Jackie Norman sold her home in 2016, bought a motorhome and embarked full-time on the road with husband Gareth. She files her final report as they swap their van for a cabin, and reflect on their adventure.
We hung up our travelling hats on 26 October 2020. Our last campground was Himatangi Beach Holiday Park. What an exceptional, spacious and well-kept ground. It has everything you could possibly want, and in a peaceful, stunning location. We would recommend it to everyone. For us however, there was just one problem.
Seeing as we could no longer sleep or cook in the van, due to the amount of work gear we had accumulated, we had to hire a cabin. To my dismay I found myself utterly lost. For the past four years Ken, our RV, had been everything we needed. Our bedroom, our lounge, kitchen, office. Our refuge from the crowds in summer, our cosy nest in winter. More importantly though, our van had been our independence. Now that he was full of computers, camera gear, tripods, whiteboards and goodness knows what else, we could no longer be self-sufficient. As we walked along the vast, golden beach in the evening sun, I knew I was done.
NO LONGER ON THE MOVE
After the stress of trying to fit work commitments around travelling and house-sitting, Gareth was instantly relieved, and overjoyed to be stationary. I found the transition a little harder however. I was accustomed to always being busy and having somewhere to go! All of a sudden, I felt at a bit of a loose end and didn’t know how to spend my time when I wasn’t working. I missed seeing new places and people every day, and going off on exciting adventures. Still, I loved our new cabin space, so I contented myself with turning it into a home. Anything we needed, we were either generously given, or we found in the several excellent op shops in the area.
STILL LIVING SIMPLY
I was also busy in the huge garden, clearing and replanting the two large vegetable beds. The joy of tending, harvesting and eating our own fresh fruit and vegetables hadn’t worn off. I had missed that, although not the endless weeding. Living on the road, we had led a very ‘no-waste’ lifestyle. Now we were in one place, I struggled with the amount we were throwing away, particularly food scraps. So I bought two worm farms on Trade Me and between those, making my own stock, feeding three rescue chickens and the compost heap, our waste was back to zero.
Although our circumstances have changed, we haven’t. We still feel very unconventional compared to everyone else around us. We don’t buy anything new unless absolutely necessary, and our favourite shops are still op shops. We have acquired a few more possessions, but everything we own is precious to us and has a purpose – and if it stops being useful or special, we donate it back.
We never drive if we can walk, which is great exercise in our hilly area. Even the local grocers have quickly got to know us, saying, “Where are you walking to today?” when we come in with our laden backpacks.
Gareth and I are still together 24/7 and have only one phone between us, and that’s how we like it. Even after so long spending every moment in each other’s company, we’re still each other’s favourite people. We still rise early and go to bed early, just like we did in the van.
WHAT WE HAVE LEARNED
I don’t think anyone can live the way we have for such a length of time and not be permanently affected somehow. But I truly cannot think of a single negative thing to have come out of this chapter in our lives, and I definitely wouldn’t rule out doing it again one day. There’s no freedom like experiencing life on your own terms, under your own steam.
I think the biggest thing I have learned since leaving my home in 2016 is kindness. That’s not to say I wasn’t kind before – I like to think so! But I have such greater awareness and consideration of everyone and everything around me, from people I encounter to the smallest creature.
I’ve learned how to take much better care of our planet and have a far greater appreciation of it. All the time we were living on the road, our consumption was visible. Most of the time, in conventional ‘house life’ it isn’t, and the amount of wasted resources, such as water and power each day, absolutely blows me away. I can’t do much about other people; all I can do is my part, so I save every drop I can, from collecting rainwater to keeping a bucket in the shower. I’m obsessive about using as little power as possible, and rarely use regular electric lights, favouring two small lamps, except where necessary. After living without an endless supply of water and power, I just can’t bring myself to be frivolous, especially when it’s not needed.
It saddens me now to see how much pressure so many people are under in their everyday lives, too. It’s exhausting just watching them get through each day; a constant whirlwind around us now we’re standing still. I used to be like that too – I’m so glad we made the leap when we did. I feel guilty every time we jump into our beloved van, now he’s no longer our home. I can’t help but cast a wistful eye behind me and see all the adornments still there. It really has been the most amazing adventure, and I don’t think it’s really over. I hope not.
For now though, I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has followed our journey over the years. Who knows, one of these days we may see you out there on the road once again. Not just yet, though. Right here, right now is where we’re meant to be.