A whole year on the road

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Oliver on Himatangi Beach March 2018

It’s hard to believe that this photo was taken a whole year ago. I remember this moment so clearly, so vividly that it just doesn’t seem like a whole year has passed us by. It was the end of our second day of traveling, Easter Sunday and we had driven straight through from Lake Taupo to Himatangi beach just out of Wellington. Wayne was a little bit behind us so Oliver and I made a beeline for the beach to run off some of his energy. It was windy, the beach was big and wild looking. We were still in the midst of figuring out how we fit in this new life of ours, the days leading up to actually leaving home had been hectic, stressful and a bit hard on our little boy. He had lots of questions about where we were going and how long for, questions that no longer had firm, definite answers we could give. Up till this point that hadn’t sat well with Oliver, but I look back and I can so clearly remember him asking me where we were staying that night, where the bus would be with a confused, uncertain look on his face. I looked at him, took his hand and in one of those parenting miracles I found the words he needed to hear. ‘Lets go find Daddy, I’ll show you where we are staying’ Somehow this knowledge that we wouldn’t always know exactly where we were going but that we would always know where to find Daddy and the bus. Somehow this was all he needed to feel safe and secure in our new life. There would be other minor things to adjust to in the following weeks but from this moment on Oliver was 100% on board with bus life.

So the big question is after a year, was it all worth it? The answer is a resounding and definite yes. Even if for some reason we packed it all in tomorrow and settled down again it would have been the best decision we ever made. Our biggest goal when we set out was to see how much time we could have together and in twelve months of travelling Wayne has had over four months off work. And when he has been working it has been largely Monday to Friday jobs where he is home for dinner every evening. Coming from a background of shift work and crazy early starts this for us has been absolutely life changing. Wayne’s relationship with Oliver has really blossomed with all the time spent together. Our marriage has benefited from the changes to, in fact  I think our whole little family unit is stronger. It’s been wonderful to discover that our little unit of three can sustain each other when we are miles away from all the other people who make up our lives. All the beautiful places we have visited, the experiences we have had they are all just the icing on the cake to these even stronger bonds we have formed with each other.

But don’t get me wrong we have enjoyed the icing as well! We have seen more of this country in a year than I imagined we would ever get to show Oliver while he was still a child.  We’ve seen so much that sometimes I read back through my journal from last year and there are things that already I didn’t quite remember without a little prompting. Perhaps that is just a sign I am getting old however as Oliver has lots of very clear memories from the past year. I really hope his memories continue to be clear and they are something he can look back on happily as he grows.

It seems kind of fitting that our one year anniversary should roll around just as we were getting the bus all sorted with its new COF, all ready for us to finish up our time here in Gore and travel on to new places. Also fitting that just before our one year anniversary we were visited by my parents. It’s probably no secret to anyone that the person Oliver and I miss most is Oliver’s Nana. So getting to spend a few weeks with them was pretty special. I almost feel this was as necessary as the repairs on the bus, a little spiritual top up only time with someone you love can bring you.

I remember this time last year as we were exploring Golden bay it felt like the summer was never going to end. This year in Gore the summer has ended with a glaring finality. The leaves are falling from the trees and already the mornings are starting with a layer of frost to greet you. I have to admit I am far more at home in the endless summer than these cooler climes, but I am bravely telling myself that it will not be as bad as I imagine. We will light the fire and pile on lots of layers of clothing and delight in a nice hot water bottle at the end of the bed and all will be fine. After all that is one of the things that this new life is about, trying new things and pushing out of our comfort zone. If we are not all fine then I guess a drive to the warmer end of the south island is always an option!

Our first month on the road

Unbelievably we have been living in the bus for a whole month now. So far it has been a pretty dreamy experience, it is everything I hoped it could be and a little bit more. There have not been as many issues with adjusting to it as I thought, at first there was a lot of organising to do since we had a bit of a rushed and messy final move in to the bus. But gradually over the month most things have found a place, there are still a few boxes lurking in the boot of the bus that I haven’t opened yet, perhaps a sign they are things we simply don’t need in this new life? Time will tell. Establishing a bit of a routine for Oliver is an evolving thing, we have the bed time one sorted, a major for me since Oliver will not be going to kindy or school now. At the moment with Wayne around all the time I am getting lots of time to sneak off for a walk or take some time to myself. When he’s working, night time will be my only chance for this and particularly when you live in close quarters that time to myself, to not be Mum for a while is precious.

