Saturday, 20 May 2017

The Golden Rules of Van Life

There's snow in them thar hills!

I'm a bit of a pain in that, if you tell me that I won't be able to do something, I'll try my darnedest to prove you wrong.  Like surviving Southland in sub-zero temperatures.  Well as of yesterday, we already did!  And it was the most brilliant, exhilarating day.  For me it was reminiscent of Christmas in England and I absolutely loved every minute.  To wake up and see snow outside my window for the first time in over 25 years was indescribable.  I can't remember the last time I was so excited to get out of bed!  I couldn't wait to show Minnie either.  She's never seen snow in her whole life and the look on her face as her paws hit the frozen, crunchy ground was priceless.  After the initial shock she decided that it was fabulous stuff and couldn't get enough of exploring in it, tiny tail wagging madly, although despite trying to eat it several times proved largely fruitless.

'What the heck is this weird stuff under my feet?!'  Minnie becomes frozen
(quite literally!) at her new discovery

'Hmm, doesn't taste all that flash either'...

The only thing which dampened our excitement was that Gareth was unwell.  Such rotten timing! Still, at least he was nice and warm in the van.  Despite my fear that the impending freezing temperatures were going to be unbearable, we actually didn't notice a thing, it was no worse than usual and we slept snug and warm.  Mind you, when you live in a small space it's pretty easy to heat and hot water bottles are truly wonderful things.  It was down to me to walk into town to pick up supplies of a necessary wintry and medical nature and I didn't need any encouragement, I couldn't wait to get out there!

Looking the picture of class in my kids' snowboots.  So glad I got these just in time!

The walk in to town was lovely.  The sun shone and the hills were a picture, all covered in snow. Everyone was rugged up just like me and the supermarket was crazy busy.  It seemed we were all buying the same things, winter vegies and stuff to make soup!  Everybody was in good spirits though. So was I, until it was time to begin the long walk home with my six shopping bags.  Despite trying to shop carefully so as not to weigh myself down too much, it wasn't long before I was pushed to my physical limit.  However I couldn't believe the number of offers of help I had on the journey home. At least three people stopped to ask if I would like a ride to wherever I was going, and a couple more on foot.  Even a young boy asked if I would like him to help by carrying my bags on his bike.  I was truly touched - but this is Gore.  This is how people are here.  We grow to love this place more every day.

After getting through Friday night, and the days leading up to it with the rain, thunder and bitter cold, I'm feeling a bit more confident that we'll be fine.  Cold is actually not a problem, we don't mind the cold because we're prepared for it and it's beautiful when the sun shines. It's rain which makes things the most challenging.  It really, really sucks when everything is wet - you're wet, everything you're wearing is wet, every towel you own is wet, you're trying not to get the bedding wet and you don't have any way of getting anything dry.  But such is life when you live in a van.  At the end of the day you still get to tuck up in a warm bed and be happy and content.

My secret to good health.  I hope!

The main thing when you live on the road is to always remember the Golden Rules.  The first rule is that you need to stay healthy, especially during the colder months.  It's absolutely vital that you take good care of yourself.  I've taken to drinking a large concoction every morning consisting of lemon juice, honey and organic apple cider vinegar dissolved in a large glass of hot(tish) water.  I never in a million years thought I would be drinking this stuff, I always hated honey and cider vinegar for starters!  But it's amazing what you get used to and I have really noticed the difference.  I have so much more energy now!  It will be interesting to see how much difference it makes to my immune system, which is notoriously rubbish.

Our diet has also had a big overhaul the last couple of months.  I think when you live in a van, or on the road, you think at first that you can't do things.  You think that you are constrained by your limitations.  In our case, this meant food.  Despite being two people who could cook perfectly well and had always cooked from scratch, rather than processed foods, we soon found ourselves living out of tins, packets and jars.  Neither of us felt good about it but it was the way we felt it had to be.  What happened after a few months was that we felt absolutely awful.  Sluggish, no energy, our digestive systems didn't feel good - you name it.  We decided that we had to introduce more fresh vegetables back into our diet and start eating decent meat.  We felt the improvement from day one and would never go back to eating rubbish again!

There's no excuse for not eating right, no matter how small the kitchen!

We also invested in a tiny crockpot for $25 from the Warehouse.  This thing is great!  It enables us to cook so many delicious and nutritious meals, as well as so many things you wouldn't think you would be able to cook in a crockpot.  As another bonus it also saves on dishes but there's no nicer feeling on a freezing cold or wet day to know that you can just relax and dinner is taken care of.  We've just polished off the last of yesterday's chicken and vegetable soup for lunch and are looking forward to beef casserole for dinner with baby potatoes.  Too easy!

Golden Rule No.2 is that you HAVE to keep moving.  This was a surprise and something that we would never have thought of but of course it makes perfect sense.  Still, you would not believe the aches and pains you get from living in a confined space.  I swear to God, some days you feel like you're 100!  It was never an issue in the summer and autumn months but now the weather is worse and we are confined to the van more, it's very noticeable and can be a real problem if you let it. The longer you sit in one position, the more likely you are to seize up.  Knees, elbows, neck and shoulders...  There's only one thing you can do to avoid it and that's to keep moving as much as possible, so that's what I do.  That's why even though we have a vehicle, we leave it behind and walk everywhere as much as possible; it's really important that we do.

Home made Beef Stroganoff - 
washed down with a nice glass of Golden Rule No.3!

As for Golden Rule No.3?  We learned this from some of the first travellers we met - a couple named Colin and Mara, back in December.  They've been living on the road more than five years now and we learned heaps from them.  Their motto is 'Never Run Out of Wine' and as time has gone by, we have discovered they are right!  No matter how much we love our life on the road, we do go without many luxuries compared to the average person living in a normal house.  A lot of the things people take for granted, we simply don't or can't have.  Whilst we don't miss any of those things, everybody needs something to wind down and we're no different.  It's a simple pleasure at the end of the day to be able to enjoy a drink together.  Or three.

Before I go, I must share a happy update on Miss Minnie!  You may remember a few weeks ago she was far from well; in fact we were close to losing her.  Fortunately we happened upon the most excellent emergency vet in Cassie from VetSouth Tapanui.  After suffering from ill health for more than half her life, Cassie picked up that Minnie had an underactive thyroid, which tests later confirmed.  She has been on her medication for almost two weeks now and the difference in her is incredible.  Our little sloth of a spaniel appears to have been replaced by the Energizer bunny!  Rather than persuading her to come out for painfully slow walks which she really struggled with, these days she doesn't want to stop.  She's the one dragging me out for a couple of hours a day!  It's wonderful to see and we are so grateful to Cassie that she picked up what no other vet has ever done all these years.  We can't wait to show her the difference.  I just wish we had met her earlier on in our travels!

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