It’s finally time to announce something we’ve been planning for a very, very long time. We are packing up, I’ve resigned from full time employment and we’re doing the big lap of Australia!
If you’ve been following us for some time you’ll know we have two little boys (5 and 3) and love nothing more than 4WDing and Camping for weeks at a time, and the big lap of Australia will be exactly that, just on a much, much larger scale.
We are so pumped to shake things up and take you all along for the journey! This post is fairly long, but covers exactly why, when and how we’re going about it, and what’s taken place up until now.
We are not your average ‘travelling family’
There’s a lot of families on the road today, for lots of different reasons. If you are following us, maybe you also follow others that are already travelling.
It’s an amazing way of life, but we are not your normal, or average family on the road:
We aren’t travelling in a Caravan
Yes, you read that correctly. We have a hybrid, which is kind of a cross between a Caravan and a Camper Trailer, with some of the luxuries of a van without the size and weights that they come in. 4 people in a van that has a total length from hitch to tail lights of under 6 metres? Yep, you read that right.
Looking to get one? Check out our Ultimate guide to buying a Hybrid Camper Trailer.
We plan on hitting all the places you can’t take a van into, and there’s plenty of other reasons why we haven’t gone to a Caravan, which you can read further down. Maybe we’ll regret not getting a caravan for a lap, but maybe we won’t!
This is not a decision made on a whim
The number of people who decide one day that they’ve had enough and spend the next 2 months (or less!) finding a tow vehicle, trailer and selling or packing up before departing is staggering.
Whilst there’s nothing wrong with this, that’s not us. We’ve been camping and travelling Australia for years now around our full time commitments, and have been planning this trip for years.
We’ve been using our current setup for more than a couple of years, and have already clocked up more than 200 nights in it, and prior to that we did well over 200 nights in a soft floor camper, and many more in tents even earlier on. The travel, camping and 4WD lifestyle is not new to us in any way, shape or form.
Behind it all, this has been a goal we’ve been planning and working towards for a very long time, and that time is now!
We have no sponsors
If you’ve been following other families (or couples/individuals) for some time, you’ll know that many of them earn money by promoting businesses or products.
You’ll see it in their hashtags, sponsored Facebook ads, discount codes being promoted, in their paid content videos on YouTube or the fact that they fly to various shows to promote caravan brands or a myriad of other ways.
I’ve been working part time in the online world for more than 13 years, and we know how all of this works, and honestly, a fair chunk of it doesn’t sit well with us. As a result, we are not sponsored by anyone, and have no intentions to be going forward.
This is a choice we make, so we can accurately review products and services without feeling like we have to promote them. We own all of our gear, and will tell you if its good, or if its rubbish.
If on the very slim chance we do take anything without paying for it, you will know about it every single time, at the start of the post. It won’t be hidden in the fine print, or not mentioned at all like so many ‘influencers’ do.
If you want to read more about this controversial topic, check out Travelling families and influencers selling themselves.
The only thing even remotely close to sponsored work for us is the advertising that we do for Snowys, who I’d be happy to say is the best camping business we’ve found in Australia, period.
They pay us a small fee each month for the logo in the sidebar, but are not sponsors, and we don’t have to say good things (or anything at all!) about them. We really rate their pricing, service, knowledge and deliveries, but at the end of the day please buy from whoever you are happy with.
We aren’t part of any dodgy schemes
Scroll through Facebook today, and you are inundated by hundreds of posts of those who will ‘show you how to make a living from your laptop’, or invite you to a webinar, or ‘PM me for more details’.
All of these posts rely on MLM, affiliate marketing, or a different sort of dodgy arrangement. If they can’t be open, honest and transparent about it, do you really want to have anything to do with it?
If the person makes money teaching others to make money, there’s a pretty good chance its something you should be cautious of. Yes, its a generalisation and not always true, but for the most part its incredibly, and ironically accurate. There are some legit opportunities, but a large chunk of them are not. Proceed with caution!
We make money from this website solely using the generic ads that you see scattered around the place. That’s it. It’s completely legitimate, ethical and involves more time and effort than I could ever express to make any decent chunk of money.
There’s nothing else going on behind the scenes that you can’t see.
Beyond that, you’ll never see us talking in depth about this anyway, as that’s not the point of this website. We are here to help you 4WD, camp and travel better, not to make money online. If you want more information on that side of things, jump on YouTube and learn how to start a site, and put ads on it.
