We are the Charman family! Me, Alana, 34, Nathan, 38, Dacoda, 15, and Ella, 12. We took twelve months leave from our jobs, and packed up our home on the far north coast of NSW to travel Australia for the year.
We have only been on the road for just over two weeks, but we are loving every minute so far! After much deliberation, we decided on a Jayco Swan Outback as our home on wheels.
Even before kids, travelling Australia is something Nathan and I wanted to do, but there just never seemed to be the right time. We became so caught up in the regimented Monday to Friday school/work routine that the travelling idea became a very distant light at the end of a long tunnel. Until one day in January last year, Nathan sent me a random text while at work, 'Let's travel Australia next year!'
That night we discussed the possibility. I was very apprehensive because of the girls ages and the fact they would both be in high school. After many more discussions and family meetings and witnessing some moments of life being too short, we all decided to go for it.
After making the decision and beginning the planning, things mostly fell into place, which for me was a sign that we were meant to do it. We set a leaving date (just under a year from making the decision), and instantly began saving. We spent time fixing our house ready for renting, packing, organising schooling, researching options for our new home, and working. The most cleansing of all these jobs was getting rid of stuff we didn't need. A garage sale also helped to raise a few extra dollars.
We only decided on the Swan a month out from our leaving date, so we didn't have time to do any practice runs. Instead we set it up in the back yard for a couple of weeks, which helped us to make sure we had everything we needed, and what we could do without.
Definitely our biggest joy is that we are actually doing this! I think this will continue to bring us the most joy throughout our trip.
So far, our biggest challenge was choosing what to travel in. We went back and forth between caravans and camper trailers and new and second hand. We read reviews and comments from other families, researched and went to caravan and camping shows. After weighing up the pros and cons, we finally decided on the Jayco Swan, which has been perfect for us.
We have only been on the road since February 9th so haven't seen too many places. So, our favourite place so far has been the Blue Mountains. Absolutely stunning! We love bush walking, so we stayed right across the road from the Three Sisters walking tracks. We also visited the amazing Jenolan Caves. Oh, and Huskisson, on Jervis Bay was also a beautiful place.
I couldn't imagine there will be any places that will disappoint us. If we ever feel underwhelmed or disappointed with somewhere, we may just need reminding of what we are doing as a family :).
Schooling was probably my biggest concern when we first started planning our trip, as Ella was starting high school and Dacoda was entering year 9. At first, Ella didn't want to miss starting high school with her friends, and Dacoda had made a wonderful group of friends that she was worried not being at school with them. With plenty of chatting and reassurance, their apprehension soon faded and excitement crept in.
We looked into the options and decided on distance education as opposed to home schooling. We researched schools and what schools other families were using, and decided on Southern Cross Distance Education in Ballina. After visiting the school and meeting some of the teachers, any worries were put to rest. They were amazingly friendly and supportive of what we were doing. And it's great that most f their work is online too!
We have been so surprised at how supportive and encouraging of our decision everyone has been. From friends and family, to teachers and people we have met in the caravan parks.
Our 3 pieces of advice would be:
1. Be flexible with your planning. Things change and hiccups occur. Set dates and places, but be prepared to stay longer or change your course.
2. Do it your way. Listen to advice, read blogs and research, but in the end it's your family trip. So make decisions that suit you and your family.
3. Have faith that if it's meant to be and it's something you really want to do things will work out.
It's still too early on in our adventure to comment on any changes. But, if there is one change, or growth we experience, it would be that our journey sees us all come out of our shells!
Finally, it has been amazing to have so much information and support from fellow families travelling. If you're thinking of setting off on the adventure of a lifetime, make sure to access and soak up as much information as possible from all the blogs and facebook pages of travelling families. Hope to meet you all out there on the road!
Follow more or our journey on our Facebook page - see you there!