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 Living on the Road :: FAQs :: On the Road

Firstly great website-i have been using it to help plan my trip around Oz.

My girlfriend and i are planning to firstly buy then travel around Oz in a campervan in October working when we find somewhere we like. We are both 25 and want to see all Australia has to offer.

The reason I write to you is to ask if you can recommend any books/websites/guides that will help me plan our trip around Oz. I want something that will help plan our route-places to stay/must see's and how to find casual work.

There are of course many books, and you will find hundreds on the shelf when you get here. Meanwhile one popular book is "Explore Australia" (www.exploreaustralia.com, also available on CD I think).

Once you decide where you want to go you need to know where to can camp when you get there. We live by the books from two authors. For WA and NT the "Priceless Campsites" books by Jan Holland (campsite@bigpond.net.au) are great. For all states there's the Boiling Billy (www.boilingbilly.com.au) publications. We have separate BB books for each state, but they now have a single book for all Aus.

Also, there is a "Camping in QLD" book which is good, try www.env.qld.gov.au and www.dnr.qld.gov.au, I don't know if they sell the books online though.

One other resource I can think of is the Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia (CMCA), their website (www.cmca.net.au) is very informative, with links to other related sites and sales of books etc. They also have lists of campsites available to members. You can join as an overseas member and gain access to these lists plus get the monthly magazine. The website also has a for sale section, maybe you can find your camper there.

There are also some links at www.robgray.com\motorhomes\links.htm, although these probably appear on the CMCA site as well.

With regard to casual work, the most popular form of work is fruit picking or hospitality. There is a book called "Workabout Australia" I think, don't have any details but a google search may find a reference.

Also try www.goharvest.com and www.oz-jobs.com.au, I know for a fact that farmers are having difficulty finding reliable workers, of course this may be because the pay is terrible and the working conditions atrocious :-) The going rate for farm labouring is about $15 per hour, some also pay per basket/barrel/bucket or whatever, although I believe this is a great way to work all day for about two fifths of five eights of naff all.

Remember that the summer over here can be VERY hot (40-50 degrees in some places), don't plan to head too far north or inland when you get here in September. Even Melbourne can be unbearable at times.

How long does your gas last?
A 9kg bottle lasts 3-2 months in warm climates, 2-3 weeks in the cold.

Is it cheaper to live full-time on the road than in the 'burbs?

Not really. Everyone assumes that this is the case and it's true that you don't have many of the home owner's expenses, but you have other expenses that pretty much compensate.

Assuming you have a large rig, the maintenance and fuel will easily outweigh any rates etc. The rig is probably cheaper to heat and cool but then your phone calls are always on a mobile and you pay $15 per night for camp sites if you use them.

What does make life cheaper is the fact that your life often becomes a lot simpler, but if you think about it, this simplification can be achieved right now in your house. Stop the magazine subscriptions, don't rent the 68cm TV, stop buying new clothes until you really need them, even give up work. You can do all this without buying a motor home and leaving town.

The difference is that you would get extremely bored sitting in the same old lounge room whereas the nomadic lifestyle has plenty of interesting things to offer, new places to see, new people to meet, the occasional part-time or volunteer job.

In a nutshell, moving from a large house to a small motorhome would, be cheaper, small house to large motorhome probably more expensive in the running costs.

So just how much does it cost to live on the road?

This is a common topic on motorhome forums, and the answer is usually,

  • $15,000 if you are very frugal
  • $20,000 living quite well
  • $25,000 living like a king (or "monarch" to be gender neutral)

A couple I know in the CMCA have been travelling for 16 years and, presumably, have it nailed down pretty well. They live on an average of $46 per day ($16790 pa) and that includes doing some touristy things like helicopter flights etc. 

Will I miss my friends and family?

Probably, but think of the new friends you will make. It's not uncommon for members of the CMCA to make so many friends within the club that they have places to stay all over Australia.

Also, if you're like me you have many friends that have dispersed around the country over the years. Your new lifestyle will allow you to see more of them. I've got family that I haven't seen for thirty years, in fact there's some I've never seen. The nomadic lifestyle allows me to visit them.

Sure, I'll miss my mates in Canberra, but modern communications will allows to keep in touch, and I will return occasionally.

The one I'm wondering about is that in your diaries you keep mentioning about going into town to collect your mail. How does the mail get there when your not sure where you will be in a week or so?

We've had a post box for years so we decided to keep it and permanently redirect our mail to my dad. He in turn sends it to us c/o a post office when we tell him where we are.

We did this because we had a well established address (our PO box) and you never know when someone you haven't contacted for 10 years sends you a letter or something. If you're not worried about that then your new address could just be c/o a relative and they can forward stuff to you.

There are two businesses that perform this function as well, but a relative is cheaper :-)

A post office will usually keep an item for one month then return it, so you have to juggle where to send the mail. Too close to your current location and you have to wait for it to turn up. Too far away and you run the risk of finding a great place but having to move on to pick up your mail.

