Monday, 21 May 2018

Whales, Wars and Cool Pointy Things

Welcome to an area steeped in history!

I might be from England originally, but there are times when I feel incredibly proud to be a Kiwi.  Although a young country in comparison to many, we've had more than our fair share of historical dramas and have our own unique culture. Watching a Haka - a real one, with every ounce of heart and soul put into it - never fails to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end!  I got the same feeling recently when we visited the little fishing settlement of Karitane.  It was about time we got along there, Dunedin locals had been telling us about the place for long enough, so one warm and sunny afternoon we thought 'why not?'  We were very glad we did too, as I think this would easily be one of my most favourite walks we have done so far.

The Waikouaiti River is peaceful now - but it didn't used to be!

Like many places on the Otago Peninsula, the narrow, winding road seemed to go on forever and I wondered where the hell we were going, but eventually we descended into the sleepy little village and pulled into the small carpark at the edge of the Waikouaiti River.  It was very peaceful and quaint, and felt very much as though we had gone back in time; but there didn't seem to be an awful lot to do there unless you had a fishing boat.  However there was a sign which pointed to a Department of Conservation walkway to Huriawa Pā.  We had no idea what lay ahead but thought we may as well follow the track, so we set off, in all honesty with not too much in the way of expectations.

A different stunning view awaits you round every corner

How wrong we were.  It wasn't long before we were climbing up through the grassy tracks and out onto a cliff side walk.  The view was absolutely stunning, it was hard to know where to look first!  We could see out to Taiaroa Heads to the south and Matanaka and Butterfly Bay to the north.  With every step, every corner we were treated to something different.  Here an archway, there a blowhole, and even the odd pointy pinnacle thingy.  What made this place extra special however was the spiritual air which surrounded it.  I haven't encountered a place like it since Cape Reinga.  You could almost smell the history and the sadness in the air.  As it turned out, there was good reason for this. 

The Huriawa Peninsula

The land at Huriawa is considered sacred, and was once the site of the fortress of a great Maori Chief, Te Wera.  In the 1700's, Te Wera and his people were held under siege there by another Chief, his cousin Taoka.  The siege lasted for six months, with Taoka convinced he would starve Te Wera and his people out.  What Taoka didn't know was that a freshwater spring occurred naturally inside the fortress, enabling Te Wera and his people to survive.  They may have been starving, but they didn't die of thirst and in the end, having depleted the area surrounding the fortress of food, Taoka and his men were themselves starving and had no choice but to give up and move on.  In addition to being a significant battle site, by 1837 Huriawa had also become a whaling station and the area was now such a hotbed of violence and immorality, well meaning early European settlers couldn't bring themselves to stay there.  As if that wasn't enough, it is said that two of the three blowholes came about due to a doomed romance.  A young couple dared to elope and upon their return were hoping for forgiveness.  Unfortunately for them, they got quite the opposite and their irate families hurled the pair from the cliffs with such forced, they each made a hole right through the rocks.  Apparently the wife was the heavier of the two and created the bigger hole!

The blowholes of (so it is said) an ill fated romance.
Am guessing the wife made this one!

But all death and disaster aside, there is still no denying that Karitane and its surrounding area is a truly beautiful spot.  The track is well maintained and not too steep, and although there are hazard warnings everywhere not to walk too close to the cliff edge, as long as you abide by them it's not at all dangerous.  I loved the diversity of the landscape, it was a wonderful way to spend a sunny afternoon and I didn't want it to end, I would have happily done it all over again!  But eventually we made our way down the slope and onto Karitane beach, with its gorgeous views and golden sand.  We didn't see any seals there that day, but like many places on the Otago Peninsula, they are frequent visitors to the area.  And the history isn't all bad.  For all the Kiwis reading this and yelling 'What about Plunket!  Don't forget Plunket!'  Karitane was indeed also the home of Sir Truby King, who founded the Plunket Society (named after the Governor General at the time) in the early 20th century.  Thanks to him and his dedication in educating mothers in child care, infant mortality rates dropped by two-thirds during his lifetime and to this day, nurses known as Karitane nurses help mothers with their new babies.

Making the descent down to Karitane Beach

This place has everything - including cool pointy things!

Whether you enjoy learning about different cultures and history, or just enjoy a invigorating and spectacular walk, Karitane has it all.  Bring a picnic and stay as long as you like, as you won't want to leave! 

We loved it at Karitane!

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Questions and Answers Part 5 - More 'how to's' and 'what do I do's?'

Today's post pretty much wraps up the rest of the questions we most frequently get asked, or people's biggest fears and worries.  For those of you who have asked about travelling with pets, I will write a post all about that soon!  For now I just need to take a break for a few days as I'm going into hospital next week but I'll be back on deck as soon as I can.  Here we go:

What about mail?  How can I still get mail when I don't have an address?

A good question indeed and makes perfect sense, how on earth are you supposed to receive and retrieve mail when you're constantly on the move?  There's no denying, it can be a bit more of a pain.  Let's just say I don't bother with magazine subscriptions any more!  Although a lot of people still do, they just have a whole lot to catch up on when they eventually get to receive them!  But there are definitely ways and means.  For example, you can -

* Have a PO Box.  Many people use this option, however it only really works if you choose to have it in a town or area you know you are going to be passing through regularly, or can have someone empty it and hold on to your mail for you.

* Use a friend or family member's address.  A lot of my mail gets sent to my mum's house in the North Island.  I just give her authority to open everything and she lets me know about anything I need to such as when the van's Warrant of Fitness or registration is coming up.

* Have it sent to the campground.  If you are going to be in one place for a while, you can have your mail sent to the campground.  Our caretaker is kind enough to let us use his address for important things and he brings them in to us.  Legend!  

* Have it sent to your nearest Post Office.  This is a handy option whether you are already in a location, or planning your next stop.  You can arrange to have things sent to the Post Office and the staff will keep it behind the counter for you and you can pick it up at your convenience.  You just address it in the following way - 

Your Name
c/o Counter Staff
Your Post Office branch name
Your Post Office address

That's it!  You just pop in and check and the staff will hand it over to you when it arrives.  

