Currently heading east into Queensland after spending three months in the Northern Territory, Nigel and Lesley Shotton will soon be starting their 20th year as full-time grey nomads … and they’re nowhere near being done yet.
The couple sold their house in Sydney way back in 2003, and have been living out of a caravan ever since.
To afford their lifestyle, the couple pause their travels to work – probably about a third of the time – and ‘have been around this great country a bit and seen many changes’. And the ‘ultra veterans’ are now on their third rig.
“All three vans have been around the 23’ to 24’ internal, with as many of the mod cons as we can fit as they are our home,” said Nigel. “And the vans have all been fully self-contained and, although large, are built to go anywhere.”
Their first caravan was an Elross from WA which they pulled with a 100 Series LandCruiser; the next one was an Evernew from Melbourne pulled by a Chevy Silverado; and their current rig is a Halen van built in Lilydale, Victoria, and also towed with a Chevy Silverado.
With their current van measuring 10 metres (including draw bar) and the Silverado measuring seven metres, making sure that any site they stay at can accommodate them is one of their key issues … and it’s not been made easier by the surging popularity of caravanning and camping.
And it’s one of the key reasons they dislike campsite online booking systems so intensely.
“With this size rig we have found from experience not to book a site unseen, even with caravan parks we stop outside and walk in,” said Nigel. “We ask what sites they have, how much they are, and can we have a look … we walk around and choose a site we like and will fit onto without obstacles such as overhanging trees.”
Like most long-term grey nomads, the Shottons try to head north in the winter, and south in the summer.
“We like the Outback and bush and normally try to avoid the big cities,” said Nigel. “We do a mix of camping, often it’s free camping while we are travelling … but showgrounds, RV stopovers, and reasonably-priced van parks when we are stationary for periods.”
He says they will sometimes stay in national parks, but only once they have arrived and found a site that suits them.
And the couple insist that being able to keep their travel plans flexible is a key component of the Big Lap experience.
“If we like somewhere we will stay longer and, if not, we will go find somewhere we do like,” said Nigel. “And we don’t like to commit to a schedule … you know how busy you get when you have nothing to do but travel and enjoy yourself!”