On the Road…traveling life:
I have quickly discovered that if I want to see some remote sites in Australia, having a car would be very helpful. While I think I could have done this adventure by train and bus, a car provides some storage and shelter and private space, and makes me less dependent on shelling out money for hostels. In years past I traveled by train and was just fine without a car…but that was traveling city to city, and I want to see the outback. I will probably sell it when I settle in a city for a while, but I decided it was a good idea to do my traveling around at the beginning of my adventure and not the end, in part because once you start to acquire stuff, losing it and living with less isn’t very comforting or motivating. Many of us are absolutely addicted to the comfort of things, especially the security of a home base.
There are whole groups of people who have adopted full-time travel as an alternative lifestyle. This subculture is easily found in hostels and they often ascribe to a similar set of values including the abhorrence of money, consumerism, and even career. In its place they embrace shared resources, extreme eco-living, being “off the grid,” barter, and (I say this with hesitation)…low hygiene. Their primary value is Freedom.
As much as I might enjoy travel and freedom and not being tied to conventional ways of living, I am definitely not a full-time traveler. I like to sit places and soak them in. I’m in it to scratch what itches me. I do have a bit of wanderlust, but it’s always a way of being authentic for me, and doesn’t have the political fire behind it as it does some of the others I’ve met on the road. It’s not a concept I’m trying to achieve, just a means to an end. To those ends, I have bought a car.
Please Meet Alice:
Thankfully here, registration and insurance comes with the car and my traveling companion and I have hit the road. She is named Alice because we expect her to make it to Cairns, and then Alice Springs and back to Sydney (a mighty challenge).
Also, I like the idea of taking Alice on Adventures to what is like Wonderland to me. She’s not new or very pretty, but after an oil change (I helped!), a new radiator reservoir, some extra parts for the road and some help from some friends, she makes a very dependable drive.
Driving on the right side of a car on the left side of the road is more challenging than it seems. The mirrors are strange, the intersections are begging for an accident, and I am totally out of my depth. With someone else in the car constantly reminding you what to do, it is done more easily but it’s a constant conversation of “Stay left, but on the road. Yield to the left. Make FAR right turns. Crap! Look left, look left, look left!”
I earned a couple of good angry honks, but no accident. I had two days of city experience before taking to the road. I was wary because though I haven’t seen many police vehicles, there are traffic cameras everywhere, fines are twice the amount as in the states, the police can pull you over at any time for any reason (no infringement necessary) and you MUST travel exactly the speed limit posted or slightly below it. All that being said, car etiquette is quite friendly here. I haven’t noticed any aggressive drivers on the road and the one car that I’ve seen speeding, I saw pulled over a few kilometers down the road.
A word on wallabies. Wallabies are related to kangaroos, but a bit smaller. Like deer, they get that whole headlights effect and love “death by car.” The first ones I saw were roadkill (and I was told that’s how it would be). I didn’t see a live one until on my way to Dorrigo (about and hour or so inland) and then BOING! right in front of the car. There were no casualties, which is good because these crashes usually end with the extinction of both involved car and marsupial. Honestly, I was just ecstatic that I saw one in the wild! Comedian Ross Noble has a funny bit about kangaroos and emus with suicidal tendencies and an interest in cars. You can watch that here for a laugh.
A top ten list you won’t read in Cosmo:
And now here’s a few happy tips on how to successfully live and travel out of your car, in no particular order.
1) Make sure you have someone mechanically inclined check out your car and preferably test drive it before you buy it.
2) Buy parts used from wrecking places. (In Australia, haggling is not a thing. If you want the other price, go somewhere else.)
3) If you think something might go out, be prepared to fix it with a spare part on the side of the road. Buy an appropriate jack and tire iron.
4) Get a few pots and pans as hand me downs or from a thrift store (In Australia they are called Opp Shops or Opportunity Shops) as well as some non-breakable dishes, cutlery, and an ice chest (Esky). You may not have a stove, but you might find an outdoor grill.
5) If using a station wagon, covered truck, or van as I am, get a travel bed of some variety to fit the bed of your car (outdoor stores carry these), and get some used sleeping bags or bedding at an Opp Shop too.
6) Share your driving when going long distances. When I signed up for this car thing, it was because I knew I had someone to come with me and drive when I got tired.
7) In the Australian Outback, travel with lots of extra water, gasoline (petrol), sunglasses, and sunscreen. This can kill you if you don’t. The number one killer in the Australian Outback is dehydration.
8) Travel with some dried goods and a few other non-perishables for when you aren’t around a grocery.
9) Travel with biodegradable toiletries and a shovel for digging holes for you know what.
10) Look for cheap campsites that have laundry nearby or a community kitchen and showers. Don’t camp by the side of the road unless you have to.
I’m sure there are more good ideas and you can always have more stuff, but many other things you might think of as providing comfort are probably window dressings. If you know of any great tips, please comment on my blog and I’ll update!
next up for the blog….. Dorrigo and the Dingo Woman.