Customer Adventure Series

Customer Adventure Series: Big Oz Explorers

16 Jul 2021

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Ever thought about quitting your 9-5, packing up the house, the kids, and hitting the road? Full-time travel isn't anything new, but more families are jumping on the bandwagon in search of a lifestyle that allows them to slow down and enjoy the simple things in life. The Big Lap of Australia is the ultimate dream road trip for many Australians. For many of us, this dream will stay a dream. But for Sian, Chris and their kids Jayda and Jack, they decided to take the leap and turn this dream into reality.

We caught up with Sian and Chris from Big Oz Explorers and asked them a few questions about life on the road, their rig and travelling full-time with kids. Keep reading to see their answers, and get ready to be inspired to travel with the family.

 

Let's start by introducing the Big Oz Explorers family!

Hey, legends! We are Chris, Sian, Jayda and Jack and now known as Big Oz Explorers! Before leaving on this adventure, Chris, 33, was a heavy machine operator and Sian, 33, was an Enrolled Nurse with Queensland Health. We both put a hold on our careers and lives to take the trip of a lifetime around Australia for what we thought would be 12 months. 

We also have two beautiful children on this journey with us. Jayda is 7 and obsessed with collecting semiprecious stones, learning to fish and meet every traveller’s pet at every campsite we visit. Our youngest, Jack, is turning two in a month. He was only 6 months old when we hit the road and knows nothing but the caravanning lifestyle. Jack is a typical boy loving cars, machinery and running amuck outside. 

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Sian, Chris, Jayda and Jack (Image from @BigOzExplorers)
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Jayda and Jack (Image from @BigOzExplorers)

How did this lifestyle start and was full-time travel always the plan?

We were on our way home one day, and I said to Chris, “Could we sell everything and buy a caravan to travel around Australia?” I was always the one who wanted security and a place to call home. I think he was quite shocked, but instantly replied with “YES! Let’s do it!” 

From that day, the planning began including budgeting, shopping for our dream van, getting the house on the market and telling friends and family what we were about to do. Initially, our plan was to travel for 12 months and complete the well-known lap of Australia. As our house contract was coming to an end, we resigned from our jobs and started selling everything, but we also had to adapt to COVID-19 in Australia. This was the beginning of everything changing for us. Our initial plans to free camp and visit national parks were quickly shut down and we were restricted with how far we could move and where we could stay. This forced us to slow down and enjoy our time in ‘van lockdown’ which wasn’t very locked down in all honesty. It took us 9 months to get through Queensland and by this stage, our Big Oz Explorers YouTube channel had taken off and become a hit with families stuck at home so we decided that 12 months was not long enough. I think this was when we officially became proper ‘full-time travellers’ with no real plan to go home. At this time, Sian was on 12 months maternity leave, and she contacted her work and quit for good. We were officially full-time nomads!

 

How long have you been travelling for? Are you looking to stop anytime soon?

We have now been on the road for almost 16 months and have no plan to stop anytime soon. We never knew this could become such an addictive lifestyle for us all! I think the main thing that will send us home is Jayda’s schooling if she is in need of a proper classroom again.

 

Where were you before, where are you now and where to next?

The furthest our travels have taken us so far was down the west coast to Karratha in Western Australia. We were trying to head south and away from the nomadic rush as this year (2021) is forecasted to be the busiest year for caravanning due to COVID-19. We soon learnt that the weather could get very chilly as you head south and out of season. We have travelled out of season through the top end of Australia and acclimatised to a tropical climate of humidity, rain & 45 degree days, so 18 degree days was just unacceptable! We have now headed back north and are currently seeing out the winter in the Kimberley, Western Australia until the season turns again and we can continue south.

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Ivanhoe Crossing, Kununurra (Image from @BigOzExplorers)
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Loyalty Beach, Cape York (Image from @BigOzExplorers)

Tell us about your rig. How long have you had it for and how many kms has it clocked?

We currently drive a 2020 Y62 Nissan Patrol. Our Patrol is just coming up to its 1 year birthday and has over 30,000km on the clock! We changed vehicles halfway through our travels as our previous rig was not quite making the cut for towing weights and legalities (the things you learn on the road!) so we test drove a Patrol in Rockhampton and called ahead up the coast of Queensland to find the right one and paid a deposit over the phone to the Cairns dealership. We have built it from the floor up and turned it into a combined towing and off-road weapon with a GVM upgrade, rear draw fitout, bigger tyres, snorkel, Rhino-Rack Pioneer Platform and front bar. 

