14 Things that have gone wrong on our Australia road trip

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14 travel challenges we faced around Australia

You know I sometimes struggle to write posts like this. It really takes a lot of effort for me to think of the bad things that have happened on my travels around Australia.

It’s not that they don’t happen, but I don’t dwell on them so they don’t commit to the memory bank as well as the highlights.

Most of the time I see them just as funny stories or empowering lessons. And they can sometimes be the stories you share the most with fellow travellers over a glass of wine around the campfire and a giggle.

So let’s pretend we’re enjoying that moment together. I can laugh about most of these moments now. Ready?

1. Savannah falls off the top bunk

I screamed like I was being murdered and shook and cried for a long time after this happened.

We’ve stayed in a lot of places that have bunk beds. Vigilance can be hard sometimes when you have so much to do and are easily distracted. Savannah loves to climb up the ladder to the bunk and we’re always pulling her off. This one time, Craig was out in the bathroom and I was fussing with the bags.

The girls were playing on the floor. I looked up and saw Savannah on the top bunk, she moves quick. I put down the clothes, and walked towards the bed asking her to get down. As I did, she toppled over head first into the hard ground. Her foot clipped the edge of the bed, which spun her so she landed on her bum in the opened suitcase below the bed.

She looked a little stunned and afraid, not by what happened but by me swooping her in my arms, rocking her and crying. Craig walked in to a mess. All I could sob was “she nearly died” before breaking down again. It was awful.

I can’t believe some bunk beds in existence still don’t have removable ladders. We’re extra vigilant now.

Read More: Travel with toddler tips

2. Savannah escapes from our hotel

We were packing to leave the Tune hotel in Melbourne. We had interconnecting rooms on the 8th floor. Craig was packing the car in the basement, the girls were in their room watching a movie, and I was packing our bags in the other room. Kalyra came in and asked me where Savannah was.

“Isn’t she with you?”

As soon as she said no I bolted out of the door thinking Craig must have taken her without me noticing, but I reached the basement and saw him alone.

All I could think of was how she could be lost in any room in the ten story building, or running out on one of the busiest roads in Melbourne (we were staying on Swanston street).

Kalyra and I ran back up to our floor to look, while Craig ran to the foyer to get help. He sprinted out of the elevator to be greeted by darling Savannah sitting on the lap of an employee drinking an orange juice waiting patiently for us to find her.

Luckily for us, we had been staying in the hotel for 5 days and this lovely employee recognised Savannah and thought it odd she was wandering around by herself.

In an effort to raise independent girls we show them the buttons to push in the lift. Our little two year old somehow escaped out of the room (with a very heavy door that was hard to open) jumped in the elevator and pressed the G button.

Back safely in our room
Back safely in our room

3. Kalyra breaks her arm

Kalyra found a friend in the playground of our Caravan Park in Armidale. Craig had driven into town to take photos and I was busy inside our camper preparing dinner.

In displaying her awesome flying fox skills Kalyra slipped off and broke her arm. I took one look at her on the ground crying and holding it and knew from the swelling it was broken.

She was incredibly brave. Over the next five weeks, we’d gotten to know 5 different hospitals between Armidale and the Gold Coast to get it re-plastered, x-rayed and then removed.

Armidale hospital
Armidale hospital

4. Getting bogged in Kakadu National Park

Our blogging buddy Laurence told us Barramundi Gorge in Kakadu National Park was his favourite swimming hole in Australia. This was coming from a guy who had traveled 60,000 km’s around Oz, so we just had to go.

We asked around and decided our car would be okay on the track in. There was a short 150-metre section of soft sand, but we figured we’d be okay.

We weren’t.

Our Ford Territory is an all-wheel-drive and doesn’t have high clearance and even though the sandy part looked ok, about half way in we came to a grating halt.

It was late in the day and we’d already spent the entire day exploring. We let more air out of the tires but that did not help. It was time to dig with our hands and sticks.

As we were digging out, a beat up Commodore came driving down through the bush beside us. What the? How on earth can it do that? A local Aboriginal guy came out, slapped Craig on the back and said, “Did you not see the alternate track beside here brother!!”

He offered a few words of advice, slapped Craig again, “You right then brother?” Not hearing him, Craig didn’t respond so he walked off and drove away. Classic.

Stranded, we continued digging until two French girls came along, jumped out of their car and sprang into action bringing over branches from the bush to build us a road and digging out the car as well. And then helped me push it out as Craig floored it in reverse.

After all that, we never got to see the best swimming hole in Australia.

