TRAVELLING AROUND: Rob and Michelle Catania, with children Jade and Henry, have started Free Range Camping, where campers provide help in exchange for somewhere to stay.
TRAVELLING AROUND: Rob and Michelle Catania, with children Jade and Henry, have started Free Range Camping, where campers provide help in exchange for somewhere to stay. Contributed

Family gets creative for a never-ending camping holiday

LIFE on the road is relaxing, but the Catania family has found life helping those in need is even more rewarding.

The former Sunshine Coast residents packed their lives into a campervan three years ago and have been exploring the country ever since.

While dad Rob said initially they stayed at caravan parks and enjoyed the laid-back lifestyle, as money got tight they were forced to get more creative with how far they could stretch their dollar.

So the foursome, including mum Michelle, Jade, 7, and Henry, 4, discovered house sitting, volunteering and helping out farmers in exchange for accommodation.

Their journey from town to town also uncovered a gap in information available to travellers who wanted to connect with and support local businesses and work their way around the country.

So they created the Free Range Camping website as a means of pulling all that information together in one place. The free online travel resource not only provides details of where you can park in luxury or on the cheap, it will also act as a business directory for services you might need throughout the journey.

Do you desire to hit the road and travel throughout Australia?

This poll ended on 18 September 2015.

Current Results

Yes I will caravan across this country as soon as I get a chance

77%

No, if it can't be seen during a work holiday, I don't want to know about it

3%

I'm already living a drifter's dream

19%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

Since launching in May, Free Range Camping has more than 15,000 registered members and 36,000 followers on Facebook, many of whom are eager to lend a hand in return for a place to park their caravan or motorhome while they travel.

Mr Catania, director of FRC, said helping out other people turned a holiday into an experience.

"We went to a winery with the kids and they got to see an apple orchard for the first time, learnt to pick apples and grapes and see how it was made into wine, pat the sheep and meet the farmers," he said.

"Every day was a buzz and it was so exciting they didn't want to leave.

"This is a win-win as no money changes hands and you can help someone out in turn for a place to stay."

FRC is now forging links with volunteer organisations such as Buy a Bale, Blaze Aid, Aussie Helpers and Outback Links to spread the word and connect more travellers with farmers in need of assistance and drought-stricken communities in need of a cash injection by travellers.

"As we travelled, we found many struggling communities and businesses, which increased our desire to shop locally wherever possible," Mr Catania said.

"As we strongly believe in supporting Australia, local communities, families and farmers, we will not be charging anyone who can supply accommodation options or services to list in our directory. We have also pledged to support struggling communities and organisations by contributing a share of our profits as and when we are able."

Mr Catania said they hoped to reach 50,000 members, but were already overwhelmed with the level of support for the fledgling business. To see what it has to offer, visit www.freerangecamping.com.au.


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