Our first ever camping trip was in January 1996. Sharon was still at high school and Adam was an apprentice. We loaded the trailer with Adam's grandparent's canvas tent and a few other odds and sods, hooked it up to Adam's Hyundai Excel and headed to Forster for what we had hoped would be 2 weeks at Smugglers Cove. It rained for the entire 2 weeks we were away resulting in us relocating our holiday to Port Macquarie mid-stay, to the same caravan park where Adam's parents were staying. That was the start of what would become a regular thing... camping in the rain and with the folks.
Somehow despite our aptitude for choosing the wettest of weeks or weekends to go camping, we stuck it out because we knew we were onto something special. We continued to pitch Nin and Pop's tent right till we had Ella, some 9 years later.
Our second tent was a 3-room Jackeroo dome tent from Kmart. The ease of set up compared to our first tent gave us even more of a thirst for camping. We added a 24x30Ft tarp to our equipment which was an absolute hoot to put up, especially in the wind! Not to mention the many what-not-to-do lessons we learnt and the endless trips back and forth to the camp store to buy more infrastructure to hold it up. Thankfully there were some lovely co-campers at the spot where we would return each January (Discovery Holiday Park Emerald Beach NSW) who were always at the ready to help us put it up.
Despite our increasing experience and organisation to ensure that our camping gear was at the ready, we were still bothered by the amount of time it would take us to hit the road on a Friday afternoon to go away for the weekend and of course the set up time. We also found that we would almost take the same amount of camping gear away for the weekend as we would for two weeks. So in 2009 we bought our first 'van', a Jayco Swan Outback camper trailer.
Having packed kitchen cupboards and made beds on arrival was essential. There were no fancy battery set ups or solar panels, what you see is what you get with our Swan. We managed to get our pack and away time down to about half an hour and so weekends away became even more frequent particularly in the warmer months of the year.
Our family of 3 became a family of 4 in October 2010 and our Swannie or 'Priscilla' as she was affectionately known had plenty of room for all of us and the bassinette/porta cot, which fitted perfectly on the collapsed dinette. What we did find tricky with the Swan was the storing of clothing. For longer trips in the one place we would set up the annexe and use a portable cupboard but for weekends it would be bags in the boot of the car to avoid taking up space inside the camper. We enjoyed the versatility of the camper, being able to set it up in various ways to suit the conditions and time away.
We soon realised that the go-stop-go-stop kind of exploring holiday that we craved was very tiresome with the camper. It was also difficult if there was a lot of rain and although we became origami experts at folding the canvas in so as to not get the beds wet, sometimes it just couldn't be avoided. This resulted in a soggy sleep at the next stop. There were also nights when it was cold sleeping out on those ends, even in the summer. And so after 3 years with Priscilla it was time to try something new.
Poptop caravans appealed to us due to them being quite lightweight and of course much less work. At the time of purchase we had a 2WD Ford Territory and so our choice was still somewhat limited. We bought a 16Ft Olympic 1000 poptop caravan with no bells and whistles to see if this style of caravan suited our needs. With a child in nappies, a 6 year old and a wife who doesn't like using roadhouses it was perfect from the moment we left home. The portable toilet we carried on board and the ability to change nappies, feed babies, make lunch and even have a rest on the side of the road made this van perfect for our kind of exploring and family travel! We didn't see the bells and whistles as necessary for us and were just pleased to have the luxury of not having to sleep beside canvas and having clothing cupboards (yewww!) as well as the convenience of pull up and walk-in.
We loved the Territory for its family friendliness, comfort and versatility and so we upgraded to a Ford Territory Ghia AWD to make towing easier and increase our allowable towing capacity. Shortly after we welcomed our 3rd child and continued to enjoy the Olympic or 'Priscilla 2.0' for another couple of seasons.
To commemorate Adam's 40th birthday in 2015 we wanted to have an extended road trip to explore somewhere new and different. Adam's parents had long considered a trip to Tassie on the Spirit and so the decision was made to take a trip to the North Coast of NSW via Tasmania... yep crazy eh! It turned out to be a life changing holiday but before we went we had to upgrade the van. We were outgrowing the Olympic on several fronts and figured that travelling out west in January that we needed a few more modern-cons... such as air-conditioning! On our return from a weekend away we stumbled across an advertisement for the perfect van to suit our needs for the Coffs via Tassie trip, so we snapped it up. It was a Jayco Discovery Outback Poptop with ensuite. At only 18Ft with bunks and a combo ensuite with the ability to convert the table into another bed, we knew it was a rare find. Hot water was by far the most impressive new camping luxury with sighs of "Ahhhh" being heard at the turn of a tap! The Discovery was only ever going to be a short-term van for us as we knew that once again we would outgrow it however it was a wonderful companion on our life-changing trip. As it turns out we had beautiful weather west of the Great Dividing Range and didn't use the air-conditioning once!
On return from our annual family holiday in January in 2017 we sold our beloved Priscilla 3.0 and a few days later ordered a Condor Ultimate Family Bunk which we took ownership of on Anzac Day 2017, just shy of 4 weeks before our departure. Priscilla 4.0 is our home for a period of time still yet to be determined! We are very comfortable living in our van in fact we don't miss our former house one bit!
There is no doubt that everything in our lives has paved the way for what came next but none more so than the caravanning and camping journey that we had been on for over 20 years.
On the 1 June 2017 we departed Sydney and completed a lap in 6 months (read more about our 6 month lap) but our journey was far from over. We continued on the road, living and working, and have found a happy balance pulling up stumps on full time vanlife on the Mid-North Coast of NSW. Our careers have us travel very regularly by car and air and we enjoy the freedom and flexibility of working from anywhere.
Novice campers in '96 in Adam's grandparent's tent. Two wet weeks spent in Forster and Port Macquarie, NSW.
Our Jackeroo tent pitched for a weekend at Gerringong, NSW. Ella at 20 months old on her first camping trip.
Our 24x30Ft tarp was a welcome addition to our camp equipment.
One of our first trips in the Swan. Fathers' Day weekend 2009 in Kiama, NSW.
Ava's first camping trip to Emerald Beach, NSW in January 2011 at 10 weeks old. No better place to bath the babe than in the kitchen sink, right?
Set up at Emerald Beach with the tarp still getting a work out; Taking a babymoon to Port Macquarie, NSW and Noah's first camping trip at 8 weeks old to Bonnie Hills, NSW.
Set up at Cradle Mountain, TAS where we spent New Year's Eve. The night time wild life is so abundant that we were forced inside to bed early by a family of cheeky possums. Two nights at Cradle was nowhere near enough, by far one of our most favourite places to date.
Caravanning at Christmas in Coles Bay, TAS
Anzac Day 2017, picking up our new Condor, 4 weeks prior to our big trip