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Life in the Slow Lane

When most people dream about going on holiday, they imagine a week or two in a faraway destination, usually somewhere tropical. Shopping, cocktails, and a cute boy serving drinks behind the hotel’s pool bar is the ideal situation for many people.

My idea of traveling is sitting in the middle of the desert in a 55 year old caravan named ‘Sunnie’, and watching a giant rock change color as the sun set.

You see, this wasn’t just any rock. This was Uluru, the spiritual heartland of Australia and a site of cultural significance for Australia’s indigenous people. I had dreamt of this day since I was a girl, traveling with my brothers in our family’s caravan on yet another adventure.

Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock) was a significant stop over on a long journey around Australia. Many people commit to doing ‘the lap’ of Australia over the course of a year. I personally had no interest in setting a time limit for such an adventure. I figured that if I packed everything I owned into my little caravan, I would have no desire to rush my journey in order to return to the comfort of a physical home. When everything that you own is inside your van, the open road becomes your home, and the journey becomes your life.

Growing up in a family that constantly moved (I’ve lived in more houses than I can remember) with a mom who worked in the travel industry, I had seen and tasted most of the world by the age of 21. I left home at 16 and saved my pennies until my early 20s, when I backpacked solo around the world. I continued my traveler lifestyle throughout my 20s, running a remote area expedition company. Approaching the dirty thirty, I took a leap of faith and resigned from my role as general manager in order to live my dream of owning and living in a thirteen-foot vintage caravan.

It’s easy to find an old caravan, just search on eBay or similar sites, there are hundreds. But to find an old caravan that will travel thousands of kilometers without falling apart in the middle of nowhere… this takes patience. After six months I almost gave up searching when I decided to place a ‘wanted’ ad on a vintage caravan forum. I received a swift response and found the exact caravan that I wanted (a rounded fiberglass van from the 50s) – lightweight, easy to tow, and in immaculate condition (it had been garaged for most of its 55 year life).

As soon as I walked inside the van I had a really good feeling. I paid seven thousand for her, spent a few thousand ‘pretty-ing’ her up, and before long the city lights were but a blur in my rear view mirror.

There are many beautiful places in Australia and, to be honest, most of them are places that you and I probably don’t know about. I had no bucket list of places to see. The best places were the ones with the most interesting and/or friendly people. I found the friendliest communities were the really remote ones, such as Kalbarri in Western Australia. The people there live a very honest, unpretentious and down to earth lifestyle, driven by their love for the ocean, surfing, and exploring the national parks that surround the town.

My journey has taken me to many amazing places, and the journey will continue until I find somewhere that I love too much to leave. I often get asked for advice on how to begin such a journey, and I am delighted to see that some of my close girl friends have now bought vans that they are traveling and living in. My advice to you – decide what it is that you want to do, make a plan, and then do it. We get such a short amount of time in this incredible world, it’s up to us what we make of it. I hope to see you somewhere on the open road!

By Liss Connell