When Haydn Lochhead (25) and Felicity Regan (24) needed a change of scenery in their lives, they decided to embark on one of the biggest road trips someone can take... Driving around Australia over 7 months coming to a grand total of 27,000kms.
What were you doing before you decided to go on this trip?
Haydn Well straight out of school I got a traineeship with a company called Illawarra Retirement Trust that is an Age Care and Retirement Provider in their procurement department. I have been there for 7 years and am now a full function accounts payable clerk.
Felicity I used to work for IRT too as an in home carer. It’s funny because I actually met Haydn two days after I quit.
Haydn It was a good conversation starter that’s for sure. It got us talking and the ball rolling laughs.
How did you end up meeting?
Felicity I went out with a friend who said he had some lovely people for me to meet. It turned out to be Haydn and his older brother. After some casual drinks at the old Oxford in Wollongong we just started talking. We didn’t exchange numbers but kept running into each other.
So you weren’t set up at all? How many years has it been now?
Felicity Not at all, we just talked for a while that day and kindly exchanged a goodbye. Then we kept running into each other in the weeks after. It has been 5 years. We started dating after only a month or so of meeting each other.
Haydn Not planned at all. I tried to play it cool but I knew straight away… laughs.
What were you doing when you got the idea to take the trip?
Felicity I was working at Virgin as a domestic Flight Attendant. I was with Virgin a bit over two years which is long enough to realise that the lifestyle is so different from most industries. You can do four sectors in a day, which is a 10 or 12 hour day and you don’t know if you’ll finish in your home city or elsewhere. I only saw Haydn twice a week even though we lived in the same house.
I had completed half a degree in Nursing down in Wollongong. I enjoyed the course but it wasn’t the right time for me and I wanted to keep the job at Virgin. I decided to apply to study at University via correspondence. That fell through when they only accepted me for a fifth of the units I completed. It felt like I had done a year and a half of study for nothing.
The idea of travel was running through my head, I needed to get away for a while. I went home and posed the idea to Haydn of traveling around Australia. He was a little bit critical of it at first, wondering how we would do it but we decided on it together...eventually laughs.
Haydn We had discussed the idea before of seeing our own backyard. I know my parents did the trip when they were around our age in a Jeep. So it kind of sung true as it was something we should do.
I think it’s good to go when you’re young but the common thing is for people to see it when they’re older or retired.
Felicity That’s exactly it. We met a lot of the Grey Nomads. There’s not many young Australians travelling the country. We found that people were surprised we are Australian. They guessed we were German, Swedish or French but we were like “oh no, we’re just from Wollongong”.
Take us through the places you visited when you drove around Australia.
Felicity We began our trip in Wollongong then continued down the coast to Wilsons Promontory, followed by the state of Victoria to Melbourne where we visited some friends. Up next was the Great Ocean Road, Mt. Gambia and followed the coastline to South Australia for the Fringe festival. March is a busy time in Adelaide so it’s a great time to visit. We met a man who recommended the Flinders Ranges. We didn’t have plans to go there but we took his advice and It ended up being one of the trip highlights.
Haydn It was extremely isolated and the first red coloured dirt we came across. We realised that was the start of the ‘real’ outback and was a reminder to carry enough water and fuel. It’s recommended that you carry 10 litres of water per person, per day. We could get by with 5 litres of water per day, but your eyes and lips dry out from the heat. We had two spare tyres with us the whole way too.
Felicity After the Flinders Ranges we saw Eyre Peninsula, Port Lincoln and back up through Streaky Bay across South Australia. Once you get past Eyre Peninsula it’s not very populated as it’s almost the Nullarbor. We went to famous surfing place Cactus Beach which has massive sand dunes and salt lakes. Not to mention the Bronze Whaler sharks and white pointers.
