I once worked with midwife whose name I can’t recall. Let’s call her Jane. Jane used to take three months a year to cruise the waterways of the UK with her husband on their canal boat. They purchased the boat after a friend of hers had passed away. Her friend had just retired and had BIG plans for retirement. Jane decided she could no longer wait for retirement, she needed to start living her retirement plans now.
Recently, ok is last year recently? If feels like all sense of time is skewed right now. Is last year going to be knows as the pre pandemic era? I do hear people talk about the ‘before corona time’. Anyways, last year my sister in law Mary visited. We were out in the woods and as an older couple hiked past us with their day packs and poles, she said ‘I see Max (her husband) and I as those people when we’re older.’ We both chuckled a little and she said ‘we may need to actually start hiking’.
A big part of our moving away from living the corporate, busy Sydney life and into this quieter, simpler village life was to not let life pass. It probably wouldn’t have mattered where we were living, the hustle just wasn’t us. We’d taken the wrong path. We wanted to keep life simple, decluttered. We moved here with about a 3 x 3 m amount of ‘stuff’. Nothing left in storage and no desire to again feel like our commitments and stuff owned our life.
And yet there are the realities of life in that we do need commitments! We need somewhere to live. Sometimes we need a car or in our case a garage full of bikes, surfboards, tents and a SUP! Our kids play sport, go to school. And we need to work. Our life will never be that simple that we don’t need to work nor would we not want to work.
As much as I dream of the life of Chris and Ana on their self sufficient mountain farm in Andalusia. (Driving Over Lemons – a brilliant escape armchair journey). I know this is not us, it’s not our reality. There are four kids, a job that needs city/airport access and let’s face it not a real enough desire to live on the land.
As with many of us, corona changed plans. After three years abroad we were due to visit our family and friends in Melbourne over Easter. Thankfully, I hadn’t booked our flights as I’d been watching this new virus weave it’s way into Europe since February. My main reason for not booking was I didn’t want to risk bringing it home to my parents. Never in my wildest dreams did I think the borders would close and that not coming wouldn’t be our choice.
As time went on and summer drew closer we realised that our summer camping surf trip to France was not going to happen. The borders are open, so yes we could go, but sharing ammenities just doesn’t seem wise at this time. And for the past five or so years we’ve tried to create a life we don’t need to escape from. So there is no desperation to HAVE to go at any cost.
However, we do love the experience, the adventure and the off grid time for our kids. Ergo, the return of that old chestnut dream of ours – to buy a campervan or not to buy a campervan?! Could we? Should we? I am a bit of a leaper as you know but buying a campervan means a type of permanence, doesn’t it? As my husband reminded me ‘nothing is permanent, you proved that when it took you six months to offload everything in Sydney’.
Argh but security, getting older, what if the market crashes and we can’t sell our house here, we’d never get back home. But what if it doesn’t? What if we never move home? We don’t have a plan anyhow. And we’d always have a camper to live and retire in I guess. Having sold our home in Melbourne I am nervous about where best to ‘invest’. I’m not driven by making more money but I don’t want to lose it!
Can you guess which post on my blog is getting smashed at the moment? This one!
So You Want To Campervan In Europe With Kids.
Ha! We were ahead of the curve with our van-lifing! ;)
We started searching, ready to leap, but also nervous about jumping too fast. We looked at a private one and even had a mechanical inspection. There were a few niggles I had about the purchase so we didn’t follow through. It’s the barefoot investor I tell you! He taught me to grow up a little. It’s his alpaca story that plays on repeat in my head. ‘Every dollar you get should go first into protecting your flock’. (You can read the true story of the two alpacas here).
We started expanding our search and found an ex-hire company that sells low km, almost new vans. They replace their fleet regularly. We almost bought one but missed out. I wanted to be sure we were not overpaying so I tried to drive down the price. And someone else didn’t! C’est la vie.
A wise sister in law said to me when I had my first baby ‘it’s a series of phases’. This wisdom has guided me well, not just with babies and children but in life. Life is flux. We spend our time transitioning from one phase to the next. This is guaranteed. How well we transition is how well we prepare. Naturally, there are things we can’t prepare for. I dare not think of this predicament I’m in where I can’t just get home if needed. But, I do think about what we are doing now and how valuable this time is in preparing us for where we are going. The next phase.
We are mountain people, we are beach people, we are lake people, we are adventure seeking, new language, new cultural experience people, we are food and wine people, we are travelling people. A campervan is an investment in how we live, the things we want to do and the places we wish to see. It gives us freedom. We can be self sufficient in that we can carry what we need. We are far more likely to get to the Baltics and to Scandinavia in a camper! With four kids we can’t afford to fly, stay in hotels, hire cars etc for weeks on end. And to be honest I no longer wish to fly. I really do have plane shame. I’m trying to save my flying for trips home.
I guess our buying a camper is a little like living how we want our retirement to look. Or maybe not. Maybe it is more about living how we wish to live in this phase of our life and it sits nicely with our values. Packing up our kids, putting our hiking boots and road bikes in for mountain climbs, our SUP’s for the lakes and our boards for the oceans. We love the nights where we sit together on our camp chairs with the adventure glow, our bodies tired as we sip a local wine and indulge in regional cheese.
Our camper dream won’t be realised this summer. Everyone is out in the hired campers but our time will come. We’re sure now. We will take the next step in ‘living’ this European Adventure. Ironically, continuing as it started, in a camper. It seems we’ve needed a phase of nest building before transitioning into this next time. Where from our nest we can explore and adventure our way across Europe.
For now though we have a leisurely summer ahead with no plans. Loads of time for me to write all the stories. A time to ride out and live this transition as we move towards our next phase. A time to enjoy our verdant Dutch village life nestled in amongst lakes and trees. A time to breathe in this moment where we stopped to create some security and stability for our flock.
We are lucky, we haven’t had corona impact our employment. I acknowledge this makes it easier for us to live without the added stresses many are experiencing in this time. And we are trying to direct our purchases to supporting those in small business who have been affected harshly by this pandemic.
I don’t long to travel far from home right now, it’s not the time. But like Jane I’m not waiting. No, I’m not waiting for life to start after all this is over. If you’re looking for me, I’ll be on my bike. (keeping sane in between, feeding, washing and cleaning for the masses in my house) Practicing for when I’m retired and I can ride each day in the mountains of the Pyrenees. Or not! Who knows where the living now, not the waiting will take me. Hey Mary, go get those poles out and get hiking! ;)