Most fellow RVers would agree that one of the biggest advantages of creating a mobile lifestyle is the ability to live and work from just about anywhere. Most RVers also know that this advantage is also what fuels the potential and desire for even more travel and freedom.
Now into our third year of living, working and traveling fulltime in our motorhome and having just recently notched the 48th U.S. contiguous state onto our travel belt, we can’t help but feel we’ve only scratched the surface of our travel goals. We plan to keep exploring the USA, with Hawaii and Alaska in our sights for 2017, but we’re also excited about the possibilities that exist for international travel.
Being more than three years since our last trip to Australia, I had been feeling the pull to visit home, and while Marc was open to the idea, we didn’t action it right away. As fulltime RVers, we’ve found that as long as we have decent Wi-Fi, we can work from almost anywhere in the world. So in the spring of 2016, we decided to try something different and headed Down Under to explore Australia for a month.
Being such a long flight, (8,000+ miles and 18+ hours of flying time) we specifically chose to go for four weeks and to work for part our trip, rather than only stay for 1-2 weeks as a vacation only. It’s such a long way to travel and we wanted to make the most of it.
It was a good opportunity to put to the test our options for 'international living and working in another country and time zone and then share the pros and cons of our experience for the benefit of others who may be interested in expanding beyond their existing borders.
This ended up being one of our big goals for the trip – assessing just how far we could take this location independent lifestyle, especially with Marc’s 8–5 job.
But before we even stepped on the plane, we had a very important practical matter to take care of:
Storing our RV
One of our biggest considerations was where to safely store our RV while we were traveling internationally. I called several local RV storage facilities but had little success as none would allow us to store for just one month – they only offered long-term storage. This left us with three alternatives:
1. Leave the RV set up at a campground with hookups to keep the fridge and A/C running while we were away. With this option, we would have to pay the regular monthly rate (as long as the campground allowed the RV to be left vacant). It would be a convenient ‘lock and leave’ option, though not inexpensive.
2. Another option we considered was storing our RV in a campground storage yard for just a few dollars a day – we had done this the previous year when we flew to Colorado to spend Christmas with family. Our Thousand Trails camping membership provides this option, but their nearest property was a 1.5-hour drive from Dallas-Fort Worth Airport.
3. Park our RV on a friend’s property.
We were lucky enough that option three panned out for us. Some Texan friends of ours graciously invited us to leave both our coach and TOAD on their property which fortunately happened to have RV electrical and water hookups. Not only did this save us on storage costs, but we were able to leave our coach connected to power which meant keeping our batteries charged and our fridge running as well as peace of mind knowing our RV and possessions were in a safe place.
Balancing work with vacation time
Working global and mobile is a concept that I am familiar with. As an Aussie, when I had my business in Australia, I traveled domestically and to the USA. But it was definitely new for my husband, Marc, who works a 40-hour workweek as an Operations Manager for a U.S. company. Fortunately, because the company is mostly virtual, he is able to work remotely.
Like most Americans, Marc’s vacation time is fairly limited, so we had to create a schedule that would allow us to balance work and play. I’m self-employed so my schedule is more flexible, but naturally we wanted to stick to the same work hours throughout our trip.
Having lived and worked full-time on the road for two years now, we’ve become used to adjusting our hours to stay aligned with our working time zone. We get up early on the west coast and sleep in when on the east coast, but with a 16-hour time difference, Australia was a whole other kettle of fish which is why we were a bit nervous about it, especially Marc.
Of the four weeks we were away, we worked 11 of the 19 working days. Marc took eight days of vacation time to try and break up our schedule and ease the load, giving us time to adjust. Marc took one day off for the flight (week one), two days off on week two, and five days off in week four which ended up giving us nine consecutive days off, including weekends.
The time zone factor was our biggest challenge, as the 16-hour time difference meant we started work at midnight and finished at 9am – the graveyard shift. We prepared ourselves as best we could by keeping our schedule very light at the beginning of our trip to get plenty of sleep and to get used to our new routine and working hours.
