How Australians are navigating a market of limited rentals and ample WFH opportunities
The Australian recreational vehicle market is booming, with figures breaking four-decade long manufacturing records with over 23,000 units produced in 2022. These figures show a 42% rebound from 2020, when the pandemic dominated many aspects of life. There are a number of theories about why the acceleration has been so significant, and one of the contributing factors is where we work - which, in 2023, is just about anywhere.
COVID-19 reshaped our world in many ways, and one of these has been the normalisation of remote work. Although the pandemic is considered over by most, it fundamentally shifted the way people work - and where they work. Remote work is on an exponential trajectory around the world and experts hypothesise that this will not change anytime soon. In Australia, on census day in August 2021, more than 20% of employed people were working from home (WFH), according to data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. In New South Wales, the figure was even higher, with 31% WFH, followed by 26% in Victoria.
Evidently, these high figures can be attributed to the lockdowns that occurred at the time. However, working remotely gave many Australians a taste for something they hadn’t experienced before. According to the PwC’s Hope and Fears 2021 report, 90 percent of Australians would choose to continue to work from home if given the option.
The rise of the digital nomad
One of the most interesting ways to explore and work is to be a digital nomad. The term digital nomad was first introduced in the 90s, but currently the digital movement is rapidly expanding. Digital nomads are essentially remote workers who simultaneously travel and work from different locations. Whereas digital nomads once tended to be in their 20s, these days the average age of a digital nomad is 32, and it’s not uncommon to see whole families hit the road.
Freelance travel writer, Jennifer Ennion, decided to work remotely while travelling with her family for a year.
‘I grew up caravanning with my parents and my husband is naturally nomadic. We’re always up for an adventure, so making the decision to go was easy,’ she says. ‘Being a travel writer is the perfect job for working remotely and I was inundated with writing projects. When I had stories to file, I had to plan to be at a campsite with good wifi reception and my husband and son had to go adventuring for the day so I could work from the caravan. When they were around, I would go to local libraries and cafes for a couple of hours, and more than not I worked at night-time in our campervan or in cap kitchens.’
According to a recent study by Lonely Planet and freeland platform Fiverr, there is now a new breed of digital worker as a result of the pandemic. They refer to this kind of worker as the ‘anywhere worker’ - a digital nomad who has a stable knowledge-work job that allows them to base themselves where they want. Of the 1,400 people from 67 nationalities surveyed, 54% identified as anywhere workers - and 70% of those were parents who took their children with them on their travels.
On the road
Given the rapid increase in nomadic workers, the demand for caravans has increased drastically. In Australia, caravanning offers a way to both travel and complete remote work, and it seems that many people are combining WFH with their long term travels. In a way, caravans offer the best of both worlds - the flexibility to work anywhere, and the opportunity to backyard travel Australia. This has become an even more appealing idea as the Australian housing crisis continues to increase the cost of the sparse availability of rental properties.
As it stands, caravans and motorhomes are in very high demand. The Australian Caravan Club chairman, Ken Newton told the ABC that market demand and supply chain issues had created wait times of between 12 to 24 months for new, custom recreational vehicles.
This makes used assets the best option to access quality caravans quickly.
Who is caravanning?
Caravan holidays are no longer dominated by retirees, as data suggests that 64% of domestic caravanning and camping trips are being undertaken by 20 to 50-year-olds. Inaccessible housing is a huge driving factor behind young generations considering the van way of life, with more young families opting for remote work freedom. In a sense, this new generation is the working generation, and they are hitting the road, supported by the ability to work remotely, spend less, and to see more.
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