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How the humble van is letting senior citizens see Australia on a shoestring

The rising cost of living is shrinking budgets, making travel that much financially harder. But for those willing to ‘rough it’ in a van, it’s still possible to see this country, from Darwin in the north to Hobart in the south.
Retirement

Australia is a vast and diverse country, with stunning natural landscapes, vibrant cities and a rich cultural heritage. It is also a popular destination for travellers of all ages, and Australian retirees have it particularly lucky – it’s right on their doorstep.

So, it’s little wonder following the travails of international travel that COVID inflicted, and then the cost in a post-pandemic world, that retirees are increasingly looking to their own backyard to scratch their travel itch.

But in the depths of a cost-of-living crisis, finding the budget to travel can be difficult. That’s where a new trend is kicking in – the van life.

  • A van life means living, travelling, and sleeping in a van, with the back space converted into a small, but cozy, convenient and fully featured living space. Smaller than a caravan, it doesn’t require buying a second vehicle, or all the petrol costs in pulling something heavy. A van is efficient, cost-effective and ideal for seeing Australia for several reasons:

    • Flexibility: You can choose where to go, when to go, and how long to stay, without being tied to a fixed itinerary or schedule. You can also change your plans according to the weather, mood or interests.
    • Comfort: While it’s a small space, a well-converted van offers all the comforts of home such as a bed, kitchen, bathroom and (cramped) living area while on the road.
    • Adventure: You can experience the thrill of discovering new places, meeting new people and trying new things while being close to nature. You can also visit remote or hidden gems that are not accessible by public transport or tour groups.

    Once you’ve got your van sorted and customised, all that’s left is to plan the trip. Here are some tips:

    • Plan your route: Australia is a huge country, so you need to plan your route carefully so you can see the most and best of it. Online tools, such as WikiCamps or Roadtrippers, can help you find the best routes, campsites, attractions and facilities. This is also an excellent opportunity to get on social media and ask other van lifers for their tips – it’s a big thing these days and it’s a friendly community.
    • Pack smart: It goes without saying that space and maximum weight are limited in a van. Stick to the minimum and basics – you want some simple cooking utensils (a converted van will have a stove of some kind), changes of clothes, toiletries and daily essentials. Always consider the space-saving options for anything else. Many of us can’t go without our books, for example, but a Kindle is handier to a van lifer than a pile of books.
    • Be safe: Prepare for the potential risks and challenges of the van life such as breakdowns, theft, accidents or emergencies. You can reduce these risks by following some safety tips such as:
      • Check your van regularly and have it serviced before and during your trip.Secure your van and your belongings and don’t leave anything valuable in plain sight.Drive carefully and follow the road rules and signs, especially in rural or remote areas.Be respectful of the locals, the environment and other campers and follow the campsite rules and etiquette.
      • Have a backup plan, and carry a phone, map, first-aid kit and some emergency supplies.

    The van life can be a rewarding and fun way to see Australia on a budget if you are prepared, flexible and adventurous. Some people are even using the van life as an excuse to really downsize and make travelling around Australia their retirement home. The open road is the limit.




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