“If you’re thinking of taking the family travelling, DO IT! Stop worrying about the reasons why you can’t and look at the many reasons why you should!” That is the advice this week’s featured Adventure Seekers, Juanita and Gus Soper would give anyone who is considering packing up life to set off on a Big Lap of Australia! The family of four from Cairns, Tropical North Queensland hit the road three months ago and are collecting new memories at each destination they visit. Their honest, fun, real-life travel story below may inspire you to set your own personal” Explore” goal for 2018, start planning your budget and prepping your four-wheel drive! Enjoy the Soper Family’s story.
Names: Juanita, Gus, Taylor (11yo) and Jessie Soper (8yo)
Where are you from? Cairns, Tropical North Queensland (still the best place to live)
Describe yourselves in 5 words: Fun-loving hardcore glampers loving adventure
What are you up to right now?
We’re halfway through a 6-month lap around Australia and are currently in Melbourne after a great trip through South Australia. We travel in a Ford Ranger Wildtrak towing an off road Jayco Expander (Outback).
How and Why did you make the decision to take 6 mths off to travel on your big lap?
Given that my husband runs his own finance business, 6 months was the maximum amount of time we felt we could be away from it. It also meant missing only 2 terms of school that included 10 weeks of school holidays. As Taylor, our eldest child will be in her final year of primary school in 2018, we felt like now was the best time before high school and the harder school lessons😊
Any nerves about taking off to travel?
Of course! I personally had horrible dreams involving my kids. The usual snake bite, shark attack and human-predator type scenarios. I also worried about whether I would be able to teach them on the road and be of any use to their continued education (they can’t get that stupid in 6 months, can they?) My husband had concerns about the business and how much of a hit financially we would have to endure and thankfully that’s proving to be unfounded. And our kids certainly had their share of meltdowns about their friends forgetting them and all the parties they would miss out on. But I think nerves are important. They keep us from getting complacent.
How did your family and friends react to the news you were off to travel?
Everyone was positive and some, slightly envious. Our group of friends are like-minded adventurers who have come on many camping trips with us, so they had some real helpful, practical advice to share. Some are planning their own lap, so our trip is no doubt being closely followed and noted. Our parents have also been very supportive, tracking our travels on their maps at home.
Is there anything you miss about ‘home life’?
Definitely not the things I would have assumed I would miss like the dishwasher, Netflix and my comfortable bed. For me, it’s more the basic stuff I miss like long hot showers/baths, privacy, cold drinking water on-tap and companionship with people who have known me for more than one day. I’ve asked my family the same question.
Jessie – her pets, friends and her teacher.
Taylor – her BFF’s and awesome showers.
Gus – his friends
What luxuries do you miss most?
Definitely a PEDICURE! My feet are disgusting!
What vehicle including your set-up are you travelling with?
We’re in an off-road 18ft Jayco Expander Outback. It’s got 2 double beds that pop-out, a set of bunk beds, a toilet, shower and ensuite. It has 2 x 80 Litre water tanks (which we go through in 3 days), a 3-way fridge, solar and gas. We have reverse cycle air-conditioning and a modified bike rack that fits two big bikes over the draw bar. We also brought our generator with us which we’ve only used a couple of times.
Share with us one of the most memorable moments you’ve had during your travels so far?
A lot of our memorable moments involve those times we’ve been surrounded by some of the many families that you meet on the road. The kids have a chance to catch up with their own kind and we have a chance to relax with ours. Other than that….
Gus – 4WD track in Cape François Peron National Park, WA.
Taylor – swimming with the dugongs off Shark Bay, WA
Juanita – eating the ‘fresh as you can get’ Pacific oysters off a floating pontoon/oyster bar in Coffin Bay, SA.
Jessie – watching an octopus in his ‘garden’ in the shallow pools off the coast of Kalbarri, WA.
The most bizarre experience you’ve encountered on your travels?
My growing fondness for cask wine…haha…it’s cheap, there’s lots of it, and it doesn’t break! Seriously though, probably the times we’ve bumped into people, and it works out to be just 2 degrees of separation! Australia might be a vast country, but it just shows how small the world really is.
Describe your ideal campsite.
Our ideal campsite is definitely in the bush surrounded by shady trees, plenty of wildlife, a babbling creek, an open fire, a winery nearby and a cool mountain-bike track to keep the hubby happy. Don’t want much, huh?
Biggest mechanical fail on the road and were you able to fix it?
Realising pretty early on in our trip that we needed better tyres after getting a flat in the middle of a high 30-degree day leaving Lawn Hill (the back way). After changing tyres and then without a spare, it was a very nervous 130kms drive before we were back onto sealed roads. That day wasn’t much fun. Thankfully Mt Isa had the tyres we needed, and after paying more than we should have (remote location tax), we carried on our way with 4 new tyres slapping ourselves on the forehead for not doing that before the trip!
Name one product you wouldn’t leave home without.
Now that’s ridiculously hard!! Aside from the practical things I’d say bikes. In every town we offload the bikes and go for a ride. It’s a great way to see the town, explore the campsite or caravan park and keep the kids active.
Favourite dish to cook on the road?
Beef Massaman curry. It’s everybody’s favourite besides Gus’s beef and veggie stew.
How are the kids enjoying the experience?
They are absolutely LOVING IT! We haven’t had the TV on once, so they spend their time creating, drawing, riding, playing music and exploring. I’ve also never seen them read so much. It’s beautiful to see how they have grown closer, even choosing to sleep together some nights. Can’t say they’re always enjoying having to keep a journal of their travels and of course, there’s always those moments when World War III breaks out, but for the most part it’s been a healthy, happy time.
Have you stuck to your budget?
No, we’re definitely spending more money than expected but we’ve decided that as long as we don’t go silly, let’s not let the thought of running out of money stop us from doing what we really want to do. The trick is finding out exactly what you’re interested in and not just doing something because a tourist brochure says it’s good.
Biggest expenses you’ve found?
No doubt petrol. The most we’ve spent so far is $1.89/L in the Northern Territory. It’s all the little expenses that add up too, like coffees and eating out. We just make sure that when it’s a travelling day, we make our lunches, pack some snacks and close our eyes when we approach bakeries (sometimes that fails). Because both my husband and I like a good coffee, we brought the coffee machine with us. That has saved us $94.50 per week. I’ve seen lots of those Aeropress Coffee makers too which is another option if you won’t be accessing power too much.
And anything else you would like to tell us?
If you’re thinking of taking the family travelling, DO IT! Stop worrying about the reasons why you can’t and look at the many reasons why you should! Travelling is good for the soul and why not explore our own backyard. It shows us how much unnecessary stuff we have in our lives and teaches us more about ourselves and our relationships with our partners and our kids. It gives you more time to think without all the noise of life getting in the way. There’s no doubt this experience will leave its mark on me. My relationship with my partner is the best it’s ever been, I’ve had some wonderful, quality time with my children and discovered my new love of op shopping! When we return home, I’m hoping for a smaller house on a bigger block that has a giant tree to sit under, and that the TV stays in the box!