Is there any work out there?

Anecdotal information indicates that the answer is yes, with a capital Y. Most non-retired people contemplating going full-time will have to work, at least a bit. I've never had any trouble finding work, but then my experiences are a little dated, I haven't had to look for a job for over 20 years. Nevertheless I have been interrogating dozens of motor home full-timers and not one has said that they have trouble finding work.

There is a caveat here though. You must be prepared to do anything (well almost anything). If you've been a cello player all your life and plan to continue that vocation then my advice is to stay right where you are until you can afford to live off your investments. Outback Australia doesn't have much call for the more esoteric pastimes. However, if you are handy and willing to give it a go you shouldn't have any problems. If you're a diesel mechanic or electrician, why haven't you left already?

Having said all that I believe that there may be an opportunity to earn money taking culture to the bush. I'm led to believe that there are grants for doing just that. And the further from the city you go, the larger the grant. You see not many cello players want to hold workshops in the middle of nowhere so if there is a need you will have the field to yourself. A friend of mine has done a similar thing and it went very well, the participants were interested in the subject he was teaching but had no chance of going to Sydney for a weekend workshop, so he took the workshop to them.

Hi, I've read a lot of your site but I haven't found any figures on roughly what your average expenditure work out to be? I figure that gas and alcohol are two of the biggest and that you must prepare for expensive repairs. Do you mind sharing how much it cost to build and how much you spend a day on average?

We live on roughly $20k pa, which is supposed to allow for repairs above normal maintenance. We don't really know how much the truck cost to build, but we guess at about $150k.

Fuel is about 1/5 of our budget, beer doesn't cost much now because we home brew ($15 to make about $90s worth at retail prices). Food and general household stuff is currently running at about $80 per week.

Is $1.20 a reasonable average at present to work off. [referring to the price of diesel]

The most we've paid is $1.03, our average over 18 months is 95c. Remember though that we can do about 1600ks between fills, this allows us to drive right past the expensive service stations. The worst price I can remember driving past was 1.26 at Barkly Homestead. Also, we try to buy fuel at the depots and usually we buy several hundred litres. You will often find that if you buy more than 200ltrs you will get a discount, normally about 2c, but
up to 4c.

So we know where all those camp sites are I'll duck down to the Bookshop and pick up my copy of Camps Australia Wide.
Boiling Billy produce a good range of books detailing national park
campsites, also in WA there's two great books called "Priceless campsites North/South" which we use a lot. We haven't used the CAW book since getting to WA but will probably return to using it when we leave the state (and therefore the coverage of the Priceless books).

How often do you stay in Caravan parks if at all?

Over 18 months we've stayed in CPs about ten times, 7 were one nighters, usually to catch up on washing, fill water etc., and the other three for periods of a couple of weeks, while in cities. Many of these CP stays were early in the trip, these days we almost never stay in parks. Of course we're totally self sufficient with power, water etc. which helps. We stay in free spots or in national parks.

Our initial plans were to leave our Caravan in parks and use our 4wd to access more remote areas, camping for 1 or 2 lights in a tent. Do you see this a reasonable thing to do?

Many people do just this, of course you have pay the caravan park but it's usually a lot cheaper to "store" a van if you're not using their facilities.

Where do you leave "wothahellizat" when you go on 2 or 3 day treks?

So far it's just been me that heads off into the bush, Chris has stayed with the truck.

I also noticed that most of your photographs of the camp grounds had motor homes, buses or campervans in them, rather than Caravans. Are these places accessible to caravans or should we be investing in a motor home instead?

No reason why caravans can't go to all of the spots we have camped. In general though it seems that motorhomes are more often set up to be self sufficient. Motorhomes are also perceived to be safer in that you can climb over the front and drive away if there's trouble.

I have really been enjoying your diary. Fantastic.

I do have one question. This is because I may retire soon and when we travel, free parks will have to be the norm.

We have a Jackaroo and a large 20'0" caravan. I am concerned that hoons may cause us problems. Your rig is much higher and maybe you have less to worry about.

What advice can you give me re this?

It's true that our vehicle is more secure that average, we find that the very look of it can cause "hoons" to go elsewhere. And of course being 2-3 metres in the air helps.

This is one area where caravans are worse than motorhomes because you have to get out of the van to drive off, with most motorhomes you can simply climb over the front.

Many people have a rule that they don't sleep within X kilometres of a town where X varies but is usually about 15. The further out you go the less likely people will drive that far. Also pulling of the road by a few hundred metres so you're out of sight helps.

When in town look for "wheelie" marks on the ground, a sure sign that things get hectic after dark, especially on Friday and Saturday nights.

We know people (us included) who go for months without using caravan parks so it is certainly feasible if you are self sufficient.

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