Why is road tripping as a single mother such a big deal?

Overlooking the ocean from the great ocean road.
Overlooking the ocean from the great ocean road.  Photo: Koraly Dimitriadis

"You are not driving to Adelaide," is how my dad responded when I told him my plans.

A two week road trip from Melbourne to Adelaide via the Great Ocean Road. Wasn't booking any accommodation. Had no plan as to where I would stop. I was just going to get in my car with my daughter and drive. Mum was even more dead-set on me not going. "It's dangerous for a woman to drive alone on the road in Australia! And with a child! You are crazy! Why don't you just fly?"

But I didn't want to. I had flown to Europe three times in the last six years, but no road trips at all. My daughter came on one of those trips but my dad had come with us as I was travelling for work, and didn't feel confident travelling on my own with a young child.

The Maritime Museum at Warnnambool
The Maritime Museum at Warnnambool Photo: Koraly Dimitriadis

My ex-husband and I did a road trip around Europe 15 years ago, but he did all the driving. I loved the unpredictability of the open road, not knowing where I was going to end up.

It was a friend visiting from abroad a year ago, travelling around in Australia in a campervan, that got me thinking. She quizzed me: people from all over the world come to travel this great land and I wasn't doing it. Why?

When I thought about it I realised I'd been afraid to travel without a man to protect me, especially camping. I kept thinking of the backpacker murders in the 90s and the more recent rape allegations by female campers in the Coorong National Park. But with no clear partner in sight, was I going to let my single mother status stop me?

My daughter is growing and soon she'll only want to holiday with friends. I have so many fond memories of family road trips when I was a child. My daughter does trips with her step family. Was I not going to experience family trips on the road with my own child, even if my family is a little smaller and only consists of two people?

I guess that's why I had to do it – to challenge myself, to show my daughter than even though so many ugly things happen to women out in the world, we just have to get out there and live life or else they win. She's only young now, so she doesn't know much about violence against women, but one day I know she will thank me for being brave and for creating these beautiful memories with her. 

I am writing this as I travel from one town to the next. Sometimes I have to put Google Maps on my phone to find my way, and my daughter helps. We've got paper maps too and she's become an expert in navigating them. I allow her to make decisions – on how long we'll stay in one place, where she thinks we should go next. This is a family trip, I tell her. 


I'm not saying I haven't been scared. We've ended up on dirt roads by accident, and every time we do I think of dad telling me not to get out of the car when there is nobody around, telling me to stick to main roads.

I don't show my fear to my daughter. I remain positive and we find our way. One night in a hotel I heard sounds like gunshots. But the doors were locked and even though my instinct was to panic, that I didn't know anyone for miles, I thought about how even in my own home in Melbourne I hear noises.

And that's the reality of the world we live in. But as females and particularly single parents, we can't bubble wrap ourselves and our children. We have to shed our fear, because we are allowed to have experiences that nuclear families have too. 

Robe, WA
Robe, WA Photo: Koraly Dimitriadis

My daughter has been a bit bored at times. But the she started talking to me more. She also started making friends with other kids. There was one girl at the beach she was fond of. I could see her family in the distance, the nuclear family, and I could see them looking at me, alone. I wondered if they would have come over if I was part of a nuclear family too.

I've been thinking about the concept of the road trip. Usually they're seen as adventures. A road trip with the whole family. A road trip with a group of your mates. If you google father-son trips you will get terms like "adventure" and "bonding" and "road trip".

Kia even has an ad advertising a car based on this, and Jon Faine wrote a book about it. If you google mother-daughter trips you get the words "getaway" and "leisure". The bed and breakfast owner I stayed with said they get many mothers and daughters, not so many fathers and sons. I was too afraid to camp, and imagine that's where the fathers and sons are. I hope one day I find the courage to. This trip is my first step. 

Koraly and her daughter
Koraly and her daughter Photo: Koraly Dimitriadis

An unexpected emotional element of the trip were memories of my own childhood holidays surfacing. I talked to my dad about the memories we had shared during my own childhood: "You were taking me on trips and now I'm taking my daughter," I said.

"Yes, that's what I have been thinking too, every day since you left," he said to me, and I know this was his way of saying, "it's good that you tackled all of our fears and went." And I did. 

Koraly Dimitriadis is a freelance opinion writer, author, actor, theatre and screenmaker. www.koralydimitriadis.com