We are excited to continue our series of Featured Big Lappers in 2019. We hope that by sharing other travellers experiences, it will help in your own planning. So, please welcome Not Grey Nomads, Frannie and Crispy.
* * *
PLEASE INTRODUCE YOURSELVES
We are Frannie and Crispy (Chris) and we are caravanning full-time around Australia. With us is our dog, Bella, a 7 year old Staffy/Lab cross. We are a couple in our early (mid) 40’s, and we are on the road indefinitely. Working as we go to continue to fund our way. As long as we can find work we will keep going!
We call ourselves the Not Grey Nomads! We blog about learning to live a life less ‘Normal’, Caravanning and 4wding, Freedom camping and living more simply, adventuring with our dog and how we make it all happen.
HOW DID THE DECISION TO TRAVEL COME ABOUT?
We spent a good chunk of our early married life trying unsuccessfully to have kids. It was an emotionally and financially exhausting process. It felt like our lives had stalled. We were caught in this limbo zone, waiting for the next stage of life to begin, using all of our resources to try to achieve a seemingly un-achievable goal.
It was really tough letting go of the picture of what we had always thought our lives would look like. We needed to move on completely though, to find new joy in our lives. If not that, then what?
Suddenly our lives were full of possibility again. If I could imagine and build a life that was just for me and Crispy, how could we enjoy it and each other to the fullest. So that’s how we began to dream and plot and scheme a way to make this life of full-time travel a reality. Eventually we came up with a plan, with steps and targets and achievable goals and 2.5 years later, we hit the road!
FACING OUR FEARS
One of the biggest hurdles we faced when planning our trip was our own fears. What if it didn’t work out? What if we lost everything somehow? So we sat down and wrote out our worst case “What if” Scenarios, and we worked out backup plans to account for those things. If we could leave knowing we were totally prepared for our worst possible “What if’s”, then there was really nothing to hold us back.
I was worried we would lose everything somehow and have nothing to go back to. Approaching 40, I don’t think I was prepared to have to start over like a 20 year old again. So we decided not to sell our house to make it happen and rented it out instead. It is comfortably paying for itself, growing in value and is still there for us if we ever need to go back.
We bought a shipping container, and while we downsized a huge amount of accumulated junk, we kept the best of our furnishings and white goods. We even kept our motorbikes, because, we figured if we were going back with nothing, at least we could get some joy from still having our toys to return to. And if we go back (which is not looking likely!), we could always sell the container for a couple of grand, quick cash in the hand.
We had a timely windfall in a small inheritance, which was enough for us to invest in our set-up. We bought a 2nd hand caravan, a 2003, 22ft Roadstar Voyager 3000, which had all the things we needed for free camping and a few creature comforts as it was set to be our permanent home. It came in for around $30,000 in total. (We know Grandma Sadler would’ve loved what we are doing too.)
The rest of the 2.5 years was spent saving and paying what we could off our only debt before we left. We bought a new 2015 Holden Colorado Dual Cab Diesel 4wd Ute specifically with the trip in mind.
Unfortunately we had a bit of a setback to our Grand Plan when Crispy’s back gave out on him at work and he had to have major surgery which put him out of action for a really long time. Thank goodness we had good income protection insurance to support us through that time, but it did put a bit of a delay on the savings progress.
But it only made us more sure of the need to change our lives, to get more out of everyday than “Eat, Sleep, Work, Repeat.”
FINDING WORK WHILST TRAVELLING AUSTRALIA
We’ve been travelling now for 14 months. We are just about to finish our second stretch of work.
The first was 6 months at an Outback Cattle Station where Crispy worked as a Bore Runner, checking water for the cattle, fixing fences and pumps, and all sorts of general station-hand work. I worked in the station store. I became a take-away food chef extraordinaire, did petrol and generally looked after the retail needs of an aboriginal community of around 300 people. We sold everything from socks and jocks to quad bikes! It was an interesting place and we saved well while we were there. We had a house to ourselves, food supplied and nowhere to spend our money. (Except online! I loved the day the Mail Plane came each week!)
This second time around, Crispy landed a great job as a machine operator at one of the mines. He had a HR licence, but got lucky finding someone who was willing to give him a go un-ticketed and inexperienced. Now he is proficient in driving all sorts of machinery. He gets a great hourly rate, and is fed and housed Monday to Friday out at the mine site. He is paid for his travel time to drive in and drive out. He’s like a boy going off to big boy camp every week, going to play in the dirt with the big trucks.
