While for most grey nomads, the big rig dilemma is whether to get a caravan, a motorhome or a fifth wheeler for the Big Lap. It seems there are a few who are prepared to think completely outside the box.
As retired accountants Annette and Ray Crofts sat down to plan their long-term adventure, they quickly concluded that the traditional grey nomad modes of transport just didn’t add up.
So, a few years ago, when they set off for an odyssey expected to last 9 -12 months, they were very much doing it ‘their way’.
Having initially looked at buying a 24’ van with all the home comforts, the couple had something of an epiphany.
“We looked at the numbers and reviewed the pros and cons of the costs and took into account the stress involved in towing something this large around,” said Ray. “Then we looked at the cost of purchasing the van and then the tow vehicle and added the running costs … and then we started to look for alternatives.”
After a lot of research, the former bean counters decided that staying in motels, apartments, cottages and cabins would be more suited to their travel requirements.
“While this at first looks an expensive way of travelling, it is in fact very economical when fuel and maintenance costs are factored in,” said Ray. “The proviso is that you self-cater most of the time … it’s absolutely amazing what you can do with just a microwave!”
The couple carries some food and utensils and say that some motels even have a kitchenette, while apartments and cabins, which generally cost $10-$20 a night more, tend to have a full kitchen.
The couple travelled in a VW Passat station wagon with a 2-litre Turbo diesel engine.
“This has proven to be extremely comfortable and very fuel efficient, averaging 5.6 litres per 100 kilometres,” said Ray. “Despite not having the end of the day meeting point you get with caravanning, we have enjoyed many good times and conversations with people we have met on the road, and we have met all sorts of interesting people.”
The ‘grey-nomads-with-a-difference’ managed to circumnavigate Australia, including crossing the Nullarbor.
“We have had a couple of not so good experiences with caravan park cabins, and the accommodation offered on the Nullarbor is a joke,” said Ray. “We have found that we need to book a few days ahead in most places to ensure we get the standard of accommodation we like.”
However, travelling without a caravan or large motorhome doesn’t mean Ray and Annette don’t run into some of the same issues as traditional grey nomads.
“We have the usual tussles with me as driver not listening to my navigator, although I am getting better the further we travel,” admits Ray. “And we have learnt to be flexible with where we are going and not be afraid to suddenly change direction to get better weather or to see something different of interest.”