In 2020 we said goodbye to the commute, the open-plan office, the computer screen; au revoir to junk mail, shampoo advertisements, and reality TV; and adios to small talk, small pleasures, and small ambitions. Instead, we said hello to the open road and all it represents — and perhaps the time is right for you to do the same.
Your future is in your hands. What’s it going to look like? Will you carve out funny, gripping, and mad anecdotes you’ll tell your grandchildren? Accomplish self-sufficiency and draw on personal courage as you venture into unfamiliar places? Abandon stress in favour of an off-the-grid existence, synchronised to the lapping of waves on a golden shore, the wind whispering through the mulgas, and the crackling of a bonfire below the stars?
Adventure is in our blood, but don't worry, even if you’re not born into a family with an adventurous past, the travel bug can bite you in your adult life too. If you have the right blood type, then you’re beyond help. Adventure is there — we’re just in a habit of suppressing it. Every year that passes by is one less in which to experience the outback, one step closer to the day the opportunity goes into hibernation until your retirement.
With the right gear, the right attitude, and a good dose of pluck, Australia could be yours to experience — sooner than you’d ever expected or hoped for.
HOW TO MAKE IT WORK
Life is a gradual accumulation of responsibilities taken on wilfully for the most part. Responsibilities such as kids, jobs, gardens, and pets can be rewarding. Once you take on responsibilities, they consume your time and can tie you to a single physical place. Being burdened with responsibilities makes escape harder — but not impossible.
The major responsibility that needs sorting out is undoubtedly the financial one in the form of a job. Depending on your industry, landing a job is a huge challenge in the first place, so letting go of it and accepting the reality that you’ll have to bust your back to find another when the time comes can feel like self-sabotage. It’s even harder when you like your job and the people you work with. Regret can strike from both sides though. If you stay at your job, you will — in moments of stressful, cortisol-laced chaos, or during mundane, mind-numbing routines — feel its sting and long for some different experiences.
For some, a quick estimate of expenses can put the brakes on travel plans. There’s a fortune to be spent in equipping yourself for the trip and a secondary deep dive into the trouser pocket when it comes to sustaining yourself on the road, without being so frugal that the enjoyment is gone. Early calculations in 2018 suggested to us we’d basically bankrupt ourselves and come back to a pittance — not exactly an appealing prospect for most.
So, we kept working and harbouring the dream, and a few years later we’d landed ourselves in a position where we could travel for a time and return to financial security. Our relatively cheap weekend getaways kept us in the right place emotionally, and by projecting memories of those getaways into future cross-country adventures, we gave ourselves a solid source of motivation for keeping up our 9-to-5 lifestyle.
Bottom line — work harder and longer in a full-time role, and if you can, try your hand at some stable, secure work on the side to both fund your adventure and ensure you have a safety net to fall back on when you’re done travelling. This is but one way to reduce the element of risk in giving up everything to travel.
Those who already own property or a home will ideally want to hold onto it given the general trend of inflation and costs involved with paying out a mortgage. But if your current place is larger than you need — for example, if your children have moved out — now may be a good time to sell to fund your trip with plans of downsizing in the future. The transition to this smaller, cheaper place could, theoretically, all be arranged prior to the trip so that it’s not looming large on your mind and you’re not racing against the inflation clock. The other alternative is to investigate the possibility of renting out your present home with the intention that tenant rent will cover your mortgage payments and effectively give you a break from owing the bank.
Another major way of ensuring the necessary funds is by reducing expenses. Spend less — or smarter — when readying your kit. Consider what you actually need and don’t fall prey to money-hungry marketers, but conversely, don’t always pounce on the budget option that may fall apart or be so destructive to your experience you end up replacing it. Research ways you can spend less on the road, such as favouring free campsites, having a cooking set-up that prevents the urge to buy out, and reducing your alcohol or coffee intake. Easier said than done!
