TAWK Featured Family 
'The Wandering Jocks'

1.   About you

We are the Doonan Family AKA The Wandering Jocks.   Jay and Lil, Hamish 5, Matilda 3 and Maeryn 18months and Boo, the 8yo Ridge-back cross. We have been travelling for 3 years with an Aussie Jay’s soft-floor camper trailer. We started out with 2 kids and a dog and now have another child who has been travelling from only 19 days old.

2.   Why did you make your decision to TAWK?

We made the decision to travel due to work stress. After the company Jay worked for folded in the GFC, he lost his job and went into working in a job he hated to pay the bills. Jay travelled by train 2 hours each way 6 days a week, never having any time to see the kids and me and it really bothered us all.

After a workplace health check the doctor said something had to change as Jay was getting burnt out working in a high stress environment. 

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

We had already purchased our camper trailer a few months earlier so we could go away as a family. We had travelled and camped a bit on our motorbikes before the kids, then had a 4wd and rooftop tent and moved up to the soft-floor camper. Jay set up the camper trailer for full time travel making an extra water tank out of storm water pipe to hold about 40ltr for using as a shower when free camping. Jay learned as much as he could about solar, wiring, battery power and 12v gadgets and wired it all up himself so he knew how the system worked and how to track a fault when it arose.

With the money side of things we saved as much as we could and had a garage sale to get rid of things we didn’t need. Once the decision is made you have to be ruthless and just get rid of everything. You can always get a new fridge, microwave and such and they are easy enough to come by so we set out to get rid of everything. A lot of things we gave to a struggling family across the street. Jay donated all his music gear to a youth project who where beside themselves to receive such hi tech equipment. We kept some things that you simply can't part with and have a few boxes stored at a friend’s garage. 

We planned to work as we went so had enough money to last us about 3 months before work was required. When we made the decision to travel we hit the road 9 weeks later. Our lease was up on the house so it seemed like the best time to use as a deadline.

4.  What has been your biggest joy?

The biggest joy for us is being together and having such a large impact on our children’s development. Getting used to being together 24/7 can be challenging at the start but, by making sure we had good communication, we settled into this way of life nicely after 4-6 weeks. We go off exploring different places as a family and spend all mealtimes together. Jay and I rely on each other more and we all have our little things to take care of. We have also met some great people along the way, making some very good friends from followers of our Facebook page and other online networks. They ask to meet up with us when we’re in the area to pick our brains about our set up and travelling with the kids.

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

Slowing down and taking it easy was a massive adjustment for us. Having the kids around all the time was initially stressful. Being a stay at home mum meant having the kids around was no trouble, whereas it was a big adjustment for Jay. Spending all day every day with young children certainly gives you a new found respect for mums that do this everyday. Jay took the kids fishing and let them help him when tinkering around with the car, walking the dog or playing a game of footy.

The day soon wears them out when you find something for them to do and you find they help a lot around the place too. The kids are fascinated with our basic washing machine (bucket with lid and a plunger) and love helping to wash the clothes.

6.   Where have you enjoyed the most?

The Vic high country has been one of the places we have really enjoyed the most. The scenery, the fishing and the things to see. It’s such a beautiful area and we love getting down there and exploring a bit more each time. The Blue Mountains are another cracker...so much to see and do there too. We took a tag-along tour through the area with “Off The Blacktop 4WD Tours” which was worth it in so many ways.  We learned about the car’s (and a little of our own!) capability, the scenery and places we would never have found and it was family friendly.

7.   Where disappointed you the most?

Tennant Creek NT was the biggest disappointment for us. We had stopped in for 2 nights and wished we had simply driven through.  It was noisy at night and we just didn’t feel safe for the 2 days we were there.  The options for caravan parks were not great, with both parks given 3 stars on Wiki camps and few great reviews. There are some good sight-seeing  and tourist activities, but the town itself was not at all what we were expecting.

8.   What surprised you most about the trip?

We are constantly amazed how much easier this lifestyle is for us than we thought it would be. There are so many people we’ve spoken to who say how much they’d love to do what we’re doing...we’re of the opinion that most people COULD do it relatively easily, they are just so tied to the norm and ‘stuff’ that it’s hard for them to think of letting all that go.

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

  1. There are plenty of earning opportunities to be had. Think outside the square and don’t just go for work you think you’ll be best suited to. Don’t discount volunteering/WWOOFing (Willing Workers On Organic Farms)/skill bartering or any job you think is beneath you. If cleaning the amenities for the duration of your stay pays for your powered site with maybe a small wage as well, you’re on a winner!
  2. Know your set up. Having a basic understanding of how your vehicle and home on wheels is put together and works could save you a fortune and a whole lot of heartache.
  3. You don’t have to have the latest and greatest whizz-bang caravan to make travelling comfortable. We couldn’t think of much worse than a caravan for our life on the road, but many others think we’re crazy in our soft-floor camper with young kids and a dog. Plenty of people use all different types of accommodation and make it work.

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

I think it has made all of us stronger and more confident in our abilities. Our children are polite, well-adjusted, social, intelligent, inquisitive and resourceful little people. Homeschooling has worked well for us so far and is something we probably wouldn’t have considered prior to our travelling life. It’s not just the kids learning every day, but the big kids too!!

Living on the road can be stressful at times, but life can be hard no matter where you are.  Make sure you communicate with your partner/family members, particularly if you’re feeling down, stressed or just need a hug. It’s also not a lifestyle for everyone so if it doesn’t work out, make settling a priority and maybe just plan for shorter trips. There’s no shame in giving something a go and finding it doesn’t work out.

There are Centrelink benefits you may be entitled to while travelling (FTB, Parenting Payment, NEWSTART if homeschooling, Carers Allowance, Assistance for Isolated Children are the more common payments), so speak to someone from there to determine if you qualify.

If you plan on working while you’re travelling, speak to an accountant who has experience with itinerant workers. BANTACS has some fantastic free information to give you an idea of any tax implications and claimable expenses.

Travelling with a dog is rewarding. Ours provides companionship, is an excellent security guard, great pest control and a bit of a fitness guru. We do have to plan things a little more carefully, but we feel she adds a whole lot more to our life on the road. We probably would have left her with family if she wasn’t so well behaved and trained or if she was a terrible traveller.

Living on the road is much cheaper than taking a set time (e.g. 18 months) to ‘do the lap’. We aren’t restricted by a schedule and can choose to visit major attractions at off-peak times to save some money. I am very budget conscious and make meals accordingly. We free camp most of the time and choose our next destination based on available free camps (most of the time). We track our fuel and vehicle expenses, which has helped us catch potential issues before they cost us big time. Lil uses loyalty cards and other memberships for discounts to many attractions and even accommodation. (We have a Travel Finance Tracker to help do that - TAWK)

So that's it from us. Read more of our journey and find out how our adventure continues on our Facebook Page.  We're also posting up random job opportunities that may be suitable for travellers too (adding them to our page as an event each month), so make sure you head on over and follow us. 

Safe Travels.

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