Grey nomads hit the road in force

They’re a rapidly growing community in Australia. Some do it because they want to, some because they feel they have to and some have no choice.

But whatever their reason, the grey nomads, as they have inevitably become known, are increasing in numbers – and voice – throughout Australia. Our land mass is perfect for life on the road.

You can travel for years and never visit the same place twice.

But who are these people and why do they live as they do?

For the most part, they’re the Baby Boomers, the ‘60s generation now approaching, or in, their 70s who can’t help joining a movement as a means to be different.

Or, as in many cases, it’s the financially sensible thing to do.

For the couple who own a home and little else, it can make a degree of sense to cash up, spend up to $250K (it’s easy to spend much more) on a flash mobile home, stash the balance in the bank, in shares, or  whatever and take to the road.

Plenty are doing it. Just look at cyberspace to check the number of sites and blogs devoted to the grey nomad lifestyle. Memberships and readerships are in the hundreds of thousands.

They’re pulling caravans or, increasingly, driving rigs (it’s what they call them) of varying sizes and degrees of luxury.

We looked at a few all-in-one rigs at prices ranging from $200K to $300K. All were superbly appointed with luxury fittings from flat screen TVs (several actually) to high-end stoves and microwaves and toilet  facilities.

And you don’t – yet – need a heavy goods licence to drive the things.

There’s even a German one (price on application) that comes complete with a “toybox” that can accommodate two Ferraris or similar runabouts.

But whichever way you hold the map, you’ll be two people in a very confined space that will test the most loyal, loving and row-hardened relationship.

And that’s before you start to think of dealing with the contents of the mobile toilet.

On the other hand, you can see this wonderful continent we’re so lucky to be able to call home.

The drawbacks?

Caravan or mobile home rig, they’re the devil to park. You can’t – in most cases – drop in on the city dwelling kids and park your rig at the gate. Most councils won’t let you and most neighbours will  complain.

So you’re left with finding a place to dump the rig while you go visiting.

Of course, once you’ve found a place to park, you can uncouple the caravan/trailer and set off in the car. You cannot do that with a fixed rig.

So any city visit takes careful planning. Many of the nomads carry bikes (motorised and pushies) but that may not be suitable for all.

And while bashing the bitumen can make tedious sound like the pinnacle of hope, these rigs – fixed or otherwise – are very poor off-roaders. And if you break down in the bush, well …

So you’d want to know the basics of mobile home and diesel engine maintenance before you hit the road.
A couple of the dealers we spoke with (we didn’t take the plunge in the end) mentioned that classes were available which sounded like a good idea.

 “All were superbly appointed with luxury fittings from flat screen TVs
(several actually) to high-end stoves and microwaves and toilet facilities” 

The cost?

You can pay millions if you have them and are ready to part with them. While the popular price range seems to be between $200K and $500K there’s literally no upper price limit.

And the battlers are still getting around in converted vans that can cost as little as $15K.

There’s also a thriving second-hand market in road rigs but, as with used cars, you’d want to be careful.

And if you want that Australian road adventure, be prepared to pay for it.

The new rigs are about as fuel efficient as they come, but they can’t cut the price of fuel.

Some may be cheaper in the sales yard but will cost you more in the long run so it’s important to check, and remember that the manufacturer’s fuel usage figures are derived from expert drivers, on a perfect  surface in perfect conditions.

So add a few bob to their figures and shop around for insurance.

Work opportunities?

Not a few are following the fruit picking season from south to north. It should be possible to do it in the opposite direction, shouldn’t it?

Whichever direction you travel, be aware it’s physical work that may not suit every oldie who wants to try it.
On the other hand, it’s outdoor work and it’s casual, meaning you can usually choose the days and times you want to put in the effort.

And the wonder of the internet has enabled many to work from “home” – whether they be writers, online marketers, sales people or whatever. All they need is a mobile or wi-fi connection and they’re in  business.

Plenty seem to pick up other casual work along the way, while others consider themselves retired and intend to remain so.

How many?

The Australian Bureau of Statistics certainly recognises the term “grey nomads” but specific numbers aren’t so easy to come by or maybe it needs an expert statistician to plough through the data.

But there’s no question that the numbers are on the increase. Just talk to the dealers who’re finding that sales of rigs to oldies is a growth area.

There are quite a few around – google them up and be surprised at the number in our region.

Or just google “grey nomads” for an idea of the sheer number of sites, blogs and magazines available. It would take a day to look at them all.

The benefits?

See this amazing continent of which we are so lucky to have stewardship. Come to appreciate a constitution that gives us freedom of movement when so many in the world lack it or have had it taken away.

Or just enjoy the thrill of an open road adventure.

Thank goodness for Australia.