We won’t ask for your money
Going on from the above, we won’t ask for your money. We don’t want you to sign up to anything (except our email newsletter if you’d like!), we don’t have discount codes to share with you so we make a commission (because that’s how it works) and we have nothing to sell you, period.
We don’t have products (electronic or otherwise) and we aren’t interested in pushing you in any particular direction. We just share our experiences in the hope that they might be useful to you. At the end of the day, you do you.
Our posts are honest, open and transparent
There’s some pretty fluffy posts that go on social media, and ours are not like that. You’ll find the good, the bad and the downright horrible. If a product is garbage, it will be made very clear in our reviews.
We don’t do reviews on products that we’ve had for 5 minutes (or as we unbox them like some people do!), or rave about products that are clearly undeserving of the attention, like so many others do.
Our reviews are done after extensive ownership and abuse, and they cover every aspect and not just the surface fluff that so many people love to rave about.
If we don’t like a particular place, we say that. It’s not to offend anyone, but its to give accurate feedback on our experience.
We worked our butts off to have this opportunity
This opportunity did not come easily, and there are only a tiny handful of people who have some insight into the amount of time and effort that its taken for us to get to this point.
We’ve worked extremely hard and saved our butts off with the intention of being able to wind back a bit, and as soon as possible. Sarah often calls me a miser, but we both tend to be very frugal and have been saving every cent possible for around 15 years. If you want to know more about this, check out our post on saving money to travel Australia.
This gives us huge flexibility to stop working and travel, and is exactly the point in time we’ve been grinding towards for longer than I care to think about.
We’ve also been working incredibly hard on this very website (since 2009!), which is at the point where it can support our family while we travel, and that is huge.
I can finally leave my full time role and slide into running 4WDing Australia on the road. Sure, there’s a drop in income, but its enough to keep us ticking along and that’s something we are hugely grateful for. It really is a dream come true, and one that we’ve been working on for more hours than I care to think about.
When are we leaving?
The intention is to leave in late September to early October of 2022. There’s a fair list of things that needs to be done before that, so we need to get cracking! If we aren’t done by then, we’ll be hanging around until we are happy, knowing its easier to get things done at home than on the road!
Why are we leaving?
We cannot wait to hit the road. I can’t tell you the number of times Sarah and I have both turned to each other and said stuff this, lets just go.
I’ve literally had the days written in my diary and white board at work for months now, and after every phone call that wakes me up in the middle of the night for something having gone wrong at work, I can’t wait.
However, I believe in doing the right thing, and my employer has been great to me over the years and I’ll repay the favour by giving them a huge notice period. I literally resigned on Monday just gone!
That said, there’s plenty of other major reasons:
The kids are old enough
We’ve always wanted to do the big lap, but in our opinion its not practical with kids that are too young. Of course, if you are in a caravan and hopping from caravan park to caravan park you might disagree, but we want to get off the beaten track, and have some fun away from it all.
We wanted the kids to be out of nappies, to be able to communicate with us, to be able to swim a bit, and for us to be able to turn our backs for 30 seconds without finding them walking towards a crocodile infested river.
We did discuss leaving earlier, but it just didn’t make sense; you want to enjoy the trip and not make things harder than they need to be!
Cooper is still quite young and I’m sure will be challenging, but we know from trips already that he’s gotten a lot easier, and travelling with children much younger (unless they are a baby) is much harder in our experience. We’ve been camping with our kids since they were weeks old, and have a pretty good grasp on it all.
We want a break
We’ve been slogging away for a long time now. Sarah and I both worked really hard prior to kids to buy our house and pay it down, and then for the last 5 years its been full on with them around too.
I’ve worked full time at the same business for nearly 13 years now, and over the years I’ve done some pretty serious hours and worked myself up the ranks into upper management. My role for the last 1.5 years has been managing the maintenance done at a big manufacturing plant in Perth, and its pretty full on.
Whilst that was never the ambition, its worked out that way and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it for the most part. I can’t say its been easy or stress free, and that responsibility comes at a big cost.
Couple that with running the blog, and it’s not been unusual to work 60 – 70 + hours a week. For the most part I’ve really enjoyed my full time job, and am pleased to have seen a significant amount of progress over the years, and now its time to hand the reigns over to someone else.
We want a change in pace too. The idea of getting up at 4:30AM, working on the blog for an hour, heading to work for the day and then driving home again, arriving exhausted at the end of the day and hanging for the weekend just doesn’t cut it any more.
