Feature: Renee from Our Epic Australia
We’re a family of three based out of South East Queensland Australia travelling our ‘epic’ continent in search of adventure, new experiences and memories.
In Australia we have a term for travelling around the country; it’s called ‘Doing the Big Lap’. Families load up the car, the 4wd, the caravan, throw the kids and the pooch in the back and head off around the vast Southern Land together on their trip of a lifetime.
We weren’t quite in a position to pull up the picks for six months, a year, or two in order to do a ‘Big Lap’ so we decided we’d do a lot of little ones! We’d break it up into smaller pieces heading off as frequently and far as possible whenever and wherever we could... we decided to call them our ‘Little-Laps’!
Who or what inspired you to choose independent vehicle travel as your mode of transportation?
My husband Aaron works FIFO, an Australian term for fly in fly out workers in Construction, Oil & Gas and Mining, and after 7 and 1/2 years of this ‘home-again away-again’ lifestyle, as a family, we decided we needed a change. We needed to really make the most of that time we share together...
Change came in the form of a 1997 Landrover Defender 130, one of Landrovers High Capacity Units. Aaron and his brothers had learnt to drive in an old series 2A when he was still a kid and it’s that appreciation of these rugged off-road vehicles that ultimately led our family to acquire ‘Truck’ as she’s been affectionately named.
Everyone always asks a traveller what their favourite country is. Do you have a favourite country? If not, what is a place that is special to you?
Unbiasedly... ‘perhaps a little biased”, it would have to be Australia! It’s our country and it’s our home and it’s “SO” big. You can spend your lifetime travelling this vast secluded island and never come up short for a new destination or another adventure. Aaron was born and raised in New Zealand which is a ridiculously beautiful country and we’d definitely love to see more of it; but honestly, with the diversity of landscape that Australia has to offer there’s just so much to see here!
Travelling has taught me…
To be more easy going; that you don’t need a plan, a destination, an itinerary or more than a couple of days free to start your journey. All you need is a ‘truck’, the family, a map, and a desire to start exploring!
Overlanding sucks sometimes because…
We drive a Landrover need I say more?.. all jokes aside; when we first acquired ‘Truck’ she’d already clocked up a few hundred thousand kilometres traveling the land of golden soil, so she wanted a little overdue attention. Sometimes kids can go a little astray and this was our ‘troublesome child’ at the time. Wind the clock forwards a little and we’ve got an extremely reliable go-any-where overlanding machine.
I am a badass woman because…
I guess prior to purchasing ‘Truck’ I’d never been four wheel driving before and could barely say I’d even driven off road… to be perfectly honest I wasn’t even a real fan of driving and generally made Aaron do most of it. All I can say is it grows on you; the sense of adventure, the call of the unknown and all that! Aaron might have bought the truck and whilst he thinks she’s his, a girl knows a girl best. Its my ‘Truck’ he’s just the mechanic!
What is your favorite quote?
I don’t really know about a favorite quote but I can share our experience with you and what we’ve come to understand through our own journeys; “you’ll find that traveling tends to pull more people closer than it ever will in separating them and whilst the photos are the memories that we snapshot, it’s the time we spend together that lingers in the heart long after the journey has come to an end!”
What are your favorite overland resources (blogs, books, FB pages, etc.)?
We don’t really have any particular favorite? When we started out Aaron used to set up folders on his computer and save snapshots or snippets from the internet and we’d turn those into trips. Currently we find Instagram to be a really great resource. When we come across a photo of an amazing location or something that we’d like to see we save it in a folder we’ve titled ‘locations’. Over time we can link those locations into one of our ‘Little-Laps’ and were off! We’ve actually found social media to be really helpful overall, we love to share our experiences cause for so long we found it hard to plan a trip, particularly those that aren’t so common and don’t require weeks or months to travel. We also learn so much from our followers and it’s really such a great little community of truly fantastic people!
What is a simple life hack you’ve discovered while on the road?
