PAPERBACK BOOKS
CARAVANNING DIARIES

caravanning
 

After a full life of commitments, the author and her husband find themselves retired and planning an adventure caravanning around Australia.  

This book provides a comprehensive account of everything that is needed before setting out, researching and buying a caravan, planning a budget and route, what to take and much more. It also includes historical information on places along the route, and the recipes spread throughout the book add to its uniqueness. 

For anyone thinking of doing a similar journey, they should read this book first so as to have a better understanding of what to plan. 

In Store Price: $AU37.95 
Online Price:   $AU36.95

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ISBN:   978-1-921919-88-6
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 366
Genre: Non Fiction

Cover: Clive Dalkins

Author: Helen C. Godolley
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2013
Language: English

AUTHOR BIO 

 

The author was born in Budapest, Hungary and escaped the socialist system to Australia in 1972.   

She obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Health Sciences, specialising in clinical dermal therapies. 

She became one of the first female members of a Rotary Club in Victoria and served for 10 years on the board of directors. She was also President of the Dingley Village Rotary Club in 1996-97. 

The author now lives in Queensland and dreams of becoming a doctor, specialising in the needs of the elderly. 

This is her second book.

 

 

OTHER TITLES BY THIS AUTHOR 

From Baby Soap to Plastic Surgery – Zeus Publications – 2009

READ A SAMPLE:

PREFACE 

 

It is a dream of many families – young and old – to one day just pack up and go travelling. The idea of freedom is exciting to most of us. It is almost a surreal thought to be able to go where you want, when you want and maybe even how long you want to go. It often remains a dream. The ball and chain of everyday life can deprive people of their freedom. Responsibilities weigh people down in different ways.

Naturally, the working years restrict leisure times. Priorities have changed. Work becomes number one on the list, at times even before family and personal health. Family strings pull at the women. Children, elderly parents or other relatives are often in need of care.

For others it can be a little daunting to say goodbye to the comfort zone and hit the road. Lifestyle choices can also put a stop to seeking long-term getaways. Community, sporting and other commitments can also limit your available time to get away.

 Retirement allows long-term holidays for many couples. It requires strong motivation, timing, researching, planning and costing. An important element of travelling is the consideration of available finances or lack of it. What will a long-term holiday cost?

We had great dinner party conversations about travelling. The lines of the topics led towards travelling in Australia. Before I go anywhere else in the world, I just have to see Australia was voiced a couple of times.

What is it that draws such an incredible amount of people to Australia? Why do people get pulled towards nature?

These were fun thoughts on our minds after the initial sparks of a possible adventure. Ah! The Great Outdoors! The outdoors is like a magnet. It draws people; we don’t really think about it much. We just feel the need. Outdoor living undeniably aids a happier and healthier lifestyle. We know it; we feel it and we love it.

None of the basic human needs have changed since we put foot on this Earth. Our genealogy has been the same for thousands of years. (The Out of Africa theory places us here for 45,000 years). We need the same basics nowadays that we needed way back then – water, food, love, community, shelter; basically nourishment and connection (nature and family). We have not changed so much, only our circumstances have. Our shelter from the elements has changed a lot; only during the last 6000 years or so, since the early civilisation of Egypt when we truly became materialistic. The gathering of food moved onto the gathering of as much as we can of everything.

The average city dwellers are getting further and further away from nature. We got rid of the natural habitat around us on a huge scale. Human beings created cities, where concrete covers most of the soil. We changed as much of nature as possible “to suit our needs”.

We work hard and spend enough money to achieve the transformation of our surrounds, aiming to finally acquire the largest possible dwelling for our needs with all the mod cons. The satisfaction of that remains for a while. Then we go and spend as much available free time as we can in The Great Outdoors – parks, picnic grounds, fishing, hiking, camping and caravanning.

Dr Michael Dixon asked the same question as millions of others who dare to think about the future:

“We all tend to feel better in the natural environment, so why are we working so hard to destroy it”?

