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 Rebecca from @ourbeautifulkaos on Instagram, who travels with her hubby Wade and their four boys Tate, Jay, Knox and Rein (otherwise known as the Kaos Crew!). Make sure to follow the family on Instagram for amazing travel stories, pics, guides, and all things caravanning!
Caravanning Australia (CA): What drove you to deciding to do a big lap around Australia in your caravan?
Rebecca (R):My husband Wade and I have always been adventurous. We travelled to Europe for a few years prior to having kids, and it was something that ‘stayed in the blood’ so to speak. Our four boys Tate, Jay, Knox, and Rein and myself are Aboriginal, and we too have a yearning to wander. After COVID and a few bevvies, Wade and I decided it was time – we had already been homeschooling through the pandemic, I was working from home and my work allowed me to continue on the road, so we took the leap and off we went.
CA: What advice would you give to other families considering caravanning and exploring Australia together?
R: It’s cliché, but just go for it. Research is important when it come to vans, tow vehicles and weights, but it can also consume you. Life on the road is challenging, but once you have that ‘this is life not a holiday’ moment, you start to flow a little easier. An epic waterfall or sunset will always undo the day’s stresses. Less is more. And patience is key … and so is wine!
CA: What has your favourite caravanning destination/trip been so far?
R: I don’t think we have a favourite place, so to speak! We are 10 months into our indefinite trip and haven’t even scratch the surface of what Oz has to offer, but being from Sydney’s East Coast and as beach people, we are amazed by the beauty and tranquillity of a waterfall! Finch Hatton Gorge, Fruit Bat Falls, Leliyn (Edith Falls) and Maguk are among the faves. We also love a free camp – Notch Point, Gregory River and Gunn Point to name a few. I guess what makes them so special is that they all remain untouched and truly natural. Check out our Insta for the details and pics of all those places!
CA: What are the most challenging aspects you’ve found when caravanning in Australia, and how have you overcome them?
R: Mechanical issues by far! We have had a number of things go wrong, which are expensive and delay things, but when looking back now, they made us stronger and more resilient. Midges are a nightmare, especially when we have an allergic seven year old! And learning to ration food, being smart with water and power, and untraining your kids’ brains from what they are use to in ‘normal life’ is an ongoing challenge.
CA: Are there any hidden gems or lesser-known destinations that you’ve uncovered?
R: Tabulam, Northern New South Wales! We perched up on the banks for the Clarence River. It was our first practice at ‘going off grid’, and it didn’t disappoint – perfect weather, a place to swim, exploring the Clarence River and the cultural sites, too. We were lucky to have a community elder as a tour guide there also. It is a very special place that the whole family hold dear to their hearts.
CA: Could you share your most memorable encounter/interaction with fellow caravanners, locals, or unique wildlife over the course of your travels?
R: This is a tricky one! We have been so blessed to have met so many awesome travelling families on our adventures that have become like family. It’s a really special community out here.
In the early days of our travels, we got up-close and personal with Galápagos giant tortoises at Australia Zoo. The boys got to play and cuddle up to her, and it was a very special once-in-a-lifetime moment.
In Darwin, the boys met some local Larrakia women, who taught them how to collect and eat oysters from the rocks. We also got up-close and personal with a fair few barra with the Kapp family at Leichhardt Lagoon, and had a very interesting encounter with a disgruntled property ‘caretaker’ at Notch Point …
CA: How do you typically go about planning your itineraries for long and short travels?
R: The plan is … we have no plan! We haven’t had a plan other than to be up north during winter and south in summer, travelling via the seasons. We had bucket list things to achieve, such as the Cape, East Arnhem Land, Kakadu and Uluṟu, so this guided which direction to travel. We have learnt that plans go out the window, and often we have found hidden gems we planned on staying at for a day or two and ended up parking there for a week or so. In saying that, we are taking new-found travelling families’ advice and are booking ahead for travel around the Western Australian coast. This is foreign to us, so stay tuned to see how we cope!
