A BUS, TWO KIDS AND ONE DOG: A RECIPE FOR ADVENTURE
When it’s time to hit the road full-time, you just gotta go. Well, almost.
Imagine this: it’s Mother Day 2014 and you are sitting on the beach at Angourie, NSW while your hubby is surfing and the kids are mucking about in the ocean. You have just recently finished building your dream home, your earthmoving business is going great guns, and life is sweet.
Then, bang! You start to wonder if this is it. Your kids are growing up so fast before your eyes and you know it won’t be long before they have their own lives and move out. That’s when it hit me: we need to spend more time together as a family before the kids start their own lives. With Dion working 12-hour days and Mitch and Sasha at school, the only quality time we had together was 1.5 hours a day, and it just wasn’t enough. It was then I realised that we needed to make some big life changes and that is the moment when I decided that we were, as a family, going to travel Australia.
A feeling of excitement came over me but I had to do my homework on our finances before I shared the exciting news with the family. Two days later we sat down and had a family meeting where I shared the awesome news. Dion’s reaction was, “You better not be teasing me”. I explained that we wouldn’t be able to leave for 12 months as we would need to save for our two-year trip and see through some business commitments over the next 12 months, but all systems were go. It gave us something to aim for and we decided that our departure date would be the end of the 2014/15 financial year.
Our dream started to become a reality when we began searching for a converted coach/bus to call home for the next couple of years. We travelled most of the East Coast from Melbourne to Rockhampton viewing buses for sale when finally, in October 2014, we found our dream home-on-wheels on the Sunshine Coast. It was so exciting pulling into our driveway with our new home and being able to share the news with our family and friends. There were a lot of opinions from everyone; some good and some bad. Everything from: “Wow, that is awesome, I’m so jealous. It will be amazing for the kids!” to “Are you insane? You are committing financial suicide!”
I chose to ignore the negative nellies and focus on all the positives.
Then, with only seven months before our anticipated departure date we had so much to finish and organise for our big trip. It’s not until you sit and start to think that you will be gone for two years that all of a sudden you have so many questions that you need answers to. Such as: how much a week will I need to budget to live on the road full time; what exactly do I pack, as it’s not as if I can pop back home if I’ve forgotten something; what tow rig will we take; do we rent, sell or lock up our new home, and the list went on.
Unfortunately, no one could really answer all my questions as everyone’s circumstances were different, so I just consumed as much advice from other travellers as my brain could handle and ran with it. Just when everything was going to plan and the long ‘to do’ list was being ticked off, our dreams came to a roaring halt in February 2015 when I ended up in hospital … it took the rest of 2015 for me to fully recover. This unfortunate experience only confirmed to me that things can change so rapidly in life and I was determined now more than ever that we needed to get on the road ASAP.
So in February this year we bade farewell to our family and friends and began our amazing trip. In the end, we decided that we wouldn’t rent out our home or sell it, we just locked it up and arranged for my family to look after it for us. After my illness, I needed the security of knowing that if something was to go pear shaped, I would always have our home to go back to. As for our weekly budget, I have allowed $1000 per week to work with, but please don’t let this deter you if you are thinking of travelling as our expenses are a lot more than someone who is travelling with a caravan. For example, our diesel cost some weeks can be over $400 if we are in a remote area where there is less camping and more travelling. We are a family of four with a nearly 16-year-old son that has a very healthy appetite, so grocery costs would be higher than a couple or a family with younger children. Some weeks we can manage to find amazing free campsites, like the one we recently found on a dam in central outback Queensland. Our only expense for the week was our grocery shop and a small amount of diesel to get us there from our last stop. This means that at the beginning of next week, I will have a surplus of around $500 that I will put aside to cover any unexpected hiccups or to pay for an attraction that may be coming up that we hadn’t budgeted for.
I was concerned that travelling with a big rig and towing a large car trailer would make it difficult to fit in caravan parks but so far we have had no issues at all and most parks have been more than accommodating. With Dion’s skillful driving and reversing skills, I love the look on the faces of fellow campers when they sit and watch him reverse perfectly into the site first go (not that I’m bragging!) but after years of operating heavy earthmoving machinery it is skill that comes with
So if you are wondering why we brought a bus instead of travelling in a caravan, I guess it all just comes down to personal choice. Firstly, our travel plans are long-term, with two teenage kids. Secondly, being born and bred in Sydney, when I used to go bush camping my mum would warn me about “axe murderers” so, unfortunately, that has stuck with me for years, which is partly why I opted for a bus; I feel very secure in our high bus with its dead-bolted front door.
Last but not least, our rig has three bedrooms (no, that’s not a typo – it really does have three bedrooms), which means that all of us have our own private place to retreat to when hormones are working overtime, and I’m not just referring to myself! In all honesty, I was concerned about how I was going to cope having Dion and the kids with me 24/7 as I’m used to my own company because I ran our business from home.
As it turns out, my concerns were unfounded – I’m loving it, and I forgot how much fun my family was to be around. There are times when I need some me time and the kids understand that, so they just make me a cuppa and leave me be.
If this is your dream, make it a reality; you won’t regret it. If you wait for the perfect time to leave it will never happen. There is no perfect time. We would still be sitting at home looking at our bus in the driveway if we didn’t make the decision to get up and go.
Six months in and life is great, all the heartache we endured while preparing for this amazing journey is now a distant memory. Every day is a new adventure and, most importantly, another day where we’re all together. This trip has made us stronger as a family, and has taught us that there is so much to love and enjoy while leading a simpler life.