But the great Australian dream of home-ownership is changing. Some women are ditching the “fairytale” white picket fence in favour of filling bucket lists with life experiences and achievements.
My marriage experience was far from fairytale, so thirty-five years ago I decided to write my own story. And look where I am now. Seriously, LOOK where I am now!
This is me on the Great Ocean Road last month.
I’m nearing 60 and living that ‘other’ dream.
I’ve already ticked off the top two items on my bucket list: writing a bestseller and living life on the road—no strings attached. I’m now on a mission to see every awe-inspiring natural landmark in Australia and discover new small towns to inspire more novels.
While the decision to hit the road indefinitely was not taken lightly, selling my slice of suburbia, and every stick of furniture, was surprisingly liberating (as was saying goodbye to the glut of kitchen gadgets, and swapping a wardrobe of classy clothes and shoes for rubber Crocs, T-shirts, and shorts).
Home for me these days is a 2.6 tonne, 25 foot fifth-wheeler named Myrtle the Turtle, towed with a Ford Ranger.
I am not on this journey alone. We are two older gals with no clue about car engines, torque, tyres, towing, or tare weights, and while it adds a few challenges, we didn’t let our gender stop us.
Since 2014 we’ve been doing what I like to call “the big lap very slowly”, which means we are on a strict budget (fuel, not wine) with either property-sitting commitments dictating our direction a lot of the time, or stops in small towns where I’ll do an author event at the local library, or support the local bookshop with a signing (if locals are lucky enough to still have a bookshop within coo-ee).
Three years into our journey, we are still learning, still loving life, and still ticking things off that bucket list. And if we can do it, so can you.
Yes, even if you have children. Let me introduce you to Sarah and the String Family, who we met in a beachside caravan park north of Coffs Harbour in NSW.
Sarah, Joel, Heath and Ashleigh were at the start of their adventure and, like us, they had no fixed end-date to their travels and no fixed address.
Whether your dream is life on the road, the big lap on a deadline, doing it solo, or with family, the #1 consideration is how to fund your lifestyle.
I probably chose the wrong career (See Lauren Sams’ very honest post about Australian authors and degrees of success). But you find ways, like property sitting (while typing this article I’m living rent free on a stunning property, situated on the Limestone Coast in South Australia) and you learn a lot about the word ‘frugal’.
I asked Sarah what her top tips would be for people with a young family who are keen to get on the road and start living that dream. Here’s what she said:
- With children there’s no perfect time to hit the road. Don’t wait for it or you’ll find they will have grown up and the opportunity will have passed.
- Children add to the expenses. Check the extra person rates with van parks. We’ve paid as much as $105 for the four of us (for one night of camping in our caravan). Right now we’re caretaking on a farm with baby animals to feed and an indoor heated pool and games room—all for $40 per night.
- Making money. Life on the road is far from free and easy and some things, like fuel costs, are out of your control. As the Australian National Busking Champions we perform at festivals, etc, but there are other services/money-making enterprises that suit a life on the road:
- Beauty salons/hairdressers operating out of caravans.
- Handmade crafts and caravan accessories: quilts, mobiles/wind chimes, rugs, stubby/wine glass holders. (Lots of country towns have regular market days.)
- Caravanners need services: mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and carpentry. Car magnets or stick-on letters can advertise your trade.
- Get the kids involved, too, doing odd jobs for work-weary caravan park operators. What kid doesn’t love a rode-on mower?
- My children do distance education (high school). It’s full on but a fantastic system. Next month they’ll visit a country school for three days to sit the NAPLAN test.
- You can live cheaply and with far less than you think, even with kids. We crammed our caravan with things we thought we’d need. We’ve gradually culled and now live with minimal possessions. Musical equipment and concert gear takes up the bulk of our storage space!
Have we convinced you to join us on the road sometime?