Caravanning Conversations is the brand-new blog series from Caravanning Australia, where we get to know more about the people road tripping around our beautiful country!
We recently interviewed Josh and Sianne from @exploring.with.the.chillis on Instagram, who travel with their two daughters. Make sure to follow the family on Instagram for amazing travel stories, pics, guides, and all things caravanning!
Caravanning Australia (CA): Firstly, what drove you to get into caravanning?
Josh and Sianne (J&S): What drove us to take the leap and venture off on our first journey was the devastating loss of Josh’s dad to cancer. It was a dream of his to travel Australia in their caravan, but it was a dream he sadly didn’t get the opportunity to pursue. After a tough year of losing Josh’s dad and both being burnt out with work, we just said, ‘Stuff it, let’s give caravanning a go’, and we took off on a three-month trip exploring Queensland. During that time, the travel bug was well and truly caught. Our girls were in their element, and we truly connected as a family. We all also absolutely LOVED it. We returned home and it wasn’t long before we put an order in for a van, which we are now living and travelling Australia in.
CA: What advice would you give to other families considering caravanning and exploring Australia together?
J&S: Our advice is to do it! Don’t keep putting it off and coming up with reasons why you can’t. If you want to do it, you can absolutely make it work. It may require some sacrifices and hard work to get there, but it is possible. You also don’t need the fanciest set-ups to be able to experience what our country has to offer. People out there are making it work to suit them and their circumstances, whether that is by working while on the road, or only going for a certain amount of time. Anything is possible if you want it bad enough.
CA: Can you describe your favourite caravanning destination/trip, and tell us why that is?
J&S: We feel it’s hard to pinpoint one favourite destination or trip in our 10 months of travelling; however, we spent an unexpectedly long time exploring the Eyre and Yorke peninsulas in South Australia. We met some incredible families who we ended up traveling with, and some amazing memories were made. There are so many awesome low-cost spots along both peninsulas, and we found South Australia to be such an underrated state. We love being on the coast and by the ocean, so we were in our element.
CA: What are the most challenging aspects you’ve found when caravanning in Australia, and how have you overcome them?
J&S: One of the most challenging things we have found is trying to keep up with the seasons. We’ve seen families fly through destinations to keep up with the seasons, and we’ve found this to be super tricky as we don’t like to rush through places. The weather has also been challenging at times, as it can really impact and make or break your time at a destination; but we have learnt that you need to go with the flow and just make the most of it – rain, hail or shine.
CA: Are there any hidden gems or lesser-known destinations that you’ve uncovered on your travels?
J&S: A favourite little gem of ours is Secret Lake Retreat in northern New South Wales. We have loved visiting this spot a number of times in the last couple of years. It is certainly one to check out, and is located just inland from Maclean, New South Wales. Redcliff Campground in the Yuraygir National Park is also a beauty of a spot, also located in northern New South Wales.
CA: Could you share your most memorable encounter/interaction with fellow caravanners, locals, or unique wildlife over the course of your travels?
J&S: For Josh, the most memorable experience would be shark cage diving in Port Lincoln. This was a bucket list experience, and one he will never forget.
It is so tough to choose when we have so many memorable moments, but one special moment we shared with our travel friends was when we were swimming at Lipson Cove on the Eyre Peninsula. A pod of dolphins swam right up to us, and there was one dolphin that put on such a show – it was doing flips and launching right into the air. We all couldn’t believe it, and it felt like we were front row at a dolphin show.
CA: How do you typically go about planning your itineraries for both long and short travels?
J&S: We very much wing it when it comes to planning our itinerary. It’s not often we plan too far ahead unless it’s school holidays or we’re planning to travel to certain places that require booking well in advanced. This allows us to spend longer in places or leave earlier if we wish without feeling we are locked into bookings. We like to have the flexibility.
CA: Have you ever encountered any unexpected issues or emergencies in your journeys, and, if so, how did you tackle them?
J&S: Touch wood – we’ve been very lucky to not have had any major emergencies or issues along our travels. Although, we did have a pretty scary near-miss experience in Western Australia. We were driving along the highway when a rogue solar panel from a van ahead of us flew off and only just missed clipping the front of our car. Someone was looking out for us that day.
CA: How do balance being spontaneous with being organised when on the road?
J&S: At the start of our travels, we tried to adopt a little bit of structure (different to home life, though), but we’ve learnt to be a bit more relaxed and open to change and just going with the flow. There are so many factors that can completely change your day when you’re on the road, and being flexible makes it easier to adapt and be open to jumping at opportunities and experiences.
CA: What are your go-to dinners when cooking for the whole family?
J&S: Tacos and homemade burgers are always an easy go-to for us, or anything we can easily chuck onto the Weber. Josh also makes epic nachos, which he loves to make in the slow cooker and share with our travel friends.
CA: Are there any financial or budgeting tips you’ve found particularly useful while caravanning and being on the road in Australia?
J&S: We aren’t strict in keeping an accurate expenses log, but we do look at ways we can decrease expenses – such as choosing low-cost/free camping options, cooking our own meals, getting rid of subscriptions we don’t necessarily need, and utilising fuel apps to find the lower-cost fuel/gas bottle refills. We also like to check out op shops in different towns – you’re bound to find some great bargains at these places. We also like to check out the free tourist attractions/experiences when visiting each town.
CA: With technology playing a huge role in travelling, could you share some of your favourite gadgets/tools you’ve used while on the road?
J&S: The number of things you can buy these days to make caravanning easier and more convenient is insane. There’s not a lot that hasn’t been thought of. Our favourite gadgets and tools include our small portable Aldi smoothie maker (12 volts), a scan gauge in the car, and our portable washing machine (which has also been a top purchase).
CA: How do you stay connected with family and friends while you’re on the road for extended periods of time?
J&S: We have a very close family back home, and the most difficult part of travelling is being away from them all; however, we do try and Facetime with them as often as we can, and we keep in contact with regular messages and calls. Social media is also a good way of keeping our friends and extended family up to date with our travels.
CA: What does the future of travelling look like for you?
J&S: We have just sold our home on the east coast, and plan to continue travelling for now (with no end currently in sight). There is still so much more ground we need to cover – it’s a bloody big country! We are very open to new opportunities along the way and the possibility of settling somewhere new. Who knows where we might end up. We are excited to get back over and explore the top half of Western Australia – we missed the season this time around, but it’s at the top of our list. We love travelling in our humble home on wheels; however, we are on the lookout for a new tow vehicle.