19 Jan 2018
Meet Lloyd and Bec Pollard from Sydney, New South Wales who embarked on the road trip of a lifetime around Australia with their two kids, Ava and Finn.
When Lloyd and Bec Pollard decided to take a break from the bustle of Sydney, they embarked on the road trip of a lifetime. A ‘no time like the present’ attitude led them to fast-track their dream to travel Australia by road, taking their two kids Ava, four, and Finn, two, along for the ride. Now home from their journey, Bec (aka @ourbiglap) tells us about their six-month adventure. The good, the bad, the ugly and the unbelievable.
On making the big decision...
We’ve always invested hard and worked hard since leaving school. About two years ago in the fog and haze of being at home with toddlers and babies (when my husband had all these nights away from home) we realised that life is happening right now. Why were we waiting around? Lloyd had worked his way into a role where we had to be there a lot. We were missing out on precious time with our kids who were growing up so quickly. We needed the time as a family to de-stress and had to find a way to hit the pause button on life. This seemed like the perfect way to make all that happen. Having worked all our lives, this was very drastic for us.
The plan. The van.
19 months passed between making the decision to do it and actually leaving. It was a big build-up. We decided to have our van built, so had to wait for that but it gave us the time to dream, plan and prepare.
We went for a New Age Caravan - the Big Red. We were so excited when it finally came.
It was probably the first van we came across when we started our research. It needed to be light and airy, have lots of windows, and a deep shower recess so we could make a bath for the kids if we needed to. We also wanted something with bunks and a washing machine - the Big Red fit the bill perfectly.
One of the best things we did in preparation was buy a laminated map of Australia online. Knowing that we only had six months, we decided to spend most of our time in NT and WA. We read all the caravanning magazines, we watched a lot of YouTube videos of people travelling, and just marked anything we liked on the map. Quite a lot of places you need to book months in advance, so we did that, too.
Going on a family road trip and getting away into the Australian outback is not a magic pill that will suddenly make everyone super happy and life super easy. It does give you the opportunity to actually spend the time together though, which we can now see is so valuable. We shot up the east coast quite quickly to the Daintree and then across the Savannah Way to Western Australia, covering a lot of the NT along the way. It was incredible.
We had everything we needed to have a comfortable existence, but it is an adjustment to have no television reception and no Wi-Fi in most places. It forces you to slow down.
You can just read a book, spend time with the kids, go for a hike - whatever you like! Make it what you want to. We love fishing so a lot of the destinations were based around fishing and seafood. It is the ultimate ‘choose your own adventure’ holiday. It changes every day if you want it to so we found it really stimulating and exciting.
Travelling with kids to more typical holidays destinations can be a bit more hard work sometimes I think because there’s so much stimuli. We had to help our kids engage with the environments we were in, and the indigenous cultures around us. Seeing them appreciate those things was really interesting. In some ways we thought we would all click into a happy rhythm a lot sooner than we did, but we all underestimated how long it would take us to adjust to one another. Going from being a stay-at-home parent all the time and then having to share it on a day-to-day basis was really different. Lloyd’s parents came around for half the trip as well which was really great for the kids to share the experience with their nan and poppy. That gave us the chance to enjoy some things on our own as well.
Our family unit is stronger and our individual relationships are also stronger. We’re definitely coming home in a much better place. The challenge now is to maintain what we’ve worked to establish. We need to make sure we keep focused on what was important in the trip and what’s still important in everyday life. The kids have learnt so much. They were around four adults for most of the trip and had to go to a new caravan park every couple of days, meet new kids and deal with changing environments. It’s all leading them to be really resilient. People are commenting on how much they’ve grown up and developed in that time.
- Remember that life on the road with kids is pretty much the same as life at home. They will still have the same demands - the four-year-old will still think she’s the boss, and sometimes being in a caravan can exacerbate that. The close proximity can take a bit of adjustment. Take a little bit of time to find a new rhythm for your life on the road.
- Consider a full-sized van. We didn’t want to fold out or pop this and that up. We just wanted to open a door. Travelling in the outback, pulling into the side of the road and going to the loo in your toilet was a huge benefit.
- Take some time to practice. We probably had our van for about eight months before we left so we took a couple of weekends away to get it set up how we wanted. Finn has practically grown up with the van.
- Consider paying a little extra for some features to save you in the long run. Nothing made me happier than when we could put our washing machine on. It saved us a fortune. It made me happy every time we could use it, too.
- We made the conscious decision to not use iPads in the car. Save them for when you’re getting dinner sorted. Otherwise, they’re not looking out the window, talking to us or engaging with what is a very large part of the trip.
- For the kids, we’d pack lots of snacks and I would always make sure we had some toys in the car. Plan your rest stops, find a playground, you need to give them some time to run some energy off.
If you’ve got a story from the road travelling Australia we’d love to hear from you. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
This travel feature was published in G’DAY Magazine.