Our fellow campers are an inspirational young couple who have travelled almost as far as we have. Ashley and Alana come from the Sunshine Coast and camp in their ex-postie van. Two years ago, Ashley fell off a wall and broke his back. Now a tetraplegic, he has embraced a new “normal” and this first trip south with his girlfriend Alana may just be the start of a nomadic lifestyle.

Ashley and Alana, travelling tetraplegic in a wheelchair, photographed at Scottsdale, Tasmania
Ashley and Alana have driven and camped together from the Sunshine Coast to spend the holidays with Alana's family here in Tasmania.

It’s inspiring to see another traveller on wheels. Our friend Johnny spent six months travelling around Australia earlier this year — by rail mostly, but he has also successfully hitchhiked around both Australia and New Zealand.

Friends who believe that travel is difficult with children should try travelling with a wheelchair! It’s certainly possible — as Ashley and Alana demonstrate — it just involves working out what’s possible and adjusting life to suit.

Ashley and Alana, travelling tetraplegic in a wheelchair, photographed at Scottsdale, Tasmania
A wheelchair lift is mounted in the door of the van. This set-up shows how simple it can be to travel and camp in a van — even with a wheelchair!

Alana said that so many of their friends gave reasons why such an undertaking — travelling and camping with a tetraplegic — wasn’t possible. But she and Ashley chose to ignore these naysayers. And in doing so, they’ve proved to themselves — and to their friends — that enjoying a full life doesn’t have to stop after an accident like Ashley’s.

Although they’ve only been in Tasmania about the same amount of time as our family, Ashley and Alana gave us great tips on where to go and camp. They’ve discovered that with a bit of ingenuity and a lot of strength, they can get along many tracks that aren’t considered suitable for wheelchairs, and so have enjoyed walking (wheeling) in National Parks from Queensland to Tasmania.

Ashley and Alana, travelling tetraplegic in a wheelchair, photographed at Scottsdale, Tasmania
Alana opens up the back of the van to show me how roomy it is. A hoist is mounted on the ceiling to help move Ashley into bed. A folding wheelchair is stored above the bed for times when Ashley's electric chair needs recharging. There are special brackets on the floor to hold Ashey's wheelchair in place while they're driving.

The inside of Ashley and Alana’s Ford Transit van is quite simple. It has a double bed and room for Ashley to move about in the back. By using storage under the bed and along the walls, they’ve found places for everything they need.

Because the truth is that we actually need very few accessories to enjoy life. And that’s why travel can be so freeing. Until we’re forced into a tiny space — like a bus, a caravan or a tent — we believe that all those things that take up space in our houses are necessary.

Ashley and Alana’s trip south is the biggest one they’ve done, but I hope it’s not the last. They’ve inspired themselves with their adventures, and I hope that they will continue to lead a life that pushes outside the comfort of the ordinary to explore the wonders of the extraordinary.