The decision was made. We were going on a trip around Australia in a caravan. Our next step, naturally, was to find the caravan that was going to make our dream a reality.
The weeks following our decision to take on OBL were some of the most exciting in recent memory. It was as if with that one decision, in a small instant, our lives had changed. We had a new found energy and focus. The mere thought of the trip, knowing we were actually going to do it would get our heart rate up, the blood really flowing. There was a light at the end of our tunnel and something to dream about and plan for together. For the first time (in what felt like a long time) we were working towards a common goal, something that didn’t involve Lloyd’s work, or my ‘work’ at home with the kids. We were back on the same team.
What came next was a steep learning curve in all things caravans and caravanning. We had always been campers, but never caravanners. It was a brave new world we were entering, or at least it felt that way as we were trying to get our head around buying a caravan. I mean honestly, where do you even start?
We spent what felt like every waking minute researching caravans: online, magazines, YouTube, caravan dealerships, caravan shows… you name it, we did it (including stalking caravans on my weekly drives along the Hume Highway). It was a labour of love and all we could think about doing with any spare moment we had. I often think that sometimes the most exciting part of a holiday is in the planning and the anticipation of the holiday, and that was certainly true in the early stages of our planning for OBL.
After a few weeks of research and wild dreaming we realised that in order to be able to find the van for us we needed to understand the realities of our trip and what we could realistically hope to achieve. We went from wanting to have the full off-road caravan so we weren’t limited in where we could go, to realising that in seven months we were not going to be able to go absolutely everywhere (not even close!). Not to mention, with two young kids, genuine off-road caravanning - potentially hours of slow going over heavy corrugations - was not appealing for us this time around and not something we felt we had to achieve on this trip.
So moving on from the ‘off-road’ dream, and with a reasonably flexible budget we decided that, budget permitting, a full-size van was what we were after. It is a luxury indeed, but knowing when we pull up with our van all we have to is unlock the door and we are pretty much ready to go held great appeal for us, especially with young kids in tow. Likewise, we liked the idea of minimal pack up which would no doubt become tedious when the process is being performed every other day for seven months. In short, if budget would allow we decided we wanted to spend our time away enjoying our new surrounds, not setting up and packing down camp every other day. With kids we knew we needed bunks, and from looking at other vans we decided that a full ensuite was preferable and a deep shower recess that could double as a little bath for the kids was very much a desirable feature.
In the end, we decided that we were in the market for a family touring van - capable of handling some rough roads, but mostly built for the black top.
One of our first Google searches turned up a van called ‘Big Red’ by New Age Caravans. We immediately loved it and it went straight to the top of our list. As luck would have it (perhaps it was a sign) there was a caravan and RV dealership stocking New Age caravans located only 45 minutes from where we live. We went for a visit and from the first moment we stepped inside a New Age caravan we knew we were on to a very good thing.
That said, we were in no hurry to make a decision. This was going to be a big investment financially and a big deal for our family, for our dream trip around Australia and for future holidays and trips as a family. We wanted to give ourselves time to do our research and be confident that we were making the right decision. We were eager and excited, but we were realistic and restrained, as difficult as that was at times!
It was at about this point that my research turned a little obsessive; it was the first thing I would think about in the morning, and the last thing on my mind when I went to sleep at night! With a bit more spare time on my hands than Lloyd, I had taken the lead on all things caravan research and I was fixated on making the RIGHT choice for our family and our trip. Everywhere I looked there was more and more to consider - base price, inclusions, exclusions, build materials, length, suspension… every manufacturer claiming they were the best, the safest, the most affordable… It is very overwhelming when you are trying to compare apples and bananas.
We went to some caravan/camping/outdoor type shows and that was so critical in our decision making process. It gave us the chance to inspect first hand and imagine ourselves living in a variety of vans in the one place. There is no way we would have been able to physically experience and inspect the range of manufacturers that we did had we not visited these shows.
There eventually came a point where our research had stalled and we knew we had to start making some firm decisions. I was at this stage still fixated on finding the ONE caravan in all of Australia that was RIGHT for us… and then I had a light bulb moment… I realised there was actually any number of vans that were right for us and maybe only a few that would constitute a wrong decision.
This revelation was incredibly liberating for me personally, and so, having done our due diligence, and knowing what we wanted from our van we followed our hearts to the first van we fell in love with, the van which was unsurpassed by any other van we came across, and ordered our New Age Big Red.
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