Travelling Australia for you (and your pets)

What started off as a dream in 2014 is now a reality for my cat Willow and I as we travel Australia full-time. I sold my house and said goodbye to my career and we have now been successfully living a nomadic life for over 3 years.

This document is a work in progress with brief notes and passages about my experience of day to day life on the road and how we have adapted to this life. Please read through and I absolutely welcome you to reach out if you have further questions. Facebook, Instagram, or email: .

If you find any of this information helpful please consider supporting us by buying one of willows collectable coins.

Getting Started

  • Start living in your van as soon as possible even if you are still at home. You will discover things you didn’t think of and you will be in a position to fix them easily.
  • Measure up how much storage space the van has and recreate it with cardboard boxes in your house. Start living out of these boxes and you will get an idea for what you really need to take with you.

Common Misconceptions

  • Starting a life on the road isn’t a solution to everything or everyone. Running away from your problems never solves anything. Make sure you address this before you leave. If you were depressed before you left you may still be on the road. Same goes for your relationship if you are joined by someone else.
  • You are not going to have the endless amounts of time you imagined before you left. Time gets eaten up very quickly when you travel and things generally take longer. Managing your time still takes discipline.

On the Road

  • Drive as little as possible, plan your routes to avoid backtracking. If you travel half the distance in a week you have also halved your fuel costs.

Safety on the road

  • You’re going to need a good first aid kit. Think about the basics, adhesive bandages, antiseptic cream but consider other ailments you might experience in the span of a year. Do you really want to have to drive to the pharmacy if you get a cold (It might be 300km away). Throat lozenges, decongestants, cough medicine. Are you prone to conjunctivitis? A $10 bottle of eyedrops could save you from being stranded somewhere unable to see.
  • If you cook in your van consider getting a small fire extinguisher or blanket to keep nearby.
  • How will your family know where you are if something goes wrong?
    • Consider setting up ‘Find Friends’ app on your phone to share with those close to you.
    • Other apps provide tracking which work on both iPhone and Android
    • A PLB beacon, or satellite monitor such as a SPOT device may be more suitable if you spend a lot of time outside phone coverage.

Admin on the Road

How will you collect your mail on the road?

  • Set up a PO Box in a town where family can collect then post to your current location.
  • Reforwading services are convenient but have a cost.
  • You can get mail and parcels sent to you at any post office in Australia by addressing:
    • Your Name
    • c/o Post Office Name
    • Post Office Address

Your Vehicle

  • If you haven’t yet chosen a vehicle to travel with get out there and talk to those who are already on the road. Visit dealers, secondhand yards, classified ads, and spend some time in different vehicles to work out what is right for you. This can still be very useful even if you choose to build your own van (I would often drop into a yard and say I’m just looking for ideas and they happily let me wander around).
  • If you can afford it, consider hiring different types of camper vans and going for short trips. You’ll soon discover what setup is write for you.

Building your Own

Converting your own camper van is as bigger job as you make it. Some conversions are as simple as a platform for a bed and a place to put a stove.

  • How much water storage will you need for drinking, washing up, bathing?
  • How much power will you need? What devices will you need to bring with you?
  • How much storage space will you need?
  • Use free 3D modelling software such as SketchUp to design and help visualise your new van.

Power

  • Use a DC to DC charging system to charge your camper van battery from your starter battery/alternator.
  • For fixed solar panels summer doesn’t always mean more amperage as you’ll be parking in the shade as much as possible. Portable panels have their advantage here but are not as convenient.
  • A 240v charger will allow you to charge your batteries from mains power.
  • A generator quickly provides the power you need when you need it. But they are noisy.

Water Filtration

There will likely be a time that you fill up your water tanks with the most disgusting bore water, or heavily chlorinated town water imaginable. Adding a water filtration unit is a cheap way to get great tasting water. A two stage unit first removes sediment and then chemicals/odours. They can be purchased for under $100 on Ebay and will work perfectly fine with just a hand pump. It also means you can safely fill up from streams. Note that these systems do remove fluoride so you may need to change to a higher fluoride toothpaste to ensure your teeth are still protected.

