Ella, Hazel and Kate Jarvis with their Christmas Sandman on Lucky Bay Beach in Western Australia. Picture: Petrina Jarvis
Ella, Hazel and Kate Jarvis with their Christmas Sandman on Lucky Bay Beach in Western Australia. Picture: Petrina Jarvis

Family shares Aussie adVANture

"Let's go on an adventure" has always been the mantra for the Jarvis family from Brighton who have just completed a four-month adVANture around Australia in their caravan.

Under the travel name of "Flip Flop 5", Petrina, Luke and their three girls Ella, 13, Hazel, 11 and Kate, 8 travelled 23000km through six of the eight states and territories.

Petrina shares some of the experiences from their travels, including some highs and lows.

 

The Jarvis family — Kate, Petrina, Ella, Hazel and Luke — at Coral Bay, Western Australia.
The Jarvis family — Kate, Petrina, Ella, Hazel and Luke — at Coral Bay, Western Australia.

 

An increasing number of families seem to be taking a break from the rat race and driving around Australia.

Why? For us, it's simple - before life escapes us!

When our eldest daughter started high school, we felt our window of opportunity for a long travel adventure was quickly closing. The timing was right, work wise, for both of us.

Our purpose was spending quality time together as a family. We can always make money, but we can't buy time. Before we know it, our kids will be grown and living their own lives.

Just about every grey nomad we met told us they wished they had travelled younger when they would have had the physical ability to hike the canyons and gorges and generally be more adventurous.

Many people asked 'What about your house, school and money?' We admit it took a bit of planning and preparation but we have always been pretty frugal.

We bought our Brighton home 20 years ago. We haven't fully renovated, don't buy designer furniture or clothes, don't have expensive habits and don't have the latest and greatest gadgets and technology. As a result, we don't have a huge mortgage.

 

Hazel descending the giant sunken entrance at Lake Cave, Boranup, Western Australia. Lake Cave is a crystal wonderland with the unique ‘suspended table’ formation, and the only one known in the world that can be viewed. Picture: Petrina Jarvis
Hazel descending the giant sunken entrance at Lake Cave, Boranup, Western Australia. Lake Cave is a crystal wonderland with the unique ‘suspended table’ formation, and the only one known in the world that can be viewed. Picture: Petrina Jarvis

 

We generally buy second hand and buy well.

We bought our 2007 Pajero Exceed five years ago and have put 120,000km on it, so are experienced four-wheel drivers. We bought a 2011 Jayco Outback Expanda early last year for the trip.

You really don't need to sell your home and buy the big shiny new rig. You don't need to take a gap year and do a full lap.

If you really want to do it, you can find a way.

We bought a van without a shower and toilet as we didn't want to tow a huge, heavy van. We used a chemical toilet and in-car shower system with pop-up tent.

We didn't have an aerial so had no television and no Wi-Fi, other than our phone data plans.

We rented out our home and the girls' schools were very supportive of the benefits of learning outside the classroom.

The kids did formal Math and English on the road, they met other kids, learnt about our country and where history actually happened, rather than from a text book.

Our lives on the road were simplified and we enjoyed the freedom.

 

Crossing the 1256km long Nullarbor — Ella, Kate and Hazel watching out for wildlife on Australia’s longest, straightest, flattest road. Picture: Petrina Jarvis
Crossing the 1256km long Nullarbor — Ella, Kate and Hazel watching out for wildlife on Australia’s longest, straightest, flattest road. Picture: Petrina Jarvis

 

Our "highs" were many

For us the highlight was swimming and snorkelling with sea lions, green turtles and dolphins, so close, you could touch them.

We did a lot of hikes but the most outstanding were Uluru (and we saw it raining on the rock), Kata Tjuta, Karijini's numerous spectacular gorges, Kings Canyon Rim walk as well as Kalbarri, Cape Range, Leeuwin-Naturaliste and Cape Le Grand National Parks.

Driving remote Francois Peron National Park where the red dirt meets pure white sand and clear turquoise water was spectacular.

