Liz and Steve Evans have gone from being stuck in the daily grind to living a life of adventure in the space of a year — and they’re unearthing gemstones along the way to pay for it.
When Mr Evans’s work in the building industry became more “challenging” last year, the Sunshine Coast couple’s lifelong dream to caravan around Australia with their kids rose from the backburner.
“It was either now or you’ve got to wait 15 to 20 years until they all finish school and leave home and run away,” Mr Evans said.
“So, we chose now — why not?”
They packed a 6-metre caravan and stuffed the rest of their life into storage boxes, pulled their children, Amelia and Henry, out of school and hit the road as “unemployed full-time travellers”.
The couple admits it was “terrifying” to drive away from their home with only a rough plan of what was coming next.
However, they soon dug up an unusual method to fund their adventure: gem fossicking.
‘Nest egg’ funds nomad life
Mr Evans inherited a love of fossicking from his father who, along with three mates, used to drive 36 hours from Sydney to the central Queensland gemfields chasing that elusive glint in the dirt.
The gemfields are one of the largest sapphire-rich areas in the world, almost 900 kilometers north-west of Brisbane, near Emerald in the Central Highlands.
“We used to do the trip once, maybe twice a year,” Mr Evans said.
“It sort of just became a family destination.”
Over the years, Mr Evans has amassed a collection of beautiful gems that he was saving as a retirement nest egg.
But they decided that “you’re never guaranteed tomorrow, so let’s do it today” and opened an online gem shop.
The sales are helping fund their extended road trip.
An irresistible pull
The family shares its fossicking tricks with followers online, from digging buckets and examining the wash to grading and cutting the sapphires they find.
Amelia, 7, and Henry, 4, are already in love with fossicking, proudly displaying the sapphires they’ve found and making pocket money through selling some.
They’ve learned how to grade stones and get them cut — skills their father believes can’t be replicated in a classroom.
Although sapphires are renowned for their deep blue hue, Mr Evans said sapphires “basically come in every single color of the rainbow”.
“Every single one of them has got their own little personality,” he said.
The bonus, of course, is that some of those stones are worth thousands of dollars.
“There’s a saying: you don’t find sapphires, you earn them,” Mr Evans said.
“That’s true — it’s a lot of hard digging and stuff like that and it’s not like shoveling sand.
“There’s some I would never sell… but I’ve got quite a few in the collection now so it’s time to let a few go.”
Fossicking around Australia
The Evans have been in the gemfields area for almost two months after making their way south to New South Wales and Victoria and back up north.
They plan to spend a few more weeks fossicking before hitting the road again, following the trail of other known fossicking regions and hoping to learn how to mine for opals and zircons along the way.
They’ve been on the road for nine months and are in no hurry to return to “normal” life.
“It wasn’t until … two to three months into the trip that I actually started to relax and go, ‘Oh my God, this is awesome, we should have done this ages ago’,” Ms Evans said.
Ms Evans said she could see the benefits of their nomadic experience in their two children.
“It’s nice for us to be able to have that time as a family,” she said.
“You get that guilt of not having enough time to spend together and this has really been a dream come true in that regard.
“Just go for it.”