Happiness is playing in the Autumn leaves!
I have to chuckle to myself every time I see articles come up on news websites which encourage readers to click on them for 'The Key to a Blissful Life' or 'Three Secrets to Happiness'. Apparently taking up yoga is one of them - at least that's what they're saying this week but considering they churn stuff like this out every day there must be a hell of a lot of secrets to happiness. It's just another way society puts pressure on people of course. If you don't do what everyone else is doing (even though they're actually not), then you're not living your life right and you'll never find happiness. I don't think there are any real secrets to happiness - I mean, surely they are different for everyone? I read 'Eat Pray Love' and wanted to go and live with the monks. I watched 'Under the Tuscan Sun' and wanted to go and buy a tumbledown villa in Italy. But even if I had done any of those things, who is to say they would have made me as happy as Elizabeth Gilbert or Frances Mayes? What makes one person happy can be downright hellish for another. The secret to happiness is something you have to discover for yourself.
Six months stuck in a van with me! This man deserves a medal
As it turns out, my own secret to happiness seems to be living on the road; Gareth's too. We celebrated six months of travelling yesterday and as we sat on a wooden bench at the top of a hill in Croydon Bush looking out over Southland we both agreed that life is pretty darn brilliant. I have learned more about people and about life this past six months than in the rest of my life put together. I think most of us go through life thinking that everyone lives in a basically similar way; in a normal house with a 9 to 5 job, which we work at to pay for the house and all the stuff we want to put in it. But our months on the road have shown us that for many people it's not like that at all. There are thousands of motorhomers living on the road, I've mentioned that several times and motorhomes really are a home away from home. They have many of the home comforts of a house, just smaller and they have the freedom to live wherever the heck they like. Just like we do - isn't that awesome?
But then there are people like Tom and Michelle, the couple who are currently next to us. They live in a Mitsubishi Pajero. All the time. Day after day, they sit in their car and if the weather is bad, they don't get out. You would never know to look at them that they live in a car. They're a good looking young couple, well presented, she always has her long blonde hair nicely brushed (which is more than I can say for me most of the time!) They've been staying here as long as we have and goodness knows how long they've been living in their car before that. Then there's the middle aged man who was here for a couple of weeks who lives in his old saloon car. He goes out to work every day and you always see him writing stuff on a clipboard. We don't know how any of them do it - we sure as hell don't know how they sleep in there, along with all their worldly goods piled up to the ceiling and taking up every bit of available space but the saloon man always seems content, sitting outside reading his book. He may not have much but life is simple I guess. And Tom and Michelle always seem happy, chattering away to one another and walking everywhere hand in hand, just like Gareth and me. Couples on the road always seem extra happy, even those in their seventies like Brian and Mrs Brian (whose name we have finally learned is Evelyn). Makes sense considering we have all the time in the world for one another and get to see and enjoy so much.
Ken, our beloved home on wheels. Quite a lot bigger than a Pajero
and a heck of a lot smaller than a bus. But he's perfect for us!
As all these people show, there is no right or wrong way to travel. Your home on wheels can be as big or small as you like, it doesn't matter as long as it works for you. I think a lot of people think you have to fork out thousands of dollars for a motor home to be able to hit the road and see the country but you really don't. Getting out there and doing it - that's the main thing! We're living proof that you don't need to go big to be happy. I've also learned - both from other travellers and from staying put - that just because you live on the road permanently you don't need to be travelling constantly. It's OK to stop! A lot of people travel for a few months and then park up for a few months; others have a few weeks on and a few weeks off. It's another one of the many joys of having no fixed abode, you get to choose where you live and for how long. When we first realised we were going to be staying in Gore for a while I felt like a failure as a traveller. I've since learned from the many people I've encountered here that in fact it's what most of them do. Besides, it's nice to feel part of the community and have familiar faces in the shops asking us how Minnie is doing or how our insulation is working out!
Walk your own path. Particularly if there might be whisky at the end of it
The biggest thing I have learned however from the past amazing six months, is that it's OK to walk your own path. There are no rules in the invisible book of life which state that you have to live a certain way, follow the same timeline or do what everyone else is doing. And the most important thing I have learned is not to waste a single minute of life chasing meaningless stuff. No matter how much we strive to own in our time on this earth, no matter how successful we may think it makes us, we all leave this world with nothing, in the same wooden box. Better to spend our days harnessing moments, gathering experiences and committing breathtaking views and feelings to memory than collecting possessions, because at the end of the day, those are all we have.
Our spectacular Southland view
Gareth at Poppelwell's Lookout
So with this in mind, we spent the most perfect day yesterday doing just that. We went to Dolamore Park just out of Gore and spent the afternoon walking Whisky Creek, the Fantail Track and the Croydon Bush trail. Whisky Creek was named after the moonshiners who used to hide their stills in the area and we soon realised how Fantail Track got its name from all the dear little chaps who kept us company on the walk, merrily squeaking away to us and catching insects we helpfully disturbed for them with our footsteps. The weather was perfect, warm and sunny and we climbed higher and higher for over an hour until eventually we reached the top of Poppelwell's Lookout. Puffed as we were, it was well worth the hike to see the panoramic view of Southland laid out before us. On a clear day you can see the landmark hill in Bluff almost 100 kilometres away and Stewart Island out to sea beyond that. I still don't know what the secret to happiness is, but there was a whole lot of it in our little world yesterday. We couldn't have chosen a better way to mark our half a year on the road!