Let's Meet The What's Up Downunder Winner
Read as John Dolan tells all about a random encounter at Lightning Ridge that prompted him to join Club 4X4 Insurance...
The Club 4X4 Insurance team sit down with John Dolan – the winner of the What’s Up Downunder trip (airing September 2023).
So, John, where are you from, and how did you get into camping?
I’m originally from Scotland and joined the navy as I wanted some adventure and through the navy, I had access to that. I’ve been in the navy for 35 years and visited 65 different countries as part of the Royal Navy and British Armed Forces.
We took numerous camping trips across the UK. It was a lot wetter and colder there compared to Australia but managed to do it.
I have always loved camping from a young age, being outdoors and being in the countryside. The kids would come camping with us, in and around camp sites in the UK, and eventually we spent more money doing that than going to Europe, but the kids loved it and they had so much freedom and made friends.
How long ago did you move to Australia?
I joined the Royal Australian Navy as a lateral entry in August of 2011 which is when we moved to Australia.
And did you keep up camping once you moved over?
We did but hadn’t brought anything from the UK for camping due to quarantine reasons. So, we started off with a 10-man tent, esky full of ice and food and got into it from there. As time went on, we improved our gear and we starting swagging it! (In the UK we don’t have swags - so we loved that).
What’s your favourite place to visit?
Fraser is number 1 for sure, with Birdsville being a close 2nd. We went to the Big Red Bash in a swag, and it rained constantly. Despite our Darche swags being very good and sturdy throughout the constant rain, we realised then it was time to get a camper trailer or caravan.
How long have you been a Club 4X4 Insurance customer, and when did you swap over?
We’ve been with Club 4X4 Insurance since 2022, and it’s a funny story how we learned about you and why we swapped over…
We had just driven from Sydney, meeting up in with our friends from the Sydney 4X4 Camping Club at Bourke NSW, then on to Tibooburra, Cameron point (SA, NSW, QLD Border). We went out to Lake Eyre via the Strzelecki Track and Birdsville Track and ended up in Birdsville before going to the Big Red Bash.
During our stay at the Birdsville caravan park, we met a guy who had come across from Perth and he had done something to the rear axle of his BT50 near Poepell’s Corner. It cost him $15,000 - $20,000 to get it picked and towed to Birdsville. In the end, the repairs were too complex, and the vehicle needed to be transported to Adelaide, which was another $10,000 in transport costs, on top of the cost of repairs. His wife flew back to Perth, and he drove the car back from Adelaide to Perth. I was blown away at the cost and it really put into perspective that was a lot of money and effort.
Then, coincidentally, on another trip we came across Mr 4X4 Pat Callinan filming in Lightning Ridge while we were out there on a trip. He spoke about an insurance company for people who camp and go out to the desert and need to get recovered… and after only recently hearing about the troubles a fellow traveller had during our trip to Birdsville, I made the decision to get my Ford Ranger insured with Club 4X4 Insurance! We made sure we had $15,000 limit for off-road recovery (in case we were ever to be unfortunate enough to get stuck in the desert) - to me that was a godsend.
Awesome! What an adventure. So, what camper trailer or caravan did you decide on?
After watching a lot of YouTube and people we followed online like What’s Up Downunder, All 4 Adventure, Mr 4X4 Pat Callinan and Trip In A Van, we got ideas on how to camp and what was the best gear to use… and eventually we came up with the idea of a Patriot Camper (to be towed behind my current Ford Ranger). We headed down to Off Grid Campers in South Sydney. They look us through everything (X1, X3, X1H…). The X1H had a fridge, chopping board and Webber BBQ all together in one area – compact, simple and just worked well. So, we put the deposit down and patiently waited for it to get built. We ended up picking it up in December 2022.
Where did you take it for its maiden voyage?
We took it up to Mudgee for a quick break to see what it does and familiarise myself with it… it was perfect!
What’s your top camp-cooking tip you’d like to share?
Get a vacuum sealer for prepping your food! My wife and I love cooking on the road. It means we can prepare most of the meal before we go, vacuum seal and freeze it for cooking on the road. We have just recently been away and made a big Irish Stew in the All 4 Adventure pots.
What are your next big plans camping-wise?
Well, we love getting away. So my wife and I’s ambition is to retire and be on the road permanently. We have watched Trip in A Van on YouTube do it from the beginning in their BT50, and it’s influenced me a lot… I thought if he can do it, we can do it to.
You get to really appreciate what’s out there, and you talk to other people – I feel I’ve been to more places in Australia than most Australians. You can still get out there when you have the equipment, and you are covered by the right insurance company when things go pear shaped you can have a great time.
Now congratulations again for taking out the trip win! What are you looking forward to on the What’s Up Downunder adventure?
I’m looking forward to the whole experience of filming the show. We’ve got a YouTube channel, and this is inspiration and experience that I’m really looking forward to. Our Instagram is Swag Bag Go.
Plus, my wife is excited and so chuffed that she gets to come along with me on the trip as well.
We caught a peep of the itinerary the other day, it looks like you’ve got a bloody great trip ahead of you. Before we wrap up, we just wanted to ask – what’s your favourite thing about Club 4X4 Insurance?
The fact that I know that they will be there for me if I need to be recovered and having that support network. It puts less pressure and fear factor and gives me peace of mind that I won’t have to shell out a lot of money in the event something unfortunate happens to my vehicle. The premium is a little bit more than what I was paying, the product coverage is second to none.
You can follow John on his adventure of a lifetime with What’s Up Downunder on Channel 10 in September!