One of the most time consuming things we have found so far is what are some of the things to take with us on our journey. This may sound simple but when you start factoring item’s weight and its effect on fuel consumption (which will be the most expensive part of the journey), where you will store it and how much you will actually use it, you soon realize that this will take some thinking and lot of patience.
First thing we did was search on the web in a hope that someone will have that list for us which will give us a good starting point. Alas, we could not find such a list and so we took it upon ourselves to write each item and what it costed us so hopefully the next person searching for “The List” does not have to start from scratch. It is a costly affair writing this list as most bottle of wines we like are over $20 a bottle 🙂
We did a lot of research before buying anything to ensure we got the best deal possible. To give you an idea, I bought my roof rack which is 2mtr in length for $220 (as opposed to $450-$500) but I waited 3 months before buying it to ensure I got the best deal possible. Nothing was purchased full price, and I mean NOTHING. Most people will tell you to stay away from the big stores as they have big costs, however; they also have big buying power which sometimes mean “sales”. Reward cards are not just a gimmick and places like BCF Check out their sales have member’s only sales for up to 25% which means maps just got a whole lot cheaper.
Please keep in mind, this is what we believe we will need. We are traveling with 4 kids (10yr old, 9 yr old, 7 yr old and a 4 yr old) and so each family or individual need may differ. Feel free to ask any questions about the list, pricing and where to buy them from. We will be happy to help.
4 weeks and counting
Trip preparation with only 4 weeks to go is great fun. So much to do with so little time left and new “issues” coming up daily. Found a rattling noise in the engine which scared us both and then the mechanic fixed it for $20. Loving this change of luck. As my cousin put it last night, 15 years ago we would have thought $20 will fix it only to be charged $2500.
House is a mess with boxes everywhere as we started packing this week.
Installed a CB radio, Sat Nav, fire extinguisher and got the car serviced ready to go.
Tested our 130ah deep cycle battery pack by running 80ltr fridge on it and the results were impressive. 50% battery utilization in 3.5 days. Now testing the solar panel to charge the battery – so far so good.Camping with Solar Power – Guide from Hema
Started packing the trailer up to see how everything will fit and decided to leave the second annex at home to save space. It took some effort but the wheel lock is finally on (Thanks Dad). Most of the items that will not be used all year have been sold on ebay Items on sale and the rest being packed away.
We completed kids school registration for distance learning as well as Oten registration for my Diploma in IT Project Management. Plan is to study for 2-3 hours every morning before starting our journey. Speaking of journey, last night we starting discussing (again) if we should go to Cape York between May & August which means cutting inland from Alice Springs to Cape York and back into Kimberley. We have not decided the whole trip and don’t intend to either as I am sure things will change along the way anyways. For the moment, the first 2 weeks have been planned which takes us to Coober Pedy via Oodnadatta track.
A few things still left to do and 1 of the main items on our “to-do” list is to sell our second car as that will be our emergency money. Without it, our risk factor increases dramatically. Lets see how the next 4 weeks unfold.
“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.
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 J 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.
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 J) 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.
Today is the start of our 4th month on the road and habit calls for a little reflection on the first quarter of our journey.
What started off as one of my hair brain schemes (as Mrs puts it) quickly snow balled into one of the most adventurous and confronting experiences of our lives. Planning for this trip with rose coloured glasses was great but the journey and the actual experience has not been as romantic as the idea. The working life before took 10 hours of my life 5 days a week and so weekends with the family were planned with the utmost enthusiasm. The plan for this new nomadic life however was to travel around Oz 24/7 with the family whilst I spend my morning studying and spare time writing a blog about this ultimate adventure on a shoestring budget. The fact is that 10 months is only just enough time to explore NT and WA let alone going around the country and aim to study and blog at the same time. We have missed many places and hopefully once kids are older Geanette and I will explore the rest on our own.
Let me first answer the ultimate question. Can the trip be done on a shoe string budget? The answer is a resounding YES!
Figuring out my shoe string was not as simple as I originally thought. Previous life was comfortable where every holiday was in a 5 star resort albeit for only 4 weeks in a year. Trying to now free camp in a tent without “taken for granted” facilities like toilets, showers, washing machine, dryer and even drinking water is at best challenging as is forward planning to ensure we stock up adequately before hitting the next big town.
Everyone’s shoe string is obviously different and so we locked ours to the following key components and so far we are within our budget and have even saved money to do some additional excursion trips:
- Paid camping 2 days a week
- Not travelling more than 300 kms in a driving day on average
- Driving at a steady 75kms/hr which gives us 10-12ltrs/100 kms
- Stay for atleast 4 nights during school in each area and go on day trips within 100 kms radius only
- Cook at home/camp
- Shop at big supermarkets like Woolies/IGA
- Re-fuel only in big towns and cheapest bowsers and if needed carry extra in Jerrys to carry us to the next big town
- 1 paid excursion per fortnight on average e.g. Cruises, flights, movies etc
- Repair & Maintain our gear, car and tent ourselves where possible
- Reward ourselves once a month by staying in motels/cabins & dinner out (Max 3 star)
Most people we have met along the way are doing something similar although not everyone is following theirs to the T. We have met some overseas travellers that are even making their own bread and living on eggs for protein to save costs as in the outback it can cost up to $6 a loaf. Now our string is not so short but we are certainly not eating lobster and T bones every night either. The trick is to stick to your monthly food budget and plan ahead ofcourse.
