Saturday, December 3, 2022

Sea change for Farm 253

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Alesha Millard, The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper

Feet up
Photo courtesy
The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper

If I mentioned Farm 253, most of you would remember driving down a beautiful tree lined driveway to be greeted at the end by a lovely little cafe filled with mouth-watering cheesecakes, home-made preserves and flavour infused dishes. A dream which has since been ticked off the bucket list and now a memory for Nicole and Laurie Ryan. 

Fast forward a few years after closing the café, you’ll also learn that the Ryan family recently sold their beloved farm, agreeing it was time to move on, and with the property market so strong, they took the opportunity.

Nicole, Laurie and their two teenage daughters, Elly and Molly, are now enjoying freedom on the road in a fully restored bus. Nicole and Laurie had originally been saving up for their booked trip to the USA in 2020 to celebrate a significant birthday and Nicole had planned to use eight weeks of her long service leave. The original idea was to hire an RV and explore the west coast of the USA and Canada. Unfortunately, because of travel restrictions due to COVID-19, they were unable to go. Luckily, they had travel insurance and got their money back. Although it was extremely disappointing, they thought the trip would eventuate later, but the pandemic had other plans. As COVID-19 intensified, the states were locking down and all overseas travel was restricted. They discussed the idea of travelling around Australia instead. 

Nicole, who was a teacher at Barham High School, was keen to utilise her long service leave but had to be mindful of the disruptions this could cause for her students and the school. After careful consideration and family discussion, they decided 2022 would be the year to travel around Australia. Elly and Molly were entering new stages at school and with Nicole having three terms of long service leave, it worked well with Elly starting Year 11, as it only goes for three terms. The idea of travelling in an RV appealed to them because of the freedom and flexibility it enabled. 

Laurie had always wanted to do up a vehicle, so they decided to buy a bus for him to convert into an RV. This way, they could make the bus suit them and have all the things in it that they wanted. They used social media and followed lots of other people who were doing what they wanted to do. “COVID-19 made us rethink our current lifestyle and we decided that we needed to take on a new challenge and opportunity to see Australia,” said Nicole.

Bus fitout
Laurie Ryan works on the bus transformation.
Photo courtesy The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper

I couldn’t help but ignore my curiosity about how much a bus would cost to convert into a home on wheels. Just before Christmas in 2020, they purchased the bus from a bus company in Yass for $12,000 after Laurie had spent months looking for a suitable vehicle. Once the bus arrived home, the transformation on the 1997 MAN 61-seater bus with all the original seats and fixtures began.

Originally, the bus had been operating as a school bus and had three compartments underneath, which meant plenty of space. On completion, the bus was converted into a five-seater motorhome. It took Laurie one year on and off to complete fully, but the main action took place in October, November and December of 2021. I was lucky enough to have a grand tour a few days before the family ventured off and was amazed by how much room was inside. I also convinced myself I wanted to sell our house and buy a bus too! The bus sleeps four people, has an abundance of storage, a full-sized fridge/freezer, bathroom, pantry, kitchen, lounge/sitting area, washing machine, two-seater recliners and two armchairs, and it even has two split systems, which add even more comfort. 

Laurie is very talented, but I was blown away by how impressive the result was. Besides their two teenage daughters, a few other family members made the trip including their three dogs, Weanie the dachshund, and Hunter and Jess the German wirehaired pointers. Living on a farm meant they had to rehome quite a few animals from goats to their blue tongue lizards before they left.  

Traveling with two daughters in high school and a mum as a teacher means there will be no skipping school. Elly and Molly were enrolled at the Dubbo School of Distance Education before the trip to ensure the work arrived before they departed. Their work will be a combination of written work booklets and online work, as well as weekly contact with their teachers via phone or email. I enquired about what the girls thought about learning on the road. Elly thinks it’s great because she is studying four subjects that she couldn’t do at Barham High. She is also keen to focus on her studies and looking forward to working at her own pace with limited interruptions. Molly, however, will miss her friends, but she is also keen to do her learning from all over Australia, meeting new people and is keen to learn more behind the camera lens. 

The bus
Photo courtesy The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper

With any new adventure, you’re always faced with challenges. For the family, they all agreed that finding places to store everything was a challenge and remembering where they put things. Other things like making sure the overflow hose for the washing machine was in the correct place before doing the washing, ensuring everyone puts things away and, of course, finding suitable sites with access for the bus and a flat surface. They also took another vehicle which has been very handy as it enables them to scout out sites and towns before taking the bus there. Traveling with dogs also limits where you can stay and what you can do.

The Ryan family officially hit the road on December 19. They had a rough plan to go over the mountains to Lakes Entrance then up the east coast, but are otherwise taking it day by day, considering the weather and crowds. Although they’d love to get right around Australia, they are hoping to go up the east coast and across the top and see how far they get. You can follow their adventures on social media. Once the adventure is finished, the Ryan family plans to buy a block of land and build a new home. 

Maybe the Ryans will inspire you to step out of your comfort zone and make some new adventures this year. They have certainly inspired my family, which will also chase those beautiful sunsets of Australia this year. As someone recently said, “It’s like a whole community of travelling families out there!”

The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper 10 March 2022

This article appeared in The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper, 10 March 2022.

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