Another way to reduce risk is to generate some form of income when on the road. Depending on your line of work, you may be able to continue working remotely with your current employer — something that COVID-19 has primed a lot of businesses to accept — or you may be able to take extended leave without quitting, ensuring you have a concrete source of income to return to.
If continuing your old work isn’t possible or desirable, then farm work, campsite hosting, Airtasker, or selling photography or content may be among other options of saving money or reducing expenses. Those who have been working hard for years may even be able to set up some ongoing passive income through rental payments on an investment property or through a diversified stock portfolio.
Working on the road not only allows you to travel for longer and/or preserves the existing savings you will return to. If you are still working in the same career line as before, it can prevent your CV from having a glaring gap during which you were unemployed. In a competitive industry, the more experience in years the better; and on the same note, the more work-oriented you seem, the better.
WHAT MAKES IT WORTH IT?
For us, taking the plunge has definitely been worth it; this is, after all, Australia. What natural wonders doesn’t Down Under boast? Every conceivable landscape is here. For snowy peaks, we have the High Country and Tassie. For jungles, Far North Queensland. For deserts, the Red Centre. For beaches with transparent waters, the entire West and East Coasts. For riverways, the Murray. For forested mountain ranges, the Great Dividing Range. That's not even touching on the reefs, estuaries, rock formations, and varied geological wonders elsewhere.
Every imaginable element of human interest is here too — from Australia’s First Peoples to hard-bitten European settlers, from the abandoned trades of gold fossicking and whaling to our still thriving industries, from award-winning wineries to world-class restaurants, from old-school architecture to sleek modern bridges and, ahem, opera houses.
Whatever it is you want to do, be it hiking, cycling, 4WDing, fishing, kayaking, photography, snow sports, boating, diving, wildlife watching, revisiting history, you name it, Australia affords endless opportunities. Experiencing them firsthand has been thoroughly rewarding, a constant quenching of curiosity, an endless session of fun and awe, and it’s left us with lifelong memories that will nourish us long into the future.
If you’re travelling with a partner, a lap of Aus is no doubt a test of your relationship. Difficulties are bound to arise — flat tyres and dead batteries, difficulties finding a campsite, getting lost while out of reception — and, worse even than the hardship, you’ll be faced with high stakes decisions with no clear best answer. But, through solving these problems, you gain a better understanding of yourselves and are brought together in shared pride at having overcome these challenges together.
Meanwhile, solo travellers have a fantastic opportunity to develop their independence. Even when travelling within a large family group, each person undergoes a journey of personal development, as corny as it sounds. There is, of course, the diverse skill sets gained, but the main change is a little more spiritual than that. Seeing all the awe-inspiring natural wonders and going through deep, meaningful experiences puts the trivial aspects of life into perspective and reorders your priorities, which are so easy to lose sight of in the routine of the grind.
However, full-time travel is not ongoing bliss. It’s loaded with challenges that may be easy to put up with on short-term holidays but becoming a little wearing over time — for example being constantly exposed to wind, rain, hail, extreme heat and vast populations of bugs, dealing with living situations that are less practical and convenient than at home, and sacrificing privacy. But, dealing with these challenges is an opportunity to develop great resilience.
Making the initial move to this lifestyle is an achievement in and of itself. It means you’ve taken the reins and exercised your willpower to align your life more closely with your values.
WHERE TO TRAVEL?
Completely changing your lifestyle involves immense challenges and considerable risks, so if you are to do it, you need an even stronger counterweight motivating you to travel. The idea of travelling the country is one thing but having concrete places in mind is a lot more psychologically compelling. It provides hard evidence of why you should be doing this.
Have a list of favourite destinations already? Hop on a mapping software and plug in your key destinations so you can visualise your big lap on the screen. Scroll through the Instagram geolocation or an article on the destination and have a look at what you stand to experience.
Nowhere in mind? Point to a map of Australia blindly and investigate the place where your finger lands. Allocate a value to each state/territory that’s not your own and roll a dice to figure out where you’ll go first. Flick through a Camper magazine and see where the shots are taken. Who knows where you’ll end up?