I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone advise someone else that it’s not possible to travel long term with kids in a camper trailer (usually someone who has never attempted it themselves). Well let me tell you right now that advice is complete rubbish! We travelled for three years around Australia in a camper trailer as a family, and not only did we survive, but it was the very best thing we’ve ever done.
Why did we leave to travel Australia?
I’m sure you know the story. Two adults, working full time or near enough, in jobs they don’t really love, trying to juggle work life with home life. Never really feeling like there’s enough hours in the day for all the things that need doing, let alone to spend meaningful time with your children and partner. And 20 years of the same stretching out ahead of you…
We just figured there had to be a better way to live. So we toyed with a few options. Should we go and teach English in China? Should we move to Canada? Should we move to Arnhem Land? Or should we pack our lives up into a glorified tent on wheels (aka a camper trailer) and travel around Australia indefinitely?
The Glorified Tent won.
Why a Camper Trailer?
For us when we decided to travel Australia, we wanted to travel Australia. We didn’t just want to see the parts of Australia you can access on a paved road in a caravan, we wanted to be able to access ALL the parts of the country that are accessible. And considering roughly 40% of the roads in Australia are unpaved, for us that meant getting a home on wheels that was just as good off-road as it was on-road.
We looked at “off-road” caravans. But we quickly realised that such a thing doesn’t really exist. Regardless of how much checker plate you have, or how good your suspension is, a caravan simply won’t make it down many off-road tracks. Not to mention they were wildly out of our budget. So we looked at hybrids. Some of them looked amazing. But the budget was once again a problem, and we soon found that very few hybrids accommodate families. So that option was out too.
That left us with camper trailers. And conveniently, we already had one. We had an old soft floor camper that we bought when we were living up in Darwin, travelled around the west coast in pre-kids, and brought back to Melbourne afterwards as a weekender. But while it was doing the job for that purpose, it wasn’t really the best camper going. It was old and basic, it had no 12V system, no lights, no built in kitchen. And as we’d discovered on our previous travels it leaked and let in ALL the red dust.
We’d always wanted a hard floor camper trailer, so we started looking at those and finally we felt like we’d found the perfect option for our family. We chose a new Cub Camper Escape, negotiated on some of the inclusions/build to customise it to our needs, made sure it had a great 12V system, excellent lighting and kitchen, and a good sized fridge. Of course it was waterproof, it was easy to pack up/set up and it was as red dust-proof as it’s possible to be. Plus the best part? It went everywhere our 4×4 did, which for us was one of the most important factors of all. And sure enough it was the absolute best decision for us.
What did we love?
We loved just about every part of travelling Australia as a family. We loved the wide open spaces, the huge starry skies, the sunrises and sunsets, the beaches and the deserts. We loved the scenery, and the wildlife, and the destinations. We loved the people that we met, and the places we stopped to work at that become our own. We loved waking up not sure where we were going that day, and what adventures we would have along the way. But most of all we loved the freedom, and the time together as a family.
We loved sharing the parenting duties, and having Dad get as much time with the kids as Mum. We loved not having to juggle a thousand commitments, and instead just getting to spend our time with each other. We loved lazy morning cuddles in bed, long evenings around the campfire, and family dinners under open skies. We loved watching our child grow, and not missing a single minute of it. We loved how much he learnt, how confident he became, how quickly he made friends with people of all ages and all backgrounds. Honestly, hitting the road to travel Australia as a family was the best thing we’ve ever done.
What didn’t we love?
Let’s face it, nothing is perfect. And any little problems you have at home won’t just go away when you hit the road. Kids will still be kids, partners will still be partners. There will be times when you drive each other crazy, just as you do at home. But at home, you have your extended tribe to support you through that – grandparents to watch the kids while you have a date night, close friends to have a glass of wine with and complain about your husbands. So being without friends and family on the road can be tough. We combated this with lots of video calls home, a few visits home, and by having the grandparents (and other friends and family) meet us along the way for parts of the journey.
What else didn’t we love? The wind. The bloody wind. People think that rain will be a problem in a camper trailer, but it’s really not (so long as you’ve got a quality one that doesn’t leak!). Wind on the other hand can be a right royal pain. Our kitchen was outside, which we loved 90% of the time. But when it’s blowing a gale cooking outside becomes pretty much impossible. As such campsites were generally chosen based on their shelter from the wind before most other factors.
We also had a bit of bad luck along the way – you may notice in our photos that our car and camper change along the way through circumstances outside of our control (make sure you have good insurance!) We had a camper trailer written off, a car that was nothing but trouble that ended up with a cracked chassis, and a snakebite drama that resulted in a RFDS flight. Things can go wrong, and they do. But hey, at least they make for good stories around the campfire!
Would we do it again?
Yes, in a heartbeat. In fact we are – we’ve now moved to New Zealand, bought a retro caravan (you don’t really need the off-road ability of a camper trailer so much here) that we’re renovating, we’ve had another baby, and we’ve hit the road here to hopefully see just as much of New Zealand as we saw of Australia.
For us this is a lifestyle choice. We work as we travel to make it possible. As a Registered Nurse and a Carpenter we have no trouble finding work, but we’re also willing to give anything a go – right now we’re helping out at a caravan park emptying bins, cleaning amenities and cooking takeaways. It’s a choice we’ve made not just to see the world, but more so to see it with our children. Getting to spend this time together as a family is priceless and we we’re so glad we made the decision to hit the road.
If this is something you’re considering doing yourself, then seriously, find a way to make it work. Give it a go. Step outside of your comfort zone and take a chance on a different way of living. Chances are you’ll love it just as much as we do.