We arrived back at camp to our friends cracking up at the messy state we were in – like a Yahoo Serious experimentation gone wrong. Hair a disheveled mess and dirt from head to toe.

5. Our biggest dream can’t happen – the Gibb River Road

Driving the legendary Gibb River Road through the Kimberley’s was in our sights as one of our Australian road trip highlights.

But it was smashed to smithereens when we realised our car wasn’t really made for such hard core 4WD driving. The devastation was slightly tempered by the fact we’d done the southern section ten years ago. It’s definitely down as something to do in the future with the right gear.

But, we did visit El Questro and Emma’s Gorge in the northern part of the Gibb on this trip, which was great!

at Emma's Gorge
at Emma’s Gorge

6. The van keeps falling apart

The Jaycrap, I mean Junko, I mean Jayco Swan camper trailer has not been the caravanning experience we were hoping for. It’s lovely to have a stable home and a place for our things, but we keep having issues.

It’s an outback model, but really not made for Outback travel. We haven’t even taken it on any hard roads, just corrugated and gravel, but the screws have fallen out of almost every drawer and stove top.

We had the cable snap that winds the roof up and down so Craig had to hold the roof for 3 weeks in the Northern Territory as we took it up and down. Painful.

The plug which operates the lights has been replaced twice – the ingenious designers put it right next to the sink, and I mean right next to, so water keeps running into it. It’s only 12 volt, but yeah electricity and water are never a good mix!

We thought the fridge didn’t work on gas for weeks as the instructions had the buttons labelled the wrong way round so we obviously couldn’t get it to work.

The gas is now not operating our stove top and fridge so we just spent four days in Karijini National Park without a cold fridge or gas for cooking. Lucky we had friends with us who lent us their camp stove. And because we needed cold food, we had to run our spare fridge through the solar power and by the second night it had drained the power and we could not turn off the alarm and were well and truly left without a fridge and our food was spoiled.

We had to cut our Karijini trip short to get to Exmouth to get it fixed. We had a plumber around yesterday who spent two hours working on it with no luck. The saga continues.

Read More: How to travel around Australia – camper trailer or caravan

7. Kalrya struggles to adjust to life on the road

The first few months of our road trip were tough with Kalyra struggling to adapt to life on the road and being away from school, which of course was expected to a degree.

We were experiencing some wild tantrums and unusual behaviour from her. It was such a worry for us. I nearly pulled the plug on the adventure, but the adjustment soon came and she settled down. All new beginnings take time to adjust, even for us adults.

Now she’s loving it and we can see how it’s been such a great experience for her and how much she has grown in so many positive ways, and the life-long bond she is creating with Savannah is priceless.

Hiking in Karijini National Park
Hiking in Karijini National Park

8. We break the camera

Water! On cameras. They just don’t mix. Argh.

We were exploring the waterfall circuit of the Atherton Tablelands and it was a wet day. Craig was taking photos of the waterfalls using our tripod when the rain came lashing down onto his camera. No waterproof bag in sight and then it seized up.

Brown Bread (dead). Even submersing it in a bag of rice to soak up the moisture couldn’t save her.

We were just about to head into the Queensland Outback and the remote Top End of Australia and had no back-up besides our Samsung Galaxy phones. We cannot do our work without a camera. $750 later we have a new Canon 700D body from Harvey Norman, like Jerry needs any more money!

Mind you we have not seen rain since that day and it was over four months ago!

Last pic at Millaa Milla Falls before the down poor
Last pic at Millaa Milla Falls before the down poor

9. Our BIG u-turn

In Australia, a u-turn can involve several thousand kilometres. And ours did.

It’s Victoria’s fault. We didn’t realise she’d be so good and we stayed there for three months when we only planned on one.

This meant we were heading into south Australia and Western Australia in the winter and we’d then hit the Top End in the summer. Not a good idea. So we decided to reverse direction and migrate north with the birds (and grey nomads) to Queensland and the Top End for the winter.

10. CRAPPY internet!!!

I’m sure you’ve heard us complain endlessly about Australian internet. It’s so freakin bad and expensive. We may as well be in dial-up sometimes it’s that painfully slow.

And it’s not just us complaining, every foreigner we meet on the road can’t believe how appalling our internet is compared to most countries.

I wouldn’t care if I wasn’t as reliant on it as a teacher is to a book and pen so she can adequately do her job. It causes us immense stress. We pay $330 every month to get connected. Yet every month it feels like I’m on the phone to Optus as their coverage is shit and not 95%, yet I still have to pay high fees every month.

