The Wave

The wave should be in quotes as it’s as much a part of caravanning culture as the wheels on your rig are to safe travel.

My daughter and SIL recently bought a vintage caravan to renovate for short road trips. They’re so enamoured by their latest project, they sit in it at night after the bubs are asleep, sip wine and make plans for upgrades and decorative finishes. I can only imagine the smiles as they download ideas and scribble notes on scraps of paper.

But yesterday when rolling towards my next destination, a couple of closed state borders from where they live, I got to thinking about how integral culture is to travel. Then I spotted a tug and rig coming towards me on the other side of the road and the wave sprang to mind.

Oh… The Wave! Yup, the all important wave. I was quick to respond to the other driver as they hurtled past. On this occasion it was a mutual wave.

Sure, on country roads and in the outback, drivers give each other a passing wave. Truckies do it too. But the difference is it’s optional and it’s polite rather than an acknowledgement of common purpose. Some prefer not to do it at all, and that is fine as it’s a matter of personal space.

I cannot overstate the pleasure the wave brings to the driver of a tug on the open road. It’s unusual in urban areas and so it should be. Traffic and pedestrians is where your focus ought to be.

For travellers towing a caravan, camper, or driving a motorhome, the wave is a bonding experience. It’s talked about on forums and at Happy Hour in campgrounds. It’s mentioned by drivers who waved and did not receive a reciprocal flash of fingers raised in salute. its a way of saying, hey, I know how you feel. And I get it. The fun, the freedom, the places you have been and will go. The things that can go wrong. Long dusty drives. Spectacular sunsets, feet up, shared with new friends. The kilometres ticking over on your tug. The common understanding that the nights are still and quiet at campsites.

So, with my family in mind. Not new to travel by a long shot but new to tugging, as the excited owners of a darling little caravan. I want to define the wave and how to do it properly, and safely, on the road. Let’s break it down for the latest members of our Tug Club.

How to do the wave

Preferably — your hands should never leave the steering wheel. I drive with my hands low on the wheel, at roughly 9 to 3, or lower if I need more steering control. That’s how professional drivers do it, so don’t tell me to drive with my hands at 10 to 2 — that’s for amateurs 🤦‍♀️ My hands won’t always be in the correct position to do the wave.

Sliding my right hand up the steering wheel to the one o’clock position allows me to complete the wave satisfactorily.

Let’s assume you have both hands on the steering wheel, then the wave is a flash of the fingers of the right hand as the towing vehicle or motorhome nears on the other side of the road. Close enough so the driver sees the wave, but doesn’t miss it when they pass. As a responsible driver they will also have seen your vehicle approaching.

Just as you raise one hand to indicate a turn signal or use the controls on your steering wheel, you may be able to execute the wave safely by removing your right hand from the steering wheel. Briefly. Safely. It should only take a split second.

You should always have one hand on your steering wheel. Never ever wave both hands in the air. That’s just stupid. And you’ll look like a dick.

It really doesn’t matter who waves first. Keep it simple! That’s the safe way to do the wave.

Summing up…

Safety is your first priority and should always be top of mind! When towing you should be aware of what’s behind you — that big rig flooding your rear view mirror — what is in front of you, zooming towards you, and on the side of the road. The driver should never be distracted. And if you can’t do the wave safely, just don’t do it.

Don’t let it bother you if your wave is not reciprocated. The other driver probably had other things on their mind. Like, what’s that rattling noise under the car?

This piece was written a little tongue in cheek, and I hope you enjoyed reading it. A giggle is pure gold on road trip.

For my daughter, Turtle 🐢

Image sourced from with thanks, as it’s a great resource. I download, and I upload my own pics

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