TAWK Featured Family - 'Rollinroundoz'

1.   About you

We are a family of 3. Sue (Mum, wife, Navigator, Cook, House keeper, teacher, tour guide and socialiser), 48 years old, Mick ( Dad, chauffeur, mechanic, Mr Fix it, dishwasher, teachers assistant and fisherman) 43 years old and James (socialiser, game player, helps set up and pack up caravan, Lego builder, movie critic and fisherman) 8 years old.

We left Melbourne (Deer Park) Victoria on 2nd February 2013. Our aim was to travel for 12 months, doing the iconic lap of Australia. 20 months later we are still on the road. We love this life, the freedom to stay or go, do what we want as a family.

We are travelling in a Nissan Navara 2007, 2.5 lit, dual cab Ute with a canopy on the back a tent, little flat bottom tinnie on the roof, oh and don’t forget the fantastic Max Trax on the roof as well (which we haven’t used as yet). We are towing a 17 ½ foot pop top, Galaxy Southern Cross Series 2 Bunk van. No ensuite, we have a 12V set up for shower if needed.

2.   Why did you make your decision to TAWK?

We had a camper trailer before we bought our van and after a Christmas holiday in 2011 we decided to upgrade to a caravan. As much as we loved our camper trailer, it was such a hassle when we did a 1 night stop. We looked around for a couple of months for a van that would take us on our annual holidays. We finally purchased our Galaxy in March 2012.

We had always talked about travelling Australia, but as most people are, you get stuck into routine and a rut, with bills and mortgages to pay. We both worked long hours, Mick owned a Property Maintenance business and I (Sue) managed a large childcare centre. And James, well often he was in before and after school care, so he did long hours as well. We worked long and hard each week, then Saturday we would clean the house and Sunday get ready for another week. We so looked forward to our annual holidays.

We always dreamed of travelling Australia, but how could we? Money, responsibilities, family.

Mick’s parents passed away in their mid 60’s and we wanted to see this great country of ours while we could still walk to the gorges instead of looking at them from the lookouts. We sat down after dinner one night in July 2012 and said what are we doing with our lives? Do we slave away to pay our bills, and get 4 weeks annual leave a year or just throw it all in and do what we want to do. So we set a date. Saturday 2nd February 2013. We stuck to this date.

We spoke to James and he was ecstatic about the decision. As he is an outdoors boy, and loves to explore and find new friends. So next step was to tell the family! We had a family dinner coming up the following weekend so; I thought great opportunity to let them know what we have planned. After dinner, I said that we had planned to leave in 6 months time to explore Australia for 12 months! Well, all the negatives started:

  • What about James schooling?
  • What are you going to do for money?
  • What about working?
  • What are you going to do about the house?
  • James will get lonely, being an only child?
  • You won’t be able to free camp as it’s not safe? 6 months to get organised won’t be long enough?

Well we had an answer for everything. And then we said we want to do this and we are. So they finally accepted our decision to travel or our need to do this. We told our friends, and once again we were bombarded with all the questions, but most of them said how lucky are we to do what we are going to do.

3.   How did you get organised and how did you prepare?

So where do we start? What do we need to take? Which way are we going to go? How much do you budget a week?  How do we find cheap or free camps? Schooling, which way to go? Distance education or home schooled? What are the main things we would really like to see, visit and do?

Our journey started from there. We goggled the internet nearly every night, about which way we should go, do we go clockwise or anticlockwise? We ended up going clockwise. People said to us that going from the east to west over the Nullabor you get headwinds! Well we went over the Nullabor towards Western Australia at the start of May and we got no winds at all. So go with what makes you happy. 

The 6 months flew by. Mick bought a 40 kg tinnie and 8 hp motor, he built a bracket to put the boat motor on the front of the caravan. He put a 120 watt solar panel on the roof of the van. 125 amp hour battery in the front of the van along with a C-Tek battery management system and LED lighting in and outside the van, and more 12 volt points inside and outside the van. As our van doesn’t have pumps for water, so we don’t use a lot of power. So this is why we only have 1 solar panel on the roof and 1 battery.

We installed 2 jerry can holders on the back of the van and 2 PVC pipes to hold, yes, fishing rods and tent poles. We didn’t have any shade walls for the awning so we purchased a small one for the end and a larger one for the side of the awning. These have been a life saver as it stops most of the wind and sun. We have only used our annex once, when we went back to Melbourne last Christmas for a couple of months other than that it’s been stored under the couch!!   

Schooling! Where do you start? I had asked on a few sites on Facebook, what families were doing for schooling. So this was the start and gave us ideas on what to do.  I rang VRQA (Victoria Registrations and Qualifications Authority) in Melbourne and asked about Distance Education. We had to have a permanent address for the school work to get sent out to. We are using my parents address for any mail, but it was a lot to ask for them to send this work on every 2 weeks and what if we weren’t going to be in that place that the work was being sent to for another couple of weeks! So spoke to them about homeschooling.

Well, I did not know how easy it was to take your child out of school. All we did was fill in a 1 page form, with our 3 names, James date of birth and his birth certificate and send it in and receive a letter 5 days later saying he is being home schooled. That’s it; it’s up to us now.

