Living in a Van

Van Living Challenges

Living in a Van has challenges.  One is the size of the bed!!  In the Toyota Coaster, there are two small beds on either side of the rear of the van.  I’m really too tall for them.  I can make changes to give myself more space so that my head and feet have more room, but it is a challenge!  It takes a few minutes to change and it is quite heavy to do.  It means that I have to set it up at the end of the day preparing for sleep and change it all in the morning.  Otherwise, I have limited access to some of the storage.

Other challenges include the Porta Pottie and having to empty it at Dump Points etc.

I am learning too, that on a hot day, the van can be oven-like.  I am intending to keep it for 12 months or so, so another 6 months to go, but I am quickly learning that as a long-term option, it is not going to be suitable for me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As one gets older and has more mobility challenges, it certainly is not the best option.  Even climbing into the bus and exiting can be painful for me as one of my legs does not like the steps!!  Manageable at the moment, but long-term, NOT.

Also, I continue to have trouble with the refrigerator.  It works well most of the time, but there has been some food spoiling.

Travelling vs Living

Space is fine for travelling, but living in the van, requires different space management.  For example, I now have my printer in the van as I need to do some printing.  I have to move it around in the limited space.  When I want to use it, I need to have it on the sink/bench, and I store it on the spare bed. It is quite heavy too – though just manageable.

My Recommendation

Weigh up the pro’s and con’s for you.  If you have some physical challenge check how you can manage.  The big issues are emptying the toilet and managing the waste water, and checking the oil and water in the engine, I think.

Try before you buy.  (I confess I didn’t) but spend some time with someone living in a van if you can.  Talk with them about their challenges.

Make sure you have the funds to pay for any work that needs to be done on the van, and make sure you have insurance and road side assist.

Rent a van for a short holiday to test if you can.




 

 

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On-line Challenges

It’s been many weeks since I had “easy use” of internet facilities.  When I left Brisbane on August 8th, I did not know I would have such “online challenges”.  When I drove around Australia in 2012/13 I had only a little trouble getting on line, but this time it was different.

My Dongle created challenges.  It rarely worked.  I did get it “seen to” and a new card was provided, but it didn’t work.  As well, my computer found it difficult to access available Wifi.  Again annoying.

Back “home” in Brisbane, I continue to have trouble.  The area in which the van and I are parked is not good for any reception.  Which means I have to find a spot (daughter’s home, the library) etc to get some work done.  It’s frustrating.  But that is all about to end.

OLDER WOMEN’S NETWORK CONFERENCE

I will be attending this in the city and staying at a hotel there.  Free Wifi.  Oh, I so hope it works!!  Then, I set off on another adventure.

HOUSE SITTING

On Wednesday I move into a house at Wamuran.  I will be house sitting there for 6 weeks.  YeeHaa!!  Internet!!!

Wamuran? or Wam as the locals call it, is a little town on the D’Aguilar Highway.  It is a fruit growing area – in the past more for its pineapple plantations, of which there are still some.  There is a big mango farm behind the house I will be staying at, and nearby there’s strawberries and other berries.

DOG, CAT AND TEN PIGEONS

There is a dog, with escapologist tendencies, and an indoor cat (not allowed outside), and 10 pigeons in a nice cage not far from the house.  There’s also lot of garden to look after.  I will be there for six weeks.  Oh, how I am looking forward to that.  Hoping to get a lot of writing done.  There’s also NANOWRIMO during that time, November the big writing month.  So perhaps I can participate.

Oh, I do hope I don’t continue to have online challenges.




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Overwhelmed!!

Catching Up

I have been overwhelmed. I seem to have been in a “fog” since my return from the journey to the centre.  No doubt driving 7500 kms in 6 weeks can throw you into a fog when it is all over.  I have had so much to do on my return, and slowing wading through the list has been difficult.  At last, though I have caught up, to some degree.

A number of folk have asked me to write articles and I am behind in my commitment to Weekend Notes, 

I have written an article today, so am hoping it will be published soon.  I’ve submitted other articles too, but have quite a challenging list to get done too.

Looking at a Tiny House

Yesterday, I drove to the Gold Coast (south of Brisbane) to see a tiny house that a friend of a friend is building.  The Tiny House movement is worldwide now, with a large number of developments in Australia.  (The photo below is not indicative of what is going on in Australia.)

There are several definitions of a tiny house – but essentially these are small houses that are often seen as an option for young couples who want to save up to buy their own home, or for seniors.

Sadly I don’t have any photos of the excellent house I saw at Labrador.  I did not have my camera, but I will get some photos one day.  I was so impressed by the workmanship and the interior decor.  IF I was looking at such a house for myself, I would definitely go and take a closer look and/or negotiate to have one made.