There are still day’s where we will be somewhere, walking down a beach or through the bush and I almost have to pinch myself. It is hard to believe we are living like this now when a year ago a two week camping holiday was all the time away we could manage. I am fully expecting this experience to change a little once we have been doing it for longer, at the moment it is pretty idyllic. Moving around lots, seeing lots of interesting things and Wayne being free not to work. The periods where he is working will perhaps resemble our old life a whole lot more. I think Oliver will really miss him when he is at work now, he has had a taste of having Dad around all the time and he loves it! I am pretty sure he is not the only one. There are days where they will both just ride off together and sometimes not appear again for a few hours, normally both itching to tell me whatever fun they have discovered. I can see Oliver blossoming under all the one on one time with his Dad and I can see Wayne enjoying being a father more now that he isn’t always tired from starting work at 1am or distracted by something else he has to get done. The gift of time together is the biggest gift this lifestyle will give us.

So the goal now is to find ways to make sure we make the most of that gift and ensure we can work less and travel more. Luckily bus living is proving to be quite economical so that part of our strategy is working out. We are exploring options for a cheap or free place to park the bus while we are working in Nelson, really this is where we can save the most money. And that is after all the whole point of spending money installing a solar system and bathroom etc so that we can save money in the long run with cheaper places to park, because we don’t need the facilities at a motor camp. Although it is nice every now and then to have a real shower and laundry facilities on your doorstep. I have a new appreciation for unlimited supplies of water and washing machines that’s for sure.

We are spending most of this week in Nelson, starting the job hunting process, buying birthday presents for a certain little boy and just enjoying this beautiful city by the sea. After this we have another three weeks of freedom before coming back to Nelson for our first stint of work. This may be the last of the nicer, warmer weather before winter really kicks in so we are keen to keep moving and make the most of it. I am hopeful that the second month on the road will be just as good as the first and if we are really lucky maybe even a little bit better.

Welcome to sunny Nelson

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It was a glorious, sunny autumn day when we arrived in Nelson. All the more glorious because the day before had been wet, windy and bitterly cold. But that cold day seemed a small price to pay to get to see snow on the mountains as we drove in to Nelson.

Nelson was the first decent sized city we had been in since Wellington so our first plans were to get some groceries and then find a place to stay for a couple of nights. We needed a little it of time to decide on exactly where we were going to next. After getting supplies and finding a spot to stay the night it was time to take Oliver to the playground we had spied on our way in. The playground was right on the waterfront so it wasn’t long before we ended up on the beach. It also wasn’t long before my son was soaked from head to toe, frolicking in the waves. The mountains with their dusting of snow looked gorgeous from the beach and as we walked, played and admired we decided this would be the first place we looked for work. It seems easier to make decisions like this now that we are actually on the road, I think the fact that we have made it this far gives us confidence that we can make anything work out if we put our minds to it.

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But we have only been travelling a few weeks and we are not ready to stop moving just yet. So we simply paused a few days, caught our breath and caught up on washing, did some research and planning as to where we were headed next and enjoyed a little taste of what Nelson has to offer. When we left we were headed towards Takaka with high hopes of adventures to be found.

Goodbye Tauranga

 

The day I sometimes felt would never arrive is finally here! All the lists of jobs we had have finally been ticked off, a few things we never anticipated have been thrown in just for good measure to keep us on our toes. Everything we own is now inside our bus or our small storage unit. And we have said goodbye to all the people who made up our world and our lives here in Tauranga.

It was actually a lot easier to hop in the car and drive away than what I had imagined it would be. I suppose I have had so much time over the last few months to try to figure out all the details of this trip, to anticipate it and look forward to it, that now there is no room for nervousness and worry. Just a whole lot of excitement and a whole lot of wondering what it is we will find down the road. It’s also amazing how having Oliver along for the ride with us keeps it all in perspective, you still have to live your everyday life around the travelling and the exploring. Small children still expect to be fed at regular intervals, they still want a sense of routine and a sense of home even if it is a moveable one, they still create mess and washing to be dealt with. Oddly this is kind of comforting, this life might be a big leap into the unknown but the everyday of it still contains a lot of familiar things.