* Use a mail opening and forwarding service.  This is a paid service but is pretty cool!  You get companies like this one to handle all your mail and they can open it, scan it and email it to you, or just forward it to wherever you are.  Where there's a will, there's a way!

There are a lot of clever and crafty people living on the road!

How will I keep busy on the road?  What if I get bored?

Most people on the road have some kind of hobby.  It might be something as simple as reading, but a lot of folk are into their crafts.  Knitting, cardmaking, sewing, cross stitch, some people like to make jewellery or even build and upcycle small pieces of furniture.  Just like in a house, everyone needs a little down time or something to while away cold and rainy days.  

Writing is my work but I also do it for fun, just for the love of it.  It takes up so much of my time that I don't have the time or inclination to take up any other hobbies.  I do like to walk though, I make it my aim to go for a good long walk every day.  Not only is it good for the mind and soul, it's so important for the body too, especially when living in such a small space.  In the winter particularly, you can be stuck inside for days if the weather is bad.  If you don't get out and move whenever you can, your joints and muscles can really seize up and become sore from being confined and squashed up.  In June, when the shortest day is, the hours of light can be very few - sometimes the sun doesn't make it out from behind the clouds at all!  So it's also really important to get outside and get your dose of Vitamin D whenever you can, even if it means being wrapped up like an Eskimo.

Gareth on the other hand has heaps of hobbies.  He loves making videos and animations and he also loves to draw and create storyboards.  He enjoys computer games and his most favourite hobby of all is building and painting painstakingly detailed miniature figures such as Warhammer.  Unfortunately for him, tiny as those figures may be, when you have whole armies of them they can take up an awful lot of room.  Not the most suitable pastime for someone who lives in a tiny van but that doesn't stop him!  On the whole though, we don't really get bored at all.  There's always places to go, things to see, people to talk to.  It's one of the best things about living on the road.  Things never get stale - but if they ever do, you can just move to somewhere new and start exploring all over again!

What if I give everything up and then find I don't like it?

Another very good and valid question!  I've kind of touched on this before so hopefully I don't repeat myself too much but on the whole, people who live on the road have either a) sold their houses or b) have held on to their houses and have either kept them empty or rented them out.  The people who sell their houses don't look back.  They've made their decision and get on with adjusting and acclimatising to their new life.  In all the time we've been on the road, I've only ever heard of one person who hasn't loved it.  It was her husband's dream, not hers and she pined constantly for the house she insisted they keep.  While I guess it was a good idea they did keep it, at the same time it was as though she never really tried to make things work on the road, as she knew she had her house still waiting for her to go back to.  In the end, after nine months they sold their motorhome and went back to the house.  But that's literally the only case I've ever heard of, and it was something she never really wanted in the first place.  If you envisage this being a problem and don't have to sell your house, then don't sell it until you're sure.  

We meet couples all the time who are on the road 'practising', with the aim of living on the road permanently.  They keep their houses and go away for several months at a time.  First two or three months, then five or six and so on.  They know they can return to their houses at any time and have the security and comfort of having a base they can rely on until they are financially able, or personally ready to make the move permanently.  They are made up of all ages and walks of life, and come from all over NZ but they all have one thing in common.  They are always incredibly happy and with every stint they spend travelling, they never want it to end!  

At the end of the day though, whatever happens, nothing is impossible.  Sure, maybe if you sold your house and things didn't work out on the road you might not be able to afford to own your own home again - but does that really matter?  What matters is that you have a roof over your head and if there's one thing you learn when you live on the road, it's to appreciate whatever roof you are lucky enough to have.  If the proverbial wheels fell off and Gareth and I had to stop living this way tomorrow, it wouldn't be a big deal.  We would have to rent a house, which I have never had to do in my life, and we would hate it - but not because the house wouldn't be ours.  We'd hate it because we would have to go back to paying things like power bills again and buying and owning 'stuff' so that our house wouldn't look silly and empty.  And you can bet we'd spend as much time as we could away from that house, even if it meant going camping in a tent, so we could still feel free.  Everyone is different though.  We probably sound like a right couple of weirdos!  But we're very happy weirdos.

I hope you have found this series of Q & A blogs helpful.  We're always happy to answer any queries you have!  

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!

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Questions and Answers Part 3 - Living without Stuff

Today's 'question and answer' post focuses largely around 'stuff', which is another one of the main fears people have when considering a life on the road.  How on earth does a person live with such a small amount of possessions, or without many of their favourites?  As usual, I can only really share my own experiences here, but talking to other travellers I think the feeling is pretty much the same.  So let's get to it!

How would I live without all my stuff?  I'm not sure I could cope with so little.

Oh, but you can!  You would be amazed at how little you can cope with, and quite happily too.  Think about it:

* You didn't start your life with all this stuff.  It takes years, decades, a lifetime to fill a home with all the things you own.  Some of them are important; a lot of them aren't.  Many of them are just space fillers, shelf fillers, wall fillers, random objects we've picked up, things we've been given.  Organisers and display units for stuff we like the look of but doesn't actually do anything.  We all have items we consider precious, and Gareth and I are no different in that respect, but most precious or sentimental items are not things which we use every day, or indeed not even useful at all.  They can invoke different emotions, make us smile, bring back memories, perhaps they make us feel closer to the person who gave them to us - but they don't help us to survive.  We don't need them to get through everyday life.  By the same token, people don't develop emotional attachments to household appliances and convenience gadgets.  We might joke that we do - or maybe even think we do - but as soon as we are away from them and in a different environment, we quickly forget all about them.  When you go away on holiday, do you talk about how much you miss your possessions?  No, you miss people, not things, and living on the road is the same.

