Although the global pandemic has shaken up travel plans for many of us worldwide, it hasn’t stopped the Grey Nomads from exploring their own backyard on four wheels.
‘Grey Nomads’ is a term coined to describe older people who travel in caravans, motor homes, campervans, or camper trailers for extended periods of time exploring the country. For the over 55s, this way of life is a growing trend and is somewhat a rite of passage to mark retirement.
According to Tourism Research Australia and Tourism Western Australia, 40% of all people who stay at caravan parks around Australia are Grey Nomads – the highest proportion of any travel group. So, what are they doing and why?
Life is a highway
Each year, caravan and camping trips are hugely beneficial to regional destinations and the 2018-2019 year was no different, with 30% of all trips in regional Australia involving caravan or camping, according to Caravan Industry Association of Australia.
While being a Grey Nomad is growing in popularity, the reality is that these Baby Boomer travellers are exploring different destinations, with 62% of Grey Nomads travelling anticlockwise around Australia as they tick famous landmarks off their bucket list.
Some are doing the big lap – the drive round Australia – and taking a year or more to do it. Some choose to spend a month or two in the north at the same time every year to escape the southern winter, others have sold up their homes and are traveling full-time, while some have just ‘stepped aside’ from their ordinary lives to recharge, or to reflect mid-life.
There are some nomads who only stay in caravan parks and others who wouldn’t go near one. What they have in common is they’re living out a dream of hitting the open road.
Next stop: Paradise
It’s no surprise the more exotic and tropical the location, the more popular it is as a holiday hotspot – especially for Grey Nomads. Generally, it seems they like to make the most of the sheer size of the continent, avoiding extreme weather in both north and south.
Grey Nomads are known to flock to towns right across northern Australia between May and October. Places like The Kimberley, Darwin and The Gulf of Carpentaria during the ‘dry’ are top spots for the majority.
For many Grey Nomads, travelling means they can stretch out their retirement savings or even sell up their home to fund their escapade. For others it’s all about adventure and having fun on a smaller budget. Some people may even work remotely or do odd jobs here and there while they’re on the road. At the end of the day, it’s important to keep tabs on trip expenses to ensure the caravan wheels keep turning.
Grey Nomads David and Cathy Miller said they avoid takeaway and tend to do a ‘big shop’ every three weeks or so, picking up consumables like fruit and vegetables in smaller townships as they travel.
The Sydneysiders have taken three major trips in the last few years and kept meticulous financial records. On their first trip to the Central Coast, they spent an average of $100.60 per day. “Our average daily food costs were a bit lower than usual as we ran down the stock of food consumables in the van rather than replacing them while we travelled,” David said.
The couple said they could have done things much cheaper but that it’s important to remember why you are out there. “Penny pinching and being totally focused on expenses will just detract from the overall travelling experience,” David explained.
One of the reasons the Nomad lifestyle has taken off is because it’s now so easy to stay in touch with family. Up until a few years ago, staying in touch meant the odd postcard and call from a phone box. In this day and age, mobile phones, 5G wireless and laptops are making staying connected much easier – and Grey Nomads are catching on, increasingly embracing social media, posting photos and updates of their trips for friends and family back home.
Start planning your trip
If you think the Grey Nomad life is right for you, why not take the leap? With so many fantastic destinations on offer in Australia, the hardest part is picking where to go first.
Sunshine Coast couple Garry, 61, and Chris, 64, have got the rig to go pretty much anywhere and said the best thing about the Grey Nomad lifestyle is there’s no plans, no schedules, good fun and fascinating sights and people. Their advice to wannabe nomads is to ‘do it while you can and don’t rush it’.