We’ve just finished our 10th week on the road, leaving WA and the magnificent Kimberly’s behind and heading into the Northern Territory, NT. We’ve learnt a lot about camping: what works and what does not work, and we’ve got our little things which we love and can’t do without (microfibre towels, plunger coffee mugs, solar powered lights) and we’ve got our things we could quite happily chuck in the bin at the end of this trip (my finicky head torch, wonky camp table, my dirt stained HOKA shoes and a leaky water bottle). We also have in our own little heads how we would like to do our next trip; personally after ogling a few ‘rigs’, I’m opting for a 4WD Ute/tray with a mini campervan on the top, and above the roof, a retractable awning off the side. Jack definitely wants a 4WD car with a 4WD camper/trailer! It’s good to have dreams 🙂
We’ve been very inspired by our fellow campers and their rigs. We love hearing about their travels around Australia and their adventures. Everyone has their own story to tell. Certainly, on the trip we are doing, which involves stopping at campsites most nights, we’ve realised we are, kind of, the ‘Inbetweeners’, a minority on the road: the majority of our camping neighbours are retired and travelling indefinitely around Australia (ye olde, wise, nomads!), the next group are the semi-retired couples whose children have left home and they are able to take some long service leave, or work part-time and travel for anything, from 6 weeks to 3 months. Then there are the backpackers; lots of young Europeans in their packed-to-the-gunnells vans, holding 3 or 4 bodies, and heaps of gear who take over every power point at the camper’s kitchen :).Those who are our age usually have their kids with them and they are home-schooling them for anything from 3 months to a year. There are usually one or two families in each campsite. Then there’s us, the middle-aged bods, slumming it in teeny vans, putting up tents every night, to put their gear in, so they can get to bed!! We do kinda love being a wee bit different.
We’ve loved speaking to everyone, and sharing our tales too, and we often get asked about ‘our life’ before being on the road and also about the ‘Burpee’ van. When we tell them we were ‘in fitness’, it’s like confession time. Not the men, but the women, who tell me about their exercise, and food on the road, and actually the lack of exercise and their current bad food choices. Some of them have said they thought it would be easier now that they don’t have any stress, or have to rush around chasing Grand children, etc. They feel because they don’t have their stove, fridge, butcher, baker etc. they buy more packaged stuff; they eat more snacky foods; they drink more, and they are not doing their usual exercise classes. They find it hard to find exercise options on the road and if hubby is not going to go walking with them, then they don’t want to go themselves. Ah…..excuses….we can pull em from anywhere!!
From what we can see, the problem is, they are in a bit of a ‘bubble’, travelling from one campsite to the next, where everyone is doing the same thing, and looks the same – the majority, of which, are waaayyy overweight! A healthy person actually stands out in a campsite, especially an older healthy person. We’ve seen a few lean, fit looking mature people, usually out early morn, walking the local trails, beach etc.
We feel positively skinny on this trip, something Jack and I rarely feel. It’s wonderful that everyone is out here ‘doing it’, but the reality is that all the trappings of ‘home’ come with you and actually you have it on tap because each campsite loves putting on afternoon teas, pancake mornings, sausage sizzles, fish and chip nights, hot chips, ice creams and pies! Every campsite shop also has a selection of cheeses and dips and biscuits for sundowners. Personally, I think those 5pm snacks have a lot to answer for!
Those on long – service leave, who are not too much older than us, are a bit of a mix, and often are still looking fit and healthy, but there are those who have succumbed to a daily diet of eggs, bacon, beer, wine and more meat with potato salad! Their daily excursions are mostly in a 4 wheel drive. The mums and dads on this trip who are home schooling their kids are all pretty lean because they never stop or sit down (we have a lot of respect for these guys with their kids 24/7, unlike teachers they don’t get a holiday!).
It’s the older adults that worry us; their bodies reflect what they are eating and drinking and how much they are moving – and it ain’t pretty! We are in beer belly country / muffin top/ keg on legs, etc etc!! A lot of them are complaining about their knees and joints, and we know why: they are overloaded, and only have the next hip/knee replacement to be ‘looking forward’ to.
We’d love to see more campsites around Australia offering activities for older adults: aqua in the pool; gentle circuit classes for strength and cardio; yoga and tai chi for balance, agility and flexibilty. A few healthy eating challenges or initiatives would be helpful too: bring your best veggie plate to ‘Meatless Monday’; ‘Make your own healthy breakfast smoothie’ morning – these grey nomads are carrying satellite dishes, 2 fridges and a flat screen TV, they could easily throw a Nutribullet in the caravan! A walking track around the campsite, which is mapped out with Kilometre markers and a challenge to try and do as many km’s as you can during your stay would keep everyone honest and a safe way to meet other folk.
One night last week, in Derby, we had ‘Outback Paddy’ doing a sing-a-long in the outdoor ‘campers kitchen’ from 7pm till 9pm with monetary compensation from a hat being passed around. As well as ‘Outback Paddy’ – who we loved, campsites could arrange weekly talks by local nutritionists, Personal Trainers and / or exercise physiologists (great for those who are new to the fitness industry) who can run sessions on ‘healthy eating on the road’, and exercise on the road and how to measure your belly, and yer hips!!
These campsites are hosting between 100 and 450 people everyday across Australia, and they are currently packed with our seniors (we’re not quite, yet, in that bracket!). It’s fantastic for these guys because they are socialising and exploring with like-minded folk, but we think the campsites need to start thinking about the health of our seniors and start offering some alternatives to what’s currently on the agenda. You don’t know, what you don’t know; but we do, sadly, know that some of them won’t stay on the road for too long if they don’t look after themselves because the doctors surgery will have to be close by.
Maybe that’s what Jack and I will do when we retire: travel around Australia, staying at campsites running TRX, yoga and Aqua classes and healthy seminars and cook-ups, in return for free camping. Do you think we’ll get any takers?? I think we would, because from what we can gather, most people want to be healthy and during ‘confession time’, they acknowledge that this is not how they want to feel, or look. We totally, totally understand – it’s hard; and it’s only because we’ve made a conscious effort to maintain our healthy eating and exercise regime on the road, and because we have the knowledge to do so that we are staying relatively fit and healthy. Right now, we just recommend lots of books to our fellow campers – if they ask -because they’ve got the time to read and educate themselves…..the rest of their retired lives!!!