I think it’s only fair that we invoice them for the loss of productivity and stress they’ve caused.

It’s amazing that we can manage to do anything given this huge challenge of ours. We’ve had to do things like walk up to the top of mountains, drive around town to find the best signal, and miss out on some special places because we can’t get a connection.

It’s meant I’ve had to lose work contracts and cancel important Skype interviews because I couldn’t make deadlines, or be contacted, thanks to being out of service.

Australia is not Sydney and Melbourne and I hate being charged 5-star prices for 1-star service. Yes, we should have went with the better coverage of Telstra, and we are currently looking to change.

blogging from the hill at Adels Grove in Outback Queensland
blogging from the hill at Adels Grove in Outback Queensland

Read More: The pathetic state of the internet in Australia

11. Our phones have died

Two weeks ago both our Samsung Galaxy phones mysteriously decided to stop working. Craig can’t use his at all and mine won’t accept the phone charger into the socket.

I have to constantly remove the battery from my phone and put it into Craig’s to charge (the only thing his phone can do). There are no Optus stores anywhere near us, not even in Broome, so we have to wait until we get to Coral Bay to receive loan phones whilst we send ours away to get fixed.

So Craig will be without a phone for about a month and he relies on it heavily for email and running our social media, amongst other things, and fighting over one phone wears thin real quick!

12. Running our business on the road

We seriously underestimated how hard it would be to run our blogging business from the road. Not physically hard like digging holes hard, but time-poor hard and struggling to get connected, as mentioned.

The challenge of traveling full-time, running our business, homeschooling Kalyra, being full-time parents and our freelance writing commitments only leaves a few hours each day to get things done, which is usually late at night or early mornings when we are not at our best.

We need the travel to get new content, but then we need the time to blog. It can be counter-productive. We are way behind in our publishing schedule, we’re still putting out content from Queensland over three months ago, and re-lunching our website took way longer than expected due to everything else.

It’s funny now when we think back 12 months ago before starting this adventure to what other things we planned to do. We had the idea of taking a video per day to share, continuing our weekly podcasts, and all these other grand ideas. Huh, impossible!!

Slowing down in Broome for 5 weeks was invaluable in so many ways. We plan another extended stay in either Perth or the Margaret River region to regroup mentally and get on top of things. Constantly packing up and moving sucks too much time out of our day and is exhausting.

BIG thanks to our rock star Virtual Assistant Jade back in Melbourne who has helped us keep our shiz togethor.

Susnet camel ride in Broome - Western Australia
SLOW travel in Broome

13. Buying a camper trailer

We’ve gotten faster, but packing up and then setting up our camper trailer takes us about 1.5 hours each time. That’s 3 hours out of everyday we don’t have, and it gets tiring when you move every three days.

Camper trailers can be great if you just take one or two trips per year and stay in the one place, but when you travel and run a busy business like us we would have been better off with a hard top, either a caravan or motor-home which take a lot less time to set up.

We get jealous seeing a caravan or motor-home pull in next to us, and 15 minutes later they are sitting in their camp chairs with glass of wine in hand. 90 minutes later we are still slaving away setting up camp.

Plus on long drives with a caravan or motor-home you can just pull over on the side of the road and you have access to everything in the back.

But there is no perfect solution and pros and cons to each situation, if we have one thing you always want another.

Something to think about though if you’re planning to travel and run a business like us.

14. Homeschooling challenges

Homeschooling Kalyra wouldn’t be as stressful if we were just traveling, and didn’t have our business side of things to juggle. And if she would just focus and get done what would take one hour but usually ends up taking three.

Teaching my own child is vastly different than my 15 years of teaching I did around the world. Yes they know all the buttons to push, there is no principal to send them to and moving around can make it hard to access some necessary resources. PLUS, I often feel sick having to manage her focus and behaviour as it takes me right back to the stress I felt working a job I hated. It’s painful memories and I just don’t want to go through it again. I honestly don’t know how I survived teaching for so long.

BUT, as I wrote in this post traveling with my kids has HUGE benefits and is offering them a far greater education than most classrooms can offer and the life skills and self-confidence they are now showing before we started this journey is invaluable.

I have adapted the school lessons in many ways so that it doesn’t cause any stress. I know she won’t fall behind because of these travels so I’m not longer worrying about it. Don’t believe anyone who says travel negatively affects a child’s education.

