No van and not much of a plan

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cropped-nicks-photos-2262.jpg“No need to fall on your sword”; that was the reaction after a robust discussion with my boss when I decided to hand in my notice. I wasn’t falling on my sword just seizing on an opportunity during a moment of frustration to deliver the news that I had been dreading.  I had planned to do this the following week in a more by the book style resignation letter, followed by the discussion when it would best for me and the company to part ways.  There was no such discussion, in two weeks time I had worked my last shift  and still had nearly two months to go before we jet off from Scotland to the sunny shores of Australia, to travel that vast country full time in a motorhome!  Easy to write in a sentence but still unbelievable that this dream of ours will soon become reality.

Two months not earning a salary, but on a positive note plenty of time to plan our trip, to get two properties ready to rent out, to pack up, and to have a few days here and there to visit places we have always wanted to, but never got round to whilst living in Scotland.  So why as I sit here a 7 days before departure we are surrounded by a cloud of stress, dread and trepidation? The list doesn’t seem to be getting shorter and none of those day trips to the beautiful Scottish countryside have materialised, and what planning? On September 7 at 2:15pm however we will be on a plane leaving Glasgow Airport, everything will be done and we will be ready to start our big adventure.

Why the Change?

We: My beloved partner Leigh, a Dundonian (she’s from Dundee in Scotland), and a Postie for Royal Mail, our 17 month old delight (and Boss) Emily and myself; Nick a Kiwi  Chef have always wanted to spend some time together living in Australia.  Both of us have a long history with this country, we have both lived, worked and travelled the country extensively before our paths crossed on the Dorset Coast in England 6 years ago. Once we got together it was our ambition to return to the big brown land and we did this in 2014 spending the majority of the time working in the beautiful and limitless  outback near Kings Canyon, Central Australia.

We decided to move to Dundee in 2015 for a year or so to spend time with family, that year turned into almost 4 years and a baby,  and before we new it we had stepped into a “normal” routine of working, dealing with the day to day chores to being a successful family and investing to increase the household clutter. Normal to most but for us it was a little foreign, the 5 or more years before we met and during our time together we had been essentially on the move, most of our work involved  live in accommodation, our worldly possessions fitted into a backpack, and we were always looking forward to the next adventure.

I work as a Chef, a great vocation when travelling, but when God was handing out the 37.5 hour working week, I think the chef representative must have been out the back having a smoke, as it seems quite acceptable when on a (modest) salary to put in  55 to 60 hours a week with no breaks!  Now many chefs revel in this, like its a right of passage, a badge of honour, but with alcohol and drug abuse rife within the industry, as well as a rise in mental illness something needs to change; a subject for another day perhaps.  I can appreciate a young chef wanting to put in the hard yards to grow their career, and grasp some of the fantastic opportunities that exist, I’m not afraid of hard work, but I am in a stage in my life where I want more of a balance.  Having only 2 quality days a week to spend with my Daughter, and no days off together with Leigh is unacceptable when we are in a position to pursue an alternative

We are what is classed as “mature parents”, both in our 40s, we are both fit and healthy but those long hours have taken there toll on me, we just want to spend more time together, simplify life and share in some wonderful experiences together; probably part of the brief for everyone of those families travelling Australia for an extended period of time.

We love Australia, we haven’t seen a lot of the country but we have seen more than most. We have set foot in every State and Territory and experienced many of the country’s icons such as Diving on the Great Barrier Reef, we have sailed  the Whitsundays and paddled steamed the Murray River, Driven the Stuart Highway and the Great Ocean Road, watched  the Sunset over Ularu  and  Mindil Beach, spotted platypus in Tasmania and crocodiles in Kakadu, we have stood on the tip of Cape York and atop of the lighthouse at Cape Leeuwin and many points in between.  We look forward to exploring more of this huge country, but for us the main motivation is to change our lifestyle. and Australia travelling in a van provides an excellent landscape to do this.cropped-nicks-photos-18652.jpg

Why a Motorhome?

For a few years we have had a desire to move to Tasmania, seems to be a trend among Australians too, maybe its the cooler climate, the green wilderness or the cheaper house prices. For us it was all of those things, but as a cook, Tasmania has undergone a bit of a food renaissance, with some great producers, natural resources.  followed by some wonderful chefs and restaurants, which I have been observing from a far. The only problem neither Leigh or myself had stepped foot on the Apple Isle.  To rectify this last year we travelled to New Zealand and Australia to introduce Emily to family and us to Tasmania. For our week in Tasmania we hired a 6 Berth Motorhome, we had hired the small campervans as a couple before but never a serious self contained unit.  Tasmania looks a small speck to the south of the mainland on a map, but it is big and even bigger on attractions and experiences.  We loved our time in the Motorhome, and 7 month old Emily adapted beautifully (apart from an incident with a chicken in Hounville) to life on the road, but they were long days trying to cram in as much as we could, and get to our final destination each day.  What if we could slow this down, have no deadlines, if we like a place we could stay longer, if we want to sit on a beach all day we could.

