At the end of November we arrived in Australia. In case y’all were not aware, this continent is HUGE.
So we bought a car.
We’ve been unemployed for nearly a year, and it pained us to part with a big chunk of our dwindling savings. But a vehicle is necessary to really explore Oz, and after months of bus rides and tuk-tuks, we were pretty stoked for the freedom of a road trip.
A Home on Wheels
Accommodation, like everything else, is very expensive in Australia. However, there is a thriving camping culture and many free campgrounds. With the right setup, it’s possible to have a good old-fashioned road trip on a budget.
We wanted something more substantial than a hatchback and tent, but less ostentatious than a full-on camper van. Finally we decided on an SUV with a bed platform in the back.
After looking at several used cars, we purchased a Nissan X-Trail for a great price. But we had to build the bed platform ourselves.
This was my first DIY project ever. I used a saw, y’all. It only took a couple of days and most importantly, it works!
Platform done, we equipped our adventure-mobile with a mattress, storage containers and camping gear. After shoving things in every nook and cranny, we took off.
Then we stopped for a box of wine. And then the road trip began.
The Freedom of the Open Road
Our home on wheels is pretty sweet. Upon arrival at a campsite, we just park the car and throw our homemade screens over the back windows. I love that we don’t have to fuss with a tent.
Everything we need is with us all the time. Just pull out the folding chairs and voilà, instant living room. I grab a book from the small library (because I have space for books now!) and Schuyler plays guitar. We drink goon.
I love camp cooking. For me it’s really fun creating delicious, cheap meals on a one-burner stove (without messing up too many dishes). Here in Australia we’ve been able to indulge in a lot of the Western food we missed in Asia, like tacos and macaroni.
Australia has amazing wildlife, so we often see kangaroos or wallabies hanging around. Once we were visited by a pair of gorgeous, colorful birds— they just wanted some food, but we were still totally excited because BIRDS.
We’ve enjoyed a few killer sunsets. After dark, we are often astounded by the clarity of the night sky. And when that’s not entertainment enough, we move into our indoor living room (the front seats) to watch a movie.
The bed platform holds a foam double mattress, which is pretty comfortable. What it lacks in overhead space, it makes up for in convenience. We have curtains and a sunshade to block the morning light (and prevent creepers from watching us sleep).
Most nights it cools off and we get good airflow with the window screens. A few times it’s been downright cold and we had to bundle up and hide under the sleeping bag. Definitely surprising for summer in Australia! But it’s much easier to sleep when it’s cool, and thankfully we’ve only had a handful of hot nights.
Mornings are slow. We do some exercise or stretching if we feel like it, then enjoy a cuppa. We linger over breakfast and when we’re ready, head out to see whatever catches our fancy that day. Not having a schedule is the best thing ever.
The Other Side of Camp Life
Having everything with you all the time means that you have to actually put everything back in its place. Some days we are very neat, sweeping out the car and making our bed perfectly. Some days we just shove things around haphazardly until our vehicle is driveable.
Obviously, there is no bathroom in the SUV. There are often restrooms at the campgrounds, but as vehicular nomads we also have to be okay with taking care of business in the bush.
We usually take a shower every second day, which is adequate. Sometimes the free showers are very clean and nice. Sometimes it’s a cold stream of water in a squalid cubicle. But honestly, standards get lowered when one is living out of a car. Thankfully we have shower shoes.
By far the worst thing about camping in Australia, which took me completely by surprise, are the flies.
Australian flies have no respect for personal space. They specifically target the human face, landing on your forehead or crawling up your nose. Unlike polite American flies, which move when you wave your hand nearby or shake your head, these grotesque insects stay put.
They buzz around your ears and touch down all over your exposed skin. Some of these devil flies even bite. And there’s rarely just a few flies, no; they travel in plagues. The noise and the crawling feeling is enough to drive even the most patient person absolutely bonkers.
Vagabonding on the Road
Living out of an SUV has been an awesome chapter in our travels. Yes, there are trade-offs. However, taking a road trip is a really fun way to explore Australia.
We enjoy being totally in control of when and where we go. With petrol in the tank and groceries in the pantry, we’re totally self-sufficient. If we don’t have to cover long distances, we can go days without spending a dime.
Australia has truly amazing scenery. Driving through is one thing, but being outside morning and night in these incredible landscapes takes it to another level. Being in nature is good for your soul.
Stay tuned for some of our favorite national parks in Australia in the next post.
Have you ever slept in your car or taken a long road trip?