Leaving Tauranga makes me reflect a lot on the time I have lived here, all that has happened for me here and all the great memories I take with us. It also makes me reflect on the journey we have taken in the last twelve months, from living a pretty average life to where we are now. Living in a bus, unsure when or where one of us will next have paid employment, unsure even where we will be next week as we are purposely keeping our travel plans very vague in the hopes that will allow us to see as much as we want in each area. It feels like the changes we have made in the last twelve months are almost as big as the ones we will make in the next twelve months.

When we moved in to my parents house at the end of October our goal was to only stay 6-8 weeks, well five months later that clearly didn’t go to plan. Or as I am learning to see it, we made a new plan, not better or worse just different. You see I love having a plan and a goal to work towards and I am an avid writer of to do lists and the like. The downside of this is that sometimes when things don’t go to the plan it can feel like you are falling short in some ways. One of the things I hope to do while we embark on this adventure is learn how to let go a little and celebrate success whether it went to plan or  followed some other more winding path. Because sometimes getting there anyway when things didn’t follow the plan is the biggest success of all!

 

It’s back and better than before

So when we dropped our bus off to be renovated we were hoping it would take a month for all the work to be completed. Just to continue the theme of our journey in to bus living the renovations have taken much longer than we wanted as well. But finally almost seven weeks after we dropped her off the day had arrived to pick her up. Wayne had been popping in most weeks to check on the progress but I had only visited once and at that time everything was still pulled apart and not yet put back together. So I was actually a little nervous of what I would find, would I like it? Because if I didn’t there was no changing it now.

Thankfully I absolutely loved the end result. A lovely bathroom, surprisingly compact but still roomy enough to be usable. Lots of extra ventilation, a nice new oven and fridge installed and lots of little touches like extra draws under the bed, a shelf above the kitchen window, a pull out spice rack in an empty space we had beside the oven. And then the fire, I am so incredibly grateful we decided to just go ahead and put in the fire. With a lovely stone tile hearth and timber surround it really turns the space into a little house. Instantly my mind is drawn to those south island winter nights that we will be experiencing soon and how wonderful it will feel snuggled up in front of that fire.

I know the last few months I have questioned at times if we should have just brought a bus that was already in a livable state and didn’t need renovations. I am 100% glad now that we chose to take the risk and buy this bus, we have something now that is far nicer than what I had ever imagined we would be travelling in and something that we hope we will find a place for in our lives long after we settle down again.

It is incredibly hard to take photo’s in such a long narrow space and I fully intend to spend some time figuring out the best way to do it with the camera. I will probably leave that until I have had a chance to put all our stuff in and get all the little finishing touches in place. But for now I actually had better luck on my phone, so here’s a few of what the inside looks like now.

cofcofcofcofcofIMG_20180320_185707.jpgAt the moment it feels like I have a huge amount of things to do before we leave and a very small amount of time to do it in. But the reward is definetly worth it at the end so we will just put our heads down and get it sorted. For now I am enjoying all the little exciting things along the way, like turning our fridge on for the first time today and tucking Oliver up in his bed in the bus knowing that this time there’s no countdown until it goes away to be fixed. That this time it’s our home for as long as we choose to be on the road.

Life Lessons

Any major life change is almost guaranteed to leave its mark on you and teach you things you will remember long after you have moved on with your life. This process of shedding our old life has already taught me a few.

1. We don’t need so many things!!!

Now I have never considered myself very materialistic and definitely am not a mindless consumer. But somehow in the eleven years since I arrived home from living in Brisbane with a suitcase full of clothes and really not much else we had managed to fill our large three bedroom house with a lot of possessions. A large amount of them we had never even purchased, things gifted or handed on to us in the early stages of our relationship that for some reason or other we had kept. I think the act of having to sort through, sell, donate and choose which things we really wanted to store until we settle down again has changed my attitude to life forever. No I am not so scarred that I will never shop again! I have in fact quite enjoyed a bit of shopping lately for little bits and pieces for the bus. But I do shop differently now, I am always mindful that I would rather a few nice things that I really enjoy having in our space then a lot of things that I don’t enjoy quite so much. I am also hoping that aiming for a lack of clutter will make living in a confined space much more pleasurable.