* What would you save in a fire?  This old chestnut, along with 'what would you take with you if you were stranded on a desert island?' are both simple but effective exercises.  When you live on the road, you only take the items you really can't live without, along with perhaps a few luxury items or sentimental things you might have room for.  If your house was on fire, you don't race to save your lounge suite, or your 50 inch flat screen TV.  You save the things that can't be replaced.  Some people have more room than others obviously, depending on the size of their home on wheels.  To give you an idea of the things we consider precious and want to have around us all the time, in our van we have four of our wedding photos on the wall (that's all we have room for).  On a tiny shelf we have the bride and groom ornament from our wedding cake, a tiny house ornament I bought in Corfu on a family holiday when I was 13, which I keep my rings in.  My most precious item of all is a bright green soft bendy flower with a smiley face.  My youngest son Ali won it for me in a toy machine when he was little.  He still remembers it was the night we could see the planet Mars when we stood outside.  I just Googled it and it was 2003, so there you go, my flower is 15 years old and he would have been just four.  Everywhere we go, that flower is with me, smiling across at me in the driver's seat.  I'm getting sentimental now, but you get what I mean?  It's the small things which are important, not the biggest or most expensive.

* Ask yourself, is there an alternative?  Most of the time, there are other ways to get by without owning a lot of the things you used to.  You don't need to own a washing machine on the road when you can wash by hand or use a laundromat.  You don't need to own a TV if you have a laptop to watch programmes on.  Some people on the road have vacuum cleaners and even irons, it all depends on the size of the vehicle how feasible it is.  Although people with irons are generally considered mad because most of us have far more exciting things to do on the road than iron and really don't care about a few wrinkles any more!

On the whole, I've found that people who live on the road who still own conventional houses back home tend to miss things more, because they know they have them to go back to, and there's always that pull.  Saying that, there are just as many who don't miss them at all and would rather not have them!  But when a home on wheels is the only home you have, you don't worry about that stuff any more, you just get on with it.

How will I know what I need?  What if I get rid of too much stuff and then discover I need it and no longer have the money to buy it back again?  

With regard to what you need, I have this really annoying saying which goes 'All you need is all you need'.  And you won't believe how incredibly little that is.  It's really just the essentials.  For example we have two complete changes of bedding, one on and one clean, you don't need more than that.  We have around four changes of clothes each (plus extra socks and undies), a hairbrush and basic toiletry items.  The first week we were in the van I decluttered my clothes twice more, as I soon realised I just wasn't going to need them.  I brought all my creams and moisturisers with me when we left the house but once they ran out I didn't bother replacing them. We have two large and two smaller towels each and 'dog towels' for Minnie.  The kitchen is probably the most important as you're going to use that stuff the most.  We have several large and small plates, one big frying pan, one small (which we've used once so was a daft idea really), one medium sized saucepan and one smaller, plus a crock pot, which is downright luxurious for a van.  Four knives, forks, spoons, teaspoons and a couple of sharp knives, wooden spoons and spatulas, tin opener...  It really depends on how large your vehicle is as to what you already have and what you are going to need.  People who live in a van really don't have much, to be honest I think we have a lot more than most!  But hey, most people don't live in a van as long as we do, we managed for five months quite happily without a kettle, toaster or fridge.  Even when we did get a fridge, it was three months before we used it, as we were so used to living without one, we forgot we even had it!  If you ever want me to do a full inventory, let me know.  Just not when it's only two degrees outside like it is right now!

As for 'what if I get rid of too much stuff and then want it back again?'  I doubt very much that will happen.  Hand on heart.  If anything, it will most likely be the other way round and you'll be turfing more stuff out.  We still have a decluttering session every few months, usually with the change of each season and even we can't believe the crap we manage to accumulate and hang on to.  But, in the event that did happen, as I said earlier, most things are replaceable.  If I ever went back into a house again, I would have absolutely no problem furnishing it completely with second hand and op shop items.  After living in a van, anything would be luxurious!  But when you live with so little it doesn't take long to learn and appreciate the true value of something.  I would much rather pay a couple of dollars for something second hand which is well made and has stood the test of time than pay a fortune for most of today's modern rubbish which is designed to fall apart.  Jeez, listen to me, I must be getting old!

Seriously though, the biggest regret we have is putting some of our items into storage.  Like most people on the road, we don't have a crystal ball and never envisaged how things were going to go and what we would or wouldn't need.  By the six month mark we realised that we were never going to want or need any of it again, yet here we are 18 months down the track still paying $30 a week for stuff we don't want and trying to work out the most cost effective way of getting it down the country to us so we can sort through it and get rid of it once and for all.  My advice to anyone who wants or needs items stored, is try and find a way you can do it for free.  Ask around friends or family to see if they have any shed space or anywhere you could store your things until you know whether your new lifestyle is going to be for you.  We can't even tell you what the heck is in our storage any more, but there are some things which are too expensive to just be given away or dumped, as well as irreplaceable family photos and such.  Even so, $120 a month to keep them locked up in a box is really not ideal - and that's cheap for storage!  Take it from us, if there is any way you can avoid paying for someone to look after your stuff, do it.

How will I cope living in such a confined space?  

Trust me, the thought of this totally freaked me out too, particularly as someone who had absolutely no previous experience of being in a caravan, motorhome or anything remotely small.  The last three homes I lived in were all enormous two-storey buildings, with huge gardens.  Seriously, if I had spent too long thinking about living in a van I probably would have had a panic attack.  Fortunately for me, everything happened so fast I didn't really have time to think about it!  What can I say, it comes down to the old 'home is what you make it' scenario.  You make your space your own, however small that may be.  You do that by putting your stuff in it, cooking and eating in it, sleeping in it and relaxing and watching Netflix in it, just like you do in a house.  Everyone is different.  Gareth doesn't get cabin fever, ever!  I don't know how he does it, but he's just content in his own little space.  He has a lot of hobbies too which are all indoors, so whatever the weather he is always occupied and happily busy.  Me on the other hand, I get dreadful cabin fever.  If I don't go for a walk every day I get grumpy.  It's really important for me to keep active for my health, not to mention my sanity.  I find particularly in the winter when we can't be outside so much, your joints and muscles can really seize up and get sore, so it's always important to move when you can.  I have a pedometer thingy on my phone and I try and do 10,000 steps a day.  The thing is, just because you live in a small space, it doesn't mean you have to be stuck in it 24/7.  Most travellers have awnings or gazebos to create extra space or their own outdoor area.  All you have to do is open the door and the whole country is your backyard!

