a sunset cruise on Katherine Gorge, cruise on Kakadu wetlands, trip to Horizontal falls etc. By comparison our trip to Thailand in 2012 costed just over $8,000 for 1 week and every cruise felt like sardines in a can. Convinced yet? Let me tell you how you can go around Straya comfortably on a shoe string budget.
Mindset: First of all, change your mindset. Travelling around Straya is not expensive. There is a reason why some caravaners have been on the road for 4 years. There is a reasons why some have decided to rent or sell their properties and travel and no I am not just talking about Grey Nomads. My stats above prove it.
Planning is key: This is by no means saying stick to a boring planned route. We changed our plans like we changed undies – every few days 🙂 What I mean by planning is plan where you will refuel and restock next and research where the cheapest fuel & food is in any town. The difference in fuel prices change by 80% between a major town and a servo in the outback. Eggs can cost $1 each and frozen bread can cost $6 in the outback so it pays to plan ahead.
Food & Drinks: Cook your own food and keep sandwiches & fruits accessible in the car to avoid spending big $ on takeaway shops or roadhouses along the way. Cook on the fire so you don’t end up using a lot of gas. Buy cheap drinks (on special) which may take some getting used if you are a brand specific person but you will get used to it.
Fuel: Drive slow. You are going around Straya to see the country not fly past places. So enjoy the scenery and the added bonus of less fuel consumption. We drove at a constant 75km/hr which gave us the best average. Find the right speed for your car and stick to it. Those driving fast will simply overtake you.
Take your time: Once you camp somewhere, spend 3-5 days exploring the area. The little towns have so much hidden history and it is just amazing to find it all. Added benefit is that money lasts longer as you are not constantly burning it on fuel.
Repairs and Maintenance: If its broken, fix it rather than getting it fixed. Learn to change oil & filters and you will save up to $200 per service in labour. Duct tape & cable ties can fix almost everything. You will find yourself in the shit at some point during the trip so a good tool kit has a permanent place in your trailer or caravan.
Camp Free: Camping facilities are absolutely brilliant in Straya and nothing beats bush camping if you have a camp dunny and shower. Some sites even have drinking water, toilets and showers available all for free. National Parks & Cattle stations are also some good cheap alternatives to caravan parks.
Work & Travel: If you like a place, stay for a month or so and see if you can pick up work. From fruit picking to fixing cars there is work if you are able and willing. In some cases, you can work in exchange for accommodation (and sometimes food) so it’s worth registering with an agency locally and get cracking.
And there you have it. You will find a number of reasons why now is not a good time and I have given you a few reasons why you should do it now but at the end of the day you have to decide what’s best for you. For us it was a matter of gaining a memory with our kids that they will remember for ever and strive to give their kids a similar experience. Along the way they learnt true Aussie ways, we all gained a new appreciation of the struggle in our outback and as a by-product to many beautiful walks to the waterfalls, I got fit (okay fitter than before :-)) lost 12 kilos and feel more refreshed than ever before. It was a genuine privilege to have travelled around Australia and hopefully the first of many to come.
If you do decide to take the plunge however in a true blue Aussie style do let me know. I am itching to get back on the road and will join you anywhere.
See you soon.
Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller. – Ibn Battuta
You don't always need a plan, Sometimes you just need to breathe, trust, let go and see what happens - Mandy Hale