Nature demands our respect. The unwritten rules of nature are wise to follow. Many have perished in the Outback. Rescue services are constantly saving mainly those people who have forgotten to respect nature. The elements of nature can humble and bring the toughest to their knees. Experiencing the connection to nature can teach us how little we really need to be able to survive and to be happy and fulfilled.

Camping can remind us of a simple life with minimal gadgets. That equals less stress. It is refreshing to be aware of the fact that we are capable of surviving with the minimum amount of material possessions and truly enjoy life.

“Man’s greatness is the fewness of his needs” quoted eccentric early settler Roger Jose from Borroloola, who liked to repeat famous quotes.

The conditioning of modern humans allows us to embrace the wonderful feelings of all the comforts of our regular life when we return home at the end of an adventure – it’s called “Getting away from it all”. A growing number of hermits or disillusioned humans from powerful, at times wealthy, and highly educated backgrounds have decided to leave it all behind and just embrace nature.

There are well-known communities of like-minded people amongst the greenery of mountains. Hippie, nudist colony and other alternative lifestyle enthusiasts are indications of human needs to a less materialistic, more natural and wholesome existence.

An eco-lifestyle is a sustainable living style with the utilisation and preservation of the local natural resources available. It is a very modern and a highly desirable lifestyle choice of many people.

The rest of us go caravanning; it is the ideal alternative lifestyle – temporarily.

As my husband and I debated, these were some of the reasons why we wanted to go and embrace Mother Nature.

Why Australia? Compared to Wild West America, Canada and perhaps a handful or so other destinations in the world, Australia has everything to offer and it is more unique to us. The Kimberley replaces the craving for the Wild West of America; the Snowy Mountains for Canada or the Swiss Alps; and the Riverina for the Rhine and Danube. The rest of Australia is where it really shines. The entire East Coast of Australia – the Sunshine-, the Gold- and the Sapphire Coasts – tops them all in the world. It also provides a cherry on top of the cake.

The Great Barrier Reef, the Cassowary Coast and Tropical Queensland are unequalled. I could keep on going with untamed Western Australia, the Top End and the Outback.

The unique flora and fauna of arid areas and wetlands, plus the oceans, are incomparable to other continents. There is nowhere else in the world where we can find such rare nature and so much of it.

Only a few large cities are found in Australia and they are new. The rest of the world is pretty much packed with cities and most of them are old.

The Australian continent interested me the most when we considered travelling. We tackled the subject of caravanning. We talked with visitors who had spent five years on the road. I told them how I used to be scared of the gypsies who often set up camp at the end of our suburb near a small forest. They loved dancing around the fire and they also slept around the fire. During the day they often begged and pilfered around the houses. The Romani people or gypsies had horse drawn “bow-roofed” carts, which have been as ornate as the people themselves since the 1870s. They mainly used them for travelling from one place to another and for trading goods.

In Europe, caravanning was not as popular because rebuilding after the war took a long time, especially in highly populated Central Europe. The 1970s and 1980s saw the increase of caravans on European roads.

The Bristol Carriage Company constructed the first 5.5-metre caravan, called The Wanderer in 1880.

Tin Can Tourists (as they were referred to) took to the roads in America in 1920. Spending time with family became important after the harsh realities of war. Family holidays to seaside caravan parks became popular. This created entire industries for the great demands in camping and caravanning. However, caravanning became really popular after the Second World War in America and in Australia too. Australia is ideal for caravanning because of the vast open places and great distances. Many caravan parks have been established on large, prime real estate land adjacent to the beach, river or lake.

With the economic advantages, generations of retirees are able to make the most of their freedom after their working life.

RV or Recreational Vehicles encompass mobile homes and motor homes, camper vans, pop-up campers, travel trailers, teardrop trailers, hybrid trailers, fifth-wheel trailers (pulled by a pick-up truck) and park models (European caravans).

Selecting a suitable “home away from home” depends on individual needs. We thought about how we would like to go about visiting Australia. Many of our friends were not at all in the right position to go travelling. However, some of Wayne’s (my husband’s) colleagues have been on the road for years.

