When grey nomads Colin and Deb Baxter ‘ran away from home’ five years ago they knew it wasn’t going to be all fun and games … they were going to have to work.
The couple rent out their Gold Coast home to cover mortgage costs and various bills, but they always knew their finances would require ‘topping up’. After a bit of trial and error, the Baxters have adopted a ‘six months on, six months off ’ approach and it’s working like a dream.
“It has suited us down to the ground as we don’t spend a lot while working and we save for when we travel,” said Deb. “It means we don’t have to miss out on some activity or excursion when we are on the road because of a lack of funds.”
Their jobs have been many and varied and it’s enabled the pair to learn new skills, meet new people, and gain an extra appreciation of those periods when they aren’t working.
“Living in a tin can together, being in each other’s pockets, has taken some getting used to,” said Deb. “So I have to laugh when we’re going for a job and they say ‘sorry, we can’t put you both on the same shift’ … that’s just fine with me!”
Colin – who spent almost 17 years in the RAAF and 22 years in pest control, and Deb who was a nail technician – travel in a Regent Cruiser van.
“Because we enjoy free camping, we added an inverter and a gas heater but we wish we had added more 12v power plugs,” said Deb. “It has travelled well and did the Strzelecki two years ago … it’s a trooper.”
Over the years, the pair have worked the grain harvest, in general maintenance, as rice quality testers, vineyard cellar hands, orange shed packers, on a weighbridge, and much, much more.
“We have actually worked five jobs in 18 months and I have brain overload having learned four different computer programs in that time,” said Deb. “We definitely need a holiday now and the really good part is we now have enough money to go on one of those Kimberley cruses next year.”
The extra cash has enabled the Baxters to splash out on treats like taking a flight over Kakadu, reef fishing out of Darwin, and taking sunset cruises on a catamaran. They also love visiting country pubs and, while working at the Big Red Bash, got tipped off to the joys of geocaching.
“One couple there introduced us to it and we now use geocaching almost like a travel guide,” said Deb. “It takes us to spots that we may miss just driving around and through a town.”
So, will the pair continue their work-holiday pattern indefinitely?
“It’s great that we don’t stay long enough in a job to get bored with it but just long enough to get to know an area well,” said Deb. “Next year, we’re heading to WA but there seems to be heaps of work available … so we’re looking forward to new jobs and scenery!”