Sarah’s been at home with the kids for the last 5 years (with Oliver only starting school full time this year), and anyone who’s done that for extended periods knows its a huge amount of work. I often joke that I’d rather be at work!
Together, Sarah and I want to change things up, and nothing does that like selling everything you own and moving into a tiny box on wheels!
Quality family time is priceless
Oliver has gone from 0 – 5 in what seems like a split second, and we want to spend more time together. We don’t want to look back and regret not spending enough quality time with the kids, as it so often, and easily happens.
I’m normally home by about 4 – 4:30PM, and spend some time in the afternoons with the kids but its always a battle with trying to keep up with the blog and finding the energy required to have real, quality family time.
We want to go beyond the good times too though, and really develop a close relationship as a tight nit family. It’d be easy to look back and regret not spending enough time with our kids, or not having given them a solid foundation for a happy, healthy and balanced life.
To grow 4WDing Australia
Last, and certainly not least is its time to take this very website to a whole new level. We’ve done a lot of WA (to the point where the number of places we haven’t been is getting quite small), and we’ve done a portion of the NT, and some other states by plane and 2WD.
We want to find the best 4WD tracks and remote camp sites, and create more content to help you 4WD, camp and travel more, and easier. We want to do accurate, non biased product reviews on the items you all use, and we need more time to do this.
Leaving my full time job to travel means I should have at least a couple of hours every day to work on the blog, and we’ll have more opportunity for photography and content than ever before. There’s no better feeling than an email or comment from someone who’s found our work extremely helpful, and that’s what we want to do more of.
We absolutely love working on this blog, and can’t wait to write a huge number of extra posts as we travel. We’ll continue writing 4 or 5 a week if possible, and see how things go!
We’re still debating whether to continue YouTube or not. We’ve released a few videos, and have quite a few more to come out, but its clear we might not have the charisma required; we’ll see how it goes over the next few months.
What are we travelling in?
It sleeps 4 (only just), and is a pretty good compromise (or so we think) between comfort, weight, off grid capability and size of the setup. Here’s a few quick facts about the two units in combination:
- Total weight of 5200kg (camper and vehicle)
- 320L of water on board
- 140L diesel long range fuel tank
- 570aH of lithium batteries (car lithium yet to go in!)
- 920W of fixed solar panels (600W of panels still to go on the camper)
- 79L of upright fridge space
- 88L of freezer space (6L in the car)
- Completely owned, and paid off by us (our novated lease ends just before we leave).
We’ve spent far more time thinking about our setup than most people would, and we seriously considered getting a caravan to make the travel a bit more comfortable.
We aren’t going in a Caravan, and here’s why
Weights and legalities
We could get a caravan, but the fact is that an off road van (on road or semi off road is not negotiable for us) would be at least 2300kg empty, and closer to the 3 tonne mark when loaded.
Whilst its under the 3500kg towing capacity of the Isuzu Dmax I can tell you with absolute certainty that we would not be legal. I know this, because even with our 2200kg (fully loaded) hybrid we were only just legal. You can read more about this here – Mobile Weighing.
Beyond that, I know the limitations of my vehicle. It struggles enough as it is to tow our existing setup, which is much lighter than a caravan and has almost no wind resistance.
From a mechanical perspective towing a caravan with our Dmax would 100% shorten its life. Yes, I could get it tuned, but when you run things close to their maximum (electrical or mechanical) it rarely ends well.
Travelling Australia isn’t cheap. You are looking at about $1 per kilometre, and that means for the average lap its going to be somewhere between 30 and 60k, depending on how you travel. Some people do it cheaper, but many do not!
We could sell our Reconn R2 and get a caravan, but we’d have to get a new tow vehicle as well to suit the van, and we would be looking at another 30 – 100k in total, plus the hassle of having to set everything back up again, and that sort of money pays for our lap.
We will re-assess as we journey around Australia, but upgrading just doesn’t seem like a smart financial decision at this point in time, especially with the way supply, demand and prices are right now. We could upgrade, but would it really be worth it?
We also know our setup inside and out, having used the vehicle for 5 years and the camper for 3, and that sort of experience is hugely useful when on the road.
Improved access and adventure
There is no doubt that a Caravan limits where you can go. They are big, bulky and heavy, and when you like to get off the beaten track a caravan will either limit where you can go, or get damaged in the process.
Our R2 is no wider than the Dmax, is light enough to (just) drag along most beaches and allows us to camp in far more locations than a van would.
