Back on the road again!
Just like that, we’re back on the road with our new car!
A person could be forgiven for thinking that the idea of more travel and setting up a new car would be an exciting and fun experience. But anybody who has ever decided to travel will tell you there is a LOT of work that goes on behind the scenes to make these long stints happen. More importantly, there’s research, hours and hours and hours of it, often sifting through a minefield of people’s opinions, experiences, and what their neighbours cousin told them.
When I decided to quit the corporate world and travel for a year (1 year…ha!), I knew nothing about caravanning, or towing, or 12v and solar, I was totally and utterly clueless. What ensued was several months of me sitting up until the early hours of the morning researching and learning.
A decade ago, there was nowhere near as many families out there, and there was not a plethora of blogs, vlogs, or facebook groups to source info from experienced travelling families. Instead, I was on caravan forums sifting through post after post to try and gain the relevant information. Finally, after a 6 month process of selling up, buying a car, a van, and then putting all my recently acquired knowledge to use, we were ready to hit the road armed with the knowledge I needed, or so I thought. In reality, I had barely scratched the surface. While we loved our first 18 month trip, it was not without its problems and challenges.
Fastforward some 4 years when Jaiden and I decided to take off for a second stint of travel, I knew what I was in for because I’d done it all before. The difference was I had 6 weeks sell all my possessions to make it happen, not 6 months like I did the first time around. We found a van after a dear friend loaned us money which helped us avoid homelessness, and from that point it was an almost around-the-clock effort to get ready to travel.
Many late nights alone in the van paid off and 5 years ago we set off on our second round of ‘adventures’. Hitting the road felt like we’d “made it,” and the happiness and joy I felt because of all I had achieved was overwhelming. The thing is, all of that effort and those sleepless nights just got me to the start line because the real challenges began when we set off. Having totally emptied my bank account and racked up an extra $5k of credit card debt setting up the van, we knew finances would limit our travels while we repaid our $10k caravan loan in 12 months. Things were going to be tough, real tough.. And then I discovered a major issue that necessitated replacing the car’s engine a week before Christmas.
Fastfoward to 2021 and the challenges it brought. We came down to Bathurst as we knew we had a stable place to stay without being kicked out by park owners trying to navigate this new reality and the murky waters surrounding it. A year into our stay Jaiden and I hatched a plan to do something different: spend 3 months living from a 4WD and a tent and do some Island hopping in QLD. After redrawing $20k from my Super to put towards a block of land, we spent almost the whole lot on our car. After all these years, I had finally bought myself a 4WD and ‘upgraded’ from my old Falcon. While it is 10 years old, it’s by far the newest car I have owned, and we felt pretty special with things like working air con.
But alas, our fearless leaders locked us all down, closed the borders and we quickly realised our dreams of Island hopping over winter would not be realised. My motivation dwindled (actually, no, it went altogether) and our goal just kept getting further and further away. Some pretty severe life events pretty much “wiped” 2 months of my life and once NSW opened up for travel, Jaidens and my motivation to travel was rekindled, even if it was not going to be the Island adventures we planned. We decided we’d head towards QLD and hope that the borders would open. Open as in actually open, as opposed to needing to apply for passes, have tests, and meet minimum requirements just to re-enter what is my legal state of residence.
With this newfound motivation, we set about getting our to-do list together, which quickly grew and grew until I felt like I didn’t even know where to start. It was very overwhelming, exasperating my back issues, limiting what I can do physically. I often considered selling our recently acquired 4×4 because it was becoming a liability, one that I was not sure I needed, especially when I already had a car well setup to tow our caravan. After much deliberation, we decided to keep it in the short term, and set it up properly.
Unlike many people who decided to travel, we have rarely had have the spare money to buy all new parts and pay people to install them. All of our mechanical, electrical and general repairs are done by yours truly, often after much research and trial and error (and swearing). We aimed to be on the road my Xmas, but my body had other plans and we were forced to ditch that plan, and aimed for Jaiden’s birthday.
Over those 4 weeks we:
Installed a new exhaust
Front and rear suspension lift
All new trailer wiring on tow car
Diagnosed caravan light issues (mice…)
Installed our canopy on the car, wired in new lights etc
Wired up a solar / 12v system in the canopy (120ah AGM, 20amp DCDC, 200W solar, 1000w inverter.)
Changed the fuel pump, MAF sensor, EGR valve and SCV valve.
Greased caravan wheel bearings and checked brakes.
Gave the car a full service
Replaced thermocouple on gas fridge
Replaced Gas regulator
New Air-con belt and pulleys
And a host of other odd jobs along the way that my 6am brain can’t remember.
But after weeks of both Jaiden and I slogging away day after day, we finally ticked off all our jobs and were ready to hit the road! After 18 months it feels almost surreal to be back on the road, surreal but bloody rewarding! All the hours we spent laying in dirt, covered in grease working on the car, often in excruciating pain, which was doing its best to prevent me from sleeping at night suddenly didn’t matter as we had overcome so much and achieved our goal.
So what was the point of this long-winded story? Well, these things don’t just ‘happen’, despite how it may appear on social media. Behind the perfect pictures on instagram, every traveller has stories of the stress, frustration, and the ‘second guessing’ that accompanies life-changing decisions.
If you want to get out there and do something new, it’s going to be hard, challenges will appear, and the future will be unknown. There will be speed bumps along the way (like me getting bitten by a Redback yesterday, or what appears to be a failing clutch in our new car, or hooking myself badly with a fishing lure), but one by one we continue to overcome the obstacles before us.
Why? Because whether it’s travelling or making some other kind of life change, ANYTHING worth doing in life, is going to be hard. I’ve discovered that the more distanced you are from a “normal life” and the more you step outside of your comfort zone, the more challenges and uncertainty you’re likely to face.
On face value, ours seems like a dream life and people have said to me in the past “Oh you are so lucky, I wish I could travel” – Well, I can tell you, that luck, and “wishing” did not come into it, hard work, sacrifice, and commitment certainly did. Jaiden spent day after day for weeks slaving away under the car in the dirt, helping me do wiring, passing tools, and doing absolutely anything I asked of him at the drop of a hat. It’s not really fair to expect this of a 12 year old, but he got up every single day with the same motivation as me because despite the plethora of challenges we faced, his eyes were fixed securely on the prize, the prize being regaining our freedom and the lifestyle we love.
Despite all the challenges, we’re back out here and doing it. The problems we faced daily already seem like a distant memory despite the many cuts and sores serving as a reminder for both of us. We overcame a lot these past few months, both mentally and physically. It was bloody hard to motivate myself to keep pushing forward with a shrinking bank account, a body screaming for rest, and external influences having adverse effects on my mental state, which in turn affects Jaiden too. Let alone doing all of this without any friends or family nearby for encouragement, a hug, or even just a friendly chat.
Every morning I would wake up tired, sore, overwhelmed, and not wanting to spend another day torturing my body or overcoming speedbumps. Ultimately, it all came down to two questions. “How much do you want it? And what are you prepared to do to achieve it”.
It’s easy to portray perfection on social media, but I think the struggles we face is what make the journey memorable; it builds our resilience and gives us a greater appreciation of what we’ve achieved, so I think these experiences and truths are important to share.
Life outside of your comfort zone is not easy, but it’s also where the best things exist.