Meet Ann and Peter, ordinarily of Northern New South Wales. Instead, they’re just back from three months travelling through Queensland and the Northern Territory to Western Australia’s Broome and back… funded almost entirely by long-term letting their home.
Ann is a travel agent who was already used to working remotely; Peter is a retired project manager from the crane industry.
“The original idea was to go away and have trips for about a month, or six weeks at the most. But when things started to slow down for Ann, it was ‘Let’s go and do this’,” explains Peter.
How Peter and Ann lived the travel dream
Ann and Peter have a big home in an almost-Queenslander style in central Bangalow, having left Sydney when their children were “settled”, in 2006.
Then, earlier this year, they realised the high demand, induced by the lockdowns in Sydney and Victoria, for rentals in the regions.
Because of the COVID restrictions, they couldn’t get their regular housesitter either.
So they retained a local real estate agent for an appraisal.
“We didn’t want a holiday rental and if we couldn’t have rented it on a permanent basis we wouldn’t have rented it at all,” Ann says.
This is because the couple wanted the freedom to go away without the higher maintenance or higher risk of changing holiday makers.
Were they surprised at the $1600-a-week rent they secured for a three-month letting?
“Yes, we were!” Ann says. “It was a pretty decent holiday budget – and time.
“The people that rented it were a family with two boys and their main reasoning was that they were renovating in Sydney and wanted to get out of that renovation. So they were wanting to get out and away for a while,” Ann explains.
Then the lease and rent ended up stretching for longer than expected – almost another month.
“The lack of tradies in Sydney was a big problem for the tenants. They were expecting it to be finished, and it took much longer.”
So where and how did Ann and Peter spend the money?
How Ann and Peter travelled and hit the trails
First, they stress, you need a good car.
“We’ve got a Land Cruiser. There are lots of young families travelling around with Land Cruisers too,” Peter says.
Next, Ann and Peter bought a new $24,000 Swag camper trailer.
“It’s not a luxury one as we didn’t want to be spending a whole bunch of money in case we didn’t like it,” Peter says.
A second reason they chose a camper trailer was because they wanted to be a bit more off-road.
“Really, I think it’s just as good as the larger ones,” he says.
Peter can say this with some authority since being on the road is not new for the couple.
“Back when we were 50, we sold the family home and bought a caravan and travelled around Australia for three years – again, working as we went,” Peter says.
That was in 2001 and fast forward to 2021, it’s a very different experience.
“There are that many people travelling around that it’s better to have a camper trailer to get into the areas the caravans can’t get to,” Peter says.
Ann adds: “Just to explore places where we didn’t necessarily go before – it gave us a bit more freedom rather than a full-on caravan.
“It was good going back to the places we’ve been before; the growth is just amazing.
“Now we can use it as our bedroom when we visit the kids in Sydney.”
How to make the rent cover the relaxation
Did the proceeds from their house rental cover the holiday costs?
“I suppose we could have made it each week for that amount. If it wasn’t for a big-splurge Kimberley cruise – which was for the big ‘0’ birthday I was running away from – I am pretty sure it’s covered most of the stuff we’ve done,” Ann says.
“Fuel was expensive, and the camping grounds up into Broome, $50-55 a night.
“In country towns in Queensland, it was more like $30-35.”
To help make the rental money go the distance, Ann and Peter would cook for two nights and go out the third.
And topping up their funds through it all, when Ann was in range of the internet, she’d grab the laptop and do an hour or two of work.
“It’s all possible,” Peter says.
Ann adds: “You’re not working that hard [in the travel business] because there hasn’t been a whole lot going on.
“I was still working as I was still getting people credits but they haven’t been able to use them, so it’s all a bit stagnant.
“It’s all taking off again now – the timing is kind of perfect really.”
It’s now life as usual for Ann and Peter
“We could still be going but we’d had enough,” Ann says. The tenants, still struggling to get their Sydney renovations finished, had wanted to extend the lease even further.
“It’s funny because we ran into another couple who were travel-weary in a camper trailer. Three years in a caravan didn’t phase me. But with a camper trailer, you’re in and out.
“It’s a maybe-500m walk to the toilet. You think, ‘I want that for the cooking and it’s in that drawer’ – you have to walk around and unlock it.
“I think we’ve found our boundaries.”
At which point Peter intones: “I could have kept going.”
And it certainly helped that the tri-state adventure was – essentially – free.