So what travel books do you need or should you carry on an extended trip? As you are aware there are a huge number to choose from. The one book that nearly everybody on the road carries is 'Camps Australia'. It is commonly referred to as 'The Bible'. Without a doubt version 3 is the most comprehensive and user friendly. The fact it also has the Hema maps incorporated in it is a real bonus. While I believe this is a must have for anybody travelling it does have some short comings. The first is that not all camps or stops are included. This will continue to improve as new editions are published. I feel its main weakness is the lack of directions to help you locate a camp. This can be a little frustrating when you have a big van behind you and you are following fairly vague instructions.
It is with interest that I watch
what other well seasoned experienced travellers use. 'Camping in
Australia' by Julie Savage and Craig Lewis is an extremely good
publication. It retails for around $32.00 and compliments very
well 'Camps Australia'. The instructions to find camp sites are
much better, as well as a better description of the actual camp (ie
firewood provided). It has the overnight cost of camp sites and has a
number of camp spots not included in 'Camps Australia'. It also covers
all of Australia which makes it very good value.
Combine these two books with
some good 'word of mouth' advice from other travellers and there are
not too many spots you won't know about. Happy travelling.
In Western Australia they have a very interesting system with 'car
number plates'. Firstly unlike QLD you do not have to go to a 'Dept of
understaffed and always hopelessly slow Transport' for vehicle registration
related matters. You simply rock up to most post offices and they will
attend to your needs.
The other novel approach is that the two letters on the number plate
denotes which town you live in. For example if you lived in Margaret
River your number plate would be MR-----, Busselton BS------, Bunbury
BU-----,and so on. This system only operates in the country towns and not in Perth.
I am not sure of the exact reason for this except maybe to promote a
bit of civic pride but it is very entertaining for us trying to work
out where different cars come from.
The other thing you can do over here is have any coloured number
plate that you could imagine and can get them made of either acrylic,
aluminum or good old fashioned tin. Consequently most cars have nice
colour coded number plates. It looks good and certainly brightens the
Next time you see a car from WA try and work out where they live.
So there you have it. A bit of trivia for April. And no, this is not an April fools joke, this is true!
We all know that the roads are chockers with people traveling, be it
in caravans, motorhomes or camper trailers. Every day you see these
nomads traversing our land, our town, our streets. Do you ever get
jealous of their stress free, no commitment lifestyle??
We certainly did, and that is one of the reasons we are on our 14 month 'Get out there and do it tour'. Any regrets? Not one, except that when the trip is over life will go back the way it was. We don't want that to happen.
As I write this I am sitting overlooking the beautiful Indian Ocean in Northern Western Australia. Instead of my mind being full of day to day commitments, I now have time to see the big picture, to think, to reflect and to plan the future with an uncluttered mind at my disposal.
Absolutely any of us can make the commitment to do a trip like this if you so desire it, more complicated for some, easier for others, but something we can all have the pleasure of experiencing.
So who are these countless people out there and how have they done it?
We have met and chatted to many. The first and largest group are the retirees. They are almost always in the nice big van with the Patrol or Cruiser or the big motorhome, boat on the roof and always planning their next 'Happy Hour'. These guys are usually lots of fun, great company and a wealth of knowledge. Some are filthy rich while others are watching every penny they spend with their common thread being that dream to grow older while seeing new places and meeting new people.
The rest are people still of working age, many with kids in tow. The
difference in this group is huge. Some like us have taken leave and
have jobs and houses to go back to. We cannot believe the number of
people we have met who have sold their business simply to do the trip,
businesses they have built up over many many years. This is the group
that I really take my hat off to. That is true commitment to a dream.
And the others who have sold their home, quit their jobs and are off. At least 25% of the working age people we have met are looking for a new place to settle and perhaps a new opportunity for their future.
Of the youngish people we have met about 1/2 are picking up some work from time to time. If you have a trade there is a mountain of very well paid casual work almost everywhere. If I wished I had one thing, it would be a trade.
We have met some of the nicest people, funny, interesting and adventurous people. It would appear that the boring and miserable stay at home or do they change while on the road? Who knows.
And then there are colourful people. The people who put a smile on your face. We met a youngish couple with two young kids in Perth. Carla (with husband Derryn) actually sought out and paid the guy who paints all the 'Wicked" vans to create this artistic piece. Can you imagine the looks they get? Well if nothing else it's a great conversation starter.
We crossed the border from South Australia into Western Australia at
Eucla on the 1st February 2006 and only today, the 5th August we again
crossed the border, this time heading into the Northern Territory. That
is a total of 6 months that we have spent in this fabulous state. It
was a sad day for us all as we stood at the 'border sign' taking a
photo and reflecting on what we had all experienced, the fun we have
had and the memories shared. On one hand we were excited about the
adventures that lay ahead in the Northern Territory and at the same
time saddened that our time in WA had come to an end. In our 6 months
we really only explored the coastal strip with a couple of slight
deviations inland. To do WA justice you would need to spend at least 12
months as it is a very big state covering 1/3 of Australia and there is
a lot to see, and countless places to explore.
This state is as diverse as it is big, with the incredible lush and
heavily forested south, to the dry, rugged and at times desolate north.
It is so incredibly different to areas of the same latitude in QLD that
you could be mistaken for thinking you are in another country.
In this state you certainly need to follow the weather. Summer in the south is pleasant while the winters are very cold and miserable. In the north, the exact opposite. Winter in the north is exceptional, pleasantly warm, no humidity and very little rain.