Haydn The surf break is amazing. Cactus beach is about 20 kms out of Penong, South Australia down a bit of a rough road, but it’s worth it. It’s described as a kind of a Galápagos Islands experience because of the wildlife. It looks like there’s about 50 different types of birds hanging out on the sand.
Felicity We reached the Nullarbor and stopped to sleep at the Bunda cliffs which were incredible. Basically we followed the coastline along to Western Australia, right down to Augusta. Up the coast through Margaret River, where we spent a bit of time before reaching Fremantle and Perth. Next stop was the Pinnacles Desert near Carnarvon which had bright yellow sand with incredible structures that kind of looked like a graveyard.
Then we continued north of Perth to Kalbarri which I think is very underrated, to the mining areas of Port Hedland and Broome. We were going to go to Karijini National Park, but it’s best if you have a 4WD for those areas. We went up as far as Derby, which is an interesting little community. We then ventured across to Windjana Gorge. Once you get past Broome it’s so isolated and different from the East Coast. Then we went to Halls Creek and Wolf Creek. Wolf Creek crater is spectacular. That’s down the Tanami track, which is a challenging road. Next was Kardinya before we went over to Darwin, Northern Territory back down the Stuart Highway to Alice Springs, Uluru, Watarrka National Park, Devils Marbles, Kings Canyon. I would encourage anyone to see the beautiful Kings Canyon if you’re going anywhere near the centre of Australia.
Threeways near Tennant Creek was next before going across North Queensland, through Mt. Isa, Charters Towers, to Townsville. We went up as north as the Daintree Forest, Cape Tribulation. We then made our way down the east coast for the return leg back home.
Was there much you couldn’t do because you had a van instead of a 4WD?
If you were to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
Felicity I would go for longer but I should be pretty happy with a 7 month trip! We didn’t stay in any place long enough to experience how it would really feel to live there. Even when you stay for a week, you can’t quite experience what it’s really like to live in an isolated community.
After 7 months, were you exhausted from living out of the van?
Haydn Some days were hard because you didn’t have a room to retreat to. The bed in the van left enough room for sleeping but you could never just close your door to get away from everyone if you were having a bad day.
Felicity It was difficult when it was really hot and there’s nothing you can do to cool down. Otherwise the close quarters wasn’t too bad. The basic act of getting water was such a simple task I took for granted previously. Finding sources of water and showers can be tricky, because it’s not great to go a week without a shower laughs.
Tell us about the van. How did it evolve over the trip?
Haydn Flick did the decorating, she put up lights and made it a home. I made it semi functional. It’s a 2001 Ford econo van. I bought it from work as an ex laundry van, it had never done a hard days work in its life.
Felicity It’s a hard find. We were lucky to find something like that to use for a backpacking vehicle. Haydn fitted it with a solar panel, which ran us a fridge, so that was a nice luxury.
Haydn We had a dual battery system. That second battery was charged via a solar panel on the roof. It had limited power, so it could only power the fridge and charge your phone, but it was a nice luxury.
Felicity For my birthday we were at Wilpena Pound, Flinders Ranges. We went to the pub to spoil ourselves for dinner and saw that Flight MH370 disappeared. We then realised just how much of the news we were missing.
Did you run out of things to talk about? Listen to a lot of music? I can’t drive for 10 minutes without playing music laughs.
Haydn Surprisingly not, quite the opposite!
Felicity Heaps of people said to us, take audio books and an iPod. We just talked in the car as we drove. My MacBook was good for watching a movie sometimes but then the dvd drive broke, ending that activity. We had a mobile internet USB stick to use which was handy for looking up camps in advance.
Any negative experiences with people along the road?
Felicity I think there’s a lot of lost souls on the road. We came across a lot of people that were homeless, but you wouldn’t have guessed it at first. When you realise they’re living in their cars, it’s sad because they were quite isolated from society.
Haydn There was a man that we met in Adelaide. We were just walking past and he said “Come for a beer!” he didn’t know us, but thought we were French or German. We decided to join him. He lived in the caravan park where we were staying for the week in Adelaide. The Fringe Festival was on so we wanted to be close to everything. He just seemed really lonely and was desperate for someone to talk to.