Lessons in an old train at Undarra, Queensland
Lessons in an old train at Undarra, Queensland

No regrets, just lessons

Yes, we are very GRATEFUL to the have the opportunity to travel like we do and to be spending quality time with our kids and creating life-long memories together. That’s never taken for granted and we wouldn’t change it for anything.

Of course, there are worse things in life than these challenges we’ve faced, and they might pale into insignificance compared to yours, but we can only relate them to our current life situation.

Full-time travel and running your dream business on the road is not always blue skies and singing birds, it brings it’s own unique challenges and shit can and will go wrong. I can guarantee things will go wrong on your travels too. The trick is to know this from the beginning so you’re more prepared to handle them and won’t have to fight against disappointment and feeling like a failure. You just find the solution.

Overcoming any challenges brings us closer together as a family unit, and the mishaps usually end up making for the best stories in the long run. They’re just not that funny at the time. And I’m not sure I’ll ever laugh in the future about the dire internet service! 🙂

What challenges have you faced whilst traveling?

31 thoughts on “14 Things that have gone wrong on our Australia road trip”

  1. I have had plenty of negative experiences on my travels. I have caught colds on my trips to Nova Scotia and California while visiting my brother. In Newfoundland, Canada I tripped in a hole in the street and sprained my ankle and I was supposed to go hiking. I also missed a shuttle connection due to lack of communication. It was a he said she said situation. In all these situations I made the best of everything and still enjoyed my holidays.

  2. It’s always refreshing to read a post once in a while that looks at the difficult side of travel. Sometimes reading blogs you get the idea that travelling is all easy cruising but that’s just not real life. There’s up and down, fortunately more of the former! The internet thing I can definitely relate to. Bad internet connection seems to plague me when I travel… bet most travellers would say the same.

  3. Great post! I’m truly impressed and inspired by how you’re managing your time and business. Gives me something to strive for!

  4. It’s the interruptions that are the journey. I really appreciate the honesty in this post. Holidays aren’t always “perfect” but it is all about how you adapt to them that teaches you the most valuable lessons and make for the best stories. No one ever talks about the trip where nothing interesting happens we will tell the story where we overcame adversity and were triumphant!

    1. Yeah we have so many stories from Africa that we tell- they’re all about the challenges and things that went wrong. They do make for great stories.

  5. Being out at sea cooking for rich people, having deadly seas and that freak wave happen, after that wave I went to my cabin closed my eyes and fell asleep not expecting to wake up and wishing I could say goodbye to my family rather than do it over social media, Internet worked! 6 hours later I woke up, we were docked. I packed my bags and left the boat worst captain ever!

  6. Thanks for sharing Caz, can’t have been easy to write this.

    You’ve got me seriously reconsidering the camp trailer I thought we’d feet in the medium term. We don’t tend to stay anywhere more than 3 days so caravan could be a much better option.

    One thought on your mobile data, you could consider a telstra wifi hotspot. They’re about $50 (I can check pricing if you want).. Then use that for data and keep the phones on optus if it’s cheaper

    1. We do have a wifi hotspot to cover us for when Optus goes down. We currently looking to switch over permanently to Telstra.

      I’d really consider the caravan. It will be more expensive and heavier but are so much easier. I think the camper trailers are great for those who go camping for a week or two in one place.

  7. Kate (@AdventureMumma)

    Well Done for being so Brutally Honest about everything. I wondered how your time management skills were going balanced with your need to keep up with the young ones. What you’ve offered is a valuable insight into life on the road travel blogging with children & I appreciate it 🙂 Cheers Kate from http://adventuremumma.com/

  8. Travelling on the road in Australia right now and trying to blog and work as well, I definitely feel you! The internet is a joke, we had minor problems blogging in Vietnam and even the rural areas of Lappland, where camping places have free wifi… Just stumpled over your blog and will definitely stay 🙂 Greetings from bildbeilage.com

    1. It’s terrible isn’t it? We’re a wealthy country, we should have better facilities. I know a lot of the country is uninhabited so I’m cool with no services being there, but even in urban areas we’ve struggled with decent connection. Hope you enjoy the rest of your time here – thank fully there is so much beauty to make up for it.

      1. We are unexpectendly falling in love with the libraries because of their free wifi 😉 Hope they have some of them in the north/west, where we’re heading next. But you are right: The country itself is beautiful and we’ve just seen a tiny part so far!

  9. Thank you for the Not-Everything-Is-Roses perspective. #8 Breaking the camera is the one that scares the bejezus out of me. I can go to a doctor and have a broken arm set, but Aitutaki doesn’t sell Nikon prime lenses. #11, the phone dying is a blessing in my opinion 🙂 Thank you from http://www.piecesofthejourney.com/ .

