Today marks one year since we set off on our Champion the Wonder-ing. The months have gone so fast yet it feels so long ago that we drove out of Sydney, getting stuck in horrendous peak hour traffic on the way. Over the past 365 days we’ve learnt a lot (and not just about caravanning). Below we’ve summarised a few of the most important things we now know about travel and about life.
There’s more than one path to success
Western society sets most of us on a pre-destined course: school, further education, full-time work, retirement (with relationships and kids usually fitting somewhere in between). While the aforementioned formula is one way to approach things, it’s not the only way. And it doesn’t have to be your way.
The two of us are now at an age where many of our friends, having established their careers, are starting to earn good money and do ‘sensible’ things with it – like invest in property. Sometimes we feel disheartened at the relative insecurity of our own futures. But then we think about the experiences we’re having, what they’ve taught us, and how much there is still to come and we don’t feel so bad anymore.
Whatever course you set your life on, make sure it’s one that brings you happiness and inspires you to bring happiness to others.
It feels amazing to follow your dreams
We’re not going to lie and say that every moment of this trip has been spectacular. Like normal life, nomad life has its ups and its downs. In fact, because we’re living in such a small space with only each other for company, our emotional rollercoasters often feel magnified by about a hundred compared to what they did back home.
However, not a day goes by that we don’t wake up and feel stoked about the fact that we made this dream reality. It’s something we will always be proud of and hopefully a precedent that will shape the coming years, too.
Money is useful but you don’t need a lot of it to be happy
One of our biggest worries before setting off on this trip was our finances. Although we’d saved up a little nest egg we had no idea how much life on the road would cost us. Would we have to head home after a few months, tails between our legs?
As it’s turned out, we haven’t had to head home yet. But even if it had happened, so what? We would still have had some of the greatest months of our lives and you can’t put a price on that. We don’t think there will ever come a point when we’ll say “Gee, we really regret taking that trip around Australia. I wish we’d saved the money we spent on it”.
Life is for living. Live it! Look at money as a means to achieving this end, not as a measure of happiness. After all, you can always earn more money but there’s not enough money in the world to buy back time.
You don’t need fancy gear to enjoy yourself
Social media is flooded with images of nomads living aesthetically inspired (and inspiring!) lives. Some travel in beautifully renovated vans, others in fully kitted-out off road caravans, others in amazing converted buses. While it might seem like you need one of these fancy rigs to enjoy an extended road trip, you’re better off getting out there in a beaten up Toyota than not getting out there at all.
As long as you’ve got a relatively reliable vehicle, somewhere to sleep and a sense of adventure, the rest will follow naturally. Some of the happiest travellers we’ve met have had the simplest set ups.
“Travelling Australia” doesn’t have to be about non-stop travelling
Prior to this trip when we thought about “travelling Australia” we imagined empty beaches, deserted bush camps and endless nights under starry skies. While we have enjoyed plenty of these things, we’ve also been surprised to find how easy it is to set down roots and get back into the groove of normal (working!) life in a town that’s not our own.
If the thought of aimless wandering thrills and terrifies you in equal measure then think about embarking on a working holiday for a year or two. Spend time travelling and adventuring, find a town you like, work for a while, and repeat. This way you’ll get all the benefits of travelling without having to save too much before you go or worrying that you’ll run out of cash.
Australia is big. It’s really, bloody big.
And beyond its big-ness, it’s also spectacular. We’ve been on the road a year and the more we see the more we realise we’ve missed. There’s stations in outback Australia that cover landmass larger than some countries (this is an unverified fact but we’re sure it’s true!). There really is so much to experience that you need a few lifetimes to fit it all in.
We’ve met nomads who have been traversing the country for 15 years and they spent as much time talking to us about the places they were planning to visit as the ones they had already been to. Get out there – you won’t be disappointed.
Planning and preparation are good, but not at the expense of action
While Laura does have a whimsical and impulsive streak, on the whole she likes to research and plan and have all her ducks in a row before she makes any significant purchases or life decisions. If she’s going somewhere she likes to have all her “things” (usually comprising random and totally useless items).
On the other hand, Jono is always ready. Like, always. You could wake him at 2am, tell him he’s flying to the Swiss Alps and he’d be at the door in 2 minutes. On regular occasions this difference in preparation modes has caused friction between us. Jono gets frustrated at Laura for taking too long and Laura reciprocates by brandishing his toothbrush at him, sniping that “ready” doesn’t count if you haven’t packed anything.
As useful as it is to be organised, it’s important not to spend so much time preparing that you miss out on experiences. Usually the inconvenience of forgotten stuff helps create memories and laughter – like one recent weekender where we managed to forget our mattress and our cooking gear. Whoops.