Raised eyebrows and foreheads creased in consternation greeted me when I divulged that my husband, Markus and I, planned to go camping on our next holiday.  My friends and family are only too aware of my predilection for comfort.


People who didn’t know me so well either assured me that I would absolutely love it or hate it, depending on their own experience.

Camping, tents, camper trailers and caravans are not words which have ever existed in my vocabulary.  However, it has always been my husband, Markus’s dream to travel around Australia when we retired.  I did not want to be the one to thwart him.  I know how frustrating it can be to want to achieve something and having everyone “agin” me. And Markus did heroically put up with me writing a book about a love affair with another man for ten years.

Marriage, I’ve found, is always a matter of compromise.

Markus researched 4 wheel vehicles for a few years before deciding on a VW Toureg. I bought him what he said was the best Christmas present ever – a Weekend 4WD Driver Train Course with Vic Widman. Fortunately I didn’t have to go.

Markus then began researching what kind of camping equipment would be best.  Not tents fortunately – they’re too much like hard work to put up and down at our age. I have also heard tales of leaking tents and flash floods sweeping through campgrounds in the middle of the night taking tents with them.  We also didn’t fancy towing a huge“you can have it all wherever you go” type Winnebago on the back of the car.

Caravan Parks full of people didn’t appeal to either of us.  We planned to go off road into the National Parks so we needed something that would accommodate this.

We drove over to Silverwater towards the end of our summer holiday and checked out the T-Van which Markus had decided was “It”.  It looked sleek from the outside which is important to Markus. It appeased his design background.  It had off road capability and from what I could see it looked okay.  Not that I could talk with any experience.  This was only the second time I had been near any camping equipment and the first time I do not want to remember.

At least both the sleeping area and the annex were off the ground.

Fortunately we were able to hire before we bought so we put down our deposit on the spot to rent it from 26th April to May 10th.  I was hoping that he wouldn’t like camping and would forget about his dream of travelling around Australia in a campervan.

The t-van proved a disaster.  I was so glad we only rented and didn’t buy it.            I couldn’t sit up in bed. To get in and out of the bed I had to wriggle back and forth like a snake.  On several occasions I forgot about this and sat up, hitting my head on the roof usually during the middle of the night. On the last occasion I burst into tears. Tears were prevalent during that first camping experience. I hated every minute and insisted on staying in a motel every couple of days. I especially didn’t like communal bathrooms and in particular having to wear thongs in the shower. Cooking  outside on a gas ring proved a nightmare.  Until we cooked outside, I was completely unaware of the existence of the diverse number of insects, flies, bugs and moths which existed in Australia.  It seemed that most of them presented themselves at our campsite when dinner was being cooked and/or eaten.  The another annoying feature of the t-van was that the inside area was only as big as a telephone box.  There was very little area to sit in if it was raining, cold or windy.

I sincerely hoped that this exercise would put Markus off the whole idea. But he was not to be deterred.  Next, he insisted we attend the annual camping and caravan shows to look at what was available. I hated every minute of it this time too.  Crowds are not my thing and the Camping and Caravan show was packed. I could not even console myself with a decent lunch as the food they served was atrocious.

Markus finally in 2006 came up with the Kimberley Karavan.  It only takes a couple of minutes to set up.  I can sit up in bed.  There is also table with two benches either side.  There is a microwave and a cooktop inside.  It also has air-conditioning and a toilet with a shower over it.

There are negatives. The main one is that I am a clothesaholic and there is only one average sized drawer for my clothes.

I’ve had to make a lot of adjustments and adaptions to be able to go camping without being a complete party pooper, which you will read about in my upcoming book “The Reluctant Camper”.



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Susan Joy Alexander

Susan Alexander is a former tennis champion, successful business woman and a poet.