Our first ever trip to Australia signalled a series of firsts for my wife, Vicki, and me. My sister had moved Down Under in 2001 and so, just four years later, we decided to spend three weeks travelling from Sydney to Cairns, stopping off in the Sunshine Coast for her big wedding day.
Trains, planes and long overnight stints spent trying to sleep on Greyhound buses helped us to pack in lots of fantastic planned stops. Our destinations included some of Australia's world famous surfer-friendly beaches – a result of our newfound love of the waves.
One of the best lasting legacies of that momentous trip of a lifetime to Australia was the decision that we made to buy our a motorhome of our own one day.
In Oz we came across a number of fellow travellers who, with more time on their hands, were hiring campervans to take them from A to B, quite often via C! Everywhere we went we would gaze longingly at flamboyantly decorated motorhomes. Wicked Campers, the hire company, had cornered the market with a fleet of ’vans that could be picked up and dropped off at sites all along the east coast of Australia.
We watched with green-eyes as other travellers packed up and moved on their own terms. We envied their freedom all the more while we waited in a succession of bus queues and airport check-in desk scrums and consulted travel companies' timetables. We vowed that we would have our own campervan one day.
That day came in 2011 when the family purchased a 41-year-old, lime-green Volkswagen Type 2 Devon Moonraker, now named ‘Bella’. Fittingly, we decided that surfing should form part of our first trip, which is why we headed to South Wales, to the rolling waves of the beautiful Gower Peninsula, Britain's very own surfer’s paradise.
We did have a few teething problems with the old campervan that we'd bought, including a loose fridge, a rogue windscreen wiper and an unpredictable petrol pipe. Nevertheless it proved to be just the first of many memorable motorhome holidays in the South West of England that we owe to that very first excursion we enjoyed in Australia. Our extreme 'van-envy in Oz really had been a turning point – and the tour that changed our lives for the better.
Now I am pleased to see that all our friends’ children love Bella as much as we do, and our colourful little VW campervan is often the social hub of our camping trips. Our closest friends have even invested in a Swift Sundance 590 RS motorhome so we can now go on holiday together – and we all enjoy the freedom to travel when and wherever we like.
The only problem now is deciding where to go on holiday next in our campervan. Like Australia, the coastline around Britain is as stunning as it endless. At least now we have more time to explore it all in comfort.