This is a very friendly state where you are made to feel welcome.
The tourist industry is very organised with an abundance of information
available. The State is divided into about 6 different tourist areas
with detailed free booklets available for each area. All National parks
in the state are managed by CALM (Conservation and Land Management).
All the National Parks that we visited appeared very well run with
excellent facilities. Overall we thought the standard was as good as
NSW and better than QLD.
WA does charge an entry fee of $9-00 per vehicle into most parks, or as we did you can purchase a yearly pass for only $51-00, which is great value.
There are a huge number of Council managed roadside 'free camps' that are well signed from the highways, all have rubbish bins and most with pit toilets. A number of these are very close to towns, some only a few kms out and appear to have the blessing of not only the town folk but also the local caravan parks. That is a pleasant change fom the Eastern states where the caravan park owners are trying their hardest to get all road side stops abolished, of course with only their financial interests at heart, not that of the wider community.
We are often asked what was our favourite part of WA. That is a really difficult question to answer. Pemberton with the huge Tingle trees and Karri forests is an area hard to describe; Perth, a capital city with a country feel, the Kimberleys featuring the majestic 'Domes' and then what I think to be the jewel of the west, Karijini NP and the Pilbara. Esperance, Coral Bay, Monkey Mia and Barn Hill will rival anything that the East has to offer and all have a unique charm of their own.
The West is a place that you must visit. If you have been before, do
yourself a favour and do it again. Yes, it is a long way away but worth
every minute it takes to get there. To miss Western Australia would be
a real shame.
So why is it that people decide to do a trip like this? There are a number of reasons. Firstly the desire to have time away from work and the daily demands put upon them. To see and explore new places, to experience new and exciting things, meet new people and to spend some real quality family time together. NO homework, NO TV, NO papers and NO deadlines with nothing but time at your disposal, to do with it as you wish.
This trip for us has lived up to every one of our expectations and more, much more.
For both Chris and myself there was always the hidden agenda of finding some new direction and possibly new opportunities for our future, for our kids, for our family. We had identified that we were treading water but what should we do about it??
It took me a good 2 months to really settle into this whole carefree existence. I was spending precious time and energy thinking and worrying about all the trivial stuff. Are we going too fast, spending too much money, will the car be OK, is the van going to survive, will we kill each other being confined to such a small space.
It is almost as if modern day living has conditioned, perhaps even programmed our minds to focus on the less important and trivial things in life. What many of us need to do is get out of our comfort zone and look at the bigger picture.
So here we are 12 months into the trip and things are starting to appear much clearer. Our minds are now less cluttered with the small stuff, allowing us to clearly see the bigger picture.
Having this length of time away from all the routine is a bit like looking at your previous life from the outside. Don’t get me wrong. We have a great lifestyle, good jobs, a nice home, 12 weeks holidays a year, enough money to do as we please and a happy and healthy family. We also love the town that has been home to us for 15 years. So what is it we want? Quite simply, less. Less of everything that makes life so complicated, so unnecessarily complicated. Less complication equates to more time and a less cluttered mind.
Life for all of us can be divided into two main areas. Our needs and our wants. We in fact need very little to survive: food, water, shelter and oxygen. The remainder is our wants. We obviously need a level of material possessions and money to make life more comfortable, but you would have to ask is the rest simply greed or is it societal conditioning.
The scales of life need to be a little more balanced. It would seem that for a lot of us these days that is not the case.
There is a significant difference between living and existing. Unfortunately I believe that you cannot make the decision to actually live life, unless you have experienced true living.
It would appear that so many of us these days simply exist. Like mice on a wheel we are running around chasing our tails. The choice we can make is to stop conforming to what people and what society expects and do what we want. That will be different for each of us.
We would all live longer and be more content if our desire was to seek a simpler lifestyle that is less materialistic. More meaningful and less inhibited. A life we can really call our own.
I, like many, hung onto the fact that ‘one’ day we will retire and life will, like magic become our own. How wrong I was. During this trip we have met and chatted to hundreds of these free and easy retirees, who have all the time in the world to do nothing. Wrong.
What we have learnt is that there are a number of fundamental flaws to that theory. The first and most obvious is that unfortunately some of us simply won’t make it to retirement.
The next issue is that of our failing health and degenerating bodies that occur to most as we age. This can mean that for some, doing and seeing some things is physically unobtainable. Nearly every place we have visited we have had the same conversation with somebody: "I would have loved to have done that walk but unfortunately I just can’t". The saddest part is that often these people are not as old as you would expect.
The next two reasons surprised us a little. The first is the
issue of elderly parents. Whether the parents live independently or in a home,
the free and easy retirees feel they can not leave their parents for any length
of time. We have even met people who take their elderly parents with them. We
met one couple who take her 93 year old father with them on extended holidays.
While this is admirable, I’m not sure if it is free and easy. And
the final reason is the need to be home
for the grandchildren. Many just miss time spent with the
grandchildren, while others feel obliged to be home to help with the
babysitting, which for some actually equates to fulltime childcare.
So we have experienced yet another lesson in life. The great retirement, while excellent for some, is for many far less than perfect.
So if life is good, but you feel you are treading water, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your situation and to perhaps ask yourself that question. What can I do to improve things?
Always be mindful that this is your life to do with as you wish. This is not a dress rehearsal; there is only one bite at the cherry. Make it a good one.
There is no doubt this is not the life for everyone, nor would we want it to be, but how will you know, if you don’t give it a go.A Point to Ponder.