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With the last of our children about to fly the nest, we can now think about how we want to stretch our wings.
One of our bucket list items (we have so many) is to take a year off work and do the Big Lap of Australia. Driving more than 15,000 km, we’ll visit every state and territory.
We’re an Aussie couple who moved from Queensland in Australia to Scotland in the United Kingdom in 2016.
In 2021, we achieved our goal of Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK, so we can now live in either the UK or Australia as long as we’re not outside the UK for longer than 2 years – until we get our dual citizenship and we don’t have any time limits.
Since moving to the UK in 2016, we’ve travelled extensively around Scotland and parts of England. We visited Europe for the first time with a short stay in Berlin, Germany. And we had big plans to travel more broadly around Europe before we were hit with travel restrictions in 2020.
We returned to Australia for a brief family visit in early 2022 and were amongst the first Aussies allowed back in without having to quarantine. Now we want to head back Down Under and do a substantial road trip.
Empty Nesters’ Big Lap of Australia
We’re busy planning our gap year now as soon-to-be Empty Nesters. There’s a lot to consider before quitting our jobs and travelling across the world (again).
We are planning to spend 12-14 months in Australia. During this time, we’ll drive around Australia for about 9 months in a 4WD, probably a Toyota Troop Carrier (‘Troopy’) with a rooftop tent (like an Alu Cab conversion or similar).
Our Big Lap Plan
Before leaving the UK for our gap year in Australia, we’ll end our rental agreement, put our belongings into storage, and sell our car. The money we get for our car will be added to our savings to fund the trip.
We’ll leave for Australia by the end of March in one year and return to the UK after mid-April in the following year. This will ensure that we’re not residents of the UK for tax purposes. We don’t plan on working for at least a year.
We’ll fly with Emirates as they have direct flights from Glasgow – Dubai – Brisbane, with only one stop for a few hours in Dubai. This way, we also don’t have to go through London Heathrow (and wait for hours), and the flight is split nicely into a 7.5-hour leg, followed by a 14-hour leg. Still tough but easier than the direct flight from London to Darwin that we did in early 2022.
In our first month back in Australia, we’ll re-establish ourselves as Australian residents for tax purposes and buy a 4WD. We’ll fit it out for off-road driving and camping, complete with a rooftop tent.
Life in a Rooftop Tent
We’ll be sleeping in a comfortable double bed every night, with panoramic views of our surroundings, to enjoy sunrises, sunsets, and starry nights.
Here’s a video from one of our favourite Aussie travelling couples, Jack and Megan. Their Troopy build is similar to what we dream of having.
We seriously considered a rooftop tent but then imagined living in our car for 6-12 months and decided that a Troopy gives us the internal space to sit comfortably during the day, with a table for our laptop and meals and greater protection from the elements.
We’ll upgrade the vehicle for off-roading (e.g., all-terrain tyres, lift-kit/suspension), get camping equipment (e.g., jerry cans for water, portable 80L fridge/freezer), gold detecting equipment, and of course, the rooftop tent conversion if it doesn’t have it already.
When we’ve finished our 12-14 months travelling around Australia, we’ll flip the vehicle, and we’ll still be saving money compared to what the cost of hiring a 4WD would be.
Big Lap of Australia: Anti-clockwise
We plan on driving the Big Lap of Australia in an anti-clockwise direction to ensure we catch better weather in each state/territory.
- Starting in Queensland, we’ll head up to Cairns and then Cape York via the Old Telegraph Track.
- Drive through the Northern Territory during the dry season, visiting Darwin and the Red Centre. The last time I was at Ayers Rock / Uluru was in 1985!
- Travel from the Northern Territory onto Western Australia via the Gibb River Road, through Broome, and onto Perth, before heading across the Nullabor Plain over to Adelaide, South Australia.
- Victoria next, avoiding winter and doing a spot of gold detecting before snake season starts in earnest.
- Tasmania and its beautiful National Parks.
- Maybe a month in New Zealand (tick another place off our bucket list).
- Drive back up the East Coast, through New South Wales via Canberra, and then back up to Brisbane.
- Once we’re back in the Brisbane area (Gold Coast, Toowoomba, Sunshine Coast), we’ll venture over to Fraser Island.
We’re busy researching how to do the above without totally breaking the bank. We’ll be free/bush camping in National Parks and other areas where it is allowed and using unpowered sites in caravan parks. There will undoubtedly be some overnighters under a solid roof, some house sitting, and the occasional splurge on accommodation or bucket list activities (like a sunset camel ride in Broome).
Between now and when we fly out of the UK (to be confirmed), we’ll share what we find, the links to some of the best blogs out there from people who have done the trip or are still doing the trip, and the must-see stops and experiences.
Reality can destroy the dream, why shouldn’t the dream destroy reality?George Moore