Tuesday, 28 March 2017

An Insight to Van Life!

I saw some photos of our old house at the weekend.  It felt very weird and surreal - was that really mine not so long ago?  It looked so huge and the garden enormous!  For those who haven't seen it before, this is where we used to live before van life:

Our old house in Whangamata

Do I miss it?  Nope, not for a second.  You miss people, not things.  Most houses are filled with stuff you just don't need.  More garden to weed, more space to clean.  Who on earth would miss that?  No thank you very much, we already have everything we need in our van!  It's very much a user pays lifestyle.  We pay only for what we use (and much of the time we don't even need to pay for that) and buy only what we need.  I think it's a pretty good existence and have no desire to change.

People ask us all the time what it's like living on the road.  I'm not sure it's even possible to describe it in one post but I'll try and explain as best as I can.  Here are some of the things we have found:

We never have to waste a beautiful day!

1. Your body clock syncs with nature.  One of the things I'm grateful for every morning is being able to wake up when we want.  If it's a beautiful day, we can get up and enjoy it.  If it's wet and windy, we stay tucked up in the warm.  There's nothing we have to do at any given time.  Even when I'm working it's not like I have to go into another room or anything!  People always wonder how we sleep in a van.  I wondered how we would too but funnily enough I sleep better in the van than I ever did in a house.  Maybe because I don't have the stress and worries that I used to, I don't know but we got quite a fright the other day when we sleepily pulled back the curtain and saw an ambulance, fire engine and full crew and a rescue chopper right outside our window!  Didn't hear a thing!  We do find that we go to bed a lot earlier since living on the road.  When the sun goes to bed, so do we.  It's something that just naturally happened from Day One.  I mean, what else are we supposed to do? We It's not like we can sit up half the night and play video games or do housework is it!

Perfect weather for the ferry crossing!

2. You get very good at checking the weather.  I never gave a thought to what the weather was doing before we started living on the road, it never really mattered.  These days however I ALWAYS know what the weather is doing, usually for days in advance and monitor it at least daily.  Gareth always used to laugh at me to begin with, saying there was no point trying to predict the weather in a country which literally can have four seasons in one day but as it happens, I've actually become rather good at it!  I find it invaluable for planning travel schedules and routes, ferry crossings, you name it and it has definitely worked in our favour.  Everywhere we go, people have been complaining about having a late or non-existent summer, but you certainly won't find us complaining.  Thanks to our travelling around, we've been enjoying summer for almost five months!

Where did all this hair come from?!

3. You have no idea of a lot of things.  Because we have no routine or agenda, we genuinely don't know what day it is half the time.  We don't know when the clocks change or when Easter is.  A lot of the time we don't even know what we look like, as most of the mirrors we come across don't show anything below our chins.  I got quite a fright when Gareth took this photo of me a few days ago showing off my new winter jacket; I had no idea my hair had got so long!

Always another hill to climb!

4. You don't get as much exercise as you'd like.  I thought we were the only ones to find this, until I read an article the other day from a couple in the US who had also lived in a van.  They, like we did, envisaged themselves to be fit as fiddles from a life of constant hiking and bounding up hills.  The reality is, it's not really like that, not long term anyway.  Sure, we do plenty of walking, we have Minnie to walk every day and we're never short of beautiful lakes, bush tracks and parks to walk in but on the whole it's a lot more of a sedentary lifestyle.  You wouldn't think so, would you?  I certainly didn't imagine it to be but think about it.  Our 'house' is only a few metres long by a couple of metres wide and everything we need is in that space.  Compared to the average house where people are constantly traipsing back and forth from room to room every day, dragging a vacuum cleaner round, putting washing out and mowing lawns, we wouldn't do anywhere near the amount of walking.  Let it no more be said that housework isn't a form of exercise!  For a couple like us who walked an easy 15km every day prior to road life, it's a bit of a difference!  Consequently we've both gained a bit of weight as a result, which is a bit of a pain but probably not helped by...

'Chez Ken' - where amazing meals are created in a tiny space!

5. Your diet changes.  Unless you have a vehicle with a full size fridge and a proper oven, your diet undergoes some pretty major changes.  I swear to God I've never eaten so many tinned tomatoes or salsa beans in my life - and what we wouldn't give sometimes to eat real mashed potato!  Even so, we do pretty well considering our limited storage space and tiny stove.  We eat a lot of vegetarian meals and beans and pulses and have to be pretty conscious about making sure we get enough meat and fresh vegetables. Fortunately this is getting much easier now the cooler weather is here and we don't have to worry so much about food going off.  Even though cooking can sometimes be a bit of a pain, you always have to make the effort because when you live in a van, you have to look after yourself.  I take a vitamin supplement as well, which I've never done before but it's cheaper than a visit to the doctor!

Rainy days can be the best days!

6. You're actually quite busy.  Before we set off on our travels, I bought two new books and a book of crosswords.  I figured I would have endless hours of leisure time and pictured myself curled up with a book at every opportunity.  As it is, I haven't even started any of them!  Most of the time we have no idea where the day goes but we always seem to be doing something, even on the days we're not travelling.  At least half of the week I'm working but we fit work around travel and travel around work.  It's a good way to break up the long hours driving and we look forward to our travel days more too.  One of the things we like best about having a smaller home on wheels is that it makes us get out and do more, rather than sitting inside all day.  Although I have to say, there is no greater luxury on a wet day than snuggling up in the van watching movies, knowing that you have absolutely nothing else you have to do!

7. Little things become big things.  It's pretty laughable these days, the things that Gareth and I get stressed or ratty about!  Normally he'll be having a tantrum at the gas bottle when he's cooking breakfast and I'll be swearing about trying to put up the curtain rail.  That's the thing though you see; when those are the biggest daily worries you have to deal with, the silly, insignificant things become big things because it's all you have.  We just don't have enough to worry about any more!

8. You know when you're with the right person.  I think one of the things a lot of people wonder about living on the road is how you can get along with one another when you live in such close proximity.  How do you survive spending every minute of the day together without wanting to kill each other?  It's easy really.  I mean, if we didn't think we were going to get along, we wouldn't have done it, would we!  After almost two years without so much as an argument, we figured it was a pretty safe bet.  We're very different but our goals and our dreams are the same.  Obviously it can make or break a relationship, and we have met people who haven't been able to stand more than a week travelling together but as far as we're concerned it's been nothing but good for us.  We're more of a team now.  We have more time for each other and are more considerate and caring.  Our relationship is a lot more equal now we are not juggling housework, jobs, bills and all the other things that life constantly used to throw at us.  The fact that neither of us want to stop living how we are speaks for itself I think!

Obviously there is much, much more I could waffle on about and if anyone has any questions you are very welcome to ask.  For now I will spare you the finer points about how many days you sometimes have to go without a shower or being able to shave your legs!  People seem to think that giving up a conventional lifestyle requires bravery, but it doesn't.  All you need is a 'can-do, make-do' attitude and to have belief in your own abilities.  Initially we never still planned to be living in a van this long but we like it too much to stop now!

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