I just wish my own family had the same sense of enthusiasm! While they don't say it, I think my boys both think their mother is absolutely bonkers for wanting to live in a van and travel around willy nilly rather than in a nice, respectable house with a normal 9 - 5 job like everybody else. Especially at the positively geriatric age of 44! If I had one wish it would be for them to come along for the ride with me, even just for a little while, so they could see the things I see and experience some of the things they may never get to otherwise. When you live on the road it's impossible to get bored or stuck in a rut. Every day is different and you see the world through completely different eyes. And life becomes so simple and authentic that all the things and all the people which used to upset and annoy you cease to exist until before you know it, you can't even remember what you used to spend so much time worrying about.
The Brown family in Alaska - all nine of them!
Still, I guess for a lot of people; our families in particular, our decision to abandon our everyday lifestyle in favour of a more simple and liberating one would have come rather out of the blue. However this was definitely not the case! I realised I have never shared exactly what it was that led us to choose a life on the road, so thought it was about time I did. It all started, believe it or not with a Discovery programme called Alaskan Bush People! For more than 30 years, the Brown family of nine have chosen to live an unconventional life on an island deep in the Alaskan bush. They are completely self sufficient and their ingenuity and dedication to making their lifestyle choice work and thrive knows no bounds. Gareth and I have loved this show since we first heard about it and really enjoyed learning about how they live, always striving to triumph over adversity - even if it came in the form of a grizzly bear.
Chichagof Island - our dream place! Without the bears...
With all the stress we had been living with these past few years, escaping to an Alaskan island sounded pretty bloody good! One of the things we most wanted was to be as self sufficient as possible; to get away from all the stresses of modern life; the constant technology, the invasive media, the inescapable hordes of people and their unbearable, escalating consumerism, to which we found ourselves becoming more and more cynical and intolerant. Whilst we knew a couple of naive Kiwis could never expect to land on Alaskan shores and immediately throw ourselves into anything of such magnitude and extremity as the Browns, the thought of such peace and isolation sounded so truly appealing that for a brief moment we did genuinely consider going to Alaska at least for a while, to check it out and see what was possible.
There was only one thing stopping us - well, three actually. I could not - would not - go overseas and leave my boys for such a length of time. Maybe when they were older, but not now. Shortly after, my mum was also diagnosed with bowel cancer and I knew there was no way I could go too far. If we were going to do anything of the sort, it was going to have to be in New Zealand - but where? I mentioned to Gareth about this silly little pipe dream I'd had for a few years, that one day, when I was retired, I would buy myself a little motor home and Minnie and I would travel around the country together, just one crazy woman and her dog. I never thought there would ever be anyone else in my life so I figured that was how it would be. 'I would love to do that too!' said Gareth. Far from him thinking I was crazy, as someone who had once travelled across Canada and the States in a Fiat Panda and thoroughly enjoyed it, he found the idea just as appealing as I did. But that was something people only did when they were old and grey and didn't have anything better to do, wasn't it? 'I wonder if anyone out there DOES live in a motor home or a house bus all the time? I wonder how much money you could save if you lived like that? I wonder if it's even possible?' we pondered.
The answer came just a few days later. I don't know what the heck it is about That's Life! magazine but it has a habit of changing my life in the most dramatic ways. The first time was almost 13 years ago now, when I read about a website called Simple Savings which had just started in Australia and was helping people save money. I wrote in to the website and said 'please can you bring this to NZ too? Kiwis really need it here - heck, I need it!' And that was it. A few months later I was a reformed spendaholic with a passion for saving money and a whole new career. That story was printed exactly when I needed it and this time was no different. I couldn't believe it when I opened the pages and read about a woman in NZ called Vicky White who had been living in a house bus for a few years and not only was survivng, but thriving. The more I read about her, the more she sounded just like me! Sick of stress, sick of debt, sick of never ending bills, sick of getting nowhere. So she sold up everything she had and bought a 12 metre house bus without having ever driven or lived in one before. Now that was brave - that's one beasty big bus!
But from day one Vicky made it work and loved her new lifestyle. The story was so inspirational and informative and told us everything we needed to know, from how much money you could save, how to find work and make an income, what she found worked and what didn't. I couldn't wait to show Gareth! There was all the proof we needed right there, it COULD be done. So that was it. We did!
Land of the Long, White Cloud
We still want to go to Alaska one day and hopefully we will. But for now - and for quite a long time yet - we are happy to live the good life in Aotearoa. For those who don't know, Aotearoa is the Maori name for New Zealand. It means 'land of the long white cloud'. I never noticed until we set out on those travels just how long those clouds are!