Travelling Australia: how hitting the road can change your life
January 2, 2018 • Jaclyn Riley-Smith
6 min read
Why would a corporate lawyer quit her job, pack it all in and hit the road? The answer is in the question really. Life as a corporate lawyer is stressful, sleep and sun-deprived, and often tedious. Life on the road is, well, awesome.
For a long time, we were a pretty typical family living in the inner west of Sydney. Mum, Dad, three kids (nine, eight and five) – all with hectic and overscheduled lives, stressful jobs (for mum and dad at least) and neck deep in an obscene inner west Sydney mortgage.
As a corporate lawyer, I had what could be described as a fairly “extreme job” (and not in an exciting, death-defying, lion taming, skydiving type of way) – extreme in the far more dull sense of 80 and at times 100 hours plus a week, unpredictable workflow, relentless demands from clients all over the world and at all hours of the day, to meet ridiculously tight deadlines (I know – boo hoo for highly paid lawyers right? We tend to receive little sympathy).
Looking back to our city life, I remember the pressure of working to buy the stuff, and to pay the mortgage for the house to keep all the stuff in, and to renovate to make more space for even more stuff. But all the clothes, shoes, toys, and gadgets…and city life stuff wasn’t making us happy. Working so hard to have more money to buy more stuff, and fund a hectic lifestyle for my kids who I rarely got to spend time with, definitely wasn’t. So one day, I sat the hubby down and said: “We need to talk”. Ominous words. I then blurted out, “What-would-you-think-if-we-quit-our-jobs-and-sold-the-house-and-travelled-around-Australia?” He gave it about 10 seconds thought before saying “Ok, why not?” And then “We can get a Landcruiser right?”
Hubby’s 4WD life goals sorted, we sold our house, quit our jobs, bought a camper trailer, and hit the road. We ditched, sold, and stored our stuff – and now we get by with whatever we can tow behind us. Our life on the road is about doing things – rather than having things.
And we have done, and seen, some truly amazing things. We have been on the road for almost a year and have climbed Mt Kosciusko, hurtled down some hairy 4WD tracks in the Victorian high country, and travelled all along the South Australian coast before taking a sharp right and heading into the middle.
We lived at Uluru for a few months while the hubby stumbled upon the coolest job ever: doing Harley Davidson tours around the rock, while the kids went to the local Yulara school. We luxuriated in hot springs in Mataranka and braved the crocs in Kakadu and the top end. We loved every bit of the Kimberley, survived the Gibb River Road, and recovered for a month on Cable Beach in Broome. We enjoyed the spectacular marine life, pristine turquoise waters and white sands of the WA coast, and then winery-ed beached and 4WD-ed our way through Margaret River and south-west WA.
We have camped by rivers, lakes, on the beach, on a cliff (actually - I don’t totally recommend that, as we nearly got blown off and had to hastily relocate in the middle of the night) in the bush, in the outback, in the desert, in the red dirt, high up in the mountains, next to canyons and gorges. Oh, and far, far away from the waterholes in Kakadu - because: crocs. Eek!
Living in a tent on wheels we have total exposure to the elements. We go to sleep every night under the stars, and wake up every morning to birds singing (and sometimes dingoes howling and crocodiles splashing) and to fresh air - after all of the sleep. Ah, it is a truly glorious alternative to being stuck in an office for 18 hours a day.
Ok, ok - too unbearably smug? Oops. Don’t get me wrong - it’s not all sunshine and champers. There are the occasional sucky moments and grim realities of life on the road. You have to get used to looking like [insert expletive], covered in red dirt in your three grimy changes of clothes. Stuff goes wrong and snaps, catches on fire and falls off your car. A lot. You give up all your creature comforts - but not the creatures (finding a mouse in my bed at Uluru is a trauma from which I may never fully recover). And the quality time with the fam is awesome. But the quantity time, so, so much 24/7 quantity - can be quite overwhelming.
But hey, the stresses of life on the road are fleeting, and a far cry from the stresses of corporate law. And there really is a whole lot of sunshine and champers to help ease the occasional discomfort. Not to mention those sunrise coffees on the beach, sunset wine and chats by the campfire, and all the oceans, rivers, gorges, mountains, outback, wineries and 4wd action in between. The benefits are life-changing.
How has hitting the road changed our outlook on life?
Well, there is the whole going from having a house, being gainfully employed, and generally smelling quite delightful – to being homeless, jobless, (and often unshowered) transients. An absolute transformation really.
Our life is so much simpler these days. Not only in terms of less stuff but also fewer expenses and less stress. We have sold our house and quit our jobs in Sydney. We don’t have a “back home” to go back to. But – with the luxury of time to explore, and a whole country to get around, we do get to try on for size different places to live, and different ways of living. Getting out of the city and the office, and spending our days outdoors - hiking, biking and swimming - has changed our view on how we want to live our lives. Travel isn’t something you get out of your system - travel can change your system completely.
So what’s next? We originally thought we would travel for a year - but we quickly realised that this is a rather large country, and twelve months wouldn’t be enough to see it all. As Bill Bryson so aptly noted in In a Sunburnt Country, “The great thing about Australia is that there is so much to find in it, but so much of it to find it in.”
Our rather messy figure eight “lap” of Australia is still missing a few major lines on the map. We are giving ourselves another year (most likely with a few pit stops to work now and then) to explore Tassie, the east coast, Cape York and all the Queensland parts of the top end we haven’t yet seen.
Many more adventures to come!