Life has its way of having a good chuckle at your expense, does it not? Way back in the child rearing years of my life, my partner at the time and I took to the road in a 1948 Leyland bus, which had a couple of lofts on the roof just big enough to swing a mouse in. So off we set with three kids, two dogs and a parrot, and did a few rounds of the North Island of our lovely country, New Zealand. A grand and interesting life it was too, with many a character-forming challenge along the way.
Things I learned while living on the road:
- Hiding a two storied, very colourful bus when in a new town is nigh on impossible. Curtain-twitching will abound upon your arrival.
- Sending the kids out with a plastic bag each to pick the rubbish around your new vacinity is a great way to soften the hearts of a large majority of curtain-twitchers.
- If you want to meet the local council very quickly, string up a clothesline between a couple of trees – the council will be there within fifteen minutes – I guarantee it.
- There are a minimum of forty seven ways to do the family washing by hand. They’re all very hard work, especially when you have a little one still in cloth nappies.
- Kids learn great social skills. They learn to leap out of the bus, grab the nearest local kid and play with him – Quickly!
- Kids will do embarrassing things like sneak out of the bus just before you leave and get left behind so you have to backtrack, go find them and risk looking like uncaring beasts while they cry dramatically and Very loudly over being abandoned. Or jump out at gas stations and say ‘Do we live here now Mum?’
- You will shop at a new supermarket every week, where they all vindictively arrange their goods in completely different ways from each other so as to drive you mad trying to find what you need while trying to corral three kids going in three different directions.
- You will all gain the skill of walking sideways saying ‘Scuse me, scuse me’ whilst tripping (hopefully delicately) over whatever dog decides to throw itself directly in your path at the first sign of you getting up to do something.
- Parrots have more character than we give them credit for. Our particular one would nudge the most expensive pottery he could find on the bench towards the edge, stand back and kick it, laughing maniacally at the smashing sounds then flying just out of our reach when we tried to have words with him about it.
This lifestyle is not for the fainthearted. You too may go slowly mad.
After eight years of living in such a way, my partner and I split up and our lives went in different directions. I then experienced living in a house for a while, which came as a relief for a variety of reasons.
Things I learned about living in a house:
- In modern housing, the toilet is usually situated Inside the house. It took me a day or two to remember that – I went looking for the outhouse in the backyard a few times.
- When hanging out your washing, you have no need to look over your shoulder for a council person any more. The council Doesn’t care if you hang your washing out!
- You no longer need to stick down your belongings with BluTack – unless you live in an earthquake-prone area, which accounts for most of New Zealand, so it’s probably a good idea anyway.
- You can put things in the fridge without first sealing them with GladWrap and a lid just in case you move.
- There is no longer any need to put bunjy cords across your bookcase, unless… [see above note on earthquake zones].
- You can turn a tap on and the water will just keep flowing and flowing and flowing…
- You can leave a light on all night and it won’t run the battery down. Houses are magically connected to electrical grids that keep on going and going and going…
- Automatic washing machines are the greatest thing ever invented by mankind. Kiss your auto washing machine every day if you have one – it’s worth its weight in gold!
A couple of years ago I had a bit of an upheaval in my life and had to move to a new town. While living on someone else’s doorstep temporarily, I had to make a decision or two:
- Go begging at the bank for a mortgage so I could stress out on paying that back for the next few decades of my life, or
- Pay rent (a.k.a dead money) to somebody else for the rest of my life and potentially have issues with flatmates not paying their rent because their dog died/their car broke down/they just lost yet another job/they needed it to buy cigarettes, alcohol and other things they would have died without