Sunday, August 22, 2010

How and Why Do You Live In a Van?

During our trip back to the USA we encountered a lot of great questions about what we're doing and what our plans are for the future.  I love having friends who will ask all the questions that everyone else wants to ask.  The common themes were: how could we really be retired? and what is it like to travel/live in a van?  Reactions from friends ranged from enthusiastic to dismissive to disgusted when we described our life and our nebulous plans for the future.

After our final year of work in Sydney (that ended in March 2009), we gradually got rid of everything we owned except for what we could fit in or on our current van.  Stripping our life down to the bare minimum, has helped us learn what is really important to us.  There are very few things we miss about our old money-making/money-spending life.  I definitely miss friends and family. We used to like going out for dinner and drinks, but really, we just like being around friends and family, so the venue doesn't matter. Scott misses his instruments and the unique music scene in Portland.  I also really miss having a washer, dryer, and vacuum cleaner at my finger tips -- yes, I am an obsessive cleaner, and it seems to be getting worse the older I get.  Both of us really miss electricity and fast, cheap internet access.  We are surprised to have learned that we don't miss having a house (a garden would be nice though), nor do we miss going out to dinner.  Since we have so much free time, we would rather cook for ourselves.  I notice that the things that used to seem annoying or troublesome in our old life, are a non-issue now that we have time.  For instance, in the warm climate of OZ, I usually hand-washed all of our clothes (including our sheets!).  Like my mom says (who is recently retired), the things that you could never find the time to do, are now what you spend your time doing.

Do we get bored?  No way.  Van-living and traveling requires a lot of ingenuity and planning.  When we aren't working on logistics, we are outdoors as much as possible.  The things that keep us un-bored are endless and usually involve rigorous activity.  I wonder how many years our bodies will tolerate it?  We assume our priorities will change. As long as we have something that engages and challenges us, we will never be bored.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Northern Hemisphere Visit in July

We recently flew back into Auckland after a 5-week visit to the northern hemisphere. It was timed perfectly with the crappiest of New Zealand weather. Per usual, Portland had incredible summer weather. We had a whirlwind visit with as many friends as we could (8 days total). I cherished every moment. Maybe short visits are good for one reason -- people don't have time to get sick of me. Thanks to the Slighterallis and the Childers for providing places to stay. At first it was hard to impose, but both of our hosts made it really easy to feel at home. We honestly wanted to stay way longer. Dan and Juliana let us borrow their roadbikes (plus helmets and bike shoes!) to use while they toiled away at work. It was fun to roadbike after 1.5 yrs of riding only heavy, fat-tired mountain bikes. Robyn not only architected the addition to their house (our guest room), but stocked it like a high-end hotel. Actually, it was even better, as there was Bridgeport Hop Czar in the minibar fridge, and it was free!

My parents were great hosts in Michigan while we stayed for 3+ weeks, which gave them plenty of time to get sick of me. They feed us so well and gave us so much during our stay. My mom gave me a bounty of delicious facial lotion, serums, sunscreens, etc. It is definitely a luxury that I won't give myself. Now, every morning and evening when I rub some lotion on my face, I think of my parents. Now that my mom is retired, we spent a lot of time with her during the day. We were pleasantly surprised to find that my mom's twice-weekly strength-training/cardio class absolutely kicked our butts. We couldn't walk straight for 4 days after the first class. How cool that my mom is able to do that kind of stuff now that she is retired!? We spent some quality time in the evenings and on the weekends with my Dad as well as my sister's family. To pass the great summer-weather days, we did a lot of yard work and Scott partook in a fair bit of fishing. Oh, and we also ate and drank A LOT! We also squeezed in a too-short visit with one of Scott's brothers who lives in an even hotter locale than Ann Arbor in the summertime.

My parents have fully adopted
our kitty, Oscar, who was tortured during 8 hours of flying (and layovers) from Portland to Detroit in April, 2008. I think he has finally forgiven me for that hateful plane trip. We miss him so much.

Upon our return to Auckland we were once again reminded of how wet it is here. We ran into van troubles before we could even leave the hotel parking lot. We had to wait a few days to get our van into the local diesel garage. We learned that there was water sitting in various electrical connectors under the hood, which disabled not only the accelerator pedal, but also the diesel fuel pump. It's still a mystery how the water got there, which worries us since it could easily happen again. After 3 days and $500, we were back on the road. We still don't trust the van and are constantly worried about every noise we hear. We've even kicked around the idea of trying to sell/trade the van during the high tourist season and buying a smaller more reliable Toyota van (sans shower).

I thought I would try and finish this blog post on a happy note. The following sunset picture was taken on the North Island of NZ as we were heading down to Wellington (at Te Hora beach) for our ferry to the South Island yesterday. We had a fantastic parking/camping spot right on the beach with a river running next to us. Grin.