Sunday, 1 July 2012

Camping Culture

You know, maybe being homeless wouldn’t be that bad.

I don’t mean sleeping-on-the-street homeless, but rather living without a house or an apartment. Living as a nomad. Living on the road. 

Living out of a van. 

Two months ago, that would have sounded like my personal hell, but it’s amazing what some nice weather and a few good personal encounters can do to a girl.

As you may have guessed, we are still travelling around Australia in our camper van and are continuing to enjoy it immensely. What has changed, however, is that we have recently become aware of just how spoiled we are with our nice home on wheels, complete with standing room, electricity and running water. We were feeling pretty adventurous indeed until we met some real campers, ones who put our perceived discomfort to shame. These guys weren’t camping for a week or two, or even a month or two; they were camping for a year. 

And get this: they- the two of them- were living out of a hatchback car.

That, my friends, is some badass homelessness.

If their lifestyle was out of necessity, I probably wouldn’t be waxing poetic about their life choices, but this couple was choosing to live extremely simply (and cheaply) so that they could travel indefinitely. Two web designers with their own company, they tour around Australia with their laptops and a wireless modem so as to work remotely along the way. They stay at free campsites or wild camp in the bush and only spend money on gas and food, the expense of which is minimal as they often fish or gather wild produce for meals.  As a result of their simple lifestyle, they are actually saving money while they travel. 

Needless to say, we want to be them.

True, they live in a car, but since they essentially follow the warm season, their converted car only serves as a bed. Their kitchen is a beach-side barbeque pit or a camp fire in the bush, their living room is whatever naturally fetching place they decide to call home for a few days. (For the more practically-minded, rest assured that there are plenty of public bathrooms and showers available for those who look for them.) Some days, they work for their business, but often their time is spent fishing, hiking, reading and cooking- all outdoors.

Tell me that doesn’t sound like the life.

Now, if they were the only ones living that way, we might not feel so pampered in our big van (yes, the same one that I complained was uncomfortably cramped a week ago), but they are by no means an anomaly. At the same campsite where we met these guys, we also met not one, not two, but three different couples- who, coincidentally, were all French- who were doing long-term camping stints out of a van. And not a camper van. A van van.

And what, you may ask, did we, the embarrassingly non-adventurous, painfully pampered quasi-campers do when confronted with the real thing?

We faked it, of course.

Basically, we pretended to be way more hardcore then we actually are, or in truth, will probably ever be. While the others were comparing stories about sneaking into hostels to shower, lamenting about being stuck in the bush for ten days after a flood and sharing which public sports complex was best to camp in, Vincent and I were nodding gravely and sharing knowing looks, while silently making a mental note never to complain about the capacity of our camper’s water tank ever again.

But you can’t blame us, these people were awesome. We would have renounced our giant camper van Chunk just to be part of their little camping community.

That’s another thing we loved about pretending to be homeless: the sense of camaraderie among the campers in the free sites. You see, at the expensive ($30 a night!) caravan parks, we see only vacationers and rich retirees: hardly the most interesting of the camping world. I guess that’s the price you pay for hot showers and laundry facilities. But at the free campsites, you get the lifers, the gray nomads, the homeless. All of those who literally live, full time, out of their vehicles. Be it a hatchback or a converted bus, these people are at once perplexing and inspiring. We kinda wish we were that cool.

The homes of the homeless

But, alas, we are not. At least not on this trip.

It does make you think though. We’ve met several couples of all ages, even some families with kids, who own nothing but what they can fit in their mobile home and live a nomadic life in the truest sense of the word. They travel around Australia in complete freedom, going wherever they please, spending the days how they want, stopping when the view is good and creating new friendships at each campsite.  When you consider all of that, even living in a bus sounds oddly tempting. We have loved travelling around in a camper van, maybe living out of one wouldn’t be all that bad.

Sorry Vincent, a Crocodile Dundee hat does not make you a real camper.

But before you start thinking that we are going to give up all of our worldly possessions and live in a van down by the river, let it be known that we just dropped a small fortune (by backpacking standards, at least) on Aboriginal art to send back home.

You know, for our van.

1 comment:

  1. Those interesting folks are probably blogging about the interesting folks THEY just met at a campground! (That would be you two!) Fun post. Keep it up!