Lessons Learnt / Things We Would Do Differently
Our Trip Around Australia: Lessons Learnt / Things We Would Do Differently
We have recently returned from an absolute trip of a lifetime, 12 months travelling around Australia in our 1998 Landcruiser ‘Trev’. It was absolutely amazing and we were so blown away by the beauty and diversity of Australia. One of the most common questions we have had since we returned (other than how did we fund our trip, you can find our post on this HERE) was ‘what would you have done differently?’ Here is a summary of some of the things we have learnt and what we will do differently on our next big trip.
FREE CAMP MORE OFTEN
When we left on our 12 month trip around Australia it was the first time either of us had gone on a camping trip for longer than 1 or 2 weeks. This meant that we were not too savvy with all the awesome free camps out there and instead spent most of our time in caravan parks or national parks. Now there is nothing wrong with this, we had an awesome time, but the amount of money we spent each week on accommodation was sometimes up to $200 a week (or even more!). About 2 months into our trip we started using the app WikiCamps Australia which is absolutely amazing and has details on almost every campsite in Australia. Once we got the hang of WikiCamps we started looking for more free camps. We found so many amazing free camps, some of them better than any of the camps we paid money for. As the months went by we started free camping heaps more and some of the most beautiful places and our favourite memories are from places that were free. If we did this from the start we would have had more money for other things like activities (and wine that doesn’t come in a cask!).
TALK TO FELLOW CAMPERS & LOCALS MORE
If we could go back in time and do our lap around Australia again we would have chatted with fellow campers and locals more than what we did. Both Hutchy and I are pretty outgoing people that love a chat but it is was easier to stay within our comfort zone and keep to ourselves when we were at new campsites or new towns. Don’t get me wrong, we met heaps of people and made the effort to speak to people a lot of the time, just not all the time. The times we did make an effort to meet new people were some of the best and most fun times of our trip. Sometimes it can be a bit nerve wracking to pull up a chair at ‘happy hour’ when it seems like everyone else is old friends but it is so worth it! Firstly, if you meet people on the road that are also travelling then straight away you have a lot in common, so heaps to chat about. Some of the best places we went on our trip around Australia were recommendations we got from people on the road, we hadn’t even heard of some of these places so there was no way we would have gone unless we were given the tip.
Getting great camping advice is one good thing but it is also good to be able to swap stories and have a laugh with new people. If you are on a big road trip the chances are you have spent a lot of time with your partner / family and it is important to mix things up a bit and have different conversations with new people. Who knows you might even make lifelong friends out of it!
DO LESS ONE NIGHTERS, ACCEPT YOU CAN’T SEE IT ALL IN A YEAR
This one is very important. For anyone planning on spending 12 months travelling Australia, or even 2 years, you need to accept that YOU WILL NOT SEE IT ALL. You would need about 5 years to see all of Australia!!!! It is such a big country!!! For the first maybe 6 months of our trip we were feeling guilty about missing places so we were trying to fit in as much as we could. This meant that we were doing quite a few ‘one nighters’. I am telling you, unless you have a camping set up that you can whip up and pack up in a few minutes, doing multiple one nighters in a row will result in very grumpy campers. Our set up is pretty simple, but it still took about 20 to 30 minutes to set up and a bit less to pack away. It is really draining when you have to do this every day. We found that we were our happiest when we stayed in a place for around 3 or 4 days because that way we could see everything and also (very importantly) RELAX. It is a holiday right?? After some pretty big fights over very small things we made a decision that instead of travelling around so much and trying to see everything, we would slow down a bit and really make the most of the places we did see. We started a list of places to go back to on the next lap of Australia.
The second half of our lap around Aus was much more relaxed and enjoyable and now we have a great list of places to see next time. Another reason why Australia is so great, there is almost endless beauty to discover.
HAVE DEFINED JOBS & MAKE SURE EVERYTHING HAS A PLACE
If you are travelling with your partner or family a tip we would give you is to work out your individual ‘jobs’ before you leave on your big trip. At the start of our trip we didn’t really have defined jobs so it sometimes caused little arguments and we became frustrated with each other, especially when setting up and packing up camp. After we were on the road for a while we figured out our ‘jobs’ to make the whole process of travelling easier and less stressful. For example, when we arrive at camp Hutchy does all the big things like set up the tent and get all the heavier gear out of the car whilst I do all the little things, like set up our camp kitchen and put up the clothes line. It is really important that everything has its place when you are packing things away so that you can easily find things when you need them (this will also reduce the number of arguments!!).
Another thing that we started doing a few months into our trip that we should have done from the start was take turns doing the dishes, one day I would do the dishes and the next day it was Hutchy’s turn. The person who wasn’t on dishes duty was on ‘put everything away’ duty. We knew our jobs so we never had disagreements about it. It is really important that everyone pulls their weight and jobs are divided up equally.
There are a number of things regarding ‘stuff’ we took that we would have done differently if we were to start again. Here they are:
Solar Panels – we didn’t have solar panels when we left and had to buy them about 2 months into our trip when we were in Karratha, Western Australia. If you are like us and have a fridge in your car then solar panels are almost essential (unless you are driving every day or always getting powered sites).
