My marriage ended in 2010. After 43 years of marriage, my “settlement” totalled $8000.
I had no car, limited savings (and not enough to buy a car), but was offered house sitting for several years. Unable to find work – I was “too old” and “overqualified” I did further study (to keep my brain active), and kept house sitting – moving from place to place.
Eventually, sick of living out of suitcases, I rented a unit, where the rent kept increasing at a rate that my pension didn’t. Unable to cope with paying rent of some 70 per cent of my pension, I decided to move out and live in some form of “tiny house” – an old battered friendly Toyota Coaster.
I am new to this – but finding that I am not alone as there are many single women living “on the road” in a variety of vehicles. I chose an old Toyota Coaster – which has given me no trouble in the 3000 kms that I have driven in the last two weeks. So far. It has been a learning experience!
Currently, I am travelling to the centre of Australia – and happily meeting other women who are part of a group of some 6000 members who travel alone in Australia. We have an event organisation at Ross River Resort, just out of Alice Springs.
Living in the van while it is stationary in someone’s yard is different to the experience on the road. Preparing the vehicle for the road means ensuring everything works. And that it is packed correctly so that things don’t fall and break with the motion of the vehicle.
It is a small space so packing is an art. No space for things that are not necessary. I have a fridge, a port-a-potty and a shower, a supply of water on board and a few facilities that enable me to live quite well. Mechanical problems on the road happen – it’s part of the life on the road.
There are challenges. Having to buy expensive fuel in the outback is one issue. Finding somewhere safe and inexpensive to overnight is another. I have learned that there are “free camps” – places where Grey Nomads and others stay overnight. Usually, there are no facilities. Maybe a rubbish bin or a rocky fire pit. There’s no water in a free camp – so one needs to fill containers when water is available. That’s why staying at a caravan park occasionally is necessary. Access to water, showers, electricity and washing machines. Bonus swimming pool if the weather is suitable. I can power my computer! My phone I can recharge while driving.
Listen: Christian Wilkins talks to The Binge about Filthy Rich and Homeless.
There are many women on the roads. I am meeting others and we share our stories. There are women who live in modern motor homes, others in camper vans, and some who drive a car loaded with a tent for sleeping.
I have met women who have been living this lifestyle for years. A broken marriage or the death of a husband perhaps was the catalyst for starting this lifestyle or just a decision to see our vast and wonderful country. Some never married and have lived life as a free spirit, taking on jobs as they need to. They travel alone, or perhaps with one or more dogs or a cat, perhaps in a motorhome towing a car. There are many varieties of vehicles on the road.
Everyone I’ve met has been happy with their choices. However, like me, they do not know what the future holds. The biggest concerns are health issues. What if they are faced with some level of incapacity? Who helps them? Some with adequate funds, see themselves moving into a retirement village, or perhaps in with family. There are some who don’t know what they will do. Like me. I don’t have a plan. I’ll see what happens after six months.
Insight, Women on the Edge airs Tuesday, 8.30pm on SBS and will be available to watch after this time on SBS On Demand.