Australia Outdoors Travel

Road Trip Australia: Life in an SUV

March 2, 2017

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.

An upgrade from backpacking (photo credit to Schuyler)

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!

Our DIY bed platform

Our DIY bed platform

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.

Goon: when a bottle of wine won't cut it

Goon: when a bottle of wine won’t cut it

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.

Home for a night: Spencer's Creek, Kosciuszko National Park

Home for a night: Spencer’s Creek, Kosciuszko National Park

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.

Pretty bird

Getting my twitchy bird lady on

Another day, another kangaroo

Another day, another kangaroo

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.

Easy like Sunday morning

Easy like Sunday morning

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.

5 minutes after parking our car, chaos reigns

5 minutes after parking our car, chaos reigns

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 plaguesThe noise and the crawling feeling is enough to drive even the most patient person absolutely bonkers.

Can’t handle it

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.

The Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road

Ready to roam in the Australian Alps

Ready to roam in the Australian Alps

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?




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  • Reply Jill Blankenship March 2, 2017 at 11:54 am

    Amazing journey! Reading your descriptive adventure is ALMOST like I was there! Glad you are having fun. We sure miss you in these parts! You guys could venture to the beautiful USA and go from corner to corner. I bet we have some luscious landscape worthy of pictures. Keep the pictures coming!

  • Reply Sharon March 2, 2017 at 9:58 pm

    Love your blog! Love you more! Laughed out loud once again and realized how much more I miss you! (Can’t wait for your homecoming!)

  • Reply Teresa March 3, 2017 at 3:37 am

    Love love love hearing about your travels! so worth the wait! Glad you two are having so much fun.. miss you bunches and love seeing you! …and the scenery is superb! ?

  • Reply New Zealand Winter Road Trip - Travel With Gratitude December 19, 2017 at 9:40 am

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  • Reply Cynthy January 31, 2018 at 2:28 am

    Hi. Love hearing about your adventures. I just wanted to give you a little tip on keeping the flies off your face. Wear a hat and stick a long feather in it. Similar to a peacock feather. Or if you can’t find a feather, a long fern of sorts will do. Maybe that’s why they put feathers on horses headdresses. Maybe that’s why Yankee Doodle Dandy stuck one in his hat.

    • Reply Lindsay D February 10, 2018 at 1:43 am

      Hi Cynthy, thanks for reading! I’ve never heard this one before, but I wish we had known such a simple solution existed. I’ll definitely be using this trick next time we go to central Australia!

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