A realisation that 10 years have passed is what got me to plan this trip in the first place. I suddenly became very aware that my kids are not little anymore and along the way I forgot to make friends with them. The feeling of not knowing your own kids (when realised) can be very daunting and so I planned to spend my entire 2015 getting to know them and them me. No one told me though how tough that will be. From mood swings to regular arguments I have had the pleasure of tackling every good and bad thing that parenthood brings with it. Thank God I am not in this alone and Geanette saves the day, most days and rescues them from the biggest kid on the trip; me! I can be a “dog with a bone” kinda guy and whilst that worked for me in professional life, it is not a good quality to have with growing kids. I soon realised that the trip is more stressful for them than it is for Geanette & I and remembered that in the end it is meant to bring us closer not drive us apart. So patience and understanding became important life skills to nurture.
Seeing the kids really play out in the open and getting closer to each other and us has been a privilege. It is a highlight for both Geanette & I and to be honest made the trip and all the sacrifices completely worth it.
This was an added bonus of the trip. We have met some amazing people in the past 3 months and listening to their life stories can never get old. The freakiest part of meeting people 2000 kms away from home is realising that the degree of separation between us & them was only ever 2 handshakes away. We have met people from all walks of life. From 10 pound poms to successful business owners who are all in the same boat as us; living a life of adventure and no regrets.
The world however is full of dick heads and we have met our share along the way. Thankfully our “dickhead” radar works really well so haven’t crossed paths with too many of them.
Our experience in the past three months has taught us that there are some things where “you get what you pay for”.
Our equipment isn’t flash. We spent as little as possible and picked up bargains where we could. Most things have lasted well and continue to come in good use but there are some things that I would suggest investing money in rather than going cheap like us:
- Sleeping bags – Aldi sleeping bags are not suitable for the Australian Outback.
- Camping Chairs – These are used daily so spend a little more and get decent chairs.
- Merit sockets – These mostly come in a pack of 5 or so and for good reason. They don’t last very long. Our fridge is already on its 2nd.
- Phone/Ipad Chargers – Keep a spare one.
- Water Tank – Don’t buy an in car water bladder from China. They leak!
- Water hose and fitting – So you can fill up water in your tank where ever available
- 12v Shower – These come in handy when bush camping
- Jerrycans – For extended range so you don’t end up paying $2.60 a ltr for diesel when its available for $1.40 and less in cities
- Tent Spare parts – To repair your tent when needed
- Car Spare parts – To service your car yourself otherwise you can pay up to $200 + parts for a simple oil change
- Dual Battery Kit – Will save $ in the long run as you won’t need to camp in powered sites at all
- Inverter – We run a 600watt inverter which is more than enough for every gadget we have
- Tool Kit – Comes in use more than I would like to acknowledge
One thing that has worked for us massively is the fact that both our car (Nissan Patrol 1998 Diesel) and trailer (7×4 Single Axel box trailer with fold out tent) are very basic. Not a lot can go wrong and thankfully hasn’t. We have met people with over $100K campers and caravans with all the luxuries included and they have a list of defects a mile long. Basically, the more things you have, the more chance of things going wrong.
Australia is known throughout the world as the lucky country. On our journey so far we have met many overseas travellers from France, Switzerland, Norway, Germany and even UK and all sing the same song about how lucky Aussies truly are.
This country is unique in many ways but for avid campers this is a country like no other. There are free camp grounds all throughout the country and some even have toilet facilities. For those willing to pay a bit of money can enjoy facilities in our numerous National Parks that charge from $5/night to $12/night plus park entry fee.
We have seen some incredible places in the past 3 months. The vast open plains of the NSW outback were beautiful, Gammon Ranges reminded us of Oman, Uluru took our breath away, MacDonnell Ranges captivated us, Kakadu lived up to its world heritage expectations, Cobourg gave new meaning to serenity and Kimberley proved why it has no equal.
Each place we have visited so far stands testament of the vastness, uniqueness & remoteness of this Country we call home.
To do or not to do
So do I regret making this decision to camp around Australia for 10 months on a shoe string budget? I would say NO just on what I have achieved with my kids, the rest has been an added bonus. Of course it hasn’t been as rosy as I had thought and we did face some issues along the way like a ripped tent, broken stove, car troubles and a leaking air mattress to name a few but today after 3 months they all feel minor hiccups and make up for some great camp fire stories to share with fellow campers.
And to those who have been wanting to do this for a while but are waiting for the right time. Let me assure you NOW is the right time. Something or the other will always be in your way but the country is changing rapidly with roads being made everywhere bringing more and more people each year some of whom unfortunately trash the previously unspoilt nirvana. It’s a hard thing to do – leaving your life as you know it behind and live out of boxes and trailer for a year but I promise you this as far as travelling around Australia is concerned; the grass really is greener on the other side.
2 weeks and counting
Our trip preparation is now almost complete and we are itching to take off to be honest. From camp lights to toilet cleaners, everything has been organized.
We got our container to store everything in for 10 months and kids as always didn’t miss the opportunity to turn it into a playground.
I decided to play MacGyver and installed Led lights on the truck with Dad’s help who ended up doing it all and I pretended to know what I was doing.
You know you are in trouble when the mechanic hands you his card and says “call me anytime if you get stuck on your trip but I turn my phone off at night when I sleep” Most of the family recons we won’t make past Mudgee or will be back in a couple of months including the mechanic from the looks of it.
Last of the items arrived this week including 12v shower pump, shovel, recovery tracks and NSW / SA National Park passes.
I also bought chinese version of Go Pro considering Shoe String is the budget.
Last item to pack is food which we started yesterday. I promise there is canned food under all the chocolates.