We’d both really love a caravan, but the financial burden and reduction in adventure potential is simply not worth it at this stage in life. Will that change in the future? Probably, but we’ll take you along with us on the journey.
What’s the process for heading off on a lap of Australia?
Everyone’s lap of Australia is different. Some people never free camp. Some people never leave the bitumen. Some people don’t want to do any touristy activities, and the list goes on. There’s no set way of doing the lap of Australia, and that’s what makes it fun.
Before you head off though, you should have a bit of an idea of what the plan is, and how you are going to do it. Of course, you can stop, redirect and work along the way but you don’t want to be in a position that’s hard to get out of either.
Determining how long you are going for
The fastest lap of Australia was done in 7 days, by a group of people trying to set a world record. Some people do it in 3 months, and we’ve seen others who have been on the road for 2 years and haven’t even done one state.
The length of your lap depends on what you want to see, how much time you can get off and how fast you want to travel. The faster you travel the more it will cost you.
For us, we initially said a year, but its now changed to as long as we feel like it. We might come back to Perth. We might not (but we probably will!). Let’s see where the wind takes us!
Working out when the best time is to go
Australia has lots of different seasons. In an ideal world, you are in the northern part of Australia between May and September, when its the dry season and the sky is blue, the sun shines and the temperature is warm.
When it starts getting hot and humid up north, you head south to the traditional summer. If you do this, you essentially miss winter, and won’t get much rain or cold weather at all.
However, some people like to do it backwards to avoid the huge influx of tourists, and there’s nothing wrong with that either. Just be smart about your travel plans in terms of temperature, risk of something going wrong, what is open and closed and ensuring your setup is suitable for the conditions you are taking it.
We’ll try and stick to the best weather, and travel to places that are less populated to avoid the crowds. I do like the idea of seeing the storms roll in at the start of the wet season up north, and camping in the snow, so we’ll see what happens. Maybe that will be later on, if we end up in a caravan!
Getting a suitable travel setup
A lot of people who do the lap don’t have a travel setup, and they just buy something in the months or years leading up to the trip. This can be as simple as a 4WD, camping setup and a swag, or it can be an off road truck and 4.5 tonne caravan.
There are more choices for travel setups than you can poke a stick at, and nothing you buy will be the perfect arrangement. The trick is to get it as close as possible to your needs, and live with the rest.
We’ve had our current setup for a number of years, and are quite happy with it. It’s not perfect, and it does annoy me at times, but you get that with everything.
I’ve you’ve been following us for some time, you’ll have noticed we made some changes in the lead up, to make things more comfortable:
- Lithium batteries, a huge solar bank and big inverter in our camper trailer
- Hand washing machine (still not sure how long this is going to last!)
- Portable clothes line
- Rear 180 degree awning for the Dmax
- 12V Lithium battery and charger upgrade for the Dmax (not done yet, but its a 230aH DIY Lithium Battery)
Deciding on what to take
Part of our last 3 week trip to the Pilbara was to work out what we want to take with us, and not. We left our diesel heater at home for the first time, and are thinking we probably won’t mount it permanently.
There’s so many other items that you need to think about. I’ve got to sort out a decent folding solar blanket as a bit of redundancy, do we take the fire pit with us, chainsaw, spearfishing gear, how much fishing gear and the list goes on and on.
We have no real issues with weight in the camper trailer, but I’m conscious of going with a setup that’s as light as possible, without majorly regretting not taking something!
Saving enough money for the lap
We mentioned above that its not cheap to do the lap. A lot of people leave with 30k of savings, and live off that. Others leave with much less with the intention of stopping and picking up work on the road (which is not hard to do). This extends their travel hugely, and is done by a lot of people who are more permanently on the road.
You can finance your vehicle and trailer, and a lot of people do. I would not recommend this, but I’m also not here to give you financial advice.
We’ve been working ridiculously hard for many years, and were always good at saving money and not buying anything above and beyond, which has a huge compounding effect on reducing your expenses.
This has allowed us to plan to slow down a bit, and re-assess in a few years. We have savings, we own our vehicle and camper and we will have some income coming in too from this blog and also our house that is being rented out.
Working out what to do with your house and belongings
If you are lucky enough to own a house, you’ll have to choose to do something with it, and all of the items inside. You can sell it all, store your items, or rent the house out. Each direction has its own list of pro’s and con’s, and its something you’ll have to work out for your own situation.