Just because we live in a van, doesn't mean we spend every second in it!  For example, we quite enjoyed our 'dining room' at Lake Hawea

Should I sell my house, or rent it out?  What if I get bad tenants and they don't look after the place?

This is one question I would never dare answer as everyone is different.  For me, renting our house out wasn't an option, it was sell or nothing.  And the 'nothing' option had already been done to death.  For those who do have the choice though, there are two general schools of thought.  The first just want to get right away from their old life; away from the rat race and slogging their guts out to pay bills.  They've had enough and they know they never want to go back to it, so they sell up everything and don't look back.  The other want more from the life they currently have, but they're not entirely sure if living on the road full time is for them - and even if it is, they can't bear the thought of not having somewhere of their own to go back to in their old age.  So they keep their house and either rent it out or leave it empty.  Obviously finances play a big part in this, as you need to be able to afford both your new mobile lifestyle and the responsibilities and costs of your old one.  Which is why a lot of people rent their houses out indefinitely, or at least long term.  I don't have any experience of this whatsoever, and I haven't really heard of any 'bad tenants' as such but I have heard of quite a few travellers who have had tenants commit to renting their houses from them long term, only to let them down and bail out unexpectedly.  This can throw quite a spanner in the works when you're halfway down the country, merrily enjoying your travels and all of a sudden you have to go back home and check the house is OK and find some new tenants.  It's not the end of the world, but it can be a big inconvenience.  And once you stop for any real length of time, it can be hard to get going again.  All I can say I think is trust your gut instinct.  If you don't have to sell and you're not 100% sure you won't want to come back to it one day, then don't do it.  You can always sell later, once you know for sure.

Remember, when it comes to all these questions, you don't have to go in to living on the road blindly.  We didn't have the option, our house sold in nine hours and five weeks later we were out!  However most people mercifully have the time to do things at a slightly more comfortable pace.  Practise is the key.  Practise living in a small space; hire a camper van for a long weekend, then a week, then two weeks.  It doesn't have to be expensive; besides think of it as a long term investment.  If it means you can going into your new life feeling comfortable, capable and confident rather than a nervous wreck, it's worth the expense.  As a rule of thumb, I reckon if you can manage two weeks in a van without going mad or killing each other, you've cracked it.

One thing I did have a lot of time to practise with however, was living with less stuff.  I downsized and decluttered, and downsized and decluttered some more, over months and years, until there was nothing left I could possibly get rid of.  I should probably write a proper blog about that one day, it's one thing I definitely am an expert on!  But as a starting point, if you haven't seen it yet, you're welcome to check out the video I made a little while back here.  I hope you find it helpful!

We've just got a few more questions to get through, which I'll aim to get to tomorrow.  In the meantime, if you have any more to add to the list, please drop us a line!

Friday, 11 May 2018

Questions and Answers Part 2 (b) - Working on the Road

As promised, today's post is about some of the jobs people can do when living on the road and how to go about getting them.  Obviously I don't have ALL the answers, but if nothing else I hope it gets people's brains ticking as to some of the options and opportunities that are out there.  I know it might sound like I have it easy, being able to work from my van all the time, but honestly, I have found work opportunities of all kinds are so much more plentiful on the road.  We see them everywhere we go.  Sometimes I feel bad that I don't go out to work, as a lot of the jobs sound like a lot of fun and something I would love to do!  However, Gareth and I already work four or five jobs as it is, all from our little van.  We are busier now than we have ever been in our lives.  Which wasn't the plan when we set off in search of the 'easy life!'  But we love what we're doing so much, most of the time it doesn't even seem like work.

Job hunting on the road isn't the same as in conventional life.  When you live in a house, you are so much more limited.  On the whole, you look for work which will enable you to stay in the same house, in the same town, or at least pretty close to it.  Consequently your options are pretty few, especially when it comes to finding a job you actually like or are qualified or experienced in.  However when you live on the road, you can just go wherever the work is. Some people have a specific are in mind (e.g. a lot of people head to Central Otago in spring and summer as it has some of the highest temperatures in the country and there is so much work available in the orchards).  Others just find a job they like the sound of, hop behind the wheel and go wherever it may be!  It's no big drama when you already have your whole house with you.

We learned heaps about working on the road from our friends, Steve and Fiona!
When it comes to making new contacts and knowing where the work is, fellow travellers are worth their weight in gold and always happy to help.


So what sort of jobs can you do on the road?  Pretty much anything you like really.  That's not trying to be a fob off but think about it, your mobile home is just the same as a regular house in that you can lock it behind you when you go to work and come home, eat dinner and sleep.  It all depends on your circumstances (e.g. for us we couldn't go out to work eight hours a day and leave our dog in a tiny van, especially over summer) and what you are willing to do.  The most common line of work for full time road dwellers without a doubt is in orchards and vineyards.  There's a heap of work available fruit picking and in packhouses and such and you can pretty much follow the picking season all around the country for most of the year.  It's something anyone can learn to do and as an added bonus you are often able to park up for free on site.  As for winter, there is plenty of work to be found at the ski fields.  If you're not too flash on the slopes there is cafe and bar work available, or helping out with hire gear.

Some people are happy to do anything, others are a bit more picky.  Instead of thinking about all the things you can't do, or don't want to do, think instead of all the things you CAN do.  What sort of skills and experience do you have?  Make a list. Can you drive a tractor or a forklift? Do you have an HT license?  If you have an HT license or have any experience in farming, such as calf rearing or relief milking you'll never have trouble finding work.  Good relief milkers are hard to find. If you don't have any farm experience, consider a stint 'Wwoofing'!  This is hugely popular (I'd do it like a shot if I ever needed to!)  and while you don't get paid as a rule, it's a great way to gain some valuable experience while enjoying free accommodation.  If you fancy yourself as a bit of a writer and would like to be able to work from your vehicle, check out Upwork.  It's a global site which you sign up for and gain instant access to all kinds of writing jobs all over the world, big and small.  In this day and age location is no barrier.  Over the years I've worked for companies in the UK and Australia and have just started a new job in PR for an organisation in the US!  Anything is possible these days.