Ventilation and Climate Proofing

Ventilation is crucial for surviving hot climates and reducing condensation in the cold. Forget about ‘air conditioning’ it’s way too power hungry to consider for a camper van.

  • To get air into your van, you have to first get air out. Make sure you can achieve this flow-through by having vents at each end of the van or the ability to open windows.
  • Insulate as best you can. Foil backed foam insulation is great. Glass-Wool insulation suitable for some situations.
  • Most of the suns energy will enter via windows. Make sure you have solar shields or heat blocking curtains.¬†Curtains are much more convenient but may not be as good at blocking heat.
  • No matter how good your ventilation is nothing compares to having a fan pointed directly at you. Invest in a good cabin fan. I have a Caframo Sirocco and it’s one of the best.
  • You can purchase a small custom made bar which allows you to lock the back door whilst cracked. Alternatively if you have the skills you could make one yourself.

Notes on Construction

  • Spend the extra 20 seconds to pre-drill holes in timber before screwing in. I hear many people don’t do this but it makes the join much stronger and will ensure it doesn’t fall apart on rough roads.
  • Blind Threaded Inserts are the best way to secure wood to the side of your van.

Pets

The well being of your pet is absolutely your responsibility. If your van is not set up to accommodate their needs then you should not be leaving with them. Are you planning on working while on the road? Who will look after them while you are away?

Take things slow and ensure they are comfortable every step of the way. Most of all enjoy the most rewarding experience of travelling with your pet.

  • Start clicker training as soon as possible. This increases confidence and furthers the bond between you and your best friend.
  • Regularly brush your pet. This will considerably reduce the amount of hair floating around your van.
  • Don’t let your pet roam. Actively supervise your pet when they are outside.
  • Consider fitting them with a tracking collar.
  • Get an outdoor chair or make sure you have somewhere comfortable to rest outside in the shade.
  • Inside spaces. Where will they hang out mostly? Do they have a nice place to sit and look out from?
  • 1080 poison is common on Australian farms and forests to control feral animal populations. Ensure you keep track of where these areas are and make sure your pet is supervised closely.

Toileting for Cats

  • Will you have a litter box set up all the time, set up a box when you are at camp, or take your cat outside?
  • Litter boxes take up valuable space and can become odorous. Expecting your cat to hold on is bad news for their urinary tract health.
  • If you are familiar with their ‘movements’ you can ensure they receive the right amount of outside time. Willow lets me know when she wants to go, generally by waking me up at 4am!
  • Remember to ‘pick up after them’ as you would a dog in sensitive areas.

Your Pet and the Extremes

  • Whether it is to keep them cool or keep them warm a pets fur has evolved to handle these conditions. Shaving them interferes with this. The advice I have been given is that you should never shave a cat, but some dog breeds do benefit from it. Check with your vet first.
  • Also if you do get stuck in a few extremely hot days there is always the option of boarding them or asking a local vet to look after them

Where not to go

Some places are not meant for pets.

  • National parks and reserves.
  • Campsites close to busy highways.
  • Anywhere that they might be in danger or a danger to local wildlife.

Ticks are a Concern

Ticks are really difficult; mostly on the east coast of Australia. When we were around Noosa we were both covered in them. It’s okay to get a tick on you, but not okay to leave it because paralysis tick venom is accumulative. There is no medication for cats on the Australian market which claims to prevent ticks… but this is because they haven’t done the clinical trials to make that claim. Fortunately the same medication in the dog version, Fipronil, is present in some cat treatments. Namely Frontline Plus for cats, https://www.petbarn.com.au/frontline-plus-green-for-cats?p=1
It’s more expensive and we only use it when we are in known tick areas.

Daily Life

  • Washing up technique. Two cloths – one with a drop of detergent, another to rinse. Prevent stacking up dishes, you’ll be inundated in no time!
  • Use compass to position van for optimum Milky Way viewing! Nothing is more awesome than lying in bed looking out the back of the van at the stars.
  • Install a spirit level so that you can park your van somewhere flat. This ensures a good night sleep and that your sink drains.