For us, we are going to rent our house out and sell most of our belongings, and store the rest.
We want the security of a home that we can come back to if it all goes wrong, so we’ll hang onto it for now, and rent it out. The rent will provide some income on the road, and with any luck the property prices will continue to grow. Who knows these days.
We’ve actually just agreed to rent our home out to family, which means they get rent that is cheaper than market value, we don’t have to deal with real estate agencies, we know we have a great tenant and we can keep some of our items at home too. It’s the ultimate win win, and we are seriously pleased with how its worked out.
Schooling in Australia is compulsory, and whilst you can do the dodgy and ‘relocate’ for a year and get away with it, your kids probably should go to school.
You can do distance education or home schooling, and there are a huge number of options for travelling on the road. Some require a lot of time with a good Caravan internet connection, and others require a lot of paperwork, and work in general.
Oliver has been in school for a couple of years now, and will be continuing his education on the road. Cooper will begin his in 2023 too, and Sarah has committed to doing the schooling on the road. Hopefully this will give me some time to work during the day, along with the evenings when I usually spend a couple of hours ticking along.
We are going through Kalgoorlie School of the Air, as this came highly recommended and seemed most appropriate. You don’t need to be ‘at school’ for set periods, or need an internet connection all the time, which suits our situation best as we’ll often be off grid.
Getting rid of everything you don’t need
Seriously, the material possessions that we accumulate over the years is actually quite depressing. We live in a fairly small house, and the amount of things that we’ve bought and kept over the years is nothing short of astronomical.
We went through our house a huge number of times in the months leading up and sold, chucked or gifted more gear than I care to think about. There is certainly something to be said for living a lifestyle of minimalism.
When you live out of a 6 metre trailer, you have to be picky with what you take, and I actually feel relieved to get rid of so much clutter and rubbish that we have accumulated over the years. When we come back, we’ll be far more selective about what we purchase and keep.
Quitting your job, or taking leave
At some stage, you’ll have to leave your job, or if you are lucky enough take extended leave. Some employers will give you half pay and double leave, so your normal 3 month long service can become 6. Add in some holiday pay, and unpaid leave and you can do a year if they will hold your position.
I’ve been at my current employment for long enough, and they wouldn’t hold my position anyway, so I’m happy to resign.
I have a mechanical fitters trade to fall back on and a number of years of experience in maintenance planning and management if it all goes wrong, but the intention is to work on this website full time going forward, with some part time gigs in between if really needed.
I like the idea of doing some odd jobs along the way, or volunteering and helping farmers or small businesses out. We’ll see!
The last few months before departure are crazy, and this has been confirmed by close friends, and plenty of others too. Moving out of your home, packing everything up and moving into a small trailer isn’t easy, and the first 4 – 6 weeks usually take some serious adjustment.
For us, we are used to leaving often and living out of our camper trailer so it will mainly be the packing and preparing of the house that’s going to be challenging, but we’ve committed!
We are heading off to South Australia first, and then will work up the east coast with the nice weather, and when we get to April/May we’ll start to leg it to the tropical parts of Queensland and stay there until the weather turns again, then we’ll head south back to the warm and dry weather.
Having a bit of an end plan
I’ve always been one to look way into the future, whereas Sarah is a bit happier to just see what happens. We’ve spoken many times about what we’ll do when we finish our lap, and have both decided we’d like to move off our 400m2 block to something with more room for the kids, into a small house (our 3 x 2 is perfect for us, and we don’t want a big home) and see where the wind blows us.
I’m conscious of the fact that we wont be able to afford a larger block in our current area, and we’ve discussed the idea of building a shed house many times, but we’ll see what happens. With what’s going on in the world who knows anyway, and we want to make the most of our time together as a family now, and we’ll still be in a reasonable position in a few years with a bit of luck!
Should you do the big lap?
The answer to this question is entirely up to you. We’ve been planning this forever, but some people just snap and do it on a whim. Others decide its the lifestyle they want, and they just transition across. Australia is a truly magic country, and we are so grateful to call it home.
It’s going to be an adventure
I have no doubt that this is going to be one big adventure. We know from previous travels that things will go wrong, and we’ll have plenty of highs and lows.
We’ll document our travels, and you’ll hear about everything including the costs, what places are amazing and what are atrocious, highs and lows and we hope to inspire, educate and make your travels, camping and 4WDing easier and better!
We might even see you out there! If we do, be sure to say G’day!