My romantic view of life on the road involves sitting outside the van in the late afternoon sun, surrounded by loved ones,  beverage of choice in hand, not care in the world, and the only job is to decide where to go tomorrow. The only time on that 7 day trip where we almost reached this state of contentedness was again in Hounville at a wonderful caravan park that was bordered by a gentle flowing river. In that river platypus were rumoured to frolic, being my favourite Monotreme (sorry Echidnas) I was keen to spot one and joined in the local past time of gazing purposefully into the river looking for any ripple or disturbance, trout were quite prolific in that river too so there were many ripples, I wasn’t successful that evening but just the atmosphere of that beautiful sunny spring afternoon still lives with me now and the following day I spotted all be it briefly my first platypus in the wild.  Its these sort of memories we want to have the time to create.

I had heard of the Grey Nomads – retired folk towing their caravans around Australia, following the sun, I was aware that Australians seem to be born with this instinct that one day they will complete a lap of their country; like a circular pilgrimage, but I thought a family travelling Australia full time with a toddler was  groundbreaking, until I hit Facebook.  There seem to be hundreds of families, usually with 3 or 4 young children on the move around Australia, some taking 6 months, most over a year and some indefinitely. There is a myriad  of Facebook groups for what we are about to embark on, ones for finding work on the road, ones for buying or selling a van, and for pages from families sharing their experiences a long the way, this has been a great source of information and inspiration for us, that this pipe dream of ours is very possible and on a variety of budgets and circumstances.

For us we have only considered buying a motorhome, I realise most families opt for the caravan or camper trailer and 4WD towing vehicle, and there are some wonderful set-ups out there. I have never towed anything in my life going forward, let a lone having to reverse a large caravan into a tight spot with seasoned travellers looking on. Apart from that, I think economically the motorhome is better for us, and we have enjoyed our time in them in the past.  I know the debate Caravan vs Motorhome rages on, there are pros and cons for both, but as long as we can find a functional motorhome which is set up for free camping we will be happy.Nicks photos 1931

The “Plan”

We will leave Scotland on September 7, spend 5 nights in a swanky hotel in Dubai, arrive in Perth WA on September 12, have 2 weeks accommodation and car hire booked, look to buy a motorhome, these are all certainties, what happens after that is an unknown and quite frankly a bit scary. Why Perth? I understand there is probably more selection of second hand motorhomes in the Eastern States but my Sister lives near Perth, it is also the destination on the shortest possible flight we can take from Dubai, and with a 17 month old toddler, without a seat this is quite important.  From our internet searches there are a range of motorhomes for sale, but if we can not find what we are looking for we will continue our search Eastwards.

Once we find our desired steed which hopefully will be a 4 berth motorhome, reasonable mileage with shower and toilet for free camping,  aircon and hopefully many more added extras, we plan to head east to Melbourne for Christmas and then to Tasmania where we hope to break ourselves into Australian summers gently. That’s our plan as flimsy as it may sound, and  when I read of other families whose trips are years in the planning I start to get the shakes, then our faith is restored when I read hear about other families who  set themselves up and head out the driveway 6 weeks after making the life changing decision.  In defence of our rather simple master-plan until we find our motorhome we can’t really plan the detail; we wont know what funds we have left until we need to work, where we will start from etc etc.   Apart from the detail that is also the attraction of what we are about to embark on; we can decide where we go and  what we do as the mood takes us.

The only constraint is money as it always is, we live pretty frugally in a house so we think we can replicate this on the road. once we are confident with our set up we can stay at free camps and National Parks with the aid of  our Wikicamps App. We will investigate volunteer positions and house sitting,  and when we need to we will have to stop for a little while and work.  There are always places needing Chefs and Leigh is keen to revisit her  berry picking days around Dundee as a kid by getting on the harvest trail.  No we have not been meticulously planning our trip with spreadsheets, lists and itineraries but we have been “researching” for months; there is a huge resource out there on social media mainly from families who are doing or have done what we are about to do, and several of these include job sites for travellers with families who are looking for a short term position before they are back on the road

Maybe our biggest challenge will be keeping Emily occupied, happy and safe. At 17 months she is into the adventurous stage and wants to climb on everything, including up  ladders! She loves being outdoors, splashing in a pool and will spot a bird in a second {or googoo as she calls them) whether its a distant seagull, an abstract picture of a penguin or ostrich, or the Twitter logo, so Australia sounds right up her street. Potty training in a van could be interesting, but we wont be the first to do this and there is always the network of our fellow travelling families to call on for advice if we need it. Emily may not remember her early “Gypsy” life travelling around Australia but we hope the experiences we have, the life we live and the people we meet help to shape her character in a positive way.

This adventure is a big gamble for all of us but we are very confident it will pay off, we still have lots to do this week to get ourselves packed up, as well as  the emotional farewells to loved ones, but we can’t wait to get travelling again. Looking forward to a bit of R&R in Dubai before we start this new chapter. We hope to keep you posted regularly on our travels and the places we go, the things we see and the food we eat.

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4 thoughts on “No van and not much of a plan

  1. I for one cannot wait to see your journey. View the photos, hear the stories and watch my best friend cherish her memories she is making living her dream with her family.

    Best of luck to you all and all my love 😍 😘

    Like

    • Hey Bev, thank you for your lovely comment, can’t believe we have actually set off to start our new adventure. Sorry for the delay, we are still figuring out how this blog works lol. Miss you already, we will definitely keep in touch. Xxx

      Like

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