Timing your holiday is difficult. There are so many things to consider – a demanding family life, health issues and motivation often reduce personal enjoyment. Most male homeowners spend their free time fixing things or tinkering in the shed, especially during the holidays and in retirement (unless they are couch potatoes). There are always jobs to do around the house and men will find new projects, which can interfere with holidays. The best possible way to get quality time with many of the men I know is to make them sit at the wheel and head to The Great Outdoors, even for a short trip.

In other instances, women are tied to family. They find it hard to leave grandchildren behind. Some are not at all keen on camping.

In our case, my husband felt he was running out of things to do. He talked about going camping or caravanning in Australia. My dearest really had the “bug”. There was no letting off. He really wanted to go caravanning.

Weeks and months passed; and the subject remained. In the end, he wore me down. I was a little surprised at myself as I started toying with the idea, especially after conversations with some of our visitors.

“We are not getting any younger,” Wayne repeated over and over again.

“We should go while we can really enjoy it; while we are energetic,” he added.

"To be able to do what we want. It’s payback time."

“How lucky are we to have a choice to be able to do this?”

He was right. There were no family issues. I had no grandchildren yet although my daughter was planning on starting a family. Wayne told me that we should go around Australia for a year in a caravan. My lower back started to play up a little a while ago. I could see what he meant. Even if caravanning did not really cut it for me at first, I succumbed to his ideas. As a matter of fact, he really did not have to twist my arm. I felt that we were very lucky to have the opportunity and the freedom; it’s not possible for everyone. My husband was right; the timing was perfect. He chose a moment when I was most amicable. How was that for timing? Full marks, Wayne!

It was the right time in our life to make the effort to go and see Australia. Our children were grown up and we had no responsibilities to hold us back. We had to make a rough plan. This was when organisation and a feasibility study were essential. Common sense was vital. A time when a woman can come in handy.

“Planning is not living in the future; it is catering for the future”.

We really had to think about all avenues, so we would not make too many mistakes. The timing of our adventure, leaving home, how we would travel, types of accommodation, our budget and weather patterns were very important factors to consider. We spent hours tossing around ideas regarding timing, budgets, targets and pros and cons. Our morning coffees at various Broadbeach cafés each became more meaningful; we were buzzing. The exhilarating feeling of tasting freedom was overwhelming.

Most of us have some places of personal interest or desired topics in which we would like to indulge during our travels. The added perspective of fulfilling your individual wishes of visiting a place can enhance the meaning of your journey. We can find out how other people live and what is more intriguing, how they have lived in this country since ancient times.

The richness of indulging in the gastronomic flavours of Australia is another special treat. Prioritising “must-see” places is important to your satisfaction and for your personal fulfilment after the trip. “Do it once and do it right” is a good attitude to take.

I personally wanted to concentrate on embracing Australia’s ancient and more modern history. When the weather restricts outdoor activities, museums are wonderful places to learn facts about the history of the region. Wayne was into rare natural sites, natural rock formations, old engines, museums and pubs but we knew that no matter how long our holiday, we couldn’t possibly see it all.

The Tropics were the only place where we didn’t want to be during the rainy season. From October to April the danger of cyclonic activities and torrential rains are frequent. Down South there are real dangers of bushfires and very strong winds during the hot summer months. December to March can be hot and Northerly winds can make outings unpleasant.

Fine-tuning the target destinations would come later, when we knew for sure that we were able to do it. The most important element of becoming free, without stress and without compromising our everyday living standards or any other future plans, was deciding what to do with our home. It became the key factor of planning our budget. What should we do with it?

We’d retired three years before. We’d made the move to our new home and set it up the way we wanted. Everything was in place. The paint was clean enough for a couple of years and the carpet in the three bedrooms could serve another year or two. Everything was the way we liked it. We would have been happy to just lock the doors and go travelling for one, two or even more years. Our home would be ready for us when we returned. Renting was out of the question. Or was it? It made sense to think this over! If we were going to paint and refresh it when we returned, then we might as well have someone in there while we were away. A total clean-up when we returned was necessary anyway. If you think that renting your home is not your cup of tea, it was not mine either!

