It’s not all sunsets and toasting marshmallows on the fire. And yet, the reality of this almighty life change has far exceeded my expectations.
Personally, it’s been challenging and tough and the very best thing I could have done. I often remark that the Jodi from two years ago wouldn’t have even entertained the idea of a holiday in a caravan, let alone living in one full-time.
Yet here I am. We can change if we want to.
I remember standing in the kitchen when Marigold was a few months old. It was cold and dark and I was walking through the witching hours with little motivation. From the sink I looked over to the laundry and the ever-growing pile of washing. The kids had failed to find their sports uniforms which meant I had to find them and wash them and dry them before 8am the next day.
I could feel the weight of that washing, the dishes stacked in front of me and the floor-to-ceiling wardrobes that were full of stuff that needed sorting and cleaning.
But far greater than that weight was the sense that we were stagnant; churning through our scheduled week with little to no exploration or adventure. However grateful I was, I rarely felt inspired.
And then a simple suggestion enlivened me. I said yes to a new plan that scared and thrilled me in equal measure. And it continued to scare and thrill me for the eight months it took us to get going.
Beyond the promise of adventure in new places, I think it’s the little, everyday moments that really make this experience worthwhile. It’s the spontaneous wanders through little towns we visit, the park plays that turn into beach walks, the freedom of going where we want to and then staying for as long as we like.
On any given day I might look out the window to see Daniel chatting to another traveller – Keith or Brian or John or Mike – and together they’re working out one caravan issue or another. There’s always someone willing to give you advice, tell their woeful car troubles tales or suggest a free camp in a location you’re yet to visit.
It’s this strong sense of community that bolsters the nomadic experience and it’s one I never expected to encounter. What joy it’s been though; to meet other like-minded travellers and share our stories.
Recently, in a low-cost camp just outside of Launceston (Old Mac’s if you’re planning on a visit), six travelling families camped next to us; a serendipitous meet-up that quickly became one of our trip highlights.
We were parked in a semi-circle with a large paddock in the middle and on any given day there were between 10-20 kids playing happily for hours on end. So consumed with play, we had to literally drag them in for dinner and give them ten, five and two minute warnings when it was bedtime. Poet returned home one night, cheeks flushed and eyes sparkling and threw her arms in this air. “This is kids heaven,” she declared. Needless to say, we didn’t get much school work done that week.
One morning I stood in the kitchen waiting for the kettle boil when I overheard Che and his new friend chatting about the water tanks. “I think we can carry about 180litres,” he said. To which his friend replied: “Same. Can’t believe how quickly we go through it, even when we don’t have showers!”
And it was in that moment that I realised how big this is for the kids. Because they’re learning – we’re all learning – how we take power and water for granted. And subsequently, just how much water we use without thought. Yes, we really can go through 180litres of water in 3-4 days just on drinking, cooking, dishes and very short showers (turn the water on, turn it off to lather up, turn it back on to rinse).
Van living is a celebration of the simple things. Granted, often those simple things can be inconvenient and arduous – hand-washing when you don’t have power, a 1km walk to a flushing toilet – but on the flipside, they put so much into perspective. I’ve also got a newfound appreciation for washing machines and private bathrooms.
Small space living has reinforced the fact that we need so little to live well. Honestly, not once have I sat in the caravan and wished we had more. We’ve got everything we need right here and knowing this creates a profound sense of contentment.
I recently remarked that chasing things is exhausting yet chasing experiences is exhilarating.
Spending less time consuming and more time just being…that’s the very essence of vanlife.