Do you have cleaning references?  What past jobs have you had?  Many people can carry their existing skills with them to help them find new work, which is great news if you're a former mechanic, engineer or builder.  Another popular choice is house sitting.  While it may not pay, it can save you an absolute fortune on campground fees and facilities and keep your living costs super low.   I know people who have done housesitting continuously for years!  You get to look after some beautiful homes and often some adorable pets too. It's up to you whether you choose to stay in the house or not; many motorhomers prefer just to park on the property and stay in their own mobile homes.  If you want to find out more information about house sitting and how it works, check out Kiwi House Sitters on Facebook.  I know a lot of people who do house sitting through them and have heard nothing but good reports.  It's something I would definitely do myself should the need ever arise!


If nothing I've mentioned so far is jumping out at you, don't panic.  It's one of those things you really need to look into yourself to get an idea of what you can do and want to do.  Who knows, something may well just fall into your lap! Living on the road opens so many new doors. I think it's just because you go to so many places and meet so many people, it's amazing how many contacts you develop. A lot of opportunities come from word of mouth.  You might not know anybody when you set out on the road but it doesn't take long and most people have a real and genuine desire to help.  We've just made a new friend called Alison, from the US who has been on the road for a year or more and is staying here for the winter. She never planned to, she only intended to be in town for a few hours!  All it took was a visit to the ice skating rink and next thing she knew, she had a job at one of the local cafes.

A couple we met at our very first freedom camp had been living and working on the road for six years and gave us a spreadsheet they had made, which listed all the places they had worked, what time of year, for how long and had all the addresses and contact numbers.  It was so very much appreciated and made us realise what was out there.  While we've never had to use it to find work ourselves, we have shared it with at least half a dozen other couples looking for work and they have been so glad of it.  As the saying goes, it's often not what you know but who you know.  To date we've also been offered three jobs working at or managing different campgrounds we have stayed at.  Campground owners need a break just like anybody else and are happy to have full time motorhomers caring for the grounds in their absence as they are reliable and understand the lifestyle.

When looking for work, you can still go through all the traditional avenues such as Trade Me, Seek and local newspapers but there are other avenues too, which are tailored specifically for those living on the road. The NZMCA regularly notify members of available or upcoming vacancies through their Motorhomer magazine, on their Facebook page and its Wings Member Only group.  NZMCA members look after each other and it's a great way of keeping informed of some really good opportunities.  There is also a general Facebook page called NZ paid work for people who live on the road.    If you are in a specific area, or planning to be, you can also use Facebook to see what work is available, or let people know that you're looking.  Almost every town has some kind of community or Buy and Sell page where all the local happenings are posted.  For example I belong to a couple in Southland, there is Southland Jobs NZ and just Southland Jobs.  If you're on the hunt for farm work there is even a Southland Dairy Farm Jobs NZ page too. Yet another fantastic resource is a website called Seasonal Solutions, which sets up both Kiwis and overseas visitors with permanent or seasonal job opportunities in the horticulture and viticulture industries.  Being a bit of a wine afficionado myself, I rather like the thought of working somewhere which produces my favourite tipple!  You get the idea, it's just a question of letting your fingers doing the walking and seeing whats around.

Talking of doing some walking, don't forget you can do things the old fashioned way!  Often this can be the most effective.  Go for a walk and check out shop windows and ask local shop assistants if they know of any work opportunities.  If you're wanting orchard or vineyard work, do a Google search for all of them in the area, then pick up the phone or pay them a visit.  Many people living on the road don't have a recent CV, being the mature bunch we are, so spend a little time getting your CV up to date so you can hand copies to people and they have something to remember you by.  If you're too shy to go bowling up to potential employers on the doorstep, pop your CV in their mail box along with a covering letter!  You never know what may eventuate, you could be just what they're looking for.  It's certainly not uncommon to drive past farms, orchards and vineyards in the South Island and see signs advertising for Staff Wanted at the gate.  Don't worry if this all sounds a bit daunting to start off with.  Living on the road makes people very resourceful and creative.  It doesn't take long to drum up the courage to get out there and introduce yourself to people and sell yourself.  If you have a useful skill or talent, it's well worth advertising it in the window of your mobile home.  For example our friend Steve does knife sharpening and another friend, Sally cuts hair.  It's an easy way to make some extra cash (often it will pay for your campground fee at least) and you have a large and receptive audience in your fellow campers!  Motorhomers love to support one another and would much rather purchase from another merry wanderer than a commercial business.

One of the greatest things about working on the road is that you can be your own boss.  You can work as little or as much as you want, depending on the kind of income you need.  Some people go out and work a full day every day, others can work full or part time from their mobile homes, like me and our friend Dan, who is an architect and draughtsman and works flat out from his caravan.  If you're a crafty type you can indulge your passion while making an income.  How much you make depends on how far you want to go, both distance and effort wise.  Some people are happy advertising and selling their wares from their motorhome, like our lovely friend Leanne, who does the most beautiful knitting and card making.  Others go flat out through the busy summer months, travelling around markets and gypsy fairs, selling everything from baby clothes to hand made silver jewellery and amazing artworks.  I'll talk more about those in future blogs as some of them really have to be seen to be believed!  There are some very clever people out there, and they learned how to do it all while on the road.

I know I said yesterday that people on the road are happy to do anything, and we are.  But that certainly doesn't mean you can't get your dream job!  Who knows, you may not even know what your dream job is yet, you just have to get out there and see what comes up.  As the saying goes, you never know what you're capable of until you try.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Questions & Answers Part 2 (a) - Working on the Road

I swear, if I had a dollar for every time someone said to me 'I'd love to do what you're doing, but I don't know how I would support myself', I would have upgraded our van to something a lot bigger a long time ago!  I'm quite accustomed to getting snarky comments from people who read my articles on Stuff too, and say huffily, 'Well it's alright for you, we can't all work from home.  What are the rest of us supposed to do?'  Annoying as it is, their scepticism is totally understandable.  Living on the road is such an unknown, foreign world.  Most people naturally assume you can't (or don't want to) work.  How can you hold down a job when you're always on the move?  It's just impossible.  Except it isn't, not at all.