 

Kate dancing in the extraordinary bubblegum pink Hutt Lagoon salt lake, Western Australia. Picture: Petrina Jarvis
Kate dancing in the extraordinary bubblegum pink Hutt Lagoon salt lake, Western Australia. Picture: Petrina Jarvis

 

Our "lows''

We had one very scary middle of the night incident when our roof top jerry cans attracted some undesirables who had broken into the secured roadhouse campsite in remote Northern Territory.

You are so vulnerable in the middle of nowhere, especially carrying petrol which is under lock and key at many stations or only low-aromatic petrol is available.

We could feel the van rocking as they tried to get the bolted-on tanks off the roof. Thankfully, the owners of the campsite brought out their dogs and chased them from under our van and out of the site on quad bikes.

We also ran out of fuel on a 50 degree day while driving just out of Port Augusta. The petrol jerry can exploded over Luke while siphoning into the car's tank.

We doused him in 30 litres of water from our back-up supply. Once he rinsed his eyes, he stripped off and we had just enough fuel siphoned to get us the 20km to the next petrol station. We were spluttering in on vapours.

For our three girls, though, it was the flies and the drop toilets.

 

Hazel, Luke, Petrina, Kate and Ella Jarvis at Lucky Bay, Cape Le Grand National Park, Western Australia.
Hazel, Luke, Petrina, Kate and Ella Jarvis at Lucky Bay, Cape Le Grand National Park, Western Australia.

 

Our tips for planning a trip

DO's

Be safe. Be prepared and make safety a priority.

Your rig is the first priority. Find a trusted mechanic to prepare your tow vehicle to ensure it is safe and well maintained for the distance you are travelling. Have electronic stability control added to your van and know your weights and towing capacity.

Invest in a Satellite phone or at the least, a personal locator beacon.

Carry tools, spare parts, an extra 20 litres of water per person and a first aid and snake bite kits.

Have insurance and know what you're covered for.

If a campsite doesn't feel safe, trust your gut and move on to the next one. Respect the truckies and let them pass, they are working and it's safer for all.

Pack light. You really learn to live with less and we loved it.

Get the Wiki Camps and Fuel map apps. Both have an offline map download so can be used offline.

Join TAWK (Travelling Australia With Kids) for kids free for at least two nights at participating parks. Most parks charge $5-$15 per child per night. Always, always ask for the best deal. We only paid the full rate three times.

Try free camping and national parks. While our girls didn't love the drop toilets, it can save you a lot on accommodation costs and some are stunning locations right on the beach.

Talk to people. We met some wonderful backpackers, families and retired folk. The camaraderie between travellers is amazing. Don't forget the travellers' wave when you are on the road.

Do that thing you really want to do that costs a bomb. For us, that thing was swimming with sea lions out of Jurien Bay and staying at Monkey Mia to hand feed the wild dolphins.

 

Resting at Natures Window, Kalbarri National Park, Western Australia.
Resting at Natures Window, Kalbarri National Park, Western Australia.

 

DON'Ts

Don't put it off. If it is something you truly want to do, plan for it. Whether it be this year or in five years, for one month or two years.

Don't plan every detail. We had an idea of direction but no schedule and booked only two spots in advance. Some of the best places we visited were on recommendation of fellow travellers, not the camp books.

Don't complain about the cost of petrol and goods in remote locations. They are a seriously long way away from anywhere!

 

Hazel, Kate and Ella meet the friendly local grey kangaroos on the beach, Lucky Bay. Picture: Petrina Jarvis
Hazel, Kate and Ella meet the friendly local grey kangaroos on the beach, Lucky Bay. Picture: Petrina Jarvis

 

Why is travelling Australia a great thing to do with your family?

The challenge of a shared adventure is great for family relationships and for developing character and resilience.

It is great to see our own amazingly diverse backyard. So many Australians have never travelled their own country, particularly the remoter regions.

We gained a deeper appreciation for what really matters in life and built a more open bond with our children.

 

The wide open spaces of Australia’s vast Outback, crossing the semi-arid Nullarbor Plain. Picture: Petrina Jarvis
The wide open spaces of Australia’s vast Outback, crossing the semi-arid Nullarbor Plain. Picture: Petrina Jarvis

 

So, what now?

We are selling the van and, as the children have never been out of Australia, we have promised them an overseas trip in the future.

We will continue to go on family adventures, challenging ourselves to have fun, learn new things and build on our library of memories as a family.



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