15 Things I’ve learnt as a Grey Nomad

Corella Dam Cloncurry

1. Blessed are the Chiller Bags

These handy zippered bags are the best thing since sliced bread. They are cheap as chips, readily available and great for storage and all manner of things. We store our seasonal clothes (out of season) in these and use them for dirty clothes. We prefer them to plastic when shopping or picnicking and they are great for holding ropes, cables and the like.

2. Companionship is Precious

Like-minded people gather easily, particularly at freecamps around the country. Learn to say Hi, share your time and experience. Making new friends is one of the best things about travelling and we have made many interesting and great friends during our travels, many of which we still keep in contact with in the wonderful world of social media.

3. Happy Hour Begins when you’re Happy

Happy Hour is a time for most Grey Nomads to relax and enjoy new and old company and it never ceases to amaze me just who you catch up with over the years. We have found that small portable stools are handy and aren’t so comfortable that you would unwittingly overstay your welcome. A glass of wine and nibblies are always welcome.

4. There is Nothing like a Good Aussie Pub

One of Aus’ best icons is the good old fashioned Country Pub. A different breed to the city pubs the country pub is an icon of hospitality and usually good food and home cooked meals. They are also often entertainment in their own right, filled with all manner of curio’s and record of times enjoyed under their roof. We often will treat ourselves to a full lunch and hold off desert for dinner time, sitting under the shade somewhere as we chat away to locals. This is a real treat! Many also offer freecamping on site for patrons and travellers. A member of the senior set we have found that you really only need one truly serious meal a day and you can take your time to enjoy it.

5. Keeping your Fridge Happy is all about Ambient Temperature and Closing the Door

This is the hardest thing to learn. How many times do you really need to open that door? We find that a small shade over the fridge wall side of the caravan also helps when facing the afternoon sun. A thermos will keep water both hot and cold but come 5pm, Happy Hour… you really do have to open that door.

6. You can camp up 10klm out of town

This little gem is true for most of Aus’ and was imparted to me by other family travellers very early in my years. Always check with the owner if you intend camping up on private property but look out for those wonderful stock routes, which are the lifeblood of the nation. You can often recognize them by the broad strips of land either side of the road. We use Wikicamps ap’ on our ipad and phones for navigation and freecamping.

7. There’s a Golden Time at Sunset and Sunrise when the Light is Truly Precious.

This is for the photographers amongst us. I love the pink hues of the sunset side or west coast and the crimson and golden hues of the sunrise side… it is truly a magical moment in time. I will often wait for those magic moments to get just the best shot and it rarely fails me no matter where I am.

8. A Walking Stick is Handy for Many Things.

Not only is a walking stick handy for keeping steady when walking, but it is great as a defence against all manner of nasties. So many people are too proud to use these sticks when really they should. I dangle mine with a ribbon from my wrist which leaves my hands free and I find the collapsible kind easy to store in the car and more suited to my size.

9. Stop and Smell the Season

Bugga the roses… take a whiff of the season, the bush, the ocean and learn to love the world around you. There is nothing like the smell of the forest or grass after rain, or even in the early hours and there is nothing like the comforting smell of a small campfire. I find many campers will often light up a bonfire of epic proportions and ruin the ambience in favour of the spectacle, often driving company back from the comfort of the fire. It is such a pity and such a mark of the city slicker looking for bigger being better, when cosy is comfort.

10. There’s More to See Around the Edges

We are edge of season travellers. The north is hot and it is supposed to be just that, while the south is cold and I enjoy my woollies and Ugg boots, particularly that wonderful campfire. We enjoy the turn of the seasons, the change of colour and the birth of life and when we approach the full flush of summer, or the dead cold of winter we are out of there, moving toward the new season. This also thins out the tourist and come holiday season… we will head inland to those wonderful country towns and outback regions leaving the coastal tourist haunts to the tourists. This is how to avoid the crowds.

11. Information and Visitor Centres are Worth Their Weight in Gold

Always a fountain of information these centres are often the first stop when we reach a town. Often manned by volunteer’s who are locals they will regularly go the extra mile to help you and they are also great places to discover all about local produce and regional writers. Some of our best books have been bought at the Information Centres and the bookshelves are always our first stop. Pass these centres by at your own cost, they are as handy as the local watering hole.

12. A Tailwind is a little Gift from God

The drivers, and those who tow their mobile homes or navigate big rigs will understand this idiom. This becomes most evident when on a good straight set… The Man has been known to camp up and wait for that tailwind rather than a headwind when on the Nullabor and it is amazing the difference it makes. Watching the weather fronts is also something we have learnt to do and there is nothing more frustrating than listening to the drone of presenters wax lyrical about weather that is some 2,000 klm or more away on local channels, often missing comment on an entire ¼ of the continent that we happen to be in.

13. The Wilderness Doesn’t Have Showers

Now this is strictly not true… there is nothing like a patch under a waterfall and they too come in warm and cold – in places like FNQ, NT and the Kimberly, cold is good. However when travelling through the wilderness and remote area’s in Aus’ water is a very precious resource. A chicken wash is in order particularly if you live off the grid. If you want a shower… head for a stint in a caravan park.

14. The Tourist or a Traveller?

Over the years I have come to think of myself as a Traveller, not a tourist and I have come to appreciate the differences. We are what others term Grey Nomads and the meaning of this term changes depending on who you are talking to, be it someone who is generally interested or someone who is hoping to profit. I found pic’s of some important differences between tourists and travellers and these are very relevant… the two, as visitors are very different in their likes, choices and entertainments, something I often wish people would understand. Which are you?

15. Enjoy the Ride

A Tourist has a destination, a Traveller is in the present and their rig is their destination. Outside for a traveller is the entertainment, the country and the things they often enjoy, be this sitting in the vehicle watching the countryside move by or sitting around the campfire. Research and discover the area’s you pass through, meet the locals and become part of the community… participate! There is no truer nor more important advice I could give than this.

Travel well.

Jan is an Author and Traveller, you can discover more about her work in the tabs overhead.

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