We are the Davies family. Dad; Byron (40), Mum; Alicia (39), Miss Tamzyn (9) and Master Bryn (7) and we have been on the road for nearly 10 months. We are in a 25ft Retreat Daydream semi off-road van towed by a 2008 200 series Landcruiser.
Nearly 3 years ago, Byron decided he wanted to travel around Australia and I seconded that dream. He immigrated here from England in 1989 and had never left WA since. He had been following a few other families travelling and when we watched "The Big Lap" (TAWK gets a discount - so click link to find out how - TAWK) that was it. Decision made! We began looking at all our travel options. We already had a very basic 1981 hard floor Cub camper with nothing but a bed and what we could fit under the bed and in tubs on the top. It was the perfect weekender on power but nothing more and the kids had outgrown it (we were now sleeping in a swag outside while they had the bed lol).
So we went to caravan shows, camping expos and even looked at motor homes. We compared pros and cons and pricing of them all and decided on a full van with ensuite. Then went hunting for the right one. It took us over a year to settle on a make, model and design and we were about to sign up for a new one, when a 2nd hand one came up on gumtree 10 mins from home! SOLD!! Then 6 months later we finally found our car (lots of back yard camping in the meantime).
While in the hunting stage we were also in the process of subdividing our 5 acre block into 3 smaller blocks. We kept 2 acres with our house and managed to sell the other 2 blocks which funded our car and van and paid off our debts. During all this, we were both working, hubby full time and me part time plus studying part time to be a vet nurse. The first block took a few months to sell and we had set a date of 1st Feb 2016, then the second block sold quickly so hubby quit work to start sorting things while I continued with work and study. We decided to move our date forward stop us spending our travel money on living at home.
I finished work and TAFE mid December and we left on New Year's Eve! It was a crazy 2 weeks packing, unpacking, changing minds and organising everything but we did it. 6 weeks travelling the south of WA to get to know what we could do and know the van. We had to go home early Feb for family and some repairs so we camped in the backyard for 3 weeks before leaving for the big trip. We took this opportunity to unload stuff we didn't use and readjust weights and schooling decisions (will get to that soon).
Our biggest joy has got to be the freedom of the whole experience. We have no holds to times, dates or places. We take each day as it comes and if we like somewhere, we stay a bit longer. If we don't, then we move on.
Our biggest challenge has got to be breaking out of the daily grind routine of: Getting up, getting the days/weeks/months ahead organised and going to work/school and home again. Having everything in such a strict order or routine. It's taken months to slowly let go and accept that we don't have to get out of bed that early today if we don't want. We don't have to be there at that certain time (except for booked tours!). We don't have to do schooling that way today. It's been a long slow process to break the chains of daily routine and to accept the new way of life.
Also, being without our van for 3 weeks during major repairs (1/2 van reskin and a new awning due to damage caused by a mini cyclone in the Stirling ranges). We felt extremely lost and were so glad to get back in the van and on the move again! Was awful seeing our van back to its bare bones during the repair process but that's another story lol.
We have enjoyed a piece of everywhere we've visited but the place that stands out so far is Alice Springs NT and surrounds, due to the amazing places to visit, activities and events that unfold in this beautiful part of Australia.
We can't really say that we have been disappointed in anywhere we have visited. We have found small parts of certain places that we didn't like but that doesn't govern our thoughts on that place as a whole. Each place holds new discoveries for us, so to us, each place has its certain charm.
Hmm schooling?? Do you really want to know?! We looked at unschooling (against the law in WA), homeschooling and Distance Ed. We wanted to go with homeschooling initially but wasn't able to get hold of anyone to give me advice at the time. The kids principal advised us to go with DE so as a last resort, we did just that, signing up in December 2015 for the 2016 school year. They were lovely to talk to and gave us some of the first terms work to get us started.
OMG, we walked away with 2 big boxes full of paperwork and that was only part of it! They recommended 5-6 hours a day . We would have also had to carry a printer and scanner with us to download, print and scan in each fortnights lessons which then needed to be sent off (one child by mail, the other by email).
We tried this during our initial 6 weeks trial run. What a disaster. The kids couldn't handle that much in one day and we weren't prepared to sacrifice our travels for that much time at a desk. During that time, the home education department got in contact with us so I organised a meeting to be during the 3 weeks we were home. I bought a heap of resources, books and apps, ready for our meeting. The home ed lady was lovely and very pleased with what I had organised and signed us up as home educators.
We have our next "home meeting" via Skype in Feb 2017! We promptly took all our DE resources back to the DE office and said thank you but it's not for us. We haven't looked back. The kids have since completed all the books I have bought plus a heap more and are working through education apps too. They love museums, bushwalking, geocaching and reading all the info on all the places we visit. Couldn't be happier now.
What has surprised us most about the trip? Well, many things really. Our ability to constantly change and adapt to different places and situations. The kids coping with long days and distances in the car. How far these kids can walk when hiking!! They walked the base of Uluru, the full Kata Tjuta walk and the Kings Canyon rim walk all within a week! I was so proud of them. Mind you, they slept really well!
3 pieces of advice for future TAWKers.
1. Just do it. It's an experience that the whole family will never forget.
2. Find the tow, tug or setup that suits YOU. Each family is different.
3. Never be afraid to ask .....
I have found that we are closer to our kids. We spent so much time working and not connecting before we left and missed so many parts of them growing up. Byron and I have reconnected after being on different shifts for so long and not seeing each other for more than a hour or two a day and being too knackered on weekends to do anything more than was necessary. That's not a life. We love seeing new things together, discovering new places and being excited about each new chapter as a family. We have seen these kids change over the last few months. They are growing up, becoming more independent and it's been nice to be there to see it.
It is a big lifestyle change than most people don't understand. They see it as a holiday. To us, it's a new way of life. We still cook, clean, shop, budget and work when we need to. We also have to be constant school teachers, phys ed teachers and tour guides to our children. It's a different challenge and adventure every day! You only live once so why not accept the challenge and have some fun while at it. We have met some amazing and wonderful people on the road whom we will never forget and some we hope to catch up with later in our journey. We miss home occasionally but wouldn't change a thing.
You can follow more of our journey here on The 4 Davies Nomads Facebook page.