So I picked up a job at the local Woolworths in town. Another great experience to take with us, as there are Woollies everywhere! We are also house sitting through Aussie House Sitters while we are working. So we can save as much as possible and hit the road again as soon as possible. We feel like we have had to stop to work for a bit more than we would ideally like. But we are slowly getting the balance right, saving more and working less each time.
THE BEST BITS
One of the benefits we’ve found of travelling this way is learning to live in a much more considered way. Everything we own has a purpose and a place. Everything we do is considered, until we find a better way of doing it. We are constantly learning, every day! We have the time and the space in our minds to really think about how we are living. That is freedom.
DON’T LET ANYTHING STOP YOU!
One piece of advice I would give to everyone planning their lap would be that you don’t need to have the best of everything before you set off. Research what you think will make good investments such as gear to set you up to free camp as that can save a huge amount of money down the track.
There were a lot of improvements Crispy wanted to make to our ute before we left, but we did what we could manage. The rest we decided to work out how necessary it was as we went. We have since managed to upgrade the suspension and tyres on the ute by factoring that into our savings when we got work along the way.
And if you think finding work will be hard or scary, don’t let that stop you! There is a lot of work out there. I think a lot of times, turning up with the right attitude, wanting to work, being able to learn fast and having a wide range of transferable life skills trumps someone with a bad attitude but actual experience any day! With that in mind, don’t let a small amount of savings hold you back either. We didn’t leave with much and we are still going 14 months later.
WHAT DID OUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS THINK?
Our friends and family could see how big a life shift this would be for us and while they knew they would miss us, they were so excited to see us achieve our dreams. Our Mum’s worried, but that’s what Mum’s do. They could see how much thought, research and planning went into the decisions we made, so they trusted we would be okay. Also showing them our backup plans kept their minds at ease as it did mine! (Just don’t mention it to Mums when you are in Croc country…)
So far we have had 2 visits from Crispy’s Dad. He fulfilled a lifelong wish when he got to visit us on a working outback cattle station. We have also had a visit from my parents as well. Twice next year we are flying back home from wherever we are at that point for weddings, so we will get to see everyone again then. Plus friends are constantly trying to lock us down so they can come fly from cold old Victoria to visit us in some warm tropical place for their holidays. There are also lots of friends and relatives for us to visit around the country. Not to mention all the new friends we have met along the way!
OUR TOP 3 DESTINATIONS (SO FAR…..)
We have been on the road now for 14 months. We feel like we have barely seen any of this country yet! Our No 1. Favourite place we’ve been would hands down be Gregory, QLD. We free camped by the river for 2 weeks and pretty much had this amazing tropical paradise to ourselves! It and the nearby Lawn Hill National Park/Adels Grove are definite ‘Must Visits’. Bliss!
We fell in love with Corella Dam. It is an amazing free camp halfway between Mt Isa and Cloncurry (QLD). It was one of the reasons we decided to look for work in this region. The bird life and the sunsets on the amazing rocky Selwyn ranges there are spectacular. There is lots of interesting history in the area too. It’s the birthplace of the Royal Flying Doctors, the old Mary Kathleen Mine and great 4wding into the old mining areas through the ranges.
Speaking of ranges, the amazing West McDonnell Ranges around Alice Springs were captivating too. We spent several days exploring them on our way to the Red Centre to see Uluru and Kata Tjuta. I always grew up imagining Central Australia to be desolate and flat. Like the deserts in the old bugs bunny cartoons! But the ranges in the outback are stunning, full of waterholes and wildlife. We love watching the landscape change from one moment to the next as you are driving through it.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR NOT GREY NOMADS?
We can’t wait to finish up our current jobs and hit the road again, heading to the coast finally! We love the red dirt landscapes. But after all this time, we are looking forward to seeing a bit more blue and green. Townsville is next and then north to Cape York next dry season. But that’s about as far ahead as we like to plan.
* * *
What a great read – very inspirational. If you would like to keep following the adventures of Crispy and Fran you can find them on them on their blog – Not Grey Nomads, on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest and stay tuned for their You Tube channel coming soon.