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A three-year trip around Australia with no plans

Feature photo: A three-year trip around Australia with no plans

Michelle and Graham from Sussex Inlet, New South Wales always knew what they wanted to do once they retired – to rent out their home, buy a caravan, grab the dog and get on the road – with no plans.

As far as travellers go, Michelle and Graham are not ones for worrying over every last detail of their trip. Their only plan was to get to the highway and turn left. Turning left from Sussex Inlet would take them south, towards Victoria and Tasmania. And so, one day in April 2018, that’s exactly what they did. They hitched up the caravan, grabbed Bella (a fluffy Maltese x Toy Poodle and great travel buddy), drove to the highway and turned left, and so the adventure began. 

People would often question why they didn’t drive north for the winter when the weather would be getting cold. “Because every other man and his dog are heading there!” Michelle would reply. “We want to explore the unseen and do things differently. If it’s cold, it’s cold. So be it!”

Travelling around Australia

The three of them travelled around Australia for the next three years, hugging the coastline but also trekking inland, backtracking and zigzagging around. Michelle says there was a method to the madness. “Really, what it came down to was that we didn’t want to make any concrete plans. We met people along the way who recommended great places to visit – we wanted the flexibility to come and go as we pleased, and not be tied to a schedule. Everyone travels in their own way, but fixed plans just weren’t for us. If you drew our route, it would look like a very tangled spider web – and we loved it.”

Side by side photos of two people holding fish they've caught

The best thing about the trip? “Without doubt, it was the people we met along the way. We spent so many nights with other families in caravan parks – relaxing, talking, and sharing the freshly caught fish from the day. We keep in touch with so many of the people we met – locals and travellers. It’s just been such a wonderful experience.” 

House sitting to save money

To save money on park fees and for a break from the caravan, Graham and Michelle decided they’d like to give house sitting a go. The first house sit they did was in Victoria, in a little historical town near Ararat. It had a lot of cultural significance, and they learnt a lot about Aboriginal heritage. 

Aboriginal rock art

Once they reached Western Australia, they house sat in Esperance for three months, on a 12-acre property which was Graham’s favourite place. After that they headed to Mullewa, where they managed a council van park for three months during the wildflower season. Then, they house sat for a while in Perth. The owner had a rescue dog and was worried about how her dog Ted would get along with Bella – but after an initial meeting it was clear that the two of them would get along like old friends.

“There are so many house sitting opportunities across Australia – think city, country, beach and farms. It would be especially easy to get long-term house sits if you’re looking to get out of the city and explore somewhere away from the popular areas. If we had made strict plans for our trip, we never would have had these opportunities,” Michelle explains.

After Perth, Michelle and Graham went back down to Margaret River for a few weeks before continuing their trip north. 

Small white dog wearing a jumper cuddled on their owner's shoulder

They also picked up short term jobs along the way to help them pay the bills. Although, with a lot of caravan parks charging as little as $10 a night, having the caravan was a great way to travel on a budget over a long period of time.

Of course, there were some occasions when planning was necessary. Although they wanted to experience things recommended by the locals, there were some things they knew were must dos, such as swimming with whale sharks in Western Australia – which is seasonal.

Being at the right place at the right time did take some planning along the way.

“Also, driving long distances across the desert means you need to plan ahead to make sure you have enough food and water,” Graham adds. 

Living like a local while travelling

“The best thing about meeting locals was that they were so welcoming, and they would happily tell us the history of the place,” says Michelle. “They’d also tell us about little museums to visit; small towns to stay in that we would have otherwise missed. Airlie is a great example of a very well-known place we visited but didn’t stay at – instead we stayed just outside of it. It was quieter, cheaper, and we didn’t have to worry about the one-hour parking everywhere. We discovered beautiful, expansive beaches just outside Airlie, with miles and miles of sand. We were lucky enough to get gorgeous weather and we met some local fishermen on the pontoons who were kind enough to warn us about the local crocs!" 

With so many wonderful experiences, it’s not hard to see the appeal of getting a caravan and driving around Australia taking each day as it comes. And as for the worst bit of the trip? “Three years just wasn’t long enough!” laughs Michelle. “We’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

Since registering with your organisation, we have had 12 house sits and are currently on the longest house sit to date, for six months, at Capalaba, a suburb not far from our own home. Thank you. Beppie

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