At first I would not hear of it but common sense made me realise that it was totally insane to leave the place empty for all that time. We did not anticipate this factor during the initial planning of the trip. I warmed to the idea of renting out our place. If it made sense, then it was also a good idea. Renting out our home covered the cost of the entire year of travel (in fact it could have been longer). I was apprehensive about media reports on the subject of the “odd tenant from hell”. My husband reminded me of our own past experiences. The type of tenant you attract to your home is a deciding factor. The location determines the type of renters. Our house was in a very good location.

At one stage we’d rented out a number of houses on the Gold Coast for a few years. We’d never had any trouble with bad tenants. Naturally insurance is a must. We compared the “pros” and the “cons” and it soon became clear; we were 80% in favour of renting.

Our home could work for us while we were not there. That was a great idea. Earn some money while we were holidaying! Renting out our home was a very sensible thing to do. It was sorted. One big responsibility was off our hands while we were away.

Where would we sleep for a year or more? We talked about accessibility to places. Where did we want to stay? There were so many choices! Wayne mentioned a caravan but we had to look at all other avenues. Should we fly and drive, drive and camp, go by campervan, drive and stay in cabins, drive and stay in hotels, buy a RV or caravan?

We did some costing. We narrowed it down to driving and staying in cabins in a caravan park or embarking on a caravan journey. I visualised the cabins in caravan parks and I did not fancy sleeping on bunk beds even though I know some are rather luxurious these days. We averaged out the cost of cabins to $70 per day. The total expense would be roughly $25,000 for a year.

We agreed to spend $32,000 - $35,000 to purchase a caravan, which we could sell on return. Caravan parks could cost $20 - $40 per day so we averaged it to $30 per day. Caravan park usage added up to $11,000. Cabins are more readily available when pre-booked. Pre-booking was far too organised for our liking!

It was a nightmare arranging everything so far in advance for such a long trip, knowing we could put a lot of pressure on ourselves trying to make it on time. Our very own home away from home, with our own items, belongings and a clean environment became attractive to me. Caravans can be pulled into a lay-by if there is no room in a caravan park. I would have everything that I needed with me.

The biggest advantage in purchasing a brand new caravan at a good price would be saving on accommodation costs. We knew that the next generation of travellers was not far behind us and that the market would still be there. Our choice of a new caravan would be considered by the next owner after us.

Going for one long trip can get caravanning out of your system. I made my husband promise that after the adventure we would sell the van. It would not be stored in a shed and go past its use-by date.

 Our accommodation was roughly planned. I could see myself in a lovely brand new caravan with all the modern comforts. As we are both a little forgetful, I purchased a diary in which to keep details of our trip.

Financial and travel plans are made “not to plan to fail but to fail to plan”. (I heard it somewhere and it has stuck in my mind).

The next stage of planning included writing down some aspects of the trip.

1. Purchase a caravan and accessories.

2. What to do with the house and contents?

3. Costing for the year.

4. Automatic payments.

5. Travel plans according to weather patterns.

We did several versions. The decision was made to rent out our home. The real estate agent indicated a weekly rental income of $500 - $550 so I budgeted $480 for the 52 weeks. That would mean $25,000 in our pockets.

We took on the task of looking at caravans. Where to start? What could we have? How much were they on the new and used markets? (A used one? – I had to go along with my husband’s idea.) There was no harm in pricing them and seeing what was available. The Internet was helpful to see what was around; however, we did want to see for ourselves.

My feet became sore from walking. We looked at four used caravan yards which we found on the Internet. Some of the older, used vans were smelly. I imagined old people peeing in a bucket at night, and probably missing it too.

“Tell him he’s dreaming” was one of my favourite quotes from The Castle (one of the best Aussie films).

The vans with bathrooms, even the older ones, were far too expensive for our budget. I hated the idea of getting a used van. I was a little disenchanted to say the least. Our budget was $25,000 - $30,000 for the caravan and about $5000 for the set-up.

Wayne was carrying on about some boy thing like “our car won’t be able to pull the caravan”. We had a four-wheel drive Honda CRV, a new model. It surely could. He left me feeling annoyed. Even the little old vans with no bathroom were too heavy for our little Honda CRV according to him.