Would you rather work to pay bills, or work to travel?

It was fear of not being able to support ourselves on the road which initially stopped Gareth and I from taking the plunge.  We both thought it was a brilliant idea and agreed it would be something we would definitely like to do in the future, but we didn't think we would be able to do it now.  Like many people, we thought it was only people who were retired who could afford a mobile home and for us that was still a heck of a long way off.  Fortunately for us, by some amazing stroke of luck it was literally only a couple of days later that we read an article in That's Life! magazine about a woman called Vicky White who had bought a bus and was travelling around NZ.  A year or more on, she was having no problem finding work and supporting herself and was loving every minute of it.  Gareth and I looked at each other.  If Vicky could do it, so could we!  That was all we needed to hear. I think that's all a lot of people need to hear, that it's possible.  In our case, we were just super lucky that we hadn't spent years thinking it wasn't.

In my experience so far, around 50% of people we meet on the road work, maybe even more. Which would surprise a lot of people who assume very wrongly that people who live in vehicles are in it for a free ride and contribute nothing to society!  As for what those 50% of us do for a job?  There are far too many to list, but I'll talk about some of them in the next blog, Part 2 (b), which I'll aim to upload tomorrow, along with tried and true ways to find work.

The purpose of today's post however, is to get the 'Working on the Road' ball rolling by talking about two very important things that people living a conventional life don't consider.  They're really important and once you realise these two things, the thought of supporting yourself becomes a lot less daunting.

1. When you live on the road, your living costs are going to get a LOT less.
This is a no-brainer, but a lot of people are too busy worrying about how they're going to make money to pay much mind as to how much less they are going to be spending.  I can't even remember what bills I used to have back when I lived in a house but I know they were just endless and so many.  In comparison these are the monthly costs I have now:

* Campground Fees.  This depends on where we stay and what type of place we are staying in.  Some are free, some cost $3 per night, or $5 or $10, some are $20, although I can't remember the last time we paid that much, it was over a year ago)  Most people I know pay between $35 and $70 a week, which is a hell of a lot less than the $1500 a month I used to shell out for a mortgage!  However many people who live on the road spend nothing at all on camping fees - ever!  It depends on what kind of set up you have, but if your home on wheels is big enough and you are self-contained, you can definitely freedom camp it all the way.

* Mobile and Internet.  I probably pay a lot more for these than most people, as I need to be online pretty much all the time for work.  Your phone doesn't need to be flash, just something reliable for safety and security.  Most people on the road have at least some Internet access; it's how we communicate with other travellers, find out where good camping spots are, learn new tips.  A lot of us have Netflix and the like too.  Hey, everybody likes a little luxury!

* Life & Vehicle Insurance.  No house or contents cover for me any more!  Our vehicle insurance with Camper Care covers us for $3000 worth of contents insurance should anything in our van get stolen or damaged.  When you live in a little van like us, you don't need more than that!  I was amazed to find that it also costs much less to insure our van than it ever did to insure any of my cars!

* Petrol.  Most people would naturally assume that this would be the biggest cost, and indeed petrol is currently the most expensive we've ever known it.  It's enough to put you off going too far!  But in reality you only go through a lot of petrol when you're travelling.  We went through tons in the beginning because in our naivety we thought we had to keep moving constantly!  However this isn't the case.  When you live on the road full time, especially when you're working you can be parked up for weeks or even months at a time and barely spend anything.  Crazy as it sounds, we have done less than half the number of kilometres in a van than I did in a year in my car when I lived back at the house - and I worked from home!  The difference is, when you travel on the road, you travel with purpose and with a planned route.  None of this wasting money and wear and tear on your vehicle whizzing off to the shop for a bottle of milk every five minutes.  Nobody wants to bother moving their whole house just for something like that!  We have two legs or bicycles for that stuff.

* Food.  This is our biggest expense by a long way.  It doesn't matter whether you live in a house or a van, food in NZ is horrendously expensive.  It's really important to eat well when you live this way.  If you don't you just get sick more often and will end up spending any money you save scrimping on food at the doctor or chemist.  I guess one positive is that we waste a lot less now.  We plan our food shops to get maximum value and use out of the things we buy and because our fridge and food storage space is so small, we can always see what we have so it gets used up rather than forgotten about and thrown away.

I think that's about it.  Sure, we have some of the other circumstantial costs just the same as anyone else when they crop up.  Dr's appointments for us, vet bills for Minnie, vehicle warrant and servicing; but apart from that there really isn't much else.  No power, no crippling rates.  A lot of people who live on the road still own houses as they like the security, but just as many don't.  The ones who do still have the costs associated with owning and maintaining a house, usually rent it out to help cover those costs.  No doubt I've forgotten something but all I know is there are hardly any transactions each month when I check my bank account.

Still, no matter how little you spend, it's always nice to have money in the kitty!  Which brings me to important point Number 2:

2. When it comes to work, people on the road are happy to give anything a go.
For some, working on the road is their bread and butter; for others it's the jam.  Many people take on seasonal jobs and work for three months or so, e.g. picking fruit.  This enables them to get enough money behind them to then go travelling for another three months or however long.  Think about it, what other lifestyle can you afford to take months off work at a time to go on holiday!  Most travellers are not at all fussy what they do and are happy to give anything a go.

When people tell us they're looking for work and we ask 'what kind of thing are you looking for?' the answer is the same every single time - 'Anything!'  They're not worried about finding the perfect job or doing anything highly skilled.  You see, there isn't the pressure of a 'normal' job when you live on the road.  It doesn't matter if it's something a bit boring or repetitive because it's not going to be permanent.  If you start a new job and don't like it, or it's not your forte, it's not the end of the world because it's not like you're stuck there forever.  Before too long you can move on to somewhere else and go off adventuring with the money you've made.  I'm rubbish at waitressing and don't particularly like it but I'd happily do it for three months if it meant I could afford to go travelling for the next six.  On the whole, people on the road have a good reputation for being hard and capable workers.  Age is no barrier, it's not uncommon to see 20 year olds and 60 year olds or older doing the same job.  Another bonus of many seasonal and temporary work places is that you can park up and stay on site for free, saving you a nice tidy sum in campground fees.

