We were on the road for four months in 2018, caravanning around WA, and in that space of time we certainly learnt a lot.
We were total newbies when it came to this caravanning business, but after living within 20ft of space we’ve learned about what we do and don’t need for the caravan.
And in the new year, we’re taking the chance to reflect on what we’ve learnt, making improvements for our trip in 2019.
Here are 16 things we are wiser about, thanks to our caravanning around WA trip:
We need a washing machine!
Dave might whinge about emptying the toilet cassette and how it’s always ‘his’ job, but the laundry seems to be my designated chore!
Mount Washmore seems never-ending for this tiny family. I do a couple of loads every three or so days and at about $4 a pop the expenses have quickly added up. In fact, we are spending about $100 a month on laundry.
So it was with glee I ordered our portable washing machine off e-Bay last week, for $250. It has already been delivered and I cannot wait to get my hands on it. Oh the things that excite you as a mum!
We packed WAY too much
I’m a self-professed minimalist, and when we packed up our van we were about 300kg underweight, so I really didn’t think we’d overpacked.
Turned out we had.
I had a bucketload of stuff I returned to Kmart when we came back to Perth (mainly camping tools and equipment), and we left a few more boxes of clothes and shoes in storage at our friends’ house in Geraldton on our way up north.
Today I did a deep purge of the caravan and threw out a further box of things, which I donated to the local charity store.
However, I must admit we are suckers for books. The hard-copy kind, and not the Kindle variety. We’ve tried our hardest with Kindles but nothing beats a book in your hand. Currently we have about 30 books in the van. Absurd, I know. About 20 of these are Ruby’s and the rest are ours. Such is the life of avid readers and writers!
Things I thought we would need, I don’t think we actually do need
Recently we were talking about buying a BabyQ Weber. We keep seeing nearly every camper with one chained to the front of their van and it made us believe we too needed one.
So we planned to buy one as a Christmas present to ourselves. But a couple of days ago, I started to question whether we actually needed it. We use our oven frequently, and we have an outside electric burner for when we want to cook outside. Free camping, we can use our gas burner inside, or our butane stove outside.
So what would we actually need a Webber for? We have BBQ and oven facilities already… and so now we’re thinking we will save our money for something else.
Ruby really doesn’t need many toys
Aside from her books, Ruby doesn’t play with many toys. She has her bucket and spade for the beach, a few water toys for the bath, a colouring-in book and crayons, a doll, a teddy, her bike and duplo. That’s it. We had other toys in her toy box but we’ve since ditched them because she didn’t play with them.
She was much more interested in playing outside in the dirt!
We don’t need a spare set of bed sheets
Hear me out before you get grossed out. When we wash our bed sheets, we do it in the morning, hang them out to dry, and then put them back on the bed in the afternoon. For the first month, we didn’t even use the spare set! So they’ll be going back into storage now we’re back in Perth.
We’re happiest when we spend a week in a place
The days where we spend one night in a campsite and then move on feel very rushed. It’s like we spend the whole day packing up, moving, and then setting back up again. The caravan gets messy and I feel disorganised.
When we spend a week in a spot, it feels like the perfect amount of time. We get to explore a place properly, we have time to work and we also have a day off from Ruby duties where we can each do our own thing.
We don’t have much free time
This travelling business keeps you busy! I thought I’d be lazing by the pool and reading all day, but in reality it sometimes feels like we hardly have any downtime.
I suppose it would be different if we weren’t working, but at the same time, I like working as it gives me a sense of purpose on this journey.
We can still have a routine
Quite a few people have questioned Ruby’s routine. There is a misconception that living in a caravan means Ruby would have no routine.
The opposite is true. Here is a typical day from our trip caravanning around WA:
We wake up at about 7am. I do half an hour of yoga while Dave hangs with Ruby. We eat a leisurely breakfast as a family. Then we do chores (dishes, washing, cleaning). We often go out at about 9:30am and do an activity together. This could be to go on a hike, go to the beach, go to the local playgroup or library, or go to the park.
We’re back for lunchtime and then Ruby has her nap for a couple of hours while we catch up with work.
In the afternoon one of us might go off and continue working at the local library or a café, while the other takes Ruby out on another activity.
We return for 5pm and cook dinner, eating at 6pm before having a bath and then Ruby is in bed by 7pm. The evening is spent working or reading. Sometimes we even watch a movie.
It’s pretty routine. If we are moving, we do so in the time slot we would normally have done an activity.
We were right to get our caravan inspected
We’ve been really happy with our caravan so far. She’s performed well and we think the few hundred dollars we spent getting her independently inspected before we bought her certainly paid off. We are also glad we bought a second hand one, as she won’t depreciate as much as a new caravan, and we feel the comfort levels are similar.
We should’ve invested more into our tow vehicle
Everything we did right with our caravan, we didn’t do with our 4WD. If you have been following our blog you are probably up to speed with it, so I’ll keep this short. If we had our time again, we would’ve definitely got the 4WD inspected independently before purchasing.
We are mostly happy with our caravan layout
We are so happy we have a toilet and separate shower in our caravan. This is something we nearly didn’t go with, due to the extra $10k or so it cost, but it has been really convenient and now I don’t think we could do without it.
The main thing is being able to pee or have a shower without having to drag Ruby to a shower block with us. This has been a lifesaver if there’s just one of us with Ruby when nature calls. It’s also something I didn’t even think of before purchasing the van, but now it’s become clear how convenient it is when caravanning around WA.
You’ll always be envious of other people’s set ups
There will always be someone with a better, newer, fancier caravan and 4WD setup than you. You will always lust over what they have. But at the end of the day, we bought what we could afford and we’re still getting to see the same places, so it doesn’t matter.
We prefer campsites to caravan parks
I wasn’t sure whether we would like the slightly more ‘roughing’ aspect of campsites, but turns out we prefer them a lot more over caravan parks.
There’s something special about being off the beaten track a little, and when you have a place to yourself among nature, it’s truly wondrous.
Caravan parks have their perks but with a campsite you often see the true beauty of a place, especially when caravanning around WA.
We need an inverter but not much else to free camp
I thought we needed a big solar setup, another battery and more to free camp when caravanning around WA, but turns out all we need to get installed is a small inverter.
We can do without the air conditioner most days, and we certainly don’t need the TV, but with an inverter we will be able to charge our laptops and phones, which is essential for us when we need to work when we’re free camping off-grid.
Our existing battery can run the lights in our van for close to a week, so we’re not even sure we need a solar setup at this point.
We needed to let go of parenting anxiety
The first few weeks on the trip it was hard to let go and allow Ruby to explore, because we were so worried she would come into harm’s way. Over time we’ve cut down on the hovering (not that we were ever much of the ‘helicopter parent’ type anyway) and had a bit more faith that she can explore a little on her own with us watching from nearby.
That we can do it with a toddler!
The best thing we’ve learnt on this trip so far is that we CAN do it with a toddler in tow! I remember a friend said to me before we left, “We went on a holiday when our daughter was Ruby’s age and it was the worst holiday of my life.” She had serious doubts about whether we would enjoy this lifestyle of caravanning around WA.
And I must admit, it has had its moments. But overall, it has been marvellous and we’ve loved getting to know Ruby so intimately and been able to spend so much time with her while she is growing up.
We might need a glass of wine at the end of the day, but we CAN do this adventure with a toddler!
And there you have it – what we learnt from our four month trip, caravanning around WA in 2018. I wonder what we’ll learn this year?