THE BIG LAP - Taking the first Step

This is a story that ran in the February 2016 Issue of 4WD Touring Australia.  It provides a little inspiration to take the first step to an epic adventure that you will remember for the rest of your life.

Having recently returned from an extended trip from Sydney to Darwin the conversations with friends often started with one of the following: ‘I wish I could do that’.  ‘If only I could, but I don’t have enough money”.  “You are so lucky.”

 The thought of taking 3 months, 6 months or a year off to travel Australia seems to many, an impossible idea.  For others it is something that must wait until retirement.  But retirement is getting further from our reach.  Waiting until the right time may mean there is no time left.

 In reality it is not about being lucky. It all begins by taking the first step. This does not need to feel like a leap of a cliff. Rethink it, like it’s the first step on a leisurely walk. With each step you will get closer to your goal and by the time you get there it wont have seemed that hard. The first step for us was picking a date 3 years away. A date is the only thing you need to remain fixed on.  Every thing else can be flexible.

Time is the second consideration. The continent is not something that you can rush.  To breath in the desert air, soak in the tropical stream or lie on the white sands, you need time.  For some the longer 12 month lap may be ideal.  This comes with extra challenges but none that have not been overcome by the procession of Ozi’s circling this great country. For others it is a matter or taking what time you can.  For us the option required us to break the lap up in to 3 month journeys.

Kids are often a reason for not taking an extended trip.  They are too young.  They are too old. They will drive me nuts. But they will drive you nuts at home so why not do it somewhere amazing.  You may be surprised that they will even voluntarily put down their devices and connect to the real world.

Like any goal, you don’t have to achieve it straight away.  Start thinking about where you want to go.  What do the kids want to see?  What does the wife/husband/partner want to do?  Remember this is about everyone.  Many start with a map and a bucket list of places to explore.  The lesson however, is you don’t want to spend your entire trip behind the wheel.  A 100km may go quickly on a freeway but the same distance can take all day on an outback track.  Have a plan but leave time for the unexpected.

From here work out your motivation. What will keep your eye on the goal? Is it pictures? A map of your trip?  What ever it is, make it visual. With your date set and an idea of where you are going, your journey has begun.  You have taken the first step.

The journey from here is all about research. The web is full of resources and blogs of other individuals, couples and families that have made the plunge. There are many decisions that need to be made.  What vehicle will we take?  Will we get a camper trailer, tent or caravan? Do I plan to stick to the main roads or venture in to the remote tracks? There is no correct answer and often you will need to decide what is right for you.

Armed with research the next is practice. Don’t let your level of experience put you off.  A 4WD course provided either by a club or company is invaluable.  There is nothing better than practicing removing a spike from a tyre and plugging it in the comfort of a group than doing it for the first time on the side of a desert track with your nervous partner overlooking your shoulder and no one for 100s of km.

There is some other wisdom that is universal irrespective of the length of time or who is going.

1.     You will not need the amount of clothes and stuff you think.  It is amazing how the same shirt does not smell much after 4 days compared to home.

2.     You will learn to be good at tetris as you pack and repack each time you move camp.

3.     Hide some cash somewhere for an emergency.  On the last day if you still have it buy yourself some champagne to celebrate.

4.     You may never come back to a place.  Some experiences are worth every cent so where appropriate don’t put off that boat trip or helicopter flight (see point 5).

5.     The most memorable experiences are often the free ones.  Camping under a thousand stars in the desert is priceless.

6.     Balance.  While 12 months roughing it in the bush with no toilets may be your idea of fun it may not be your partners. Mix up your travel with national parks, road side stops, caravan parks and the occasional treat in a hotel.

7.     You will develop a newfound appreciation for the price of fuel.

8.     Service your trailer and/or car before you go (see point 9).

9.     You will need to prepare for mechanical issues but the thing that actually breaks is the thing you didn’t bring a spare for (see point 10).

10.  Cable ties and fencing wire are essential tools on the road.

11.  Take one spare tyre and you will need two.  Take two and you will need three (see point 9).

12.  It will not all be smooth sailing (see above).  But the challenges and misadventure will be the things you talk about most when you get back.

13.  At some point mosquitoes, flies and midges will drive you mad.

14.  You will join the traveller’s code where you will share where you have come from, what the conditions were like, what to do and what to avoid.

15.  You will meet the most amazing people.

16.  You will be the envy of your friends.

There are many more things to prepare you for the trip, but as the date arrives there will always be the feeling of being unprepared.  The reality however is the true lessons of life and travel can only be leant by actually getting out there and hitting the road. And what begins as a date on a wall becomes the fist step in a journey that will leave memories that will last a lifetime.  So what’s your date?