Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Questions and Answers Part 4 - Family

Families are like fudge, so they say - sweet, with a few nuts. And there's none too much nuttier in many families' eyes than a parent or grandparent who decides to throw caution to the wind and swap their nice, secure, respectable house for something a fraction of the size on wheels! It can come as a surprise, a huge shock even, and it doesn't always go down well, but as with most things, everyone accepts it and gets used to it in time.

I've deliberately left this question until now to answer, as it's the one closest to my heart and the thing I definitely struggle with the most:

How will I cope being far away from my family, especially my children and grandchildren? What if I miss them too much or they forget me?

Those of you who have followed me and my family for years will know I'm the mum of two boys - well, young men now. I don't write about them much any more as they are adults with their own houses, jobs and lives and I don't think I need to embarrass them by dragging them into my rambles, but here they are. Liam (left) is 21 and Alistair (right) is 19.

My boys <3

My family is the one thing which make me wish I was 'normal'. It tugs at my heart a lot. My eldest had already left home when I sold the house and was happily settled further down the country so we were used to being apart, but my youngest was still living with me and selling the house meant an enormous change for both of us. Our house sold in just nine hours and five weeks later we were going our separate ways. Most people have considerably more time to prepare and get used to the idea of such a monumental change! Leaving my boy in his home town, where he wanted to stay with his job and his friends was incredibly hard. Looking back now I think I probably got slapped with a hefty dose of 'empty nest syndrome', as well as the upheaval of undergoing such a huge and scary lifestyle change. As Gareth will vouch, there has been a LOT of tears. You should have seen me on Mother's Day, I was a wreck! I miss them both terribly, if anything it gets worse the more time goes on. But it doesn't mean I'm not happy; quite the contrary. I live an amazing, adventurous and very blessed life. I see so many incredible things living this way and meet so many wonderful people. I just wish more than anything I could share it all with them.

Whether you're a mother, father, daughter or son choosing to make this lifestyle change, I think it's normal to feel a fair amount of guilt. I feel bad for not being a 'normal' mother, sitting at home watching My Kitchen Rules in my pyjamas and fussing around the boys the way I used to. I feel bad for not having a conventional house that they can come and visit or stay any time they want. I feel bad that I'm no longer instantly available for everyone. But that's the thing, I still am available for them, through Skype, Facebook and on the phone. We talk pretty much every day in some way, even if it's just a few words. This morning I talked to Liam on the phone for half an hour and discussed his next visit (a 60km four-day hike together in Fiordland), while his younger brother and I had already had a spontaneous Facebook chat at 5am as both of us couldn't sleep!

Just because I'm not physically present, doesn't mean I'm not there for them. They still come to me with their problems, just as they always have and there's nothing we haven't been able to work out together these past 18 months, whether it's how long they should cook a roast in the oven, how to get stains out of clothes or bigger things such as car repairs and maintenance. I've still sat up all night in the van talking with them when they've needed me to. I can talk them through pretty much anything they need to do or figure out, but at the end of the day they have to do it all for themselves, and I think that is a good thing, a valuable thing. If I was still in the house, I would still have been falling over myself trying to do everything for them and that doesn't do anyone any good. Being away from me has taught them how to stand on their own two feet. They both work incredibly hard and I couldn't be prouder of them. It also helps put things into perspective when I meet so many young people their age in campgrounds, living simply in vans and cars, picking fruit to support their travels and having a blast. It reminds me of just how grown up my boys actually are and what they are capable of. After all, I was the same age as my youngest is now when I took off to the other side of the world by myself and never came back! When I think of it like that, I guess I always was a bit of an adventurous sort.

As time has gone on and I've learned so much more about life and different ways to live it, I've realised that there is no such thing as a conventional family any more. Families where both parents have stayed together are rare, most are scattered around these days. When I think about how many people I know whose children or parents live overseas, me being down the far end of the country is really nothing and not unusual at all! I just don't have a stationary house, mine is one which moves. At the end of the day, you have to do what works for you. I could stay in the same house my whole life to be close to them, only to have them both take off to the other side of the world, just like I did to my parents! In fact, I would love for them to do just that. That's another thing I've learned since living on the road. Before, I would have wanted my children to always be living close to me and no doubt have been devastated if they moved far away, or chose to live overseas. But I would never wish that for them now. On the contrary I want nothing more for them than to be able to experience everything this wonderful world has to offer, as fully as they can, and take every opportunity for adventure that comes their way. I'm not sure I'll ever stop feeling guilty for no longer being the traditional stay-at-home-mum they grew up with. But at the same time I'm proud of myself for grabbing life by the balls and having the courage to make a change. If there's one thing I've always tried to teach them it's that the most important thing is to be happy.

When it comes to making what is seen as a 'radical' lifestyle change like living on the road, a little support from other family members goes an awfully long way. You spend enough time questioning and asking yourself whether you're doing the right thing without anyone else throwing in seeds of doubt! Some families are right behind you and couldn't be more excited for you, others think you're mad and will try and be the voice of impending doom. Frustrating as it is, you can't expect everyone to understand. To be honest, I think my family definitely thought I was mad! They probably still think so, especially when it's 18 degrees where they are and 4 degrees where I am. It's a very different lifestyle. But as yet, I don't think any of the family members who have seen me think I'm any the worse for it. They haven't said I look terrible, or I'm fading away (chance would be a fine thing!) or that they're worried about me. What they do see is that I'm happy.

When I moved to the other side of the world from the UK, I left my parents without their only child. None of us had any way of knowing that just five years later my father would be diagnosed with terminal cancer. Fortunately he had the opportunity to visit me here in NZ several times before he became ill. I still remember the last conversation we ever had. He told me that my moving over here had enriched his life and opened up a whole new world to him. It had enabled him to travel and see things and places he had never heard of, or dreamed he would see. And that's the best thing of all about living on the road. I may not get to see my family very often; sometimes it's only once or twice a year, if that, but when we do get together I get to show them some amazing things and take them on wonderful adventures, which just like my dad, they may never get to see otherwise. My travelling ways have inspired and ignited a spark in both my boys to go and explore their home country and far beyond and see what's out there. I'm pretty sure they still think I'm mad - but as time has gone on, I hope it's more of a brave and slightly cool kind of mad. And don't forget! One definite bonus of being a nomad is that we're not tied to anywhere, we don't have to have a plan all of the time and can be as flexible as required. If ever our family really needs us, we can be wherever we need to be.

What about taking my kids on the road? Will they miss out not being with their peers?

This is one question I'm not really qualified to answer, seeing as I've never done it! However knowing what I know now, if I had my time again I would have absolutely loved to take my boys on the road growing up. I'm sure it's a lot more challenging travelling with kids than without! But what an incredible adventure and experience as a family. I know it's a cliche but there really is no better school than the school of life, and what a wonderful way to learn. I might not have any inside knowledge to impart myself, but I do have a few links to those who are out there doing it!

Bus Life NZ- check out their YouTube channel too!

I think that's enough to be going on with for one post today. Tomorrow I'll aim to answer the last few of your questions, such as 'what do I do about mail?' If anyone else has any more they would like to add to the list, just drop us a line through our Riches Have Wheels Facebook page!


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