Meet Clara and Thomas, a french couple who flew to Australia to explore everything it had to offer. To do this they bought a Toyota Landcruiser Troop Carrier, converted it into their home, and set off into the heart of Australia. Find out how they managed to do this without any of their own tools, and how to 'backpack' Australia in style.
Hi there! We are Clara and Thomas. Two frenchy's in their early 30s’ who took a year off to explore the wilderness of Australia with our own self converted Troopy called Lily. We are avid for adventure mixed with passion for nature. We have a love for wine and cheese, adding Tim tams to our addiction list since arriving to Australia (but not Vegemite...yet).
How did you find your vehicle in Australia, and how did you convert it?
We knew before coming to Australia that we would probably be looking for a Troopy as we wanted a vehicle with plenty of space at the rear. At first, we were considering a Land Rover Defender but the Toyota Troopcarrier won, as it's far more popular here. Meaning if something unlikely ever happened and we had to repair something, parts would be easier and cheaper vs Landrover. Before coming to Australia we discovered through our research the Troop Carriers of Australia (TOA) Facebook page. We joined the group and a few weeks after landing in Australia we found our girl Lily the Troopy. Gumtree was also the main app we used to look for a vehicle.
The next step after getting the car was to convert it. Obviously we didn’t bring any tools in our luggage (It would have been weird right ?) so instead, we looked for a place where it could be possible to borrow or rent what we needed. This time our research led us to a place called Sane Makerspace (Adelaide). Matt is the owner of the place. Super friendly and helpful. He provides access to a huge open-access workshop to anyone who’s keen to start a new building project. You can find more than 500 tools which were exactly what we needed for what we wanted to accomplish. Plus, he has a laser machine that we used to create our own enamel mug with our troopy on it, which was a super cool last-minute thing. Check out his website http://www.sanemakerspace.com/ for more info.
For building materials, we were going to Bunnings constantly. I must say it kind of became a second home when converting the troopy. We learnt a lot and had to process every step of the conversion. Believe it or not, you spend much more time doing the research on how you’ll do your setup, finding the right materials or figuring out how to do your electrical installation, than the actual building itself. But at the end it’s all worth the effort as you feel at home and ready to hit the road in your little tiny cozy home on wheels.
And for those who are actually wondering if one of us had any buildings skill before starting our reno then the answer is a big NO! Internet & YouTube were a great help along with Matt’s knowledge. So don’t be scared and go for it.
How long can you travel Australia for with your visa?
We came on Working Holiday Visas (suclass 417) and are allowed to stay for a year. Unless you complete your 88days of work (usually known as farmwork but not only) you can extend for a second year. There is now the possibility to extend for a third year but you must work for 6 months. All information is available on the Australian immigration website for those interested to learn and get accurate details.
Where have you worked in Australia and was it hard to find a job?
Finding a job can be tricky, let’s be honest.
It really depends where you are during the season and what you wish to find (hospitality/farm work/construction etc) but you will always face competition from other travelers or Australians. It sometimes takes a lot of time before getting an answer, or the opposite and you get a job in 2 minutes. In our case we worked 3 weeks in total, doing two different jobs: packing cherries in Victoria and grape picking in New South Wales. They turned out to be pretty good jobs as both were hourly paid compared to piece-rate jobs that have the reputation to be a total rip off. Let’s say you have to use your common sense and you’ll be fine finding a job.
What vehicle would you recommend other foreigners travel Australia in?
From our experience, we would say if you plan to travel only the East Coast, a Van might be a good idea because it is one of the cheapest solutions when looking for a vehicle.
Otherwise, get a high clearance 4WD especially if traveling through the center and West Coast of Australia. There are too many places you certainly don’t want to miss out on, and to explore these places usually requires a 4WD.
Our favourite vehicle for that is a Toyota Landcruiser Troopcarrier. You’ll be fine and have a lot of fun on the road. So if you can afford it, go for it. We find it the perfect match for traveling for two reasons. First it’s a reliable car and second you have plenty of space at the rear to get a proper setup. One thing we also enjoy about being the owner of a troopy is the community you’ll be part of (becoming a Legend) waving hands every time you meet another Troopy.
How long would you recommend someone travel Australia for?
Australia is certainly a huge country to travel. As foreigners, if living on the road is what you are looking for, I’d recommend to stay a full year to explore as much as you can on a WHV. A second year is always possible as mentioned earlier and will be a bonus.
For those on a tourist Visa (3months), stick to one coast and take your time to fully enjoy it. Australia is not a country you want to rush. It’s not the spirit we found here.
We like to take our time, thinking it’s a day to day adventure where you can park up somewhere unexpected for days before continuing your adventure to another part of Australia.
To Australians, I don’t have anything special to say as you’ll get your whole life to travel your own country. Lucky you!
Biggest challenges living on the road?
Whooou harsh one. I have to say the more we live on the road, the more we embrace it. Amongst our day to day challenges, we reckon that rainy days are probably the hardest because it limits your moving and you can find yourself being stuck for days.
Finding free (good) campsites can also be exhausting when you get around cities.
Otherwise, you’ll accommodate yourself pretty easily to your life on the road. It can require some organization though.
What are some of your best memories in Australia?
I always find it hard to answer that question because every part of Australia is so different but very enjoyable in its own way.
Wildlife is definitely something here! We can’t deny the fact we are still amazed by all the cute animals we’ve encountered: Koalas, Wallabies, Wombats, Eastern quoll, Possum, Echidna. But the underwater marine life was a big big highlight. On the West coast we had our first encounter with whales coming from nowhere and jumping out of the water on the with their babies. We looked at it with our children's eyes hoping to see it again one day.
Mentioning the West Coast is inevitable. In Broome we spent a couple of days in one of the most beautiful free camps so far. In Exmouth, we had the pleasure of swimming with giant turtles the size of a human, and snorkeling on the Ningaloo Reef with dolphins, reef shark, rays and magnificent colorful fish, just a few meters from the beach. It is just unbelievable how beautiful the beaches are.
Another part of Australia where we had a blast was Tasmania. Small island but worth every dollar we spent to get the troopy on the ferry. We loved the mountains and walking tracks with beautiful sightseeing. We found it was a small representation of mainland Australia, as you can find a rainforest, clear blue water, beautiful beaches, waterfalls, and mountains. Don’t miss Maria island and Cradle mountain, one of our favorites things to do for sure.
Also when we first arrived here, we had the opportunity to live for 2 and a half weeks with an Australian family running a farm in the Adelaide Hills. This experience will remain for a long time in our memory. Will would do it again and again.
But most of all we’ve met great Australian people on our travels, which is worth as much as anything else we experienced here.
How much money would you recommend someone saving to start their road trip ?
The beauty of traveling is anyone can find a way to travel on their own budget. Our advice is to do what is necessary to live your dream. Don’t be stuck in your mind if you think you are not following the norm about the amount of money you saved. However, be prepared on how you want to live your adventure in line with.
For us, our plan has always been to try and spend as much time as possible on the road without working. To do so, we worked hard and slowed down our outgoings/spending in order to save what we could for a year. We got there with something around $35-40K AUD before buying the troopy.
We invested quite a bit on the car and equipment like the electrical installation/ solar panels/ 55L fridge, but that allows us to go off-grid for a while. We like spending our time in remote places or free camping, which means our expenses go mostly on fuel and food. We choose to travel that way but you can do it differently.
So there is no right amount of money for traveling but it sure helps if you can start your travel with $15K.
Follow their journey on Instagram at @bleu_blanc_troopy