Side-steps on a 4wd make great makeshift ‘porta potties’! Guys are so fortunate when it comes to relieving bodily fluids, they can pull-up anywhere and unzip then (you can fill in the gap). Us girls need to be creative and well here’s to the invention of the 4wd’s Side-step!
What about traveling with kids? We asked Renee to fill us in on what daily life looks like while traveling with an 8-year old.
We have the one child, an eight year old daughter... ‘Squirrel’. We get asked about her name cause I think it throws a few people which makes us laugh; Squirrel is her nickname but it’s been used synonymously with her birth name since about five minutes after she was born when she nuzzled up to her mumma bear and it kinda just stuck from that moment on.
We don’t post her name (as written on her Birth Certificate) on social media to afford her that little bit of privacy but in reality Squirrel has been used around the family daily since day dot.
How do you address education while on the road?
Because we aren’t permanently on the road education hasn’t really been an issue for us. Squirrels never been a slouch by any stretch of the imagination but we’ve supplemented her education with a little private tutoring from time to time.
How has this experience changed your child?
We live in an apartment in the city and don’t really have a backyard, it’s pretty common these days and so different to the environment that our generation grew up in. Traveling gives Squirrel a chance to explore wide open spaces and stretch her legs, it’s also an amazing classroom without parallel.
Do you believe that traveling with children affects the way locals interact with you?
It adds a different element, I guess one of the things you notice when you have children is that instant common ground you have with other mothers... it’s that connection that allows strangers to strike-up conversation with you or vice versa. This also has the added benefit of installing a new level of confidence in your children who learn to interact with adults and children alike and make friends quickly, all important life skills that will benefit your child throughout their lives.
How do you deal with illness and injury while on the road?
Part of Aaron’s training as a Firefighter was in emergency medicine and whilst he’s not a full-blown Paramedic he’s pretty comfortable dealing with most situations. He’s always got a fairly extensive first-aid kit in ‘Truck’ so I leave that to his domain.
What are the challenges traveling with children?
Making sure to have enough rest breaks for them to stretch their legs, ensuring we have a snack pack in the car for the hunger attacks and trying to stop where there are things for them to do see touch on our rest breaks.
What is your advice regarding keeping kids entertained/happy/busy on long driving days?
The reality is nowadays with the invent of the IPad traveling isn’t as exhaustive for kids as it was when we grew up... (or so we at least think, lol). The challenge though with the IPad is ensuring it’s used in balance and that the beauty of the journey isn’t lost along the way. If your looking at traveling but haven’t yet taken the plunge you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much you all, as a family, have to talk about. We seldom run-out of conversation though I’m sure Aaron will tell you, according to him, “it’s only because Squirrel and I have a million things to say in a day”. In terms of games, if things ever begin to feel a little slow, Squirrel’s favorites are;
The trusty ‘I Spy’,
Alphabet Animals - taking turns at naming an animal (or any subject matter) beginning with each letter of the alphabet i.e. I say ‘alligator’, Squirrel says ‘bear’, Aaron has to say an animal beginning with ‘C’ and so on..
Finish the Story - someone starts a made-up-story then passes it onto the next person who has to continue it before passing it onto to the next person. This goes around and around until such time as the story is so outrageous it’s unsalvageable.
What are your favorite things about traveling with your child?
Life is so exciting for children, everything is a new adventure being experienced for the first time; you can’t but help let this enthusiasm rub off on you, it’s electric vibrant excitement and the memories being created will last a lifetime!
What is your advice to parents who are interested in overlanding with their kids?
Just take the leap! No one’s going to tell you it’s easy but it doesn’t mean its difficult either... it’s certainly the most rewarding way to travel!
What advice would you give to someone with a dream to travel overland?
Don’t wait for ‘some-day’ to come around! There is never going to be a perfect time; all you need to do is to put fuel in the tank, sit behind the steering wheel and apply pressure to that little right pedal... the rest will take care of itself!
Make the most of whatever it is that you can do and don’t settle for selling yourself short. Maybe it’s a big-lap maybe it’s lots of little ones? Whatever it is that works for you, just make each day count!