Meet Fay and Robert Grigg, who are enjoying retirement living as full-timers on the road. Lisa Jansen caught up with them.
How do we want to spend our retirement? That’s a question most of us will ask ourselves sooner or later. For Fay and Robert Grigg, the answer came easily. “We wanted to use the newfound freedom to really explore our backyard,” says Fay.
It didn’t take them long to decide that an RV would be the best way to do so.
Choosing an RV
They ended up buying a Mercedes Sprinter in early 2019, to see how they would enjoy living and travelling in a motorhome. Not surprisingly, they loved it! So much, in fact, that they decided to go full-time. But they also realised that this would require a bigger vehicle. “We ended up selling the Sprinter after only three months. We knew we needed to look for something a bit more spacious and comfortable.”
After lots of research, they found their Dethleffs Esprit 7.6m RV, which ticked all their boxes. “The Esprit was the perfect option for us. It’s spacious but not too big, so we can still get to all those off-the-beaten-track places we like to visit. It’s well insulated, which is a big plus, and just an all-around reliable mobile home.”
However, the two realised that getting their dream motorhome would require a bit of patience. It took nine months for the new home on wheels to arrive, but they used the time wisely. “We went to the COVI show in Auckland and the NZMCA show in Hamilton, to get ideas on things we would need to add, and to learn about the lifestyle.”
Like many others who choose to live permanently on the road, Robert and Fay also had to decide what to do with their house. “We were a bit unsure whether we needed a base, so we decided to have one initially. But we also wanted to have the option to rent the house if we found we didn’t need a base. So we sold our rural home in Te Kūiti, and bought a property in Ōtorohanga that would be more suitable as a rental. We used that house as our base for a few months, but then decided we didn’t need it, and it’s now rented out.”
A new way of life
Their Esprit finally arrived in New Zealand in September 2019, and after getting solar and other extras fitted locally, they were ready to hit the road. They spent the rest of 2019 and the first half of 2020 exploring the North Island. “We travelled through Waikato and King Country, up to Auckland and then back down to Taranaki, Manawatū and Wanganui. We just loved having the time and freedom to really explore our own country.”
However, as much as they loved the lifestyle, there were also many new things to figure out, from learning how to use laundromats and dump stations to finding water and places to park up. “We now use the mobile apps for a lot of this stuff, which makes it all super easy. But in the beginning, it took us a while to figure it all out.”
Another challenge that comes with this lifestyle might be familiar to many, especially in the same age group: how to get medical care and medications. “We made arrangements with our doctor in Te Kūiti to get repeat prescriptions sent to a chemist along the way, but still find it a bit of a pain to figure out where and when.”
Luckily, none of this was getting in the way of them enjoying life on the move.
In mid-2020, they drove their motorhome onto the ferry to start a big South Island adventure – a trip that was long overdue. “The last time we visited the South Island was a quick three-week trip on our honeymoon in 1973, in our car and a tent. We had a great time back then and were looking forward to coming back.”
The South Island hasn’t disappointed. Fay and Robert have fallen in love with many areas, including the Catlins, Te Anau and Milford Sound – as well as one town that doesn’t come up often when asking about favourite places to visit. “We really liked Invercargill. There was so much to see and so many great walking and cycling tracks around the estuary. We also really enjoyed the Classic Car Museum. We ended up staying 10 days and didn’t get bored for a minute.”
Walking and cycling are a big part of their new life. They love exploring areas they visit on foot, whether by following official walking tracks or finding their own. The e-bikes they carry with them are also getting plenty of use, and Fay hopes there will be even more cycling soon. “We’re looking forward to cycling more of the rail trails in Central Otago soon. They’re high up on our to-do list.”
On their travels, they stay at a range of campgrounds. They like the NZMCA parks and POPs as they are low cost and secure, but also regularly stay at freedom camping spots, often because they are in excellent locations and offer the best views. Their annual DOC pass also gets plenty of use, as they both enjoy staying at DOC sites that have walking tracks nearby. And in winter, you’ll often find these two at paid campgrounds and holiday parks. “We love the NZMCA Camp Saver scheme. It makes staying at campgrounds more affordable, and makes it easy for us to find those campgrounds that are particularly welcoming to Kiwis, so we use it quite a bit in winter.”
Even though Fay and Robert have been on wheels for over 18 months now, they feel as if they’re only just getting started, and are looking forward to many more adventures. “We just love the freedom to explore with no worries and minimal time restrictions. We’re not planning to give that up anytime soon.”