Keeping Clean

  • You may find that showers are few and far between. A shower system in a van takes up valuable space and increases your water requirements considerably.
  • Bathing with warm water and a cloth can effectively keep you clean indefinitely.
  • Never wear dirty clothes. They will make you smell.
  • Make sure you take up any opportunity to use a laundromat.

Well Being

  • This life is not for everyone, there is no end goal, just to get the most out of every day. If you find that after 6 months it’s not for you then that is fine. Time to move onto a new phase.
  • There is literally only the cost of a plane ticket between you and flying home for a much needed week with your family.
  • Volunteering makes you feel good and is a great way to meet new people. HelpX / WWOOFing
  • Write a postcard – quick way to feel connected.

Communications

  • Check maps on your mobile providers website to get an idea of where you will have coverage. This may be very important information if you need to backtrack to make an important call.
  • Generally in Australia Telstra coverage is excellent, whilst other carriers not so much.
  • A 3g/4g omnidirectional antenna plugged into a modem inside the van can improve/extend internet access considerably.
  • Most phones do not have antenna input. It may be worth your while purchasing a cheap phone with antenna input for emergency use.

Food and Cooking

Cooking in a confined space is an art form. It is also a risk. Using gas appliances indoors puts you at the mercy of butane/propane leaks, carbon monoxide poisoning, and general fire/explosion danger. Ensure proper ventilation is provided and check gas appliances regularly for defects.

Personally, I use a portable gas stove that takes 220gm cartridges. I prefer these due to the fact that I can quickly cook outside if I feel like it. But note that the manufacturer does not recommend using them indoors, and nor can I. The biggest risk with these appliances is placing a large pan over it, the flames extending out close to the cartridge which in turn can over heat. I accept this risk of cooking inside with this appliance by using smaller frying pans, installing an extraction fan directly above it, and having a carbon monoxide detector installed and operational. Fixed gas appliances present their own risks, you choose.

I love cooking (eating) and made sure the design of my van could facilitate the preparation of meals, storage of food and utensils, and a refrigerator for keeping food fresh. It is a joy to have more time to cook and although the budget may be smaller, creativity is endless.

  • You don’t need a yoghurt maker to make yoghurt in summer when the vans above 30c.
  • Put paper towel or cardboard in bottom of the fridge to soak up condensation.
  • Cold press coffee in a plastic bottle.
  • Brew beer or cider from apple concentrate in small batches.
  • Soak mung beans in water overnight in a plastic bag, drain, then rinse twice daily and hang with bag open. In a few days you will have some excellent sprouts. Beans that have just started sprouting are a lot quicker to cook.
  • Sauerkraut is a rewarding food to make.

Money

Read more here.

Finding camps

  • Google Maps on satellite view is one of the best ways to suss out possible camp spots. It’s an easy way to check boundaries and find clearings that might be suitable.
  • Wikicamps app
  • Local knowledge. Drop into visitor centres, chat to fisherman / other campers

Cool apps

  • Wikicamps – The ultimate source for finding camps on the road. Includes user comments and photos.
  • Flightradar24 – See what plane just went overhead.
  • Fuel Map – Don’t get stuck somewhere without fuel.
  • Geocaching – Fun activity when travelling. Great for breaking up long drives.
  • ‘Planets’ for iPhone – Astronomy app for stargazing.

Don’t drive with your maps on satellite mode – it will chew through your data.

Other Tips

  • If you have unavoidably parked on a lean, placing a t-shirt under one side of your pillow will help rectify the issue somewhat.
  • When leaving a campsite, pick up a bag of rubbish to take with you.
  • Make your bed each day. This creates more space during the day compared to a pile of bunched up blankets.
  • Buy some scissors/hair clippers and learn to cut your own hair. Every dollar counts.
  • Ride share to reduce fuel cost. Find fellow travellers on Gumtree or facebook groups.
  • There are numerous house sitting websites which put you into contact with owners who need their place looked after. Couchsurfing.com is also a great way of meeting people.
  • Consider a tyre pressure monitoring system. Could save you some money on damaged rims by alerting you to a puncture.

That is all for now. If you have any questions please Facebook, Instagram, or email: .

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