Felicity It wasn’t a negative experience, but I was a bit scared. He said a few things that were a bit out of touch. He was feeding crows and there were heaps of skulls around his caravan. It was just a bit uncomfortable and then he kind of didn’t let us leave for a while… but in the end he got too drunk and passed out so we left.
How was the fuel situation? That’s a pretty crucial part of the road trip, were any close calls?
Are there any places you would revisit? What were the highlights for you?
Felicity The first place that I would go back to is Wilsons Promontory National Park, Victoria. It’s beautiful with lots of wildlife, yet not that isolated.
Haydn Around the coast of South and Western Australia was some great, big surf so I loved being able to get the surfboard out a lot there.
What advice would you give people interested in doing the same trip? How much would you recommend people budget for a trip like this?
Felicity If you wanted to go for 6 months, excluding the cost of buying your vehicle I’d recommend about $8,000 to be pretty comfortable. That would help cover any mishaps that could happen along the way. It’s not that expensive when you compare it to an overseas holiday, so if you want to see your backyard it is totally possible.
Haydn It is affordable if you take the right vehicle and you plan where you’re going to stay wisely. Flick had a useful app on her phone which showed free camping sites. We travelled 27,000km so take into account the fluctuating cost of fuel, that is the most expensive part of the trip. Make sure you free camp whenever possible too.
How much time did you spend travelling with other people?
Haydn When travelling, every time you meet someone new it’s always the same conversation. “Where you from? Where you going?” With Grady and Connie, it was at least a month which was enough time to get pretty close. It was refreshing to have deeper conversations again. Grady was from Washington, USA and Connie was from Germany. They met in New Zealand, started dating and moved over to Australia where they worked in Cunnamulla, outback Queensland before 6 months of travelling. We were with them all the way along the South Australia Coast until Perth.
What kind of food did you survive on?
Felicity It started off pretty lavish at first. We went from buying a lot of vegetables to just tuna most days for lunch or some crackers with cheese. Make sure you grocery shop before going into any rural areas.
Haydn You get influenced by who you travel with as well. I’d have a big breakfast with Connie and Grady but Flick just stuck to porridge. We also had pancake day, or in a good seafood area, we’d stop and get oysters or fresh prawns.
Food is such a big part of travelling as well. You’ve got to try the best things the locals have to offer!
Felicity Definitely. We did splurge and go to some nice places along the way to treat ourselves. We didn’t cook on fires, most of the time we had a double gas burner run by the little gas canisters. That worked quite well.
Any tips for people who wish to do it on a budget?
Felicity We were just really frugal when saving for the trip. We budgeted for accommodation but also did a lot of free camping. I don’t think a lot of people realise but caravan parks can become quite expensive over time when it’s $40 per night.. We only did legal camping but there’s a lot of people out who backpack and stop anywhere but I wouldn’t recommend that.
What were your experiences with Indigenous culture?
Felicity When we travelled it really opened our eyes. That was really important to me because you just don’t learn about the their history, which is the real history of Australia in most schools and I think that’s awful. There’s so many past and present Indigenous issues that aren’t talked about or at least acknowledged. Discovering this in person was an important part of our journey.
Did you get to visit any Indigenous communities?
What did the trip teach you about each other even after having been together for 5 years?
Felicity Haydn is pretty resourceful but working in his office job everyday, I don’t know these things. He’s pretty handy to have around laughs. We realised we had to talk to a lot of strangers too. I’m now more positive about seeing the best in other people since I now know how easily someone can effect your day.
Haydn Flick had good attention to detail with directions and was very assertive with people. I would fluff around or be a bit shy to ask someone so that’s her customer service coming into play. I’ve never had a customer orientated job before so I now I feel more confident about interacting with lots of different characters.