It has been exactly one month since me and my beautiful partner, Lior, sold all of the belongings we had accumulated over a year and a half of living the city life in Wellington and moved into a van indefinitely. It has been a month full of adventure, as well as an overall sense of calm. I have been thinking about sharing my traveling story since the moment I started 4 years ago – so I have a lot to share with you – and I am finally ready to take the jump and start writing. This post will be about the lead up to moving into the van, what finally broke in us to make that change and what it took for us to be able to make the dream of van life a reality.
Before we even met each other we were both very intrigued by alternative ways of life (I guess that’s why we both went traveling in the first place), I know for me my soul feels completely disconnected with the 9-5 rush of a city and spending most days waiting for the next day off. I lose myself in a concrete jungle, which is what happened to us in Wellington. I mean, we got together because we both view the world in a very similar way in terms of the path we’d like to follow, our spirituality and trust in the universe, and we spend a lot of our time dreaming of life off the grid.
The past two years have been particularly different, difficult and scary for us travelers (as well as everyone else on the planet). We all know about Covid19, and being an expat at the time of a global pandemic is a different kind of scary. I feel like I have spent the past two years in survival mode, always needing to feel a sense of stability just in case another lock-down happens. As an expat, you have very minimum rights and entitlements in a foreign country and are the last person they think of when they are making the rules. Luckily, we got locked down in one of the least affected places in the world – New Zealand. Because we both had full time jobs during the first lock-down of 2020, we received wage subsidies at this period and I can luckily say I really enjoyed the ability to be still during this time. I think we all forgot that it’s possible to stop, sit back and rest and I will forever be grateful to myself for listening to my intuition and flying to New Zealand instead of going home at the very last minute one month before the first global wave of Covid. However, two years later the feeling of new rules brings a completely different sensation.
We were doing everything we could to look after ourselves and feel fulfilled in a city. This included dedicating time to the gym and moving our bodies, connecting with friends (and releasing ones that weren’t so good for us) and eating mindfully. The sense of burn out and boredom of city life was still so prevalent for us and we couldn’t understand why we still didn’t feel happy. When I say unhappy, what I mean is that both of our mental health was in pieces. I ended up in therapy and at the lowest weight I have ever been and Lior was unable to socialize to any capacity due to being completely drained of energy. We knew deep down that we were spending time in a place we didn’t love, surrounded by people that didn’t love who we truly were and working at jobs that completely undervalued us (the hospitality culture is a topic for a different day), all to feel a sense of safety in a Covid-rife world. However, it eventually got too much to handle and I had to quit my hospitality job to look after my mental health. This was – accidentally – just in time for the unexpected lock-down that happened here in August 2021, so my anxiety levels were sky high as I was an unemployed expat receiving no wage subsidy. The universe had been spending the whole year pushing me to release the fear and listen to my soul long before we made the decision to do so and it eventually slapped me in the face right on time and presented me with a perfect job opportunity to make more money than I ever have. It was a work from home job which I had done previously in Australia and loved. Working from home allowed me to take so much time to myself and I will forever value those two months in 2021 doing meaningful work from my living room, regaining my mental strength and physical energy. I barely left the house in this time and I can now say it was what I truly needed – me time. It makes such a difference when you don’t have to interact with the public every single day – the amount of energy talking takes from you is completely underestimated and unrecognized in the working environment.
Once I started making double the wage I was making in my hospitality job, and feeling a little more like myself again with time at home and therapy, we allowed ourselves to start talking more seriously about getting back into adventuring again. Both of us have been traveling for pretty much the exact same time (chasing each other by one month the whole time) and we almost forgot why we were away from our home countries – to explore and travel. We had been lightly talking about going traveling in the summer, but had never made any actual plans to do so. Once money was no longer too much of a worry, we committed to the idea of releasing the survival mode state we had been living in and give our dreams of a different way of life more room to be.
