Joining the Caravan: The Joys of traveling in a comfortable land yacht around the world
They travel equipped with all the comforts of home: gas refrigerators, showers, comfy beds -- often a TV. And their adult kids are realising they're onto a good thing and throwing in their jobs, buying themselves a moveable home, and joining the Grey Caravan. So, just what is it that inspires people to travel in a home away from home?
Travel consultant Tanya Peach took time out from a demanding job in Mackay, Queensland, to head across Australia with her husband Alan and a camper trailer for a year. She says, 'We thought, 'Why wait until we're retired?''.
She doesn't regret quitting her job, renting out her house and taking to the road in her 30s: 'So many things we did, like walking up mountains, and roughing it, make me so glad we did it now.'
Their trip was a long time in the planning. Because they wanted to go off-road they opted for a camper trailer rather than a caravan. Alan spent months fitting it out. Tanya says, 'We knew we were spending a long time on the road and it would drive me insane to not be able to find things. Some of the things that Alan's done to it are so good. I've got everything at my fingertips.'
all this doesn't come cheap: there was the cost of the car and trailer
(around $50,000), plus travelling expenses food, fuel, camping fees and
entertainment for which they budgeted $2000 a month. Tanya says, 'You
have to accept that you have to spend money. We met people who would bypass
places because they wanted to save money. What's the point in that? You're
travelling to see places. Others would race up the road to score the spot
in the free campsite by lunch time and miss everything in between.'
a campervan can provide a more affordable family vacation than staying
in hotels; it gives you more flexibility in where you spend your money
as you can often camp in free sites, eat home-cooked food and save your
money for the city attractions.
We were aged five and three and yet the memories
stick in our minds: eating stewed windfall apples; being made to bathe
in icy streams in between campground showers (and the karmic retribution
on mum when she fell into a stinging nettle patch); the Little Mermaid
statue in Copenhagen; windmills in Holland; and the Eiffel Tower
Tanya raves about the places she's seen: 'Karijini National Park...the colours: reds and purples and oranges and swirls of rock melting together even amateur photographs look amazing.'
But it's also the friendships made along the way that made the trip memorable. Tanya bumped into the same couples and families at several towns, and even travelled in convoy for a while.
It's this idea of community that's helping to attract more people to self-contained travel in the USA. Nancy Nelson-Duac, from St Augustine, Florida, editor of family website familytravelfiles.com, has taken her kids on several motorhome (RV) holidays.
She says, 'We always find that RV-ers form little
communities. Friendly conversation and sharing is common. Need an egg?
Just go to the RV next door. While at a RV spot not far from Hearst Castle
[California] we spent a wonderful cold rainy night
playing charades with newly acquired friends. The next morning one of
them arrived at our RV with freshly baked doughnuts, concocted in their
Once the domain of the 'Snow Birds', the US retirees who follow the sun to Florida or Arizona in winter, RV vacations are becoming more and more popular with families. Mike Gast, Director of Communications for Kampgrounds of America, Inc, says the increase is a response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. 'After the attacks, the US saw an increase in the 'nesting' phenomenon, which causes people to desire to stay close to home, or at least vacation with family and friends in a safe, secure setting. Camping fills that need,' he says.
He says 'About 10 million households in the United States now own a recreational vehicle, which includes motorhomes and truck campers (a unit that slides into the back of a truck bed)[with] a 16% increase in orders from dealers this year.' Plus, there's short-term rentals, mostly from families with kids aged 10 to 18.
says a home away from home has definite advantages when you're travelling
with kids: 'Not having to pack and unpack several times just because we
wanted to go to more than one place; the advantage of not having to keep
track of kids clutter each day; and each child had their
Plus, there's the flexibility of choosing your own itinerary: 'We could select our own room-with-a-view location. You wake up in a beautiful spot and don't have to drive to the natural beauty,' she says.
Of course, a home away from home doesn't have to be on wheels. In Europe, in particular, canal boat vacations are always popular. Mike Hamilton, from Foster City, California, took his wife and two sons canal boating on the Canal du Nivernais in Burgundy, France.
He chose a canal boat vacation because, 'You experience a country by shopping for groceries, not by staying in the Hilton and taking tour buses.'
He says, 'Another advantage of 'going on a home away from home' is the room. A hotel room can get very small very quickly for a family of four. The canal trip enabled us to spread out, shop in the villages, and meet people along the way. Every time we went through a lock we talked or tried to talk with the lock keepers. It was a wonderful experience.'
Sally Dillon is a keen touring cyclist (another way of taking it with you). She co-authored Lonely Planet's 'Cycling France' guide, and has contributed to other LP books. This article originally appeared in the Comet, LP's monthly newsletter.
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