The Three Year Weekender
A weekender is sometimes all we need to find ourselves again – but what if you never wanted to come home? Time away from our busy lives and our screens allows us to reboot, recharge, reconnect and relax, especially when that time away is with nature, with a hint of adventure. That’s what drew us in.
For nearly three years during our twenties, hubby and I took to the road with a 1973 Millard Caravan and our Labrador, searching for simplicity and instead finding a total life-change. We were tired of coming home our weekends and returning to the same old grind. Living to work not working to live. Was this what life was meant to be for the rest of our lives?
We wondered what it would feel like to travel forever and just work when we needed to. Like nomads. So we quit our secure jobs, rented out our heavily mortgaged unit, sold our cars, bought a second hand 4WD and put our stuff into storage. It felt wrong, very wrong and incredibly risky. Our bills back home were still there each month, and now we also had a huge car loan as well as our ongoing living expenses – could we do it?
But soon enough, it began to feel very, very right. No housework - I had three years off vacuuming and cleaning bathrooms (well unless it was in a paid role). No Monday to Friday routine. We didn’t have a lot to think about or hurry to do. No commitments to sport, family, friends or work deadlines. Our life pace slowed right down.
We worked in jobs that gave our brains some much needed switch-off time after leaving high-pressure roles. We found ourselves fruit picking, cleaning, gardening, stocking shelves, and we budgeted. Hard. We worked out precisely what we needed to keep things going at home and to keep us going on the road. Sometimes we worked two jobs to earn ourselves six or eight weeks off to explore new places or move to the next ‘job’ spot. The fresh air each day and not working in an office was something new and vibrantly refreshing.
We had a spreadsheet that we “balanced” at the end of every month to ensure we were OK to move on to the next destination, or we continued in the jobs we had and saved enough to travel. Every dollar counted. I even gave up barista coffee and started using a thermos.
We became minimalists.
Some of the things we did along the way were ridiculous, adventurous and well, some things were just not smart; like running out of fuel in the middle of the outback - in summer. But, we learned a lot of things about farming life, drought, and indigenous culture and of course how to live on a very small budget and somewhat adventurous lifestyle. So considering we didn’t rely on any income support and worked low paid jobs, how did we do it?
· Following the Harvest Trail to know where/when the work was happening allowed us to plan where we needed to be or aim for on the map with work opportunities.
· Handwashing our laundry when staying in caravan parks saved us on laundry fees.
· Driving at a lower than maximum speed while towing a van saved us money as we had better fuel economy. Truckies hated us. We didn’t care. Fuel in remote areas is a lot more expensive than suburbia.
· The $5 dinner – this sounds insane but our evening meal had a $5 budget – for both of us. We ate a lot of sausages, mince, rice, vegetables and pasta. We called home brands our “Homeboys” and they in turn, became our friends.
· The generator – we purchased one for just over $100 halfway through our journey and this was invaluable in keeping us out of campgrounds and caravan parks where you had to pay to stay – even for unpowered sites. When we worked out we were only paying for a shower, we gave up those too. We could literally pull into remote areas for overnight stops, use our own water to bathe and start up the generator.
· Free/low cost campsite books are worth their weight in gold. These little beauties take on a few names and they can be purchased from bookshops and retailers. It’s amazing how many state forests and parks offer free or very low cost campsites, including overnight roadside spots. Because we were travelling with a dog, it was hard for us to use National Parks, but they also offer cheap camping options too.
The hardest thing for us, was of course coming home. We hadn’t escaped that bit. funny that! I think it’s called reality. Unpacking, getting mortgage paying jobs again, reconnecting with family and friends and returning to the “routine” was an adjustment. We returned to the city a bit more grown up, life educated and culturally enriched. After all, travelling offers so much to learn and gee, did we meet some interesting people along the way!
Barista coffee made a comeback (with a vengeance).
We remain minimalists, but more importantly we remain adventurers.
Written By: Lisa Murphy from Big Heart Adventures