Issues to Work On

There were things that I have issues with.  To qualify to have such a building on a plot of land, it must be completely mobile.  That is, it must have wheels and some form of toilet that does not require to be connected to the sewerage system.  The building yesterday had a “porta-potti”.  I have one in my van.  They are not always easy to empty – they can be heavy and awkward and one should empty them in a toilet or dump point.  I’d question whether it was doable for an older person or someone with health/disability issues.

One of my biggest issues though is where the tiny house is going to be based.  If one puts it on a family plot, will the person living in the van be lonely?  These days many families are so busy with work, sport, children’s activities and such that there is little time for the family to keep up the regular communication.

Also, the family need to determine a procedure for checking on the senior person, especially if he/she is living in the tiny house alone.

The photo above shows steps up to the house – again, something that has to be considered for older folk.

There are issues to work out to ensure the safety of the person in the tiny house.

I’m not feeling so overwhelmed at the moment.




 

 

 

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Caravanning

My experience “caravanning” is very limited.  In fact, when I set off on August 8th, ’17, I had only spent nights in cabins in caravan parks.

Caravanning

My first night was at Dalby.  I drove Murtle into the park, where I had booked, and backed into the small area near the power pole/water tap.  I arrived late in the afternoon and left early the next morning without any interaction with the other caravanners.  Over the next few weeks I had a range of experiences in caravan parks and free camps.

First Free Camp

The next night I was in Bungeworgorai.  It was my first night at a “free camp”.  Free camps are everywhere these days and suit those campers who are “self-sufficient”.  That is, have their own power, toilets and water.  For in most free camps there are no facilities.

Free Camp near the Bungeworgorai Creek

When I drove in, rather cautiously, I parked near other campers.  There was a couple to one side who were very friendly and later I joined them for a drink.  On the other side was a guy who also had a Toyota Coaster (more modern than mine) and towed a small car.  He also had two funny cats, who were so used to camping that they were happy roaming and always returned to the Coaster.  I happily stayed overnight, feeling very safe and comfortable and left early in the morning to continue my journey.

Population Decline in Kynuna

In the Camp Kitchen – cleaner and plumber wanted?

It was right on the Warrego Highway, and in the evening there was quite a lot of traffic with road trains, that were somewhat noisy, but I was so tired it didn’t bother me.  I happily stayed overnight, feeling very safe and comfortable and left early in the morning to continue my journey.

Six Weeks on the Road

Over the next six weeks I had “adventures” in both paid caravan parks and free camps.  I have learned what to look for and how to manage.

The Caravan Parks are interesting.  Some are quite expensive, and some are terrible with appalling facilities and often rude/disinterested staff.  It makes you wonder why these people are in such businesses.

I know country folk do not have the benefits of choices with tradesmen, and often have to make do with what they have.  For example, in Kynuna, and I stayed in one park behind the Blue Heeler Hotel where the facilities were “under repair” – the toilet block was not usable and one had to walk over to the hotel and use their facilities.  On my return journey I stayed at the other Caravan Park where the facilities were somewhat better, but clearly, (as you can see from above photos) there was a great need for work to be done on the park.

One gets the impression that the caravan parks are profitable businesses, but in almost everyone there was a need for maintenance.

As well as the condition of caravan parks, there are issues with other campers.  Some are so rude, and the number of disputes between families is rather surprising.  I guess I have learned that it is good to camp with friends – and even travel with them if possible.

My “adventures” of the six weeks that I was “on the road” has been an education for me.  I have more learning to do.




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Murtle’s Refurb…

On the Road Again

Should I get Murtle refurbished? I bought Murtle the Turtle several months before I set off for the journey to the Red Centre of Australia.   I had little time in her – and still am learning about some of the knobs and features.  I did drive it for 7500 kms and returned home safe and sound.

Before I departed I went to a Motor Mechanic and had things checked.  I felt somewhat confident – but knew all along that something could go wrong.  And of course, it did.  I made it to Alice Springs without any problems, but then things changed.

Today I went back to the Motor Mechanic that did the check before I left – and I am going to get him to check on a few things and maybe fix a few.  I have quite a list.

Initially, I am wanting to make sure Murtle is mechanically sound – that is the priority.  Over the next few weeks, I will decide what I want to do with Murtle.  There are some things about her that really are an issue for me.

Manual Transmission.

I learned on a manual car and can manage the gears, but Murtle can be a challenge especially going up hills.  I nearly freaked out going up the Toowoomba Range!!!!  In fact Murtle stalled – briefly.  I got her going again very quickly.  My preference is for automatic transmission – but it will not be happening under my watch.  Murtle will remain manual – but does that mean I will need to look at another vehicle?