I think that's enough ramble for one blog, but hopefully it's provided a little food for thought.  Tomorrow I'll get down to the nitty gritty of the kind of work you can do and how to go about getting it!

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Questions & Answers - Part One

Eighteen months on the road today!  546 days living in a tiny tin can on wheels.  Neither of us ever imagined we would be doing this more than a few months, but it's amazing how adaptable us humans can be.  A van may not be everyone's - or anyone's! - idea of a flash home and indeed I always envisaged myself in something a little more respectable and ladylike but as the saying goes, size doesn't matter.  You don't need something big to create your own sacred space.  It's our nest, our cosy nook, our bolthole.  Our little cocoon away from the rest of the world.  Even so, we still laugh at ourselves all the time, because while it's completely normal to us now, it still seems such a bizarre thing to be doing.

I still remember the day I left our house, eighteen months ago today.  I had never been so terrified in my life and wondered what the hell I was doing, what the future held.  I was worried - about everything. I had no one really to talk to about it either.  I had never met anyone who had done anything like what I was about to do and I certainly wasn't going to confide in anyone I knew, for fear of looking silly or that I didn't have my life together.  All I could do was find out for myself - and hope.  At the end of the day that's all any of us can do and none of us will have the exact same experience, but little did I know I was about to become part of a huge community and support network.  Whatever the problem, whatever the worry or issue, there is someone out there who can and will help you.  These days I don't worry about a thing!

But there are a huge number of people out there who dream of a life on the road and imagine all kinds of obstacles that stop them from doing it. For a long time I've wanted to write about some of the fears people come to me with.  There are so many and they are all valid - but there's pretty much none which can't be overcome.  Some of them, such as how to make an income on the road and support yourself are going to need a whole blog to themselves as there is so much information and opportunity out there.  So forgive me if that's the one you're waiting on!  I promise to write that one tomorrow; in the meantime to give you an idea, please take a look at this article I recently wrote for Motorhomes, Caravans and Destinations magazine.  It features some of the wonderful people we have met and some of the different things they do to support themselves while living a nomadic life.  You can check it out here.

For now, I will do my best to address some of the easier ones.  It's just my experience, but I hope it helps someone!  We'll start with a nice easy one :-)

How will I feel not being part of a community any more?
This occurred to me too.  I lived in a small town where everybody knew everybody, I always knew what was going on and was involved in a whole heap of things.  It can be pretty daunting leaving everything and everyone you know behind!  But here's the thing nobody realises.  When you become the owner of a home on wheels, you instantly become part of another community - an enormous one of thousands!  Bigger, busier and friendlier than anything you can possibly imagine.  And let me tell you, there is nothing more awesome than being part of such a big group of likeminded people.  Nobody back home will understand this new way of life and its joys and challenges the way you do; you can't expect them to, it's just so completely foreign.  But it doesn't matter, because from now on you will have a constant support network of people who love to talk, socialise and help one another however they can, while still respecting each other's space.  Which is more than can be said of a lot of communities!

What if I get lonely?  
Even though there were two of us, I still thought we would get lonely.  However I can honestly say I have never once felt lonely, quite the opposite!  I know this isn't always the case though for people who are travelling on their own.  The thing is, you can be as lonely as you want to be.  Some people travelling alone like to keep to themselves and are completely happy in their own company.  In fact they thrive on it, like our friend Debra.  She is completely at peace just reading, painting and playing her guitar.  Others, like our new friend Dan, go out of their way to actively seek company and make an effort to throw themselves into whatever the area they're in has to offer.  You can often choose your camping spot to suit how you're feeling.  If you want to be around people, choose somewhere which is popular.  If you don't, pick somewhere quieter.  You soon get to work out which places are busy or quiet from other motorhomers, either in person, in Facebook groups or from reviews on apps such as CamperMate.  You can also greatly increase your chance of meeting people by joining the NZMCA which has its own member only campgrounds all over the country and organises a whole heap of events all year round. However, campers will often invite one another for drinkies, or dinner, or just a cup of tea.  It doesn't matter if you don't know each other before, you will now! 

If you have access to Facebook, which most of us do, there are brilliant groups tailored towards people looking for work on the road, motorhomers travelling with pets, women travelling solo - you name it.  You don't have to wait until you actually live on the road to join either; people are always happy to answer any questions you have and it's a great way to learn and get some insight before you set off.

What will I do about showers and toilets?  I hate the thought of using public facilities!
You know what?  We all do!  Let's face it, we all much prefer being able to go to the loo or take a shower without having people in the stalls next to us. There are two ways you can deal with this.  The first one is to resign yourself to the fact that you just have to get used to it.  We're all in the same boat after all.  Saying that, I have still been known to go well out of my way just to get a toilet to myself!  The other thing you can do is buy a vehicle with a toilet and shower already in it - or at least one of them.  Our van for example is certified self-contained and has a portable cassette toilet.  A lot of vans do - but I have to admit we've never used it, we always prefer to stay at campgrounds which have a proper toilet.  Caravans, motorhomes and buses usually have both toilets and showers and it's nice to have the luxury of having your own.  It definitely makes you a lot more independent and self-sufficient when freedom camping too, as you can park up for days at places other people can't; however many people still prefer to use public facilities if they are available, as it saves your water supply and reduces the need to empty the waste tank, which is nobody's idea of fun!

I'm worried about safety.  What if I get hassled, or encounter violence on the road?  What if the freedom camps are scary, or full of 'bad people?'
This was without a doubt my biggest fear.  It took me a good few weeks to make the step out of a commercial campground to brave my first freedom camp.  I was convinced they were going to be full of hoons, glue sniffers and all sorts of scary types, all banging on my window in the middle of the night and doing skids outside the van!  While this has never happened to us, nothing of the sort ever has, we have heard of other campers having these kind of incidents, though mercifully they are very rare.  However, again this is something you can control by being mindful and selective about where you stay.  Before we stay anywhere, we check the CamperMate app and see what other campers have to say about the place.  If the reviews are bad, we don't stay there.  They will soon tell you if a place is creepy, or is frequented by undesirables.  Some people love isolated places and go out of their way to choose a spot nobody else goes, but I don't.  The only intimidating behaviour I've ever heard about has been from locals, usually youths or people who are against freedom camping.  As a result, I tend to be warier around freedom camps, as they are public areas where anyone can go.    Saying that, there is safety in numbers and most freedom camps in the summer have a LOT of people.  If you are an NZMCA member you can ensure your safety further by staying at either one of their secure member only campgrounds, or a POP, which stands for 'park over property'.  These are usually owned by fellow NZMCA members, who allow others to park on their land in exchange for a small fee.  Members enjoy the peace and safety of using these and they are a great low cost option.

