Claudia Bouma — 17 May 2016

We all like to know we’re getting the best value for money and this applies to travellers as much as it does to those staying at home.

We search out the specials, lowest prices and try and save a dollar wherever we can. With my Dutch background it was hammered into me to always look for the best buy, even if you have to visit several shops.

This attitude has its upsides when you’re living in the city as it forces retailers to remain competitive. However, it can have damaging consequences when you hit the road and frequent a lot of small country towns.

We’ll happily park our rig at a free rest area or camping ground, use the dump point and enjoy the parks, but our wallets remain firmly in our pockets. What’s wrong with this picture?

Sure, it can be easily justified. We stock up in a major town, fill up our fridge(s) and freezer(s), take on fuel and away you go. We’ve made sure we’re not spending one more dollar than we absolutely have to. Absolutely true.

At the same time though, these small country towns offer valuable services which can only remain open if people use them. Yep, you got it right, those people would be us.

A lot of retailers in these towns struggle to make ends meet. Our willingness to buy a meal at the pub, some groceries at the corner supermarket or top up on fuel has the potential to make a life-changing difference to the locals who are committed to seeing their town flourish.

It’s hard enough with droughts, bushfires and whatever else Mother Nature throws at them. Not to mention the staggering departure rate of young people as lack of work drives them to the bigger cities.

Another bonus is the personal connection with the locals. People in the city are too busy to stop and chat or have a laugh. These folk will take the time to say g’day, ask where you’re going, where you’ve come from and will probably give you invaluable advice which you can’t get anywhere else. Sure, you might pay an extra dollar or two, possibly more, but you’ll probably make their day.

Maybe it’s about time we travellers change our attitudes. Why do we hit the road thinking we’re entitled to free camping spots, cheap groceries, fuel, etc? We have a vital role to play in supporting the outback towns, displaying generosity wherever we go and showing locals we’re willing to do our bit.

Ultimately they’re the ones sticking it out, living in places where we wouldn’t last a week as it takes a special kind of Aussie to cope with the challenging circumstances. So next time you pull up in a small country town, why don’t you buy some groceries or enjoy a meal at the local pub?

I firmly believe we’ll all benefit if we adopted this attitude - what do you think?


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Chris Bouma