“It can only pull a lightweight caravan up to 1500 kg,” he was trying to explain, once I’d cooled down a bit. I was trying hard to understand what it was all about. He explained patiently until it registered. I know now that there is an official weight that each vehicle can pull or carry. I suppose that is understandable. So the tare weight or empty was up to 1200 kg and 1500 kg max, full or set up with our belongings.

A larger four-wheel car would have been more suitable but not very economical; it would have cost a lot of money for fuel. (Wayne told me this). Fuel is one of the biggest strains on finances on caravan trips. It would cost too much for our budget to buy a larger four-wheel drive vehicle and the changeover price would not be good. We were also very conscious of environmental issues. It was most important for us to choose the right caravan for this trip and to consider its re-sale options too.

Several days passed and we spent many hours hunting for the right caravan. Somehow we remained good friends! I kept my mouth shut so many times that it almost hurt. All that walking was giving my lower back some concern. In spite of that I could not possibly stay at home, so off we went to look at more caravan yards.

 Our chances of finding a light enough van were diminishing; it was very disappointing to see Wayne’s spirit dampened.

There are not many caravan places on the Gold Coast. We did look at caravan Internet sites and publications during our search for a suitable caravan. Most of them were far too big, too heavy and too pricey for us. They were also used ones too. I gave up my ideals and agreed to a small pop-up one. I was not looking forward to being squeezed in, not having a good night’s sleep or being couped up in it when it was raining outside. Things were not looking good at all for my needs and it appeared that it was the same for Wayne.

One day we noticed that the “Caravan and Camping Show” was on again. Perfect timing! The Australian camping/caravanning market appears to cater for exclusive motorhomes in a large selection of sizes. There was an advertisement for the Brisbane show, and it was on the following weekend. Our hopes were up again. That is until I reasoned with my logical thoughts. My common sense left me a little unsure towards the whole idea of going to the show. If the little, old, used ones were too heavy and too expensive and we had not seen one that we liked, than it would have to be a miracle of new technology to come up with a solution. We would have seen evidence of that somewhere on the Internet or even on the roads.

Where was my open mind? There were more and more of the lighter four-wheel drive vehicles on the market and on the roads. We would see if “the bigger the better” attitude and the heavy-duty bush-bashing ideas of the Australian public had altered a little with environmental consciousness. Caravanning is becoming a big deal nowadays. The Baby Boomers’ generation is ready to hit the roads.

We wanted to see if there was something new in Brisbane. I could only hope for my husband’s sake. I actually caught myself hoping for me too. A renewed enthusiasm crept into our days. Obviously, we were both keen to go on an adventure. We looked at every motorhome, caravan and camper trailer on the road. We made comparisons and tossed around ideas as we headed to the Brisbane Showgrounds.

Going through the gates, we became hopeful again. There were some small, pop-up caravans without bathrooms, yet none of them were below 1300 kg tare weight. They were not light enough for the modern “crossover vehicles” like the Honda. The interiors of many of the reasonably priced ones were not bright enough and a little cheap looking, with darkish upholstery and virtually nothing inside. Most of the prices were well above what we felt good value, especially for the quality they offered. Some were accessible from a back door. Many of the caravan sites in caravan parks are not set out for that as the concrete blocks are on the side of the vans.

We arrived at the luxury caravan section, as we really wanted to see them, even if they were far out of our range. My goodness! They were really good. I could have lived in some of them. It would have been so lovely to own one. I felt disappointed. We were really comfortable financially! There were so many people buying these beauties. We should have too.

I have heard that many people who go on a caravan trip around the country sell their homes. That was not our aim. There are different choices in life. A solid home was our priority. It’s not easy to get back into the real estate market later on. The luxury RV (Recreation Vehicle) is not easy to sell.

The more we looked at the Winnebago vans, the more I was losing my cool. I was getting fed up. If we were to resell anyway, why not get a really decent one? We’d travel better and sell it on easier. I did voice my opinion, for whatever it was worth.