Pop Up Tent – Our tent is not the easiest to set up so we ended up buying a cheap pop up tent from Kmart which we used for ‘one nighters’. It was a bit smaller than our main tent but so easy to set up, it literally takes only 2 minutes! We wish we had it from the start to reduce our setting up / packing up time (if you have a camper trailer or caravan this will not apply to you).
Gazebo – We bought a gazebo 8 months into our lap because it was raining a lot more on the East Coast and if we wanted to drive anywhere after setting up camp then we would have to pack the annex up (which was attached to the car) and put tarps over all our stuff. This got really annoying after a while so we splashed out on a $200 3m X 3m gazebo which we could leave set up and drive around as much as we liked.
Lightweight comfy chairs – Good chairs are so important!! Make sure you have lightweight comfy chairs. We bought two you-beaut recliner chairs on our trip but they were just too heavy and bulky to move around (they weighed 11kg each). Life is so much easier on the road when your gear is lightweight. It is also so important your chairs are comfortable because you will be spending so much time in them (and make sure they have a beer holder!).
Better laptop with more storage – We took so many photos and videos that our laptop just didn’t have enough space! If we were to go back to the beginning we would have made sure there was plenty of available space on the laptop so we could manage our photos and make little movies. We did use an external hard drive but we think it is easier if you also have it all on the computer as well (use the hard drive as backup).
Less clothes – We realised pretty quickly that we had too many clothes. I actually ended up giving some away at Caravan Parks (I made a pile with a FREE sign). I only really wore the same comfortable weather appropriate clothes. One big tip I can give if you are heading north into mozzie / sandfly country, is to make sure you have lightweight long clothing, it is the only thing that really works when trying to avoid bites (and also great for sun protection!).
Good handsaw – When we left on our trip we didn’t have a handsaw and were paying for bags of wood whenever we wanted to have a fire (which was all the time!). Once we figured out we could collect our own wood and chop it ourselves if we had a handsaw we picked one up at the next hardware store. It paid for itself in about 2 days!
A couple of Golf clubs – Hutchy says he would have loved to have brought 1 or 2 of his golf clubs so that he could have a hit every now and again. A great way for him to have some ‘Hutchy time’ and he wouldn’t have to hire the clubs like he did when we were on the road.
In built water tank – Our vehicle (Trev – we love you) didn’t have an inbuilt water tank which would have made our lives so much easier. Instead we carried a number of different sized water containers, ranging from 5 L to 20 L. These took up a bit of space in the car because we always made sure we had at least 60 L with us.
LEARN MORE ABOUT SIMPLE MECHANICS
Before we left on our trip around Australia both of us had very little mechanical knowledge. We knew how to check the oil, coolant, tyres and jumpstart the car, but that was about it. We wish we learnt simple mechanics before we left on our lap, it would have saved us quite a bit of money and it is a great life skill to have in general. Lucky for us, about 4 months into our trip we travelled with one of my friends who is a mechanic and he taught Hutchy lots of things including how to change the oil, oil filter, air filter and fuel filter. Hutchy also learnt enough basics to be able to kind of know when something is wrong (kind of!!). Learning simple mechanics will help you save money as well as possibly get you out of a hairy situation if something goes wrong when you are out bush.
Another thing we learnt on the road was how to check our batteries to know if they were going flat. We went through one starter and two auxiliary batteries in our 12 month trip!! If we knew how to monitor them better we wouldn’t have had so many issues. Hutchy bought a simple battery reader from Bunnings and learnt a lot about battery levels. If our AUX battery was starting to get too low we would make sure we had the solar panels connected or go for a drive to charge it back up. It is really important to keep the fridge working properly, especially if you have meat in it. I learnt the hard way by getting sick at the start of the Gibb River Road, Hutchy drove 400km return to get a new battery while I recovered in the tent, not fun!!
SPEND AT LEAST 4 WEEKS IN TASMANIA
We didn’t know a whole lot about Tasmania before we left on our lap around Australia. When I was looking into booking the Spirit of Tasmania I thought that 2 weeks would be plenty of time to see the sometimes forgotten about state. 2 WEEKS IS NOT ENOUGH TIME!! We were so rushed and didn’t even get time to see the West Coast. Tasmania is absolutely mind blowing, the scenery, beaches, food and people put it up there with our favourite places in Australia (northern Western Australia is our number 1 but Tassie is a close second). If we could go back and plan it again we would have given ourselves 4 weeks as a minimum. We went in February which was a great time to go; we definitely recommend that you go in the summer months because even though it was summer it was still freezing in some places at night, especially Cradle Mountain. Being cold is so worth it, also a great excuse for a big campfire.
So there you have it, a pretty brief summary of the things that we learnt on the road and things we would do differently. As you can see, none of them are major. The most important thing is to just get out there and do it!!!! Travelling around Australia or even just doing small trips is amazing and the best thing we have ever done. What an amazing country we have. We love your comments so let us know what you think and if you have any other tips or lessons you learnt on your own camping adventures.
Lauren & Hutchy