Driver Comfort

Actually, while I am driving I am comfortable.  I love being high up and having a wonderful vision of my surroundings.  But getting in and out of the driver’s seat is a problem for me. My legs are too long, and I do have some pain in them and my feet.

Checking Oil and Water

The engine is between the driver and passenger seats.  I have to move the driver’s seat forward – almost cutting my legs in half!  Then there is some contortion for me – as it is not easy removing the “lid”  and accessing the engine.  I’m too old for it.  It is not easy for me.

I’ll get the Engine checked and a few other things, and ponder what I will do.  Will I endeavour to rectify the issues?  Are they impossible and/or too expensive?

So I have a few decisions to make over the next few weeks.

Wait and see.




 

 

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Back to the Real World

It is weird returning to “the real world” – though I don’t quite know what that is.  I am back in Brisbane, still living in Murtle, at the home of my daughter and her family, and trying to make plans for the next few weeks.  I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

First of all, I have calculated the mileage I did in my trek to Uluru and back.  In a way, it feels like more, but it appears I did a smidge under 7500 kms, in just over 6 weeks.

Around Winton

Again it was a rush.  I had the deadline to get to Mt Isa for the SBS project, and I had intended to return at a slower pace, but with all the mechanical issues, I returned faster – just hoping to get back safely.  Murtle did give me grief along the way and cost me some dollars, but I was lucky really.  With the various mechanics telling me different information, I was concerned that I would get an expensive fright from one of them.  In fact I got some scary predictions – but as each “expert” told me different things, I was not sure what Murtle might do.  I coaxed her along and spoke to her kindly and she performed well after the Winton mechanic did some work on her.

I had been through Winton before, but this time stayed 2 nights in the Tattersall’s Hotel caravan park.  It’s across the road from the hotel – which is a very busy place in the evening with many people eating either in the dining room or the seating along the footpath.

The Dining Room with its historical items.

The Crazy Bar – and two staff

 

 

 

 

 

Murtle’s Woes

When Murtle was at the Motor Repairers, I was sitting in the seats at the hotel – giving me a good view of activities in the workshop opposite. One of the staff came over to ask me a question – they tried to phone, but the phone didn’t ring.

When I saw Murtle back out of the building, and park next to the RACQ van I figured they had done their work, so wandered across, paid the bill and drove off to the Dinosaur Stampede exhibition.  All was well!!

I was confused – every mechanic that “worked” on Murtle gave me a different story.  Was it the electrics?  Water?  Oil?  Fuel hose?  Battery?  I’ve been told all of those and more.

She’s fine now.  I’ve not driven her since the return.  I am getting used to driving the Barina again.

 




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Murtle and I Have Returned

Murtle and I Return to Brisbane

Yesterday Murtle and I arrived back in Brisbane.  We have returned after nearly 6 weeks on the road in Murtle, the very ancient (1983) Toyota Coaster.  I have yet to calculate the distance she travelled, but from Brisbane to Uluru in Northern Territory and back is a pretty long way.

Judd’s Lagoon near Yulaba, Queensland.

Sadly I have had major problems with phone and the internet – so my plans to update on a regular basis were shattered.  There are some places where you can barely get phone coverage.  I had a phone connected to Telstra, and another to Optus.  The Telstra one has not worked and as Optus does not have as wide a coverage, I was handicapped there too.

However, I have had an awesome time.  I learned about managing Murtle along the way.  Some of the instructions given to me prior to leaving were not up to scratch, and strange things happened too.

The trip to the Alice was uneventful.  Murtle travelled well, but it was in Alice Springs just prior to the camp at Ross River Resort that she started to play up.  Each mechanic I saw gave me a different story!!!  It was very frustrating.  I will detail that later, but since Winton, I have had no trouble.

Dry Outback – Needs Rain and Lots of It.

We live in an amazing country, though sadly a lot of country areas are facing challenges that may never be overcome.  Water shortage is a huge problem – and rain is desperately needed!!  Towns are “dying” as people find that they can no longer cope with the lack of resources.

Murtle had to battle the red dust of the outbackk.

Houses are empty and decaying.  Many towns rely on the travellers for income – and of course travellers don’t always stop.   It is a huge country and my trip of six weeks didn’t allow me to visit all the places I wanted to – but I am happy.  I am planning the next trip.

My last night was free camping near Yuleba.

 




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Have Arrived at Uluru

But no photos of Uluru at the moment.  I have had limited Internet Access – it’s slow and painful, so I’ve decided to just do as I can when I can.  I am due to go out and possibly ride around Uluru today.  It is terribly windy.  Just like yesterday.