“We cannot change our car to a bigger one!” Wayne repeated, with a bit of weight to his voice. It was out of the question, as I gathered from his body language. Neither of us were happy customers. Our noses pointed to the ground as we kept on walking. My husband’s argument was that potential buyers for our van would have the same issues with fuel costs. Most Baby Boomers are more conscious of the environment, like us.

We arrived at the displays of the very practical “A” frames or “A-Van”. I’d never really fancied them much; they reminded me of  tents on wheels. There are a few negatives against them because of the constant setting-up involved during lengthy trips like ours – stopping for a cuppa on the side of the road, boiling the kettle or going to the loo to name a few. They are more suitable as weekenders or for shorter holidays. However, as we looked at them closer, I warmed to them. Once inside, they appeared spacious, light and airy – more appealing than some of the tiny pop-up ones. If we wanted to go on this trip, we had to compromise. These were the closest ones so far to what we could have. At least we’d found one that we could pull!

Half-heartedly we continued looking at other displays that became larger, heavier and more expensive. We felt that we had to go and look at the other displays while we were there, even if most of them were outrageously out of our league.

We chiselled our taste. The vans were getting bigger and more luxurious, not smaller and more economical. Ahh! Some of the Baby Boomers sure were ready to spend their children’s inheritances! Mansions on wheels! Some of the “wow-factor” vehicles were priced at $500,000 to $1,000,000. There were so many of them. They were great and huge. I could have lived in them forever if we could have afforded it.

Wouldn’t it have been a great way to see the country? Dream on, baby! We returned to the “A-Vans”. There was one light enough for us. We had a really good look at them all. We watched a demonstration on setting up. We realised that they were very easy to set up. I liked the light coming in through the large windows. I must have spent about an hour looking at all of them. We took a card from the salesperson and decided to have a coffee. We were certainly not ecstatic but if we wanted to travel around Australia, we had to do it without compromising our financial comfort for our retirement.

I was disillusioned and it made me very tired and irritable. I was trying to get out of the place and just forget the whole thing. I wanted to go home. Grudgingly my husband followed me. As we headed towards the exit, right in front of us and out of the blue I spotted a gorgeous little “retro” caravan that looked a lot like a snail’s house. It was so cute! It was very modern yet still had the ’60s look about it. It was a real eye-catcher! It was so tiny, yet so inviting. Inside the caravan was a brightly upholstered settee/bed, a collapsible table and a small basin; remarkably cute and practical... for a weekender that is. Not for us!

My husband’s family had owned one of a similar shape and made of lightweight wood, way back in the ’50s. Then I noticed another one, just next to it; it was a little larger. We read the little plaque placed on it, next to the door, with the tare weight and other specifications. “Tare weight 910 kg.” and “432 cm length.” Magic! I gasped and read it again. It was as if the sky had cleared for us. It was too good to believe. We stepped inside. It felt like a little home. We liked the colours, the layout of the interior and the large windows, which would allow the sunshine in. The van had bright upholstery with cornflower blue and yellow colours. The cupboards and all woodwork were a light Beechwood colour. It had a classy kitchen with a triple burner gas stove, a kitchen basin and a small fridge. The double bedroom had plenty of storage facilities, separated from the lounge room by a Constantine door. There was a small bathroom basin with a vanity and a mirror. However, the biggest surprise was the bright and fresh-looking shower and toilet. It even had a shower and toilet! It was unbelievable – lightweight and bright and new!

All of a sudden, I felt apprehensive. The price! We had to look for a display ticket. We both guessed it would be at least $60,000. As we glimpsed the price tag, I started jumping up and down for joy and I did not care about the people around us. I hugged and kissed my husband. The show special price was $29,900, the normal price being $32,900, and the weight was perfect: 910 kg.

If you dream hard enough, you get it! There was a lot of interest in these vans. My reaction would have sold a few alone. There was a larger version again but that was not suitable for us as it was heavier. We did not mind waiting for the sales person. It was what we needed and wanted so we purchased it then and there. The trip was on! We ordered the annexe to go with it for a total price of $33,200. The salesman told us that they’d been inundated with sales.

~~

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