I’ve heard it said that making the decision to go (travelling) is the hardest decision to make.
I suppose in some ways I agree – this decision, in hindsight, has been a long time in the making (thank you, dear husband, for being patient with me….I know you would have done this 5 years ago!).
But let me tell you, in my experience, the hardest part is not making the decision to go – that happened very casually one day while we were driving along in the car.
The hardest part is all the decisions you have to make afterwards.
What do we do with the house?
We have swung back and forth so many times between renting, selling, renting, selling. We’ve spoken to others who’ve told us the good, the bad and the ugly of each option. We’ve spoken to real estate agents, and to the bank, and to anyone who will listen as we grapple with the decision, basically. At the moment we are settled on the idea of renting – as a bit of a safety net, I suppose, and an investment into our long term future. We know there are nightmare rental stories, but hopefully with a good agent and an emergency fund, and of course great tenants, that nightmare can be avoided. I like to think that it’ll be a case of “if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” I want to be a landlord who makes sure our tenants are happy and comfortable and feel respected and listened to, and in return I hope this kindness and respect will be returned by them and that they will treat our house like their home.
What kind of car do we need?
Last year, we bought a new car to tow our camper trailer. At the time, it met our needs, and was fantastic! Unfortunately, because it has a lower towing capacity than the newer models, it was just cutting it too close to tow a caravan without us worrying about every single little thing we packed in both the car and the van (let me tell you, I’ve had to learn a whole bunch of stuff about GVM, AVM, TARE, etc etc – I’ve included a graphic from rview.com.au that helps explain! It’s really important to stay under all the weight limits for safety reasons, as well as insurance reasons). Anyway, we’ve ended up upgrading to a newer model dual cab Colorado (with 3.5t towing capacity – being mindful that what we stack in the car means less we can pack in the van!) to give us that extra wiggle room when it comes to towing/packing. Now, we just have two other cars left to sell – in other words, it’s a bit of a nightmare just now! But I’m sure it’ll be worth it.
Which caravan do we get?
A HUGE decision. Terrifying, really. We know nothing much about caravanning, at all. This is essentially going to be our home for a good few years, and then our weekender (or few-monther) for hopefully many years to come after that. We don’t want to get it wrong. Again, all over the internet, and through friend’s-cousin’s-sisters, there are nightmare stories of shonky dealers, lemon caravans and broken dreams. The internet really can be a pretty downright depressing and awful place, especially review sites! Before we even decided on a caravan, we had to discuss buying brand new vs second hand. When we had to upgrade the car, that decision was sort of made for us (financially), but even so, I’m happy with it. We have decided to go second hand for a few reasons – yes, budget is a consideration, and because we are looking at semi-offroad, triple bunk, ensuite vans, we are already up there in the higher price bracket. But we also feel that any issues would have (or should have!) been resolved by the original owners, under warranty or otherwise. There’s no guarantees, of course, but by buying second hand, as long as you trust the people you are buying from, you have their firsthand experience to go by! We are also arranging an independent pre-purchase inspection through a local caravan repair company, for our own peace of mind. A roadworthy certificate is a must, but there are many things that they DON’T look at. We’ve sold our camper trailer, and decided on a second-hand 2014 model Supreme Caravan, which we will hopefully have parked up here by the end of the week!
What do we do with the dogs?
This is a tough one. One we are still deciding on, actually. We have had our first dog, Izzy, from when she was 6 weeks old and we were 6 months married. She’s going to be 12 later this year, and she was our first “baby.” I hate to think that her last years will be spent away from us, and that we may not even be around for her final days. But, I am a HUGE lover of national parks and hiking, and I know that the logistics of travelling with a pet are so much more complicated. Hubby won’t even consider leaving her behind, I don’t think. And every afternoon when I take her for a walk around the block, I think about how much she would ADORE adventuring with us in her “retirement.” She’s also a fabulously easy-going dog, and where permitted, would be just fine curling up in the van while we go on day trips. Luckily, too, there are lots of opportunities to have other travellers petsit, I’ve discovered! So right now, we are leaning towards taking her on the retirement trip of a lifetime! Our other dog presents more of a challenge. He is lovely and easygoing, but far younger and more energetic, and probably wouldn’t tolerate being leashed as much. He also sadly can’t be trusted to be left in the caravan, as he is toilet trained, but still likes to mark his territory (wahhhhh!!). So we are looking into re-homing him, which is a tough decision. I feel like I never had the same opportunity to bond with him, because I was in the depths of motherhood and spread thinner than I thought I ever could be when we got him as a puppy, and I feel really quite sad about it all.