 

What Rhino-Rack products do you have and how do they complement your adventures?

We are running the Rhino-Rack Pioneer Platform with Backbone Mounting System which is super handy for all those extra things you need to carry that are not practical to have inside the car. On the platform, we have a number of accessories. We use the Rhino-Rack Cam Buckle Pioneer Pickup Kit for carrying firewood, camp chairs, inflatables for swimming or pretty much anything that needs to be tied down. The buckles are so handy because they can be moved within the panels of the platform to compensate for any size load with simple pull tight buckles for accurate tension. The buckles are also coated with a silicone finish so if they drop through the grooves and touch your roof, they won’t leave any scratches or marks.

We also use the Maxtrax Mounting Pin Set which allows us to carry 4 Maxtrax on the roof. They are easy to access when you are bogged and need them the most. We have deterred theft by securing them with the Rhino-Rack HD Cable Core Lockdowns as well.

At the back of the platform, we also have the base piece for the Rhino-Rack Spare Wheel Holder ready to go. Whenever we go off-road, we put our spare tyre from under the car up top to give the underside of the car better clearance on difficult 4WD tracks around Australia. This allows us to have better underbody clearance and keep our spare tyre safe from punctures or damage. It’s also much easier to access the spare tyre on the roof if we do have a puncture while off-road on a technical track.

The latest accessory we have added is the Rhino-Rack Stow It Utility Holder which holds our shovel most days but we also use it for fishing rods on beach days. We haven’t had this accessory for very long but so far, it is one of our favourites with its simple to use lockable, quick release system. 

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All-New Pioneer Platform with Backbone (Image from @BigOzExplorers)
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Bird's eye view of the All-New Pioneer Platform (Image from @BigOzExplorers)

Out of the places that you have already visited, what are the top 3 spots that you recommend people visit?

Cape York, Queensland - this one speaks for itself. With red bulldust, cultural heritage, stunning beaches, the Tip of Australia and the mecca of four-wheel driving on the Old Tele Track, a trip to Cape York is one you will never forget!

Dampier Peninsula, Western Australia - where the rustic red cliffs meet white sandy beaches and the bluest water you have ever seen. The Dampier Peninsula feels untouched and gives you a sense of Australia that you just can’t quite comprehend until you’ve seen it for yourself.

El Questro Station, Western Australia - if you are one for adventure and enjoy hiking, do not miss this one! Located in the heart of the Kimberley near the beginning of the Gibb River Road, this place will bring out your inner explorer. With spectacular gorges and waterfalls and layers of rocks formed over millions of years, the landscape is challenging to trek with rewarding scenery.

 

Are there any spots you haven't visited yet?

There are SO many places we haven’t seen yet! We are about halfway around the circumference of Australia and have seen hundreds of places but missed hundreds of others. We have met travellers who have been on the road for over 10 years and still haven’t seen everything. Australia is just so vast with so many stunning attractions to see. At this point, we are really excited to see the West Coast of Australia and spend our days by the beach catching and cooking our feed each day by a campfire. Sounds divine, doesn’t it?

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Amalia Gorge, El Questro (Image from @BigOzExplorers)
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Pender Bay, Dampier Peninsula (Image from @BigOzExplorers)

What is one thing you've learnt travelling with kids?

Travelling with children can be both challenging and rewarding. When you live in each other’s pockets in a small space, you need to be creative to ensure everyone has space and each family members needs are being met. In saying that, we are the luckiest parents in the world as we spend every day with our children teaching them about our great country, learning life skills and enjoying our days together exploring. We have learnt that being on the road with our kids means we don’t miss a thing. We see every milestone, every smile, every laugh, every cry. In 9-5 life at home, schedules take over and you miss the small things that life has to offer such as valuable time with your kids.

 

Do you have any tips, recommendations, or words of wisdom to share with those people who are thinking about making the jump to travel for a few months or full-time?

There is one tip we want to share with you which is relevant to every person, younger, older, ready to leave or not. Don’t let fear get in the way of this decision. It will be the hardest choice you ever make leaving everything behind and selling the lot but once you hit that road, it will all make sense, and you will never look back. There is no time like today, so just do it! You’ll be attached to nothing, but connected to everything.

 

Now that you know Big Oz Explorers a little bit more, don't forget to follow their journey and live van life through their eyes as they take you on a trip of a lifetime around Australia.

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(Image from @BigOzExplorers)
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(Image from @BigOzExplorers)