Ever since my teenage years it's been my dream to buy a VW Kombi and travel the coast from Sydney to Freemantle. And having reached my mid fourties without having done this I decided it's finally time to start living my dreams instead of just, well ... dreaming about them! So I hired out a camper (who'd have thought buying kombi's could be so expensive!), got out my map, and with the help of some friendly travel planners, laid out a mission from Sydney down to Melbourne visiting beaches and sights along the way. There are so many amazing places in Australia perfect for campers!
To be honest though, for all the amazing scenery, I'd be lying if I said that I would have gone through with this trip if I'd known what I would be up against. It's all been worth it, but between the occasional breakdown, getting lost, and rationing food and supplies, I don't think past me would have been able to comprehend what I've managed to overcome. That being said, the people I've met and the experiences I've had have made it more than worthwhile to put up with a few headaches along the way, but I never thought at almost 50 I'd be saying I've grown substantially as a person over a few weeks on the road!
For others heading into their golden years who are thinking about hitting the road before time makes it an imposibility, I'd say definately go for it, it's an experience like no other, and with savings and a bit of world experience it certainly beats traveling in your twenties. BUT, and it's a big but, there are things you will need to know before hitting the road. Before I even get into any of my adventure stories, I'd like to share a few tips that will make anyone's time on the road, young or old, a million times better.
1. Avoid the tourist traps. I learned this after about a week of traveling through sites that were packed with young kids and families. The scenery was nice, but it just wasn't the relaxing and exciting experience I was expecting. Then on a whim I asked a shopkeeper at a bakery I stopped at where a nice quiet scenic spot was around Woolongong, having spent the last two days at crowded beaches and shopping centers. He told me to take an hours drive to a national park nearby and it was honestly the first time I acutally enjoyed the trip, even the drive into the park was relaxing and full of amazing sights. I'll never forget being out in the bush on my own and running across a kangaroo casually sitting on a walkway, before hopping away past me as I scrambled for my camera.
2. Prepare for emergencies. Bring enough food and water to last you at least eight hours if you plan to be driving through sparsely populated areas. It's a pretty rare event, but if you're on the road for weeks, there is a good chance at some point you're going to need to see a few repairs done to your vehicle. That's just life. And there's nothing worse than being stranded out in farmland in a country town, and having to drop in on a farm to ask for help. I may have been gifted some delicious sconnes this way when I found myself without food or water and waiting six hours for a tow, but despite what the cliches say, you shouldn't be relying on the kindness of strangers to get you by.
3. Hire your camper/RV/car. This follows on from the last point. My camper had to be towed and the radiator repaired, which could have spelled an end to my trip if I'd had to pay for all that. In a lucky turn those repairs and towing were insured by my rental agreement, and they even offered a replacement van if it had been out of action for over a week. I can't tell you how much a load that was off my shoulders to get free roadside assitance with my camper rental.
4. Try to save money where you can. I almost spent half my travel savings on buying a refurbished Kombi. Obviously this wasn't going to work, so I used google to find myself the cheapest option for a Kombi and came across a site that compares all the different prices for hiring campers. In the end I didn't even get a Kombi because for about one tenth of the price I could get a different camper with a TV, stove, and emergency bathroom facilities. I can't tell you how happy I am I made that choice, even if it meant compromising a bit on my dream trip. I also decided to organise the majority of my trip around "off season" times for holidays, which means I saved hundreds more in the long run. That means I could have spent about three weeks more on the road if I wanted, and even better, I could upgrade to my current camper with a TV. Not that I've used it much, but it will be a nice distraction if the weather turns.
Anyway, wifi is quite expensive and my lease is almost up so I'll save more tips for another time. Thanks for reading my first traveling post!