Rog Fryer and Vlad the Impaler on the Richmond Range.
Rog Fryer and Vlad the Impaler on the Richmond Range. Photo courtesy Rog Fryer.

Retired journalist enjoys his new-found gypsy life

ROGER Fryer took to the road three years ago and has become an exponent of the gypsy lifestyle.

The retired journalist, author, editor and photographer says it is more natural for human beings to keep on the move than to 'take root' in one spot.

Roger roams the East Coast of Australia from Tasmania to North Queensland aboard Vlad the Impaler, his modified 4WD Transit van.

Health scares often convince people to stay close to home, but a brush with the Big C as he approached retirement age convinced Roger to sell up, down size and take off.

Freed from a life chained to the office, the computer screen and the weekly wage packet, he says the result has been not just a much happier outlook, but a much healthier body.

Lean and fit from walking kilometres in search of the native animals he loves to photograph, tanned from days spent in the outdoors, Roger says he has discovered just how much baggage most of us carry in our houses and our heads; how little we really need and how far the age pension can stretch if you work at it.

From his office chair inside Vlad, Roger edits the BNT Tracks magazine for Australia's Bicentennial National Trail, extends his database of wildlife and bush heritage photographs and keeps in touch with friends, family and current affairs.

The author of Wildlife and Wilderness in the Waterfall Country, Roger has been camping and bushwalking since his teens and says his current lifestyle is a return to what he has always enjoyed most.

His book, published by the CSIRO in 2008, is a detailed guide to the natural wonders of the NSW Mid North Coast and the adjoining escarpment of the Great Dividing Range.

While he has the basics in his van, Roger has sacrificed the suburban-style comfort of a caravan or Winnebago for the long-range capability and outback access of a 4WD.

Although he has bogged Vlad only three times in three years, he has had some rough trips.

One Tasmanian track was so rocky it wrenched his shelving off the wall, cascading olive oil, coffee and curry powder over the van's interior.

His door is almost always open and he has shared his home and office on wheels with all kinds of wildlife, including a goanna which souvenired one of his socks before hot-clawing it up a very tall tree and refusing to come down.

Outside towns, mobile phone access can be difficult to find.

Legal insistence on citizens having a street address, not just a post box, means he also has to maintain a home base.

"Homelessness is illegal and that really upsets me," Roger said.

"And common property is being reduced all the time, especially access roads.

"One of the aims of the Bicentennial National Trail is to keep tracks open for people to use - and to prevent them being snaffled and turned into private property while no one is looking."

Roger says his adult children have mixed feelings about their dad's roaming, but he won't keep travelling for ever, just until he wearies of the journey – or until his unique vehicle gives up the ghost.

One major snag Roger has encountered on his travels is an entrenched hostility to the gypsy lifestyle and a persistent attitude that people on the move or without homes constitute a social problem.

"The biggest hassle about this campervan lifestyle is finding legal places to camp," he said.

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