If you spend much time on Instagram, you’ll see feeds full of amazing photos of those who are on the road full time, with pristine beaches, amazing scenes, happy kids, beautiful weather and you might get the feeling that there’s nothing else better in the world.
You might be right to a certain extent, but there is a hidden side of long term travelling that a lot of people don’t realise, and that’s a problem.
If you head away thinking its all going to be sunshine and roses, you’ll be in for a world of pain when you realise its not, and in this post we are covering all of the long term things that cause you grief when travelling, that no one talks about.
There’s a big adjustment period
Most families will tell you that the first 6 weeks on the road are shocking. The kids will be feral, you’ll question why you ever left, and everything can be incredibly difficult and frustrating. If you expect this, and know that it will get better, you are in for a fighting chance.
Remember that you’ve just tossed everyone’s ‘normal’ world into the trash, and each person needs to re-adjust, get used to living in close quarters with others and allow the new normal to be accepted. If you’ve done a lot of travel prior, the adjustment period can be shorter, but there’s always going to be one.
The weather can suck, big time
People only share photos of places when they look amazing. The weather can be a huge turn off when you are travelling long term, and no matter how good your planning is you will get rubbish weather, and you will have to deal with it.
It could be seriously hot days, or seriously cold days, or wind blowing its guts out for days on end, or just no sunshine for a week. These things happen, and regularly, and you need to be prepared for them. The wind in particular can be super annoying, and will take an amazing place and turn it into hell.
You are exposed to all sorts of new risks
When you travel long term, there are all sorts of new issues and risks that you are associated with. Whether its theft, or being bitten, or falling on rocks I’d say the average travellers life is more risky than sitting at home, and going to work. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but you do have to be aware of it and manage it accordingly.
Bugs and bites are annoying
Mosquitos and sand flies are probably the two most annoying animals put on this earth. When you travel long term you will get bitten by them, and you will find it frustrating. You can manage it with the appropriate clothing, sprays and deterrents, but you’ll still eventually get done and need to accept this.
It can be quite expensive
Long term travel isn’t cheap. Those that are doing it for more than a year at a time generally stop to work, or have another form of income. You cannot travel in a holiday mode long term without this. You are generally looking at about a dollar per kilometre done, or often around 40 – 60k per year to travel as a typical family lap.
If you slow the travel down your costs also reduce dramatically, and a lot of people pick up work along the way and spread their trip out over a longer period.
Things will break, and go wrong
One thing we’ve learnt to accept is that travelling long term is hard on your gear, especially if you like the off grid, remote locations that are 4WD accessible. You’ll have gear break, parts on your car fail and things will go wrong.
If you aren’t ready for this, it can be a show stopper, and it’s a good reminder to ensure you are doing the preventative things to ensure you monitor the condition of your gear, and know when things aren’t quite right.
I know from personal experience that these things can be quite stressful, and if you are constantly worrying about what’s going to happen next you might find you don’t actually stop and relax!
Your kids will be a nightmare at times
If you travel with kids, kudos to you. We have a 5 and 3 year old, and they can be a huge handful at times. They are not angels at home, and we accept that they wont be on the road either, but in combination with long days in the car, tired and cranky people with kids that push the boundaries can get old, real fast.
Everything is different for them too, and they have big days when you are travelling. A good nights sleep, as much routine as possible and being flexible are absolute musts, and you’ll pick that up pretty quickly.
Some places wont live up to their reputation
You’ll see amazing photos of places. Sometimes when you arrive you feel nothing but bitter disappointment, and that can be because it doesn’t live up to the expectation that you had. We have found the best way to travel is to limit what you expect, and so often you are positively rewarded with something different.
What one person loves is not necessarily the same as what you will love, and people will rave about particular areas that we really didn’t rate at all. On the same side of the coin don’t pass places off because people tell you they are no good; sometimes they are the best that you’ll visit.
The major factor affecting this is weather; we’ve been to places that look absolutely stunning online in bad weather, and wondered how its possible to enjoy such a place. If the wind is up, its pouring cats and dogs or even if its overcast and unpleasant, you might not enjoy it.
We’ve learnt to limit our expectations, and you’ll often be pleasantly surprised, and often blown away by what you see.
Everyone travels differently
One of the things you soon learn on the road is that everyone travels differently. Some grey nomads have 400k worth of caravan and car, and there are others who are travelling around in an old Suzuki Jimny with a swag. Everyone likes different things too, and your recommendations are going to be different from those who don’t leave the bitumen.
We camped next to an older couple at Lake Argle a number of years ago and I struck up a conversation with the bloke, whilst he was washing his pristine looking van. I said did you just get off the Gibb River Road? He turned around with a horrified look on his face and said ‘this van doesn’t see gravel roads!’. The conversation was short, and I look back now and laugh.
Just because something is normal to you and I doesn’t mean it’s the same for everyone, and it’d be a boring world if we all did the same things.
Some people hop from caravan park to caravan park and never venture down the roads and tracks less travelled. Others free camp and don’t pay a cent if they can avoid it, and then you have people in between both extremes. So long as you are enjoying your travel and not hurting anyone or anything, go for your life.
Free camps can seriously suck
You only see the amazing free camps on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. No one posts photos of the dust bowls, gravel pits and camp sites metres from the roaring road trains going past. Sure, there are some awesome free camps, but there are some absolutely terrible ones, and if you are trying to travel Australia on a budget then there’s a good chance that you will stay at some of them.
We’ve pulled into rest stops on the edge of the road in the Northern Territory to see people camped about 30cm away from each other with toilets so bad you can’t even walk into them and to top it all off you have huge trucks roaring past at all hours of the night every couple of minutes.
We’ll call it money saving, and character building! There’s nothing wrong with them, but they aren’t a place you’d rave about to your friends!
You can meet some interesting characters
For the most part, the people you meet on the road are amazing. However, inevitably you will come across those who are less desirable, and it can put you off for a while. I recall staying at a free camp near Albany and hearing a couple carrying on over what seemed to be some substances they probably shouldn’t have had, and a while later the woman walked off, and came back with a different bloke who was holding a big sword in his hand.
He set the couple straight with a few stern and short words, and then departed. I remember standing a distance away and wondering at what point it’d go south, but fortunately it didn’t.
For the most part when you travel people are incredibly friendly and generous with their time and information, but you are certainly exposed to a different world than your general neighbourhood!
Life is always a balance
Everything in life requires balance. You’ll have amazing days, you’ll have average days and you’ll have days that you don’t want to re-live. We’ve had plenty of each, and would still happily pack up and travel.
Have you done much long term travel in Australia? What did you find difficult?