Here we are snuggled up inside a sleeping bag made for two in a rental campervan of similar size to that of an under stairs cupboard in a standard detached house back in Blighty. Above us is not much more in the way of headroom than an extended arm’s length, before we can reach a very clever wooden pull-out bed base which provides a useful 3rd sleeping space for our adult son, who has joined us for a weekend getaway in The Wairarapa wine region in the South of New Zealand’s North Island.
Feeling blessed with the fact that our adult children still don’t mind tagging along with their middle aged parents and even more so when it involves sharing such a small but well organised space together, really then got us thinking as to why do we actually need much more room than this in everyday life, when everything we really need just fits so snuggly into an area of just a few sq meters?
The answer, of course, is that we don’t, that’s the joys of vanlife for you, it’s the realisation that materialism and the ‘big is best notion’, is neither necessary or essential and that less is often the better option for us, in offering a more stress free lifestyle, happier mind and much gentler hold on our wallets. It could also be the reason why those who have little in the way of material possessions are generally more content with life than those who perceive to have wealth through the purchase of expensive buys, as usually, the thrill of the purchase itself is more pleasurable than the enjoyment of the item afterwards.
It’s now one of the reasons why so many people across the globe are joining the vanlife phenomenon by swapping four walls and a roof in suburbia for a small metal box on wheels that has become the modern day trend or movement amongst people of various ages, from the younger adults in their 20’s and 30’s to the mid-life crisis conscious 40 and 50 something’s, who suddenly find themselves seeing their life flash before their eyes and not wanting to be looking back in years to come, wishing they’d done more while they could.
Those outgoing or even rebellious out there, have chosen to live a life so different from the norm of their parents and grandparents generations where this previous, almost routine mandatory cycle took them through a system of leaving school, starting work followed by marriage, children and the eventual retirement at a designated age. Often by which time the older age brought the inevitable issues of unexpected ill health or increasing lack of confidence in new adventures with the thought of trying to do something completely different outside of the comfort zone bringing dread and fear and too many excuses! All this, despite the luxury of greater financial stability later in life, was enough to hold them back from reaching out to experience the wonderful world around them at a time which should have been their golden years.
Nowadays, the modern world is so convenient yet so inconvenient, the increasingly impossible realities of living in demanding 24/7 careers in an age when house prices are out of reach for so many young people whilst past generations were on the property ladder before the coming of age at 21. The chaotic buzz of the 9-5 commute also no longer appeals, when the work day starts and ends in an endlessly hectic cycle of jam packed public transport or roads where vehicles queue bumper to bumper, slowly etching their way to the workplace, driven by a super stressed workforce who are banging their fists on the steering wheel in frustration even before they’ve entered the office, only for it all to be repeated for the clogged return journey back to a front door of a tiny rented living space that’s costing almost as much per month as their pay cheque.
It doesn’t end there though as the front door keys are hung up, the smart phone is, by now, ringing out in anger with a list of instant messages, e-mails and voicemails that are demanding the attention of this new technological virus of instant needs whose perpetrators are not afraid of contacting who they want, when they want, despite the fact that the office closed 2 hours ago and you have a life outside work, yes really!
It’s no wonder then that there’s a revolt out there, people like you and us, turning their backs on the norm, the expected, those tedious demands that society places upon us and just sticking two fingers up to conformity. For those quieter soles, this is just simply and gently gliding smoothly away from the spotlight into a different kind of world where the vanlife dream seemingly fills the gap and meets the ideology of those new found rebels amongst us. We’re following in the footsteps, maybe, of those who’ve gone before us, but we’re not quite the same, in fact, nothing to compare with those who’ve taken social media by storm, where picture perfect bodies advertise products through beautiful photo shoot poses in artistically manicured vans, driven to the most enviable locations attracting thousands of followers who are sharing their dream.
We don’t have the youthful skin of our younger selves to promote to the world in glossy images, but what we do have is our health and a keen willingness, in fact, a mission, to keep active, to stay fit and healthy and eat wisely to hopefully keep all those faculties alive and kicking! We bring life skills and experience that come with 30 years of togetherness from travels outside of work, over the years, in vans large and small with our children from babies to adulthood and now back to being just the two of us, except on those brief interludes of loveliness when one child is free to join us for a short spell away.
It’s a joy to be on the road either part-time or permanently, it changes as the unexpected happens and the unplanned freedom brings new or revised decisions on when or where we’ll be and even, in what van we’ll be using, as with this journey to New Zealand, the trip was unplanned, a chance opportunity that brought us back to a country last visited 15 and 16 years earlier both trips back then traveling by van, of course!
We’re now in our late 40’s and having given up the daily grind of decades of business and work, a relentless workload of never ending people pleasing and red tape, we’re out of it, the rat race of work, bed, work, bed, work work work!! We understand why there’s that growing breed of people just like us who want that different life, who are not retirement age but who’ve worked hard for what seems like forever, whose children are grown up and are independent when your outlook on life is to experience more of it before we hit the age of ailments that could prevent us from doing this and now at a time when we are financially secure after 30+ years of never ending work (yes weekends and on travels too!) we’re loving it, the freedom, the liberating excitement, the realisation of existence outside of previous normality and embracing the youth that we still have left in us.
We want to enjoy our freedom now, to be able to climb those high mountains, swim in those turquoise lakes, cool off in a clear river swimming hole and feel the salt water on our skin in a tempting warm blue ocean. We love to scale those trails of discovery through paths of solitude where day hikes bring welcome picnic spots, new wildlife greets us and glorious abounds of natural beauty surround us, bringing the need for binoculars always being at the ready for that new monumental view. We’re stubborn and determined to continue to see the world in all its glory and to seek out and find new favorites to add to that list of memories that has grown way beyond our expectations.
It’s a strange thing that when we’re on the road, home is always where the heart is but that’s not home, as in a house anymore, it’s the small metal box on wheels, our home just moves with us, there is no material item that we miss, everything we need we have with us, it all fits into that little box that we mentioned at the start of this posting, it’s almost hard to imagine to outsiders but for us it’s true, with simplicity comes fact that no matter where we are in the world it’s people that we need not possessions, it’s those that we love and hold dear to us that is all that really matters and until we give up on those items either temporarily or permanently we don’t realise that those things we think we love that we’ve paid for and left behind with the rest of life’s unnecessary baggage are just things, bits and bobs of emptiness that hold no real value to us.
We understand the growing trend for getting out there and seeing the world before it’s too late for people everywhere, it’s a mixture of all the above, each person has their own reasons whatever age bracket they fall into and whichever country they originate from, professional or working class, there are no boundaries, rich or poor, anything goes, new or old van, small or large van, size doesn’t count, each person has their own theory and their own journey to participate on, it’s a vision that’s catching and growing, vanlife and the young retired brigade we salute you!