For nearly two months I’ve been sitting on the edge of my seat, waiting to kick off an Australian road trip with two of my best friends. And in these two months, I’ve learned a lot about the process of prepping for such a trip, especially when it comes to purchasing a campervan.
1) Tell a friend about your desire to take a road trip, spend hours brainstorming, and decide by day’s end to embark on a trip together in one month’s time.
2) Discuss vehicle options and decide to purchase a campervan.
3) Scratch that idea when a friend who’s just moved overseas offers to loan you her car for the trip.
4) Discuss a possible route. Change it several times. Watch the route and timeline change further due to outside circumstances. Realize that you’re really going with the flow as everything changes on a daily basis over the course of a couple of weeks.
5) With one week to go until departure day, learn that the car you were going to borrow from your friend is no longer available.
7) Pretend you’re not panicking and take that train to the city to eat one one of the yummiest Thai meals in the city.
8 ) Spend the rest of the evening looking at campervans on Gumtree.com.au. Get an idea of how much they cost, how many are available, and what features to look for in a van within your price range.
9) Contact sellers the next morning. Arrange afternoon appointments to view and test drive the vans.
10) Arrive at the first meeting and realize there are a ridiculous amount of campers for sale on Victoria Street in Potts Point. If the appointments disappointment, we can just take a look at the countless options up and down the road.
11) Walk away from our excursion feeling quite happy with one of the vans we’d reviewed and driven.
12) This feeling of happiness is in spite of the seller mentioning “the car might be listed as stolen” seconds after Adam mentions he plans to look up the van’s details online to check its history. The seller once parked illegally, the car was towed, he reported it as stolen the next morning, and then realized it had been towed but forgot to update the police report. At least that’s the story he told us.
13) Check the car’s history. See that it checks out — except it’s still listed as “under police investigation”.
14) Call the seller the next morning. Tell him about the police report. Seller then calls police, who visit him in person and update their records upon a) seeing his ID and b) seeing the van.
15) Police business resolved, make an offer for the van. Rejoice when seller accepts the same day. He’s leaving the country soon, needs to make a quick sell, and dropped the price.
16) Meet the seller the next day and buy the van. Feel good about all of the paperwork he has shown (including a recent service) and how well the car runs. Learn that in keeping with backpacker code, we need to keep the name given to it by the first owner. The owners couldn’t decide between a German and Spanish name, so he’s “Paul Heinz, aka Carlos.” We like it.
17) Drive the van away from Potts Point and out to Penrith. Watch the temperature gauge rise a little too quickly and way too high within an hour. Consider panicking again.
18) Purchase camping gear to supplement items the van already has.
19) Transfer the van’s registration from previous owner to Adam at the RTA. Visit NRMA and purchase road side assistance and insurance. Feel quite responsible and accomplished.
20) Buy round trip ferry tickets to Tasmania for us and Paul Heinz.
21) Shop for lights to replace two busted bulbs. Travel to four wreckers to find a replacement drivers side mirror. Try to fix a few other problems yourself, despite the fact that neither of you are mechanically inclined.
22) Drive home after part shopping and watch the temperature gauge go through the roof. Call to book a service the second we walk through the front door. Still feeling responsible but not so accomplished.
23) Take the car in for a safety check and list a few areas of concern.
24) Begin packing and hope that any issues the car has will be resolved in a day or two.
25) Receive call from auto center. Learn that we should replace the entire motor and it won’t be ready until next week. Hear the price tag. Add the canceled ferry to that price tag. Feel sick.
26) Spend an hour feeling absolutely lousy.
27) Reframe. It’s not an ideal situation but repeat to yourself that these things happen. Dropping heaps of money is bound to happen to every traveler at some point. At least this happened now before we got on the road. Keep repeating.
28) Drink a glass or two of wine. Eat a couple of squares of dark chocolate. Break out an assortment of cheese and biscuits.
29) Call the Spirit of Tasmania and reschedule the ferry for a future date. Feel ecstatic that the rebooking fee is peanuts compared to the price of a new motor.
30) Wait for the auto shop to receive the parts it needs to fix the van. Wait over one week. Wait in an air conditioned house as the temperatures outside reach 100+.
31) Receive a call from the auto shop assuring you that the van will be fixed “soon”. Pray that “soon” means “within the next two days” as you REALLY don’t want to pay to cancel the ferry tickets to Tasmania. Again.
32) Call the auto shop several times over the next few days. Hear “it will be ready soon” and “we’ll call again soon” yet again. Eventually hear “it will be ready Friday morning”.
33) Contact the shop on Friday morning in desperation — the rescheduled ferry departs Sunday morning from Melbourne. Learn that it will be ready Friday afternoon.
34) Call the auto shop late Friday afternoon. “It will be ready by 5:30.” Go to the auto shop. Wait around. SEE YOUR VAN FOR THE FIRST TIME IN TWO WEEKS.
35) Pay more for the repairs than you paid for the van.
36) Drive away, breathing a sigh of relief when the van doesn’t overheat and drives more smoothly than before.
37) Madly pack the van after sunset.
38) Wake up the next day at the crack of dawn and wave goodbye to Sydney.
IT’S TIME! Melbourne or bust! (*knock on wood*…)