2. I have some amazing people in my life.

It is very easy sometimes to forget how truly blessed you are. The process of saying goodbye to everyone is reminding me how lucky I am. It makes me a little sad at times that I won’t be able to just turn up on these people’s doorsteps anymore, but I have faith that our relationships will survive the distance. And perhaps I will cherish them a little bit more because they are not so close at hand.

3. My husband and I make a great team.

This is more of a lesson reaffirmed, something we lost sight of in the last few years while we were busy becoming a family. Once we have a joint goal to work towards we are both very determined and happy working hard towards it. Next week will be a year since we first talked about running away in a bus, the minute we had the conversation I knew it was a life changing moment and that this was not a dream that would fizzle or change. At times it has felt like it is taking forever to get to the point where we need to be to go travelling, but I look at how much we have achieved in just a year and I marvel at how powerful we are when we are both 100% committed to the same goal. I think perhaps that this is one of the biggest things that was missing from our life and led to us making these changes. And I am full of plans now for us to work towards during and after this next stage of our lives.

4. A house is not home.

When we were trying to sell our house I was always a little sad at the thought of leaving it behind. This was our first home, we brought with having a family in mind and we had loved it from the minute we first saw it right up until we walked out the front door for the last time. But funnily enough I do not miss it at all, yes I still have lots of good memories from living there and always will, but once we are no longer living in the house it really isn’t anything more than bricks, wood and glass. As cliché as it is, home is wherever the people I love most are. I now know for sure that is true, even when it’s a bus or someone else’s house, as long as the three of us are together I am home.

 

I’m sure that these are just the first of many lessons this new life will teach me, I truly hope I can keep being mindful enough to remember them. Now the day we get the bus back from its alterations is getting incredibly close and will be closely followed by leaving day. It is all a little bit hard to believe that it is actually going to happen. I am eager and excited to see what bus life will be like, I can also feel a little bit of fear in the background as it is all such an unknown, but I think that is human and probably healthy.

The last of the beach days

As our summer starts to draw to a close I find myself spending more time at the beach. Perhaps it is the knowledge that this will be our last month spent on these sands, not just for this summer – but in all likelihood forever. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t doubt we will visit here again countless times. But I do not think it will be home for us again.

When my husband asked me the other night if we were going to the beach again the next day (just a little jealous that he couldn’t join us). I jokingly replied that I had decided that this was what life was for,  long walks along the beach and then afternoons spent in the water, so of course we were. But really I wasn’t entirely joking for me there are not a lot of things in life that can beat the feeling of your feet sinking in the sand, waves washing over you. One that does is watching Oliver experience the beach. The minute he hits the sand his strides lengthen, he’s drawn to the water in a way that makes me think it is an urge somehow bigger than himself. He can happily spend the whole day swimming, jumping waves, collecting treasures and digging in the sand.

I have heard this connection you get from being barefoot on the beach as earthing and I can see why. You can’t fail to leave the beach appreciating the beauty of life and the power of nature, somehow more in touch, more consciously connected with the earth around you then you were before your visit. And for me an evening stroll along the beach after my boys have gone to sleep is the ultimate in earthing. Nothing but me and the sand under my feet, waves roaring beside you, sun sinking behind Mauao. Any problems you have normally don’t feel quite so huge after soaking in the vastness of the ocean beside you for a while.

cofNow that the to do lists that were once seemingly endless have dwindled to a few last details to organise and we are nearly due to get our bus back, we have finally been able to set a leaving date. Wayne has given notice at his job and the days are steadily ticking by to leaving day. I thought that perhaps this time would be a bit nerve-wracking as we let go of the last security blanket of a steady income coming in every week. But instead I am still positive that we will make this work and surprisingly calm about the whole thing. I do expect a few doubts to try to creep in on the day we actually drive away from Te Puke, but that I guess is simply being human. So until that day I think I will continue to enjoy the beach as much as the weather will allow me to and I will definitely continue to soak in all that wonderful earthing energy.

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