Travelling around Australia as a family – Caravan of Crazy
Each and every week families around Australia decide to trade their conventional lives for adventures on the road. Here, one north coast family share their highs and lows and reflect upon the ways in which the journey is shaping them.
As I’ve discovered over the last several months, this ‘Travelling Oz as a Family’ caper has never been so popular. Cramming your dearly beloveds into vans, camper trailers and yes, even tents (far braver than me), for months on end with no reprieve surely, we’re all crazy? Quite possibly, some of us are and I’m under no illusion that this experience is for everyone. However, I can honestly say – hand on heart – that as a family, it’s the best decision we’ve ever made. The nomadic life has brought out the best in all of us.
L to R: Aaron, Luca, Will & Rochelle Martin at WA’s Warrora Station – a family-run station set on miles of secluded beach
The right timing
This trip has been a dream of mine since the kids were babies and with the boys going into Year 4 (Luca) and Year 6 (Will) next year, I decided this might be the last chance to realise that dream. It seemed the perfect time; that sweet spot between being old enough to remember it all but not so old that they consider months of confinement with mum and dad a total nightmare!
My husband Aaron and I are both very fortunate to have flexible work environments; Aaron is self-employed, and I work remotely and was also owed some leave. I managed to convince my boss that I could use that leave and, for the remainder of the trip, fly in and out for work from wherever we happened to be in the country at the time.
My job as a travel producer has taken me to more than 50 countries and while I feel incredibly fortunate, the downside to all that jet-setting is missing out on many precious moments at home. For me, that was the biggest driving force for the trip; time together, just the four of us with no schedules and no commitments.
The ocean loving boys at Kooljaman, in WA’s Cape Leveque
Challenges & favourite locations
Schooling is a biggie and I’ve been surprised by the number of families travelling with very small children, purely to sneak the trip in before the kids hit school age. In most instances, if you take off just one school term you can get away with the kids keeping a journal and reading regularly, any longer and you need to be enrolled in either home schooling or distance education, which we opted for. I won’t sugar coat it; the schooling has been the single most challenging aspect of the trip.
The distance ed set-up is brilliant and I can’t fault it but playing teacher to your own children and dragging them away from having the time of their little lives to sit down and do schoolwork is no easy task. We’ve probably done the bare minimum as far as school hours go but we take comfort in the fact that the boys are learning so much more from the whole experience than they could in a classroom.
I had plenty of worries going into the trip – not just about how we’d all manage in such a confined space and being together 24/7, but about taking the boys away from family, mates, school, sports and the only life they’ve ever known.
The Martins at Lake Argyle, WA. The family have spent the majority of their time in the west
They’re both avid surfers. They spend endless hours in the surf at home as well as competing up and down the east coast and here I was subjecting them to months away from something they love so much. I assumed we’d have to zip through the top of the country and the inland areas, but they’ve loved every bit of it. In fact, the more remote inland areas have been some of our most memorable stops.
We struggle to pick favourites but certainly Cape Leveque, Lake Argyle, Lawn Hill National Park and Uluru are among them. We knew we’d spend the bulk of our time in WA, having been there before and being huge fans of the west coast. Our current stop is Gnaraloo, a remote pastoral station fronting the Ningaloo Reef. We’ve pulled up stumps to enjoy the epic waves and great snorkelling and fishing. It’s stolen our hearts!
The happy campers hit Kakadu National Park
A life-changing experience
I had no doubt we would see and do amazing things and that the boys’ eyes and minds would be opened up beyond anything they could have imagined, but what I hadn’t considered was their personal growth. In fact, not just theirs but the changes in all of us. It’s true that sometimes you have to step back to see the bigger picture and I don’t think we’ve ever appreciated each other or connected so deeply as a family. It was my greatest wish and it has come to fruition tenfold.
A few weeks ago, we chatted about what we miss about home and while people topped the list (as well as our beloved 14-year-old Border Collie, Raphy), there are no ‘things’ that we miss, and I feel like that’s been a really valuable lesson in itself. Living in a 17-foot van (in such close proximity that you can hear one another breathing) and getting by on the bare necessities sure does make you stop and appreciate the little things.
We went into this trip with no real plan other than to follow the sun and so far, it’s served us well. The ‘no-plan plan’ has given us the freedom and the flexibility to continually adapt the trip as we go. The Coffs Coast is paradise, no doubt about that, and if anything, travelling provides even more assurance of that fact, but we still have so much more to explore.
So, for now, paradise can wait.
Rochelle, Will (l) and Luca in Cape Leveque, Western Australia
In our most recent magazine, we met two families on the road. Read about the Sanders family and the challenges that inspired their travels here.