Dreaming about driving off into the sunset and doing the ‘big lap’ of Australia? Bribie Island resident Kari Rawlings, did just that; at the age of 69 she jumped in her white Fiat Ducato motorhome, nicknamed ‘Snowfall’, and set off with her dog Bella on their big adventure.
Doing the ‘big lap’ is something that most Australians put on their list of things to do in their retirement — usually with their life partner; cruising slowly and hitting the caravan parks along the way.
In recent times, the increase of solo Aussie women travellers are smashing this stereotype and hitting the road alone — and changing the scope of the motorhome life on the move.
Kari, who turns 70 this year, thrives on the empowerment and freedom that road tripping alone gives you. Kari bought her Fiat Ducato ‘Melaleuca’ motorhome from Horizon Motorhomes in 2012 and has lived her life on the road with her beloved 9-year old Bella ever since. They’ve been on so many enviable and solo adventures around the country, though it is her latest trip circumnavigating around Australia and completing the ‘big lap’ that is the most remarkable — she has ticked off a huge ‘bucket list’ item.
“I have to pinch myself that I actually just did that…but I did! Every single day was a highlight… Australia is just a wonderful country.”
When the big day came it began like any other — popping in for lunch at the local RSL with her family and friends. After preparing and packing, she and Bella headed south towards the Burringbar Range.
On her journey, she marvelled at endless scenery of sparkling waterways, enchanting beaches, charming country towns, striking desert landscapes and friendly people almost everywhere she went, including many other solo women on the road.
“I was surprised at just how many independent women there are on the road. So many women are there to support you if you need it and I’ve made lots of new friendships.”
Kari spent most of her journey free camping and only stayed at a caravan park if it was necessary and pet friendly (of course).
“Because I have solar power and good-sized water tanks in my Horizon motorhome, I am able to be independent for a fortnight at a time if need be. I love the freedom and it’s the best option when you travel with a dog. They can run around and get the exercise they need after being on the road for quite a while.”
Kari says she has almost always felt safe and welcomed even in the most isolated of places.
“Even if you are travelling alone, you are never really all alone,” she says.
From crossing Queensland and the Nullabor, through Western Australia, Outback Victoria and New South Wales, there are few places in Australia that Kari hasn’t seen or experienced yet. But, for this adventurous woman and many others alike, the journey will go on.
Kari’s first solo trip was through the high country of Victoria, where she stopped at the Dinner Plain and it was snowing. She used the traction control to drive in the snow and her diesel heater, fitted as an extra, was worth every cent. It was this experience that earned her Horizon motorhome the nickname ‘Snowfall’.
Kari recommends planning where you’re travelling to and making sure you’re fully equipped – well as much as possible because “stuff happens and that is all a part of the adventure,” Kari says.
As a dog lover, Kari advises a bit of research. “If you’re travelling with a pet you need to prepare and pack for them and make sure you know of pet friendly parks to stop at along the way, as most National Parks don’t allow animals.”
“But, most of all, don’t settle for a life you’re not thrilled about – hit the open road. Prepare as much as you can but most of all ask questions to fellow travellers. Most ‘solos’ are friendly and outgoing and most travellers will respond in the same way. The last few years have been life-changing, I wouldn’t change anything.”