15 Things I Learned After 5 Years On The Road
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1 Blessed are the chiller bags
These handy zippered bags are the best thing since sliced bread. They are cheap as chips, readily available and great for storage and all manner of things. We store our seasonal clothes (out of season) in these and use them for dirty clothes. We prefer them to plastic when shopping or picnicking and they are great for holding ropes, cables and the like.
2 Companionship is precious
Like-minded people gather easily, particularly at free camps around the country. Learn to say ‘hi’, share your time and experience. Making new friends is one of the best things about travelling and we have made interesting and great friends during our travels, many of which we still keep in contact with in the wonderful world of social media.
3 There is nothing like a good Aussie pub
One of Austalia’s best icons is the good old fashioned Country Pub. A different breed to the city pubs the country pub is an icon of hospitality and usually good food and home cooked meals. They are also offer entertainment in their own right, filled with all manner of curios. We often will treat ourselves to a full lunch and hold off desert for dinnertime, sitting under the shade somewhere as we chat away the time with locals. This is a real treat! Many also offer free camping on site for patrons and travellers. As a member of the senior set, we have found that you really only need one truly serious meal a day and you can take your time to enjoy it.
4 Keeping your fridge happy is all about ambient temperature and closing the door
This is the hardest thing to learn. How many times do you really need to open that door? We find that a small shade over the fridge wall side of the caravan also helps when facing the afternoon sun. A thermos will keep water both hot and cold but come 5pm…happy hour… you really do have to open that door.
5 Happy hour begins when you’re happy
Happy Hour is a time for most tourers to relax and enjoy new and old company and it never ceases to amaze me just who you catch up with over the years. We have found that small portable stools are handy and aren’t so comfortable that you would unwittingly overstay your welcome. A glass of wine and nibbles are always welcome to many travellers, so BYO and enjoy the company.
6 You can camp 10km out of town
This little gem is true for most of rural Australia and was imparted to me by other family travellers very early in my travelling years. Always check with the owner if you intend camping up on private property but look out for those wonderful stock routes, which are the lifeblood of the nation. You can often recognize them by the broad strips of land either side of the road. We regularly use the Wikicamps app on our iPad and smart phones for navigation and free camping.
7 There’s a golden time at sunset and sunrise
This is for the photographers amongst us. I love the pink hues of the sunset side or west coast and the crimson and golden hues of the sunrise side…it is a truly magical moment in time. I will often wait for those magic moments to get the best shot and it rarely fails me, no matter where I am.
8 A walking stick is handy for many things
Not only is a walking stick handy for keeping steady when walking, but they are also great as a defence against all manner of nasties (even my nagging husband). So many people are too proud to use these sticks when they should. I dangle mine with a ribbon from my wrist, which leaves my hands free. I find the collapsible kind easy to store in the car and more suited to my size.
9 Stop and smell the season
Buggar the roses… take a whiff of the season, the bush, the ocean, and learn to love the world around you. There is nothing like the smell of the forest or grass after rain, or, even in the early hours, nothing like the comforting smell of a small campfire. I find many campers will often light up a bonfire of epic proportions and ruin the ambience in favour of the spectacle, often driving company away from the comfort of the fire. It is such a pity and such a mark of the city slicker believing that bigger is better, when cosy is comfort.
10 Visitor centres are worth their weight in gold
Always a fountain of information, these centres are often the first stop when we reach a town. Commonly manned by valuable volunteers, who are also locals, they will regularly go the extra mile to help you and they are also great places to discover all about local produce and regional writers. Some of our best books have been bought at the information centres and the bookshelves are always our first stop. Pass these centres at your own cost. They are as handy as the local watering hole.
11 There’s more to see around the edges
We are ‘edge of season travellers’. The north is hot and it is supposed to be just that, while the south is cold and I enjoy my woollies and Ugg boots like the best of us, particularly around that wonderful campfire. We enjoy the turn of the seasons, the change of colour and the birth of life and when we approach the full flush of summer, or the dead cold of winter we are outta-there, moving toward the new season. This also thins out the tourist numbers we have to deal with and come holiday season… we will head inland to those wonderful country towns and outback regions leaving the coastal tourist haunts to the holiday makers who have less choices than we. This is how we avoid the crowds.
12 A tailwind is a little gift from god
The drivers, and those who tow their mobile homes or navigate big rigs, will understand this idiom. This becomes most evident when you have a good straight set ahead. Our driver has been known to camp up and wait for that tailwind, rather than drive into a headwind when on the Nullarbor and it is amazing the difference it makes. Watching the weather fronts is also something we have learnt to do.
13 Enjoy the ride
A tourist has a destination, a traveller is in the present and their rig is their destination. ‘Outside’ for a traveller is the entertainment opportunity and presents the things they enjoy: sitting in the vehicle watching the countryside move by, or sitting around the campfire watching the bush telly in the flicker of the flame. Research the places you wish to see and discover, the areas you pass through, meet the locals and become part of the community… participate! There is no truer, nor more important advice.
14 Tourist or traveller?
Over the years I have come to think of myself as a traveller, not a tourist and I have come to appreciate the differences. We are what others term Grey Nomads and the meaning of this term shifts depending on who you are talking to, be it someone who is generally interested or someone who is hoping to profit. I found some important differences between tourists and travellers. The two groups, as visitors, are very different in their preferences, something I often wish people would understand. Which are you?
15 The wilderness doesn’t come with a power shower
Now this is strictly not true…there is nothing quite like a wet patch under a waterfall and they too come warm and cold. However, when travelling through the wilderness and remote areas in Oz, water is a very precious resource. A chicken wash is in order, particularly if you live off-grid. If you want a shower…head for a stint in a caravan park.