FEBRUARY 3, 2020 : Having retired from work last week, I can now finish the planning and preparing for our upcoming 5-month trip to Australia. In six weeks from now, we pick up a campervan and take the ferry to Tasmania that evening.
I get excited about the trip just reading back the last two sentences I just wrote…
So how did this idea come about? What are we planning to do in Australia? How am I preparing for living in a small campervan for several months? What have I learned in planning and preparing this trip that might help others?
WHERE TO GO
About to reach the official retirement age for woman, and having checked and double checked our finances, I decided to go ahead and retire. And my lifelong dream for retirement was travel.
I made a list of all the countries I have already been to (27) and a bucket list of where I still want to go (long list). On the bucket list was Australia and New Zealand. I knew if I went, it should be for a long stretch of time – there is so much to see. And as I learned more and more about what to see and do in Australia, I decided that this first trip, which would be for a bit more than five months, would be only Australia. New Zealand would come later.
And it would not even be all of Australia. There is what they call THE BIG LAP – driving the circle all around the country. At first this was appealing, but to do this in the time we had seemed too rushed, so I went for driving the D – visiting the right half of the country. The curve of the D is the east coast of Australia and the straight line of the D is the drive down the center of the country, from Darwin to Adelaide, via Ayer’s Rock or Uluru as it is now called. And of course, in addition to the D, the trip must include a visit to Tasmania (or Tassie, as the Australians call it) – a rugged wilderness island south of Melbourne.
So, I have the basic outline of the trip mapped, but what about the details?
In preparing for this trip, while walking my dog, I would listen to podcasts of families travelling around Australia. Some would get into their car in the morning, and not know exactly in what direction they should drive – letting the day take them to wherever. NOT ME. I am a planner, and the trip is already planned to a daily level. For each day, I know where we start and where we finish. Where we hike and where we visit. I have a Word Document, almost 400 pages, that starts with a calendar. Then for each day there is a basic itinerary of what to do – including screen shots from Google Maps, images from Web sites, links to campgrounds, etc.
Whenever I read or heard some tidbit that might help to plan the day, it went into the Word file. “Within Daintree National Park lies the magnificent Mossman Gorge, where clear waters cascade over granite boulders in the Mossman River, creating freshwater swimming pools (there are no crocodiles here, but you should check that conditions are safe for swimming beforehand, at the Mossman Gorge Centre)” good info – so copy paste into the file. The file also includes lists of school holidays, which fruits and vegetables are in season, the extra baggage policy for the airline, info on daylight savings time and so on. Anything that we might need to know.
The idea is that each week we will go over the file, check what it suggests for the coming week, and tweak the plan. Bushfires, viruses, and who knows what else, might demand changes that will need to be dealt with. All this final planning might possibly be done offline – we will sometimes be in remote places without internet. So, whatever the internet taught me about a specific area, I put into the document.
That is the Word file. In addition, I have an Excel, with a list of every day’s possible accommodations. Some are reserved ahead of time (places I want to be absolutely sure we could stay at) and others where we will just arrive. The Excel is also used to track expenses. The cost of each detail – campervan rental, ferry to Tasmania, accommodation, food, gas – is estimated. As the real expenses come in, the actual cost is tallied against the estimate to make sure we are keeping to budget. That is the plan.
We will be living in a campervan about the size of my bathroom at home. The campervan has a small kitchen – sink, range with three burners, a small fridge, and a microwave (no oven), and has, most important to me, a toilet and shower. The dining table converts into a double bed for the night. All this is packed into a 7 meter length (note that the 7 meter length also includes the area of the engine and the driver/passenger seats).
My suitcase is already filled with many knick-knacks that are supposed to help make our stay in this small space more comfortable.
First of all, I am bringing many hooks. Command hooks that can later be easily removed (or so they say). Hooks for every part of the campervan. For the back of the car seats, for any wall space available, for in the shower. These hooks can hold bags – garbage bags, laundry bags, and “I don’t have any other place to put this so I will put it in a bag” bags..
I am also bringing over the door hanging pockets – a place to store hats, gloves, etc. for the bathroom door. Behind the passenger seat, is a car organizer – with place for our laptop, our tablet and other stuff we want easily accessible. For inside the shower there is a shower pocket organizer for shampoos, soaps, toothbrushes, etic. I am hoping that I will find a way to keep these from swaying and falling during driving.
In addition, I plan getting baskets to place in the cabinets for organization. However, I do not know the actual size of the cabinets, so I will get those in Australia. But in order to do this, I am bringing a measuring tape, to measure the cabinets with when we get the campervan. I also brought a pad of paper with a magnet on the back to place on the fridge for shopping lists and notes.
From watching You Tube videos on motorhome organization, I took the tip to get some bottle sleeves. This will prevent the bottles from making rattling noises when we drive. I also bought an outdoor sandwich maker to be used to roast vegetables on the range – since there is no oven for roasting and, being vegan, we eat lots of roasted vegetables.
I packed collapsible water jugs, to make sure we always have an extra drinking water supply if necessary. There is also a lightweight plastic tablecloth for picnic tables. Also picnic table hooks that hold the tablecloth down for eating outside, and a lantern for eating outside in the dark. There are several packages of mosquito bracelets that are supposed to make the bugs go away and mosquito head coverings for when they don’t and then a fly swatter for when they come into the campervan.
For leisure hours, I packed a puzzle mat to roll puzzles into. Of course, we are also taking Scrabble tiles. We are also travelling with a drone for fun and a satellite phone for emergencies.
All this and much, much more needs to fit into two 30 kg suitcase for the plane ride. That is my challenge ahead.
I can’t wait to get the campervan and turn it into a home. Since our trip is not just for a week or two, and we will be living 24/7 in this small space for several months, it is important to me to get it as comfortable as possible. Whatever we are missing we will get along the way.
Plus, I still have six weeks left to fine tune the planning and preparations…