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Living life on the road

Being able to travel around Australia visiting some of the most beautiful and pristine places the country has to offer is often a dream for many older Australians. Here are some of the things to consider if you've decided to live life on the road and become a grey nomad.

Key points:

  • Make a list of places you want to visit and figure out the best route from there

  • Think seriously about what to do with your house before jumping into the deep end

  • Have a good system in place so you can keep on top of all of your bills

Older couple sitting outside near their campervan
There is not a set way to travel as a grey nomad, so have a think about what you imagine your trip to be like so you can plan for it. [Source: iStock]

In country towns or on family trips, you would often see a line of grey nomads, stopping in at the local bakery and traversing highways to reach their next location.

And now, you may have reached retirement and want to become one of those grey nomads.

There is a lot of planning involved if you want to live your life on the road. You need to consider how to finance that one in a lifetime trip and make sure you don't have a care in the world when you are away from home.

And of course, there is not a set way to travel as a grey nomad, so have a think about what you imagine your trip to be like so you can plan for it. 

Make sure to take into consideration all of the variables, for instance, the health needs of your partner or yourself, what caravan or motor home you intend to purchase, and talk to family and friends about how this trip will work.

Location, location, location

Do you know where you are travelling to? Is it easy to get to? How long does it take to drive between towns?

When deciding where to travel, make a list of places you want to visit. 

The Great Ocean Road in Victoria? The Kimberley in Western Australia? What about Uluru in the Northern Territory? Millaa Millaa Falls in Queensland? Are you prepared to ferry over to Tasmania with your caravan? Set up your caravan for a night under the stars in the Blue Mountains National Park in New South Wales? Or how about visiting Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges in South Australia?

If you have a number of iconic spots you want to visit, you should try to map out the best way to reach all of your dream destinations without making the travel route too difficult.

You should also be aware of if you intend to stay in caravan spots or camps, or whether you may need to go bush and make friends with the wild. And are the caravan sites you are visiting free or paid?

Ask other grey nomads about their experiences along the way and what they recommend to visit or suggest to avoid. If you are new to caravanning, you may find a lot of the Kimberley can be difficult to traverse if you aren't experienced enough. Whereas, some people may not feel comfortable travelling along the Great Ocean Road on its windy roads with their caravan.

Travelling with pets

Your pet can be one of your best companions, so it is understandable you want to take them along for the journey.

In some cases, taking your pet along with you can be a better option than having to find a home for them for the next six months to a year.

However, it comes down to planning when taking your pet along for the ride.

You will face challenges with taking your pets because some caravan parks, reserves or camping spaces may not allow pets, specifically (larger) dogs. So you need to research animal friendly sites before you start travelling.

Make sure you are on top of all vaccinations and flea and worm control medication. It can be a good idea to have a folder full of his health history as well in case of an emergency and you need to visit a different veterinarian.

Before you head off from home, it can be a smart idea to get your pet, whatever animal they may be, used to the caravan and car.

And try to be consistent with your pets' food. Don't keep switching between whatever food is available at the nearest supermarket. This can lead to an unsettled stomach and an upset animal.

While on the road plan regular stops for toilet breaks and exercise. One you have settled in your next location, check around the campsite for any dangers before letting your animal out. Remember that it will be an unfamiliar place for your pet so keep an eye on them so they don't wander off and get lost. 

Budgets and bills

Money is going to be a big component of travelling. Firstly, you need to think about how long you want to travel for and then figure out how much your dream trip is going to cost. Knowing how long you will travel for will give you a better idea around all the different monetary variables for the trip.

While you want your travel to not feel like a chore, it is better to be prepared for how much things will cost, for instance, budgeting your food over this period or potential caravan or motor vehicle breakdowns.

Keeping an eye on your spending or sticking to your budget can make your trip more enjoyable so you don't get short-changed near the end of your travel.

It's important to remember that even though you are away, your bills don't just stop.

If you still own your home, you will have taxes and council fees to pay, and if you use mobile devices, you will still have phone bills to settle. Additionally, travelling around in a caravan means that you will need insurance and registration for your car and caravan, and will need an up to date driving licence.

The best options to help with your bills include moving all of your payments to online if possible or to utilise mail forwarding to a close family member and friend. This means you won't miss a bill!

What about my house and possessions?

This can be a major concern for wannabe grey nomads. You can only take so much with you on your journey, which can be difficult if you are heading off for an extended period of time.

Since your home and possessions are your biggest asset, you need to take every precaution before travelling.

Many who want to lead the nomadic life will need to decide whether to keep their home, rent it or sell.

For people that keep their home, they will need to figure out if they will get a house sitter for that period or have family, friends and neighbours keep an eye on the property.

If you live in a retirement village or independent living, your home may have available vehicle or caravan storage. This can be helpful for when you go on trips, because your village or aged care provider can check on your home for you while you are away.

If you intend to rent out your home, you will need to have someone checking on the property which would be easiest through a rental management company. You may also want to store your possessions elsewhere. 

And if you intend to sell, where are you going to store your belongings? Some people may borrow sheds or spare rooms from their relatives, but it would still require you to downsize your assets. You may decide to hire a storage unit to store your possessions.

When choosing a storage unit, you should check if the facility is clean, well-reinforced from elements like water, closed off from rodents, and whether your chosen provider has security in place, like cameras.

Similar to a home contents insurance, you should be able to buy storage unit insurance from your new storage provider.

Make a list of all the things you're putting in storage, either at a friends house or a rented storage facility, so it will be easy to locate your possessions on your return

Before you leave

While it is easy to put off making appointments, you should be undertaking all your medical and dental checks before you leave for your big trip.

It's smarter to get all of your checks out the way, have an assessment of your general health, and if you have current illnesses, have all your relevant documents ready and put aside in case you have an emergency or need to visit another doctor while on the road.

Ensure you have your prescriptions ready to go and have scripts for medications with you in case you're running low. Also, keep all your medication safely stored in cool areas, especially if you are heading to areas in Australia that are incredibly hot.

Depending on the route you take, it can be a good idea to make yourself aware of what towns you are visiting that have a pharmacy, as well as their open hours.

The same can be said for food and drink, and if you have a particular allergy or diet you need to stick to, it may be best to make sure you can access the healthiest or correct food products where you travel.

Remember, some States and Territories do not allow you to bring in certain foods across the border.

Your caravan should be stocked with an up to date first aid kit. Most pharmacies should sell a fully stocked kit. If you have any particular medical equipment you require more often, like you have regular headaches and need aspirin, then you should make sure you have these resources stocked adequately.

Do you have the training to use some of the equipment in the safety kit? It's a good idea to be across everything before you start travelling. First aid training is pretty easy to organise and access in every State or Territory.

Make sure your car and caravan have been checked prior to leaving, so you don't have any unexpected vehicle issues while on the road. 

Also leave a contact number with loved ones so they know where to reach you in case of an emergency. It can be a good idea to not only have your insurance details stored safely, but to also leave a copy with your loved ones just in case.

Where in Australia have you dreamed of visiting? Tell us in the comments below.

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