Kate GaleaAre you two sisters? A familiar question?

It’s not people being at all rude – I don’t think. It’s just them trying to figure us out. Who we are, what we are, and what do we want in their small, sunny town. Suddenly these two, small, short haired creatures dressed in baggy shorts, singlets, carrying battered backpacks are checking into a luxury room with a king sized bed and asking where the nearest pub is. Are they boys (if we aren’t wearing makeup)? Are they children who’ve run away from home? Will they steal the china?

When we decided we were going to take a year off and drive around the giant Australian coastline we spent hours trolling the internet as we listed everything we could possibly need to kit ourselves, and our potential rig, out for the trip. This was still back when we were going to buy a bus and renovate it ourselves. Before we realised neither of us had any skills or tools required to undergo such a massive job, and our Kings Cross apartment didn’t even have parking for a scooter, let alone a bus. It was even before we read all the horror stories of the poor guys who had started bus-reno project and now had rusty, dying, shells of ex government buses on their driveways years later that they were trying to flog on Gumtree for a few hundred dollars just to get it gone.

Our research eventually led us to the The Caravan, Camping, RV and Holiday Supershow. It was out in Roseberry, which is about 40km outside of Sydney CBD where we live. So off on our motorbikes we hopped and up the Parramatta road we went.

That was the first of many things different about us that day.

When we arrived at the racecourse where the event was being held we joined a queue of caravans, motor homes, 4×4’s, Range Rovers, Jeeps, and every kind of giant vehicle there is. “Where is your car”, you could see people’s eyes ask as we de-helmeted. It was very satisfying six hours later as we sped our bikes past them as they all tried to pile out the car park at the same time. (And yes, we were there for six hours!)

So off we went into the expo. Hundreds of trailer tents that to me looked like spaceships greeted us. Immediately we were sold. Who needed a motor home. We’d just get one of these – they were bigger than our apartment, and so, so cool. “We don’t have a car to pull it”. We suddenly remembered. Oh yes. My 125cc Besbi scooter wouldn’t be able to pull that back down Parramatta Road, let alone around the country. “And we can’t stealth camp in one of them”. She’s so wise.

Right, back to the motor home idea.

“Where are they, are you looking at the floor plan?” No. I was busy filling my pockets with the free sweets and staring down the children who were after the same thing.

Then there were the motor homes. And what beauties they were. There was one that was actually worth more than the Sydney apartments we’d been looking to buy a few months earlier before this plan took over. Probably because it was triple the floor space and not opposite the strip clubs of Kings Cross. At over half a million dollars and a red rope cordoning it off, it created quite a stir amongst the other show go’ers. We didn’t even look at it. We were on a mission.

“Well what do we have here? Look at you two little pocket rockets”.

One particular salesman greeted us. What? What the hell’s a pocket rocket? Is that a toy? Does he think we’re toys? Is that how he speaks to all his customers? We asked each other two minutes later, not having hung around too long as the guy had laughed at us more than answering our questions or being helpful in anyway.

Never mind. To the next stand. Chat, chat, chat to the guy who sold attachments for your mobile phones camera so you can take really cool shots. I was completely sold and about to put my hand in my pocket. (I was allowed to buy myself one treat it had been decided as we’d entered the expo. I have no control when it comes to spending money so the rules are entirely necessary).

Then, “So what’s with you two, are you sisters”, the guy asked.

No. Who holds hands with their sister? Or calls them “baby”? (Maybe the Bronte sisters who are currently representing Australia in the swimming in the Olympics. Those two seem far too close in all their interviews. I genuinely thought they were a couple when I first saw a video of them running along the beach playing and hugging…) Anyway… “No we’re not sisters”, I said, trailing off, too much of a pussy to say calmly, “she’s my partner. And did you ask that man and lady who were here before us if they are brother and sister”. In my head I said that though. In my head I’m so much braver. And cooler.

So after a day of funny looks and random comments we were back on our bikes whizzing past the Land Rovers. We didn’t buy anything and hadn’t really found anything out that we didn’t already know that day.

Some of the vendors were absolutely lovely as you have to be as a salesperson (I can say that being one myself). But it was very clear that day that some people could not figure us out.  Or if they did, they weren’t quite sure how to engage with us so just didn’t. Which for the record is just the same way you spoke to the 60 year old guy who was on the stand before us asking the same question. And while people weren’t rude we certainly didn’t get their best service.

We are about to venture very far from the safety of Sydney and its (mostly) accepting attitude. We’re looking forward to embracing bus life and meeting all the nomads and travellers on the road who are also exploring this huge, hot land. But also getting to meet and hopefully know people in rural Australia whose towns and lives are only images on Instagram at the moment. That’s why we’re going on this adventure – to see, feel and learn new things. To meet new people many of who I expect we’ll have little in common with in terms of life experiences, apart from being in that same place at that same time. I have no doubt that we will get the odd funny look here and there, and have to pretend to be friends from time to time rather than make someone uncomfortable. But I really hope no one else asks us if we are sisters.