Women of Australia. It’s time for you to take the steering wheel out of your man’s hands and have a go at towing. Come and join the #ChicksWhoTow movement.
Kylie and I would be fairly typical of most couples traveling around Australia in a caravan. In the past, before we embarked on our life on the road, I would do pretty much all of the driving on our caravanning holidays. It wasn’t a conscious decision to be that way. I just enjoyed driving and Kylie enjoyed watching the scenery go by. That arrangement was fine for the occasional, short-term holiday but for living full time on the road, that’s not a situation we wanted to continue. Like most women, Kylie wanted to learn how to tow the caravan with confidence and I wanted her to do it.
One of the things we both agreed on before we started our journey was that in the event one of us had to return home for a family emergency, the other would be responsible for the rig and the dogs and drive home as expediently as possible. This meant Kylie had to learn how to tow.
“I remember the first time I towed our caravan. I was as nervous as hell but my confidence grew with every kilometer. Now, I actually enjoy towing and I know Marty appreciates me being able to give him a break now and again. My ability and willingness to tow gives us peace of mind should something happen and either he cannot drive or I am left to drive the vehicle on my own. This is essential for any couple who lives on the road or travels to remote areas” – Kylie Ledwich.
In addition to a family emergency, concern over driver fatigue was another reason for us to want to share driving duties. Towing a caravan, especially a large one, involves a lot of concentration and attention, more so than what you might be used to driving the car on its own. If your trip involves long days behind the wheel, it makes sense to share the load and reduce the possibility of fatigue. If nothing else you will arrive at your destination in a much more refreshed state.
Now it’s easy for me to say all this but my words don’t mean a lot for women out there looking for encouragement to take the wheel. I’m a bloke after all. So, rather than me banging on about it, why not take some advice from a few women we know who do tow.
A good friend of ours, Kym, has been traveling solo since July 2010. When I asked her why she tows and travels on her own, she said “To me, my rig is my other set of legs. Towing a caravan gives me the opportunity to explore more of the places I want to see. I like the freedom to go wherever the adventure takes me.”
“My dream since I got my driver’s licence at 18 was to work my way around Australia. I was never really interested in traveling overseas.”
I asked Kym what her towing experience has been like? Has she had any issues or dramas to contend with?
“Originally, I had an Avan and later I upgraded to a bigger van. Given I was travelling solo, I had no choice but to tow it on my own. It is an unreal feeling towing my home around. So far I’ve had no major issues but whenever I’ve found myself needing some assistance, the caravan community has always been so friendly and helpful. You are never truly alone.”
I asked Kym if she had any advice for any women considering learning to tow.
“For women wanting to do it, I would say just go with your gut instincts and take baby steps until you feel comfortable with your decision. I was lucky, my former partner was a truck driver and he gave me a lot of good advice and tips to handle a big rig. But if you don’t have someone to teach you or you would rather learn to tow the proper way, go and do a towing course. It will be the best decision you ever made.”
“My husband and I have been living full time on the road for the last 4 years. I got my truck licence working for a local council. This gave me the confidence to tow our caravan as the skills required for both are similar. I love towing the van and I know my husband, Kevin, appreciates the opportunity to relax and enjoy the scenery rather than doing the driving all the time” – Sharron Mullins
Another friend of ours, Lynne, who travels with her husband, Mal, faced the worst situation. One month into their trip touring Australia in their Jayco motorhome with Suzuki Vitara in tow, Mal suffered a debilitating stroke and his condition threatened to bring their trip to an abrupt end. Instead, Lynne took on the driving duties and their life on the road continued. When I asked Lynne about it, she told me “I never expected to be the principal driver when we bought our motorhome. I did obtain my heavy vehicle licence just in case. Well, that case came a month into our adventures.”
“We had a decision to make. Either stop and go back home or I just put my big girl pants on and we keep going. Mal recovered as best he could and my confidence driving the rig increased every day. It turned out to be the best decision we could have made. This lifestyle keeps Mal moving.”
Lynne also appreciates the assistance she gets from other travelers.
“The people you meet along the way are amazing and everybody is so willing to offer help when we need it. We eventually share a drink and a story and become lifelong friends. We cross over with them in different parts of Australia to swap new stories and have a few laughs. Sharing tips and tricks just adds to our confidence and experience.”
Learning to tow involves more than just steering the vehicle down the road. You need to have confidence driving a big rig on and away from the highways. You need to know what to do in an emergency and you should understand the process of hooking and unhooking the van and being able to reverse it into a site. While it is possible to learn this from your partner, we highly recommend you do a towing course. In fact, why not both sign up for a course, and that way you can share the knowledge and ensure both of you are doing the right thing.
Towing need not be an exclusively male domain and, I would argue it is actually dangerous to leave the driving duties to one responsible adult. It is a statistical fact that women are more careful drivers than men. So come on ladies. It’s time to join the #ChicksWhoTow movement and get yourself behind the wheel of your rigs. And guys… it’s time to support and encourage your partner to do so.
Further reading: Are these the coolest RETRO RVs in Australia?