I don’t even remember it being much of a discussion, one of us mentioned getting a van and a few minutes later we were looking on Facebook marketplace to get an idea of a budget and eventually we settled on $5,000. I am the kind of person that loves to stress over planning everything, and always needing to know what is going to happen so that I feel safe however, my life ONLY ever works out when I completely let go of that need, throw some ideas out and let the magic happen. This is exactly what happened with our van, I spent so much time looking at vans but not wanting to commit to one due to fear of – honestly – money. I was worried that if I spent all my money on a van then something would go wrong and I would lose it all. I also have this tendency to limit myself, never believing that I could possibly be a person to do the things I see others doing. Lior, on the other hand, is the total opposite and balance of me in the sense that she doesn’t even bother planning because she knows it’s not for her and is more than happy to spend all of our savings on a purchase in one day… and this is exactly what happened. We had seen a few vans online and had sent a bunch of messages but nothing seemed to be working out. Then we came across a van that matched our personality and preference – organized. We went to view it the very next day and after about 10 minutes handed over $4,500 in cash (which caused me a panic attack) and drove off in it. As terrifying as it is to make a purchase like that, with all of our savings in one go, with every move I made towards this dream my anxiety was slowly leaving my body. We can all feel it when it’s the right thing to do sometimes it’s just harder to listen, or it takes making the steps to know whether it’s the right one for you or not. No matter how much I think I like to plan, when I follow my gut and take scary steps it tends to work out in my favor.
One thing I want this writing to achieve is to let people know that you don’t need thousands of dollars/pounds/euros etc. to make traveling dreams a reality. What you need is faith in yourself and trust in your intuition. Money will come and go, there will be times its a little harder and times when you feel like you’re living in a dream vacation world but as long as you listen to yourself and allow yourself to maybe be right, you won’t go wrong.
We drove it home that very same day, sorted the insurance and tax and Lior started the process of selling all of our furniture and everything else. I have a bit of a hard time letting go (back to the fear of being left unstable and with nothing) so it was a rough couple of weeks watching my furniture fly out the door. This is why I love her so much though; she gets things done when I cannot, and we began getting to know our wee van. On November 7th 2021 we said goodbye to our apartment in Wellington (the only house I had ever lived in in NZ) and called the van our official home. As we settled into our first night, cooking our dinner on our little gas camping stove and cuddling in our (very comfortable and spacious) double bed inside the van I could feel a sense of peace fall over me. It was such an exciting adventure we were about to take, and we hadn’t planned further than the ferry to the South Island a week later. We had stripped down to the basics – no job, no plan, two eskies full of food and $3,000 to our name. It felt SO good to be free of the chains of the city and Covid fear, that I knew it was exactly what I had needed all along.
We are now one month in and continue to have very minimum planning, we go with the flow and take the opportunities as they come. The list of things that make me happy living in a van is a bit endless, but they include: waking up with the sunrise every day and always catching the sunset, living alongside nature (although I could live without the sand flies), eating our meals outside, midnight toilet trips means seeing the Milky Way, facing my fear of birds on the island of birds, worrying more about how I feel than what I look like, making connections with people who are on similar paths to me, experiencing one of both of our life long dreams as a team, always having the option to get into the ocean – even if it is absolutely freezing here, and having the time and freedom to get back to me.
I can’t wait to keep sharing our adventure with you, and I hope that you give yourself that gift of taking what you want seriously enough to take steps towards it. The power of the universe is a funny thing, and I’m lucky she stepped in when she did, I just wish I had listened to her sooner so it didn’t take me getting to my absolute lowest before I seen it as a last option. Sometimes mental health doesn’t need medication or doctors, it’s a sign that you are living out of alignment with your true wants and needs. I truly believe that our mental well-being can be aided by taking the time to listen to ourselves, and while I am not a doctor, I have lived through breakdowns and I can certainly say that after a month of van living that my soul is extra full, my anxiety levels are the lowest they’ve been this year and I am having more fun than ever. I am grateful for New Zealand, my partner and myself for giving me this beautiful adventure. I may not be rich in money but I am rich in experience and connections and that is what makes MY soul, fulfilled. And it’s all thanks to having a wee house on wheels.
Whatever it may be that your soul craves, give it enough credit to listen. Life doesn’t have to be what they tell you, the best thing about living is that we get to choose every path we go down, what will your next one be?