We went to Australian Home Schooling resources which are located in Werribee in Melbourne and they did a test on James to see what stage he is up to. Then she sold us 5 workbooks for him at his level. So this is a start. So this is what he does, but we mix it up with Reading Eggs on the computer, Lesson Zone, which supply a lot of resources on different subjects and having a huge selection of reading books for all different levels (saves carting lots of books around), I find different work books to mix things up. But the education that he is getting by travelling, no school would ever provide this. All the history of Australia that James and we have learned is amazing. He does do a lot of Marine Biology, like fishing. But everything is a learning curve. So we think we have finally got it all together

4.  What has been your biggest joy?

Our biggest joy would be spending quality time together as a family and not having the pressures of having to be anywhere at a certain time or place as we don’t plan where we are going until the day before most times. I suppose it’s the freedom to roam.

5. What has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?

We haven’t had any major challenges on our trip, but I suppose, to actually say, “We are travelling Australia” and making the big decision to do it was our biggest challenge. Telling family and friends, what date will we leave, getting schooling organised for James, PACKING the house to put in storage, renting the house all these things were the challenge for us and that’s before we left. But we kept looking at the end result, that we would be free spirits and to do what we want to do, when we want to do it as a family.

6.   Where have you enjoyed the most?

People ask us what’s our favourite spot! Well each state has a special spot for us. As Australia is a very diverse country, we have oceans, lakes, rivers, deserts, very dry and rugged country to crops in very lush green environments.  We as a family love waterways, whether it be the ocean a river or a lake (as the boys love to fish) but there is something magical about water, it just changes as you watch it especially the ocean. But our favourite spots are:

  • Eyre Peninsula, South Australia, especially from Port Lincoln to Ceduna. So many budget camps and some great fishing, weather it off a jetty or in a boat, to be done.
  • Broome and Cape Leveque, some people love Broome or hate it! But we loved it. It is a much laid back place. Sunsets on Cable Beach every night are just fantastic. Cape Leveque is another world to us. You have 90 kms of corrugated sand and dirt road then come out to one of the best tarred road in Australia! We stayed at Middle Lagoon, then on to Kooljaman at Cape Leveque. The pristine water and red cliffs are just magical.
  • Karijini National Park, just stunning. The walks into the gorges, the scenery, the campsites at Dales Campground, very well set up with separate areas for generators, tours groups, solar panels. But get in early as you can’t book sites.
  • Queensland, where do I start but one place that stick out for us is Mission Beach. We stayed at Cassowary Council Caravan Park $140 a week. But don’t tell anybody. It’s the only caravan park in Mission Beach on the water. The beach is just beautiful with hard sand and the bending palm trees. Mission beach is a little touristy town with a few little shops selling clothes and souvenirs. But we spent most of the time on the beach while here. The boys went fishing off at the jetty as our boat is only a flat bottomed tinnie, so open waters are out! But the boys caught lots fish off the jetty, Spanish Mackerel, Sooty Grunter, Flathead, Flounder and crayfish just to name a few.
Cockatoo Creek - Cape York

7.   Where disappointed you the most?

There have not been a lot of places that has disappointed us really. If you go in with an open mind and not with what people tell you and make up your own mind, and at the end of the day you shouldn’t get disappointed. Exmouth I was a little disappointed in the actual town, it wasn’t what I had thought it would be! I had heard people rave about the turquoise waters around Exmouth so presumed Exmouth would be a town on the water. I was wrong.

Exmouth is really the gateway to Ningaloo reef, so stock up and head out to Cape Range National park and stay out there, But word of advice, don’t go in the school holidays like we did. They line up at the Rangers station waiting for a spot the park the van from 5 am. So we stayed in Exmouth and drove out there to explore. This is about 90 kms each way.

8.   What surprised you most about the trip?

Over the 20 months that we have been travelling I am surprised how many families are out on the road. Some are just doing it short term (3 months or so) some have sold up and are indefinitely on the road, working as they go to get to the next place. I had always heard once you retire this is the thing to do, so I knew that we would always run into the Grey Nomads, but it’s great that there are so many families getting out and enjoy our wonderful country.

9.   What would be three pieces of advice to give to a future TAWKer?

  • People are always up for a chat, which of course we love, and are quick to give advice, whether it be for a camp spot, about the caravan, solar, electrics, generators ect, places to go or not to go, which road to take. We love to hear other people’s advice. But at the end of the day, we decide what we are going to do or where we are going to go. You have to make your own mind up, when we started, we took advice from other people, oh don’t go there, don’t do that and we did and love it. Everybody’s got different interests, so what suits you might not suit me.
  • My other piece of advice is slow down and take your time, at the start it’s very hard to do, because the stresses of working life and routine that what you are used too, rush rush rush. If it takes you all day to travel 20 km, who cares. This is why you are doing what you are doing. Slow down and enjoy it. 
  • One more piece of advice is to be set up properly. If you want to do a lot of free camping, get the equipment to do it. A lot of times we have seen people free camping and run the generator all day and throughout the night. This annoys other campers and we’ve seen people get upset with each other because the noise of the genie running. Top up your batteries and then turn it off.

10.   How do you think that this adventure has changed your family?

We were a close family before we left, but being together 24/7 in confined space (car and caravan) has bought us even closer and to realise what is important in life. That, to me, it is my husband and son, the thing that was important 2 years ago isn’t anymore. Doing what we are doing has made us realise you only have one chance at life, having a big house doesn’t interest us and all the material things in life aren’t important either. As long as I have my family it doesn’t matter where we are or what you are doing, just as long as we enjoy it together. Just get out there and enjoy life. 

We have a facebook page. If you would like to follow our adventure and have a look at where we’ve been, check out: www.facebook.com/Rollinroundoz

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