  10. Oh my! You have had such a run of bad luck!! I feel very fortunate that we’ve *just* finished our 15 months on the road around Oz and haven’t had anywhere near the problems you’ve had. Three busted tyres – that’s the worst of it. All THANKFULLY happened in really easy to change locations. Oh, we probably nearly divorced once too – but have certainly come out the other side stronger than we’d have ever been otherwise.
    On the internet connectivity issue – I think you should look at re-doing your set up. My husband works in IT on the road (plus I’ve run my blog), so internet has been key for us, and we’ve had pretty good access at least 95% of our locations (and we mainly free camp off the beaten track). We set signal in some places that don’t have a reception icon on wikicamps even. We have a Telstra 3G/4G dongle which is plugged into an antenna that raises above our TV antenna when we wind that up. We had the antenna installed at a communications place in Canberra (they specialised in radio, satellite, gps, marine and antenna coms). It sits pretty high when we wind it all up. It costs us about $210/month for 26gb. And the antenna install wasn’t too expensive at all, from memory.
    Wishing you safe and good fortune and good luck filled travels from here on in!!!
    x Heike

  11. Brenda Tolentino

    Caz, #1 happened to my daughter when she was 1 years old, although it wasn’t from a top bunk, I was still hysterical. Your description of panic was exactly as I remembered it, and my daughter reacted the same way. I’m so happy Savannah is ok.

    #7 is a big worry for us too. My daughter is 10 already and when we hit the road in 2015 on our RTW travel, she’ll be 11 and she’s an only child. She’s not looking forward to leaving her friends. I hope to find other travel families online and offline so she doesn’t feel too isolated.

    Thanks for another great post to prepare us about some mishaps that may happen on the road.

  12. Karyn @ Not Done Travelling

    My heart was in my mouth reading the bit about Savannah escaping, and it was months ago and I wasn’t even there. 🙂 You must have nearly died.

  13. Oh my, this WAS honest- and so great that you posted it! I think a lot of people will breathe a sigh of relief knowing that a trip is not a total bust if things go wrong, and that much good can come of it! I remember as a camp counselor taking kids on a long canoe trip that was disaster after disaster… but every single one of them said it was the BEST trip ever, and ALL of them came back the next year. =) Good stuff, guys!

  14. Ah haha, I SO know what you mean about internet in Australia! Oh my word, it was like going back to the dark ages. I kept having tantrums but they were only placated by the many McDonalds milkshakes I would drink whilst signing on to their free internet, which may or may not work…

    The first rule about internet in Australia is don;t talk about internet in Australia…

  15. Thank you so much for sharing these things so candidly!

    I can’t even imagine how horrid you felt when your two year old went walkabouts. I am so glad she was just in the lobby!

  16. Thanks for sharing this. Even though I am not on the road fulltime I can relate to things going wrong. When starting being a travel blogger 1.5 years ago I thought it would all be fun didn’t realize things can just go wrong. Somehow, many bloggers just write about the good things but are afraid to open up about their weaknesses and unhappy moments. I learned that you can only grow from these when accpeting they happened and not pretending they aren’t there… have fun on the rest of your journey!

  17. Travelling overseas by myself brought on massive homesickness. I combated it by having my jar of Vegemite with me – a constant in so much change – by chatting with those I met and by suddenly seeing I could recognise an Australian accent at 100 m. Every Australian (except one or two) I met became instant friends. Some I’ve met again since, in Australia, and some I’ve remained in touch with.
    Perhaps the most interesting people were:
    an English couple on the TransMongolian who couldn’t get the memory card for their camera to work. I loaned them one and just asked for it to be returned once they were home. they sent it back with their pictures still on and a description of where they had been;
    a Russian family I met on the platform on the TransSiberian who came down to share vodka with us and then gave me their holiday photos in exchange for photos from Australia.

  18. My worst experience ever, travelling the corner country with severe morning sickness whilst 6-8 weeks pregnant with my twins. The hole trip I digested 1 cob of corn and a couple small spoons of mash. I couldn’t handle the smell of the canvas tent and I had no desire to explore the places I had forever longed to travel to. I felt like death and after arriving home spent the next 2 weeks connected to drips and on strict bed rest. Now my twins are 2 and I’m ready to conqer the trip again (and enjoy it) currently discussing this with my hubby who doesn’t understand why I want to go back cos i Went there and wasn’t interested.

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