Yet while the graveyard shift was tough, it also allowed us to do some exploring on the weekdays, sleep during the afternoons and then start work in the evening.
Initially, Marc was nervous about having sufficient internet connectivity (which worked just fine) and being able to work productively in different environments as we moved to five different locations during our stay. In our RV, we both have separate, ergonomic work spaces which allow us to work optimally, but flexibility is key when traveling as you just never know what situation you might encounter.
How did we travel internationally without our RV?
While we do have hopes for an Australian RVing adventure sometime in the future, for this trip we stayed in ‘stick and brick’ accommodations.
Aside from the international flight, we managed to get around via a couple of domestic flights and rental cars. We stayed mostly with family and friends which kept our accommodation costs low, but we did splurge on a week-long stay in northern Queensland so we could visit the Great Barrier Reef.
What were the trip highlights?
We had such a great time overall but unanimously agreed on these highlights:
1. The Great Barrier Reef
It’s such an incredibly beautiful and special place to visit and being able to snorkel among the coral and marine life was an experience we’ll never forget. It’s a place we would highly recommend for anyone to visit if they get the chance.
It is truly one of the most beautiful cities in the world – I am always captivated by the aerial view flying into Sydney. Even though I lived there for 18 years, I see it through very different eyes as a tourist and appreciate a lot more about Sydney now than I did before. The beautiful Harbour, the stunning Bridge, the architectural beauty of the Opera House. The historic Rocks area. Walking across Sydney Harbour Bridge from the north to south – I can’t believe I never did that the whole time I lived there. It’s an easy half hour walk and the views are among the best you’ll ever see – and it’s completely free, so we did it twice.
3. Byron Bay
A beachside town situated on the easternmost point of mainland Australia – Byron is an absolutely beautiful part of the country and boasts a stunning lighthouse, excellent restaurants, a laid back surfer’s culture and plenty of healthy food options. It has a special vibe of it’s own that is hard to describe but you can feel it. I’ve often described it as “Boulder (Colorado) by the Sea”.
4. The Beaches
Australia is known for it’s magnificent beaches and having traveled all around the USA now, we’re both even more convinced that every beach lover should get themselves down to Australia. It’s hard to beat Australia’s soft and sandy white beaches and the clear, blue warm water is hard to resist, especially on hot days.
5. The People
You can truly feel the genuine warmth of Aussies who are generally very open and easy to talk to. When they ask you about your travels, they really ARE interested and engaged. Having lived in the USA for so long, it was heartwarming to be reminded what great people they are – very laid back and easygoing. And I’m not just saying that because I’m an Aussie! You just feel so welcome there.
Australian RVing Tips
While in Australia, we did do some research on future Australian RVing options. We dropped in to see a few campgrounds to get a feel for them and took photos of the different kinds of RVs we saw along the way. We also visited an Australian RV dealer we knew would be able to advise us on our Tiffin motorcoach.
We learned that they import Tiffin Breeze baby diesel motorhomes from the USA then convert them to Australian standards. They completely switch the steering to right hand drive and changing the entry door to the opposite side and changing the electrical system too. It was fascinating to learn about the process – which was a much bigger, more time consuming and costly exercise than we imagined! At just 32 feet long and 96 inches wide, the Tiffin Breeze is among the largest size motorhome legally allowed on Australian roads and would certainly be considered among the most luxurious. They are priced at a premium, so for now, it will remain something we can only dream about!
Reflecting on our experience
One of the best things about this trip is we proved we were able to take this trip to the other side of the world and still work productively, without Marc’s employer noticing or being impacted in any way.
Any temporary disruption to our schedules and work environment was short-lived and definitely offset by our ability to spend time with family and friends on the other side of the world, go to the beach during the day and explore different local areas with something new on our doorstep each time – which is actually very much like our RV lifestyle. The difference being that as full-time RVers, our office and home setup remain constant, even when the location and scenery changes.
We’re now very confident in our ability to live, work and travel from pretty much anywhere we choose. And, that’s a pretty cool feeling.