We done a huge number of holidays with our 4WD and camper trailer. Whether it’s a weekend away, or 3 months up north there are some key differences between taking a holiday and living on the road time for an extended period. If you live like you are on holidays when you travel long term, you’ll probably realise soon enough that its not sustainable for a whole realm of reasons.
For us, we fell into the swing of things relatively easily as we’d done it so many times before and have a setup that is relatively easy and quick to use. If it were hard, we’d probably splurge far more often, and that’s not a good thing.
So, what do you need to know about long term travel?
Slow it down
When you are holidaying, we found that it was easy enough to maintain a fairly fast paced trip, as you wanted to jam as much fun into the limited time you had available, and your body puts up with it as its only a short duration.
However, we’ve found by trying to maintain that sort of pace long term your body just says yeah, nah, and you end up having lazy days doing nothing. The kids especially don’t handle it well, and now we make a point of spending all day at camp doing very little from time to time, or kicking back in the evenings instead of heading out somewhere.
You need to find a pace that you can sustain long term, or inevitably you’ll find yourself adjusting when you (or the rest of your family) can’t keep up anyway.
Splurging adds up
When you are on holidays, having taken away a bit more often than you would normally is a treat. Bakery stops are often common, and those little splurges are tolerated as you know it’s a short-term thing, and you’re having a break from life.
However, if you maintain those habits when you are travelling full time, it adds up fast. The tours and attractions that you go to can cost a huge amount of money, and it can become seriously expensive really fast.
Free camps aren’t always nice, but they can be worth it
Some free camps absolutely suck. We’re talking gravel pits where people are piled in on top of each other, or camp sites really close to the road.
We do our best to find good free camping in Australia (and have found some amazing places), but the amount of money you can save by staying at free camps often is nothing short of astronomical. Instead of $30 – $60 a night at a caravan park, you can spend $0 and if you do a few nights the money adds up really fast.
On our explorations through the Eyre Peninsula we averaged under $15 a night for accommodation fees, and it was dramatically reduced because of the number of free, low cost or donation camps that we stayed at. Some were nothing short of amazing as well, and when you find that combination for no cost (or a donation) you are onto the ultimate camp site.
Think long term about your health
On holidays, you’ll often eat food that is a treat, or less tolerated at home because it’s a holiday. Alcohol consumption goes up, and the quality and level of processed foods often also goes to a new level. Again, doing this long term has negative effects on your health and wellbeing, and it can be quite challenging for people to change their way of thinking.
For me, going from a pretty stressful job and very busy home life, I was super excited about the mental improvements that I’d get from turning off my alarm once and for all, and allowing my body to sleep as much as its needed. Learning to sit and do nothing has been something I’ve always struggled with, but long term travel forces you to do this, and its good for you.
We all try and eat more fruit and vegetables, and make decisions that better our health, as living like you’re on holidays for a long period of time isn’t going to do you any favours.
Schooling on the road
If you are going on a short holiday, its usually done when the kids are on school holidays, or you pull them out for a short period of time. Whilst some people unschool on a permanent basis, schooling is compulsory and most people make the effort to ensure their kids are getting some sort of education.
We’ve gone with distance education through Kalgoorlie school of the air, and having to do schooling on the road takes a fair bit of effort from everyone, and will affect your long term trips.
Oliver seems to smash through the work when he wants to, but will often procrastinate and not get it done nearly as fast as he could. There’s been plenty of arguments that have resulted from this, and the relationship that a parent has with their child when they become the teacher is very different to the child’s relationship with an actual teacher, and it shows.
Washing clothes has to be done, and isn’t much fun
I chuckle at our holiday clothes packing in the past. For me, I’d often throw a few extra pairs of clothes in so that I didn’t have to do any washing on the road. Of course, on the 3 + week trips you have no choice but to do washing anyway, but when you are on the road that pile of washing in the corner of your van just grows and grows until you run out of clothes, or get the washing done.
We have a manual washing machine that we use regularly, and if we keep on top of the washing its pretty good. However, if you get terrible weather (like we’ve had in South Australia for a long time), its hard to get the washing done and you end up with a big pile that we just take to the local laundromat, to wash and dry (if its pouring with rain)!.
Travelling long term on the road means that all of the little things you can put off when you are on holidays now have to be done, and it certainly steals a bit of time and enjoyment from you!
Fix or improve the things that make you uncomfortable
We’ve found on the road that rather than dealing with major decisions, or high levels of stress that you might have at home with your job, or life in general, travelling on the road is all about ironing out the little bugs that make your travels more enjoyable.
The longer you have your travel setup before you head off the better position you’ll be in, but its things like having to sort through messed up cutlery that’s bounced around and mixed up every single time, or not being able to have the lights on in your camper trailer because the kids wake up that are so minor, but make a big difference.
For the record, we purchased a cheap cutlery organiser that sits in our drawer that has made life so much easier, and we installed curtains up the end of our hybrid that allow us to have the lights on while the kids go to bed, and stop Sarah and I feeling like zombies at 8PM at night!
Overall, life on the road full time shouldn’t be the same as a holiday, and there’s an adjustment period, where you’ll work out what suits and what doesn’t.