How do we educate the kids?
This was an easy one for me. I’ve NEVER wanted to traditionally school my kids. I have an education degree, and yet for a long time now (probably since not long after my second child was born in 2010), I’ve believed that children have an innate desire to learn, and that school doesn’t give them the range of skills and experiences that LIFE outside the classroom does. So, we will become an “unschooling” family and that feels so right for us. Now there are LOTS of questions and objections that come up when the idea of unschooling is mentioned, and Sara from Happiness is Here has already done a fabulous job at addressing these in a number of unschooling-related articles found HERE, so I won’t go into it further just now. However, you can expect to see more posts in future about our unique learning journey!
What about the kids’ extracurricular activities?
Two of my kids have extra curricular activities they really enjoy. I’m actually finding it far harder to remove them from those activities than I am from school. Haylee, 9, adores her Highland Dancing. While I’ve done it alongside her and can coach her in some ways, I’m not confident in teaching her new dances/steps. And I’ve never trusted the internet for anything to be learned correctly. There’s too many people out there teaching, when they haven’t mastered the technique themselves. That is also why I, as a qualified music teacher, have chosen to hire tutors whenever I’ve wanted to learn a new instrument. Sure, I could teach myself, but there are SO many things a tutor can pick up/correct/recommend that simply can’t be done through Youtube or the likes. So what do we do? Well, I’m hoping when we are in more regional centres, there are established dance classes, and karate classes, that my daughter and son can join on a casual basis. That way, they can pick up some new skills to practice until we reach the next point of civilisation. We also have fabulous teachers who are willing to make use of technology such as Skype, to give feedback and maybe even virtual “lessons” if we cannot access anything face to face.
How the heck can we afford it? What work can we do?
We are so lucky that the universe has aligned in many ways for us!!! Selling off our unneeded assets (cars, camper trailer, some bits and pieces around the house, extra camera etc) will pay off all of our smaller debt, and our rental income will cover our mortgage/caravan payments. Luke has the opportunity of soon taking a voluntary redundancy from his work, which will give us our emergency fund (for house and car costs), pay most of our bills (insurance, registration, etc) for 12 months in advance, and still give us quite a bit of a head start for our day-to-day expenses. Essentially the bulk of this is food and fuel, then occasionally having to get birthday gifts/clothes/shoes and that sort of thing. We are both open to doing any kind of work we can get, from housesitting and petsitting to hospitality and retail work, or farm work. With my teaching degree and Postnatal Doula certification, as well as my experience with young babies and children, I would also happily do childminding for other travelling families, or local families. And of course, my photography business will come on the road and I hope to get a few photography sessions booked in along the way! I am also a member of the Australian Breastfeeding Project, so will be running sessions where there is enough demand. The thought of not having a steady income is terrifying, yet liberating. To not have to rely on that paycheck to pay the huge number of bills that come with “traditional” living is such a relief. Because our bills will be paid in advance, the only thing we really NEED to buy is food. If there’s no fuel money, we stay a bit longer and work. Maybe it’s naive, or idealistic, but hey – we will soon find out!
What clothes and toys do we pack?
To be honest, this seems the least of my worries at the moment! Yes I’m conscious of weight, but really, even just decluttering the house has been such an amazing feeling that I’m HAPPY to take the bare minimum. Some seasonal clothes that can be swapped out at op-shops when the weather changes, a suitcase of books and toys/games, and my bagpipes (haha).
Then there’s the smaller, but neverending list of questions, like:
~ do we take bikes? Just kids, or adults too?
~ what about the thermomix?
~ do I need to keep both cameras, or do I risk going back to just one?
~ which lenses do I take?
And there’s selling stuff, getting rid of stuff, storing stuff, donating stuff, cleaning stuff, preparing stuff, paperwork, paperwork, more paperwork. I’ve been quite overwhelmed by it all, to be honest. But with each step closer we get, the more I can keep the end goal in sight and not let myself be consumed by it!
So yeah, making the decision to go = easy.
Making all of THESE decisions = not so easy.
Hoping that the day we drive off for our road trip = worth it!