What if I fall ill?
It's kind of a good time to be answering this one as this is something we've been dealing with recently, and still are.  Obviously there is a big difference between being ill as in having a cold, and really ill, with something serious.  I have actually found my immune system is a million times better since living on the road, maybe living in a van has hardened me up or something!  But on the rare occasion I am unwell, I've been surprised to find it is actually much easier being ill in the van.  Don't get me wrong, it's never fun but I find I recover from things a lot quicker and I think a big part of that is because when you live in a small space you rest up more.  There's nothing you really have to be doing and you can just focus on getting better and looking after yourself, whereas in a house you still tend to drag yourself around trying to look after everyone else and keep on top of everything.  As for really ill?  I can only give so much insight but I've met many people on the road who have had cancer, heart attacks and other game changer illnesses while on the road and are still out there fighting fit.  What you need to remember is, if you fall ill, you already have your whole house with you.  It's a lot less to look after and organise than a regular house too!  If something was to happen to me and I had to go to hospital (which indeed I do soon), Gareth has everything he needs right there in the van, which he can stay in either on site at the hospital or at a campground in the area.  He can be wherever he needs to be, and it would be the same for me if he was the one who was unwell.  In that respect, it's actually easier than living in a house!

What about health care?  How would I manage if I needed regular treatment and check-ups?
As just mentioned above, one of the great things about living a mobile life is that you can be wherever you need to be and plan your parking and campsites accordingly.  For example, I currently need two medical tests, which can take between three to nine months.  As it turns out, the first one is already scheduled and only took three weeks!  But we resigned ourselves to the fact that we were going to have to stay in the area until both tests had been completed and I had been given the all clear.  In cases like this, if you know you are going to have to stay in an area for any length of time, it's best to enrol at the local medical centre.  Doing this means my appointments cost me $30 each instead of $80.  Considering I had 10 appointments in April alone, that's a saving of $500 straight off!  Whether you live in a house, or a van, nobody really knows how they are going to handle these things until they happen.  But if they do, you will handle it.

What happens when I get old, or am not so mobile?
This is understandably one of the biggest fears people have.  Maybe I'm the wrong person to ask as I like to think I'm a little way off being 'old' yet, but I think a lot of it is to do with state of mind.  You can laugh if you want but I swear living this way keeps you young.  How do I know?  Because I've met a lot of people on the road of retirement age or beyond - in fact most people we meet are - and they don't look or act anywhere near it.  In fact, getting 'old' is one of the main reasons people do hit the road, because they have seen too many of their friends leave this earth without getting to enjoy their retirement, or have had a health scare of their own and realised there's still a lot they want to do while they still can.  Getting old is just a birthday, it doesn't mean you have to stop living!  Many of today's caravans and motorhomes are just as comfortable as any house - and just like a house they can be adapted to make mobility easier.  I know of amazing people who can't walk any more but they can drive a bus and can glide from one end of it to the other in their customised chair.  Trust me, you see a heck of a lot more in a mobile home that you ever will in a house.  If my body ever fails me and I have the choice of living out the rest of my days in the same four walls, or still being able to travel to beautiful new places - even if I could only look out the window - I know which one I would choose.  That's not meant to sound judgemental or condescending.  I think maybe that's something you can only understand when you live this way.  But I have heard that when the time comes, and you really can't travel any more, there is always somewhere you can park up for as long as you need.

I don't know enough about maintenance or mechanics to live in a mobile home.  What if I don't know how to work everything? 
Nobody goes out on the road an instant expert.  Some of us have an added advantage in being a bit 'handier' than others, or have mechanic or engineering knowledge, but just as many of us don't.  It's like anything.  A lot of people don't know the first thing about computers, or what all the buttons on their microwave do, but does that stop them using them?  No, you learn as you go and motorhoming is just the same.  We meet people all the time who don't know how to operate their camping toilet, or how to change a tyre, or tune in their TV.  But there is always someone out there to help you.  You can ask on Facebook, ask another motorhomer (who will be more than happy to help) or call out an appropriate tradesman, just as you would if you lived in a house.  If there's something you need to know, just ask!

What if I break down, or get stranded in a scary place? 
This is another area where people forget a motorhome is like anything else.  Having your motorhome break down or getting a flat tyre, or being stranded in a scary place is no different to the same thing happening in a car.  There's never a good time to have something like this happen!  You still need to call for a mechanic or the AA or someone to come and help you.  The bonus is, unlike a car, when you're in a motorhome you already have everything you need with you!  You can go and make yourself some food, or watch TV until help comes, whatever you like!  Before we go anywhere off the beaten track I always check the oil and water, make sure my Warrant of Fitness and servicing is up to date and let someone know where I'm going, especially if it is in an area unlikely to have cellphone reception.  If your whole life is on the road, it's definitely worth being a member of the AA, or having some type of insurance which offers a 24 hour callout service.  We are insured through Camper Care, and while we haven't needed rescuing yet, have found them to be brilliant.  Another popular motorhome insurance company is Covi.

I think that's probably enough for one blog, I hope my ramble is helpful to someone!  Will answer more of your questions tomorrow, but before I go I must answer just one more quick one.  It's the easiest one to answer but is probably one of the most important:

What if I fail?  
Three little words I want you to remember.  You can't fail.  It's YOUR life, you are in charge of it!  There is no test you have to pass.  Forgive me for sounding all Disney Fairy Godmother-ish but all you need to do is believe in yourself.  And even if you don't yet, once you get out there, you will.