Eridunda to Uluru

The was blowing so strongly that it was a struggle to hold the Toyota Coaster on the road all the time.  And of course, it used up a lot more fuel than otherwise would be the case.  When it is close to $2 a litre (diesel), you can see it is costly.

After the event in Ross River, I stayed two nights in a caravan park on the outskirts of Alice Springs – there were about 5 other rollers there.  Quiet time really.

I found out that one of the Rollers had rolled her van, so several of us went to the yard where she crashed vehicle was – waiting for insurance assessor.  We packed all her worldly goods into two utes and drove out to a property off the Ross River Highway and unloaded them.  She is a lucky person to be alive after the crash she had on her way out to Hermansburg mission.

After that I went to the Botanic Gardens.  I didn’t walk around but had an adventure while I was there.

A tree kangaroo with baby helping herself at the Botanical Gardens.

I spent my last night at the Wanngardi Caravan Park, before setting off the following morning for Uluru.  As it turns out Murtle was stubborn and wouldn’t start.  Two ladies tried to help and then two guys turned up.  One had NO sense of humour, but was a great chap and got Murtle going.  He and his mate followed me into Alice Springs where I was getting fuel and waited to see if Murtle started again.  She did.

The camping shop was my next stop as I wanted the shield to stop the wind blowing my gas stove.  Done.  And then set off for Eridunda, where I planned to stay the night.

I arrived early afternoon and later went to a viewing platform to take some photos of the sunset.  Beautiful.

Dusk at Eridunda




 

 

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Ross River – Here we Come!

Ross River

Today we head to Ross River Resort.  400+ Women in an array of transport – but mostly caravans and motor homes.

It is something that was the brain child of Michelle Lang who started Rolling Solo, with probably no idea of how big it would become.  There are some 6000 members around Australia – ladies who travel alone around the country.

There are a myriad of activities planned for the week at RR – which include tours, and many workshops, walks, music and hopefully a world record.

Journey So Far

When I set off from Brisbane on August 8th, it was with fear and trepidation.  Not scared of driving solo for such a long distance as I had done a lot before, but driving the Toyota Coaster that I had little experience in.

And, after getting the request from SBS to participate in the Insight program, I had to “make haste” rather than take the leisurely journey originally planned.

I think I gripped the steering wheel as if my hands were glued with superglue, as I learned how to manage Murtle (the name given to my Toyota Coaster by the previous owner).  It was a day or two before I had the confidence to relax a little.

I learned about living in a caravan park and about free camping as I made my way the 3000 kms to Alice Springs, with the break at Mt Isa and the trip to Sydney one day and back the next.  I was really knackered when I made it to the Alice and have had a quiet week so far.

Phone and Internet

I’ve taken a lot of photos, but have not had an opportunity to share many.  Many places I have had neither phone or internet access.

It has been challenging.  Frustrating.  And there will be no coverage for the five days or so at Ross River.

Murtle near the Red Centre

 

One of the Devil’s Marbles

Long ago bushfire damage

Between Cloncurry and Mt Isa

A Broken Marble




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SBS Insight Program Women on the Edge

It was amazing to be offered the opportunity to appear on the SBS program Insight re the challenges especially for senior women and housing.  It is something that has been an issue for me for quite a few years.  Actually, I didn’t know that I would be one of the statistics of senior solo homeless women when I started this.  Perhaps I knew that I was “on the edge” -but when it happened it was confronting

I have been working on the issue for a long time – I have friends who find normal housing unaffordable. But it was only this year that I realised the dire predicament I was in.  I was amazed that SBS Insight would be interested in my story – but it is not just MY story – it is the stories of many women.

There is a lot of information about the housing affordability crisis in Australia – and it frightens me that so many women even as young as 50 are regarded as too old for some employment.  Men and women over 50 find it hard to keep employment.  When one job ends, it is hard to find another one.

I do believe the government should be doing more – but I don’t believe that public/government housing is the answer.  We need to look at other options.

MAMMA MIA

I also feature on the Mamma Mia website.  Click here.

This “publicity” is not comfortable for me – I don’t like watching it, though I am relieved that friends say I came over well on the show.  Mmmm.

As I have been travelling (August 2017) I’ve come to learn that many solo women are living in their vans and travelling. So many amazing stories and I hope I can get to record some of them.

Meanwhile, I will attend the Rolling Solo event at Ross River Homestead next week and be back in the “real world” working on the housing for senior solo women project when I return to Brisbane.

SOMETHING MUST BE DONE!!! GOVERNMENTS – ARE YOU LISTENING?

There is more information on this website.  




If you would like to make contact with me, or share your story, please let me know.  Another lady and I are planning a book of stories about Australian Women – while I continue to lobby for better affordable services for senior solo women.

SBS INSIGHT

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