Some would say travelling thousands and thousands of kilometers across the country with four small kids is akin to madness. I have always loved being on the road and I am happy to say I am sure my own children have already inherited the same wandering spirit – the desire to keep exploring, see new country, follow that interesting-looking set of wheeltracks to see where it leads. We love sleeping under the stars, living simply and taking as little as possible with us. For us, the focus is on being together in the bush, and in letting the rhythms and forms of the land shape our days.
Last year we undertook an 8000km road trip to Central Australia. When we returned home after six weeks of sleeping in swags in the bush, the twins (who were two) refused to get out of the car after school-drop off, insisting instead ‘we don’t want to go home yet’. They had the wandering bug, and it took some time for them to regain some home/domestic equilibrium.
We are in the planning stage of another big road trip, this time heading up to far north Queensland and the Gulf of Carpentaria. We will travel through the parts of the Simpson Desert and channel country, the plains, remote gorges and freshwater rivers of western Queensland, cast across the great open savannah and saltwater rivers of the Gulf, and then head east to the coast, which we will follow all the way home.
Between us, we are fortunate to have spent many years working in remote places in the bush, so we are familiar with places off the beaten track, places few people know about and visit. I spent years mapping and documenting parts of the country we will visit on this upcoming trip with Aboriginal traditional owners as part of native title research, and am very much looking forward to returning.
Together with the kids, we are currently pouring over maps and planning routes, talking about what to take, and how to pack it. As we will travel through some exceptionally remote country, it is essential we are properly equipped. With six of us in a four-wheel drive (and no trailer), everything we carry has to be highly functional and fit into compact spaces. Our bush camping kit is well-honed, and as well as some gear essential for kids road trips, includes some cherished pieces inherited from my own father, a ‘bushman’ of some renown.
As we prepare for the upcoming trip, I have been thinking a lot about some of the ways we made our last road trip with kids so successful, and so thought it best to bring my thoughts together here. As we enter the serious stage (two weeks and counting) of preparation and packing, I’ve planned a series of posts which include my tips for travelling long distances with children; some essential items to take, strategies for keeping kids happy in the car, and ways to organise your gear and your journey which make for a simpler, smoother, and more enjoyable kids road trip.