CA: Have you ever encountered any unexpected issues or emergencies in your journeys?
R: We stopped in at Undara along the Savannah Way, and the plan was to stay at Pinnarendi Station for one night, check out the lava tubes, and then keep on heading west. We were actually going to stay at the gravel pit up the road, but had heard too many good things about the station to pass it up. After the most memorable and amazing experience at the lava caves, we were on our way back to the station and noticed a strange noise from the truck. We managed to get a hold of the manufacturer, and they sent someone out to check it out. We were told we would need to take it back to Cairns for further inspection and repairs. So Wade and Jay headed off, and I stayed with the other three Kaos kids in our unpowered van site at the station. What we thought was a small issue was a big one with the turbo, and what would be an overnight fix was a week-long one during school holidays. So, we had to desperately source accommodation for Wade and Jay on Cairns during the holidays, and I was stuck working for the van with the three boys and with no power, a week-long spout of overcast days, and while batting a head cold. Safe to say, we rationed our food pretty hard and I learnt a lot about the van’s solar and battery system. I think we got to a critical low point on the batteries and even ate dinner by torchlight.
CA: Have you found any cultural or educational opportunities during your travels that you and your family found insightful?
R: We always seek our cultural experiences wherever we go. The boys and myself are Walbunja people of the Yuin Nation on the South Coast of New South Wales. I want the boys to learn about the diverse Aboriginal culture that Australia has to offer. We tend not to engage in the tours, but look for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. We also spark up conversations with locals, which have led us to go on fishing or crabbing adventure with locals. At Leliyn Falls, a group of local boys took us up to the top falls and taught us about their creation story of the rainbow serpent – it was pretty special!
CA: How do balance being spontaneous with being organised when on the road?
R: It’s called organised chaos! I work four days a week, so we need to be somewhat stationary for a few of those days. The kids do their schooling with Dad while I’m working, so that maintains so routine there. Thursday/Friday through the weekends are our adventure days where we hit the road. It’s about balance, as they say.
We have also given the kids chores, which helps with the cleaning – but you can’t hit the road expecting to be tidy, especially with four small kids. It’s messy, dirty and grubby out there, but it’s about embracing and letting go.
CA: What are your go-to dinners when cooking for the whole family?
R: Protein and salad! This is a hard one actually, because it really depends whether we have power or not, what the food supplies are looking like, and what time we get home for dinner. But because it’s been so hot, it’s usually meat or fish and salad, or pasta. The kids are pretty good on the tooth and will eat almost anything!
CA: Are there any financial or budgeting tips you’ve found particularly useful while caravanning and being on the road in Australia?
R: No, we suck at it. We started budgeting but gave up, it was just an additional task we didn’t have time for! We are lucky that I work on the road and still have a rolling income; however, we are conscious of spending when we are grocery shopping, we pick off-grid camps over caravan parks, and we’ve had the best experiences in a gravel pit! We don’t eat out often, and save spending for the big experiences.
We are also teaching our kids about money, so we get them to share turns for buying ice creams with their pocket money (we restock their cash supply), but it helps and they don’t ask as often now!
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?
R: Starlink for reliable wi-fi on the road. It’s helped me continue work, stay connected with friends and family, and has gotten us out of a pickle when we broke down on the side of the road (thank you, wi-fi calling!).
Our travel oven in the truck comes in handy for cooking lunch while on a long drive, and a small 12-volt ceiling fan for under the awning deals with flys and bugs, and keeps it cool under there.
CA: What are your strategies for staying connected with family and friends while you’re on the road for extended periods?
R: FaceTime and Messenger Kids when we have power. We come from a close family, so we try to call and text often. We also have a travel page so the family and friends can keep us with the adventures.
CA: What does the future of travelling look like for you?
R: We are heading to South Australia for Christmas and then plan on heading north up the west coast of Western Australia. We may or may not stop back in Nhulunbuy for work and school, but the plan is to keep going until we can’t afford it or stand each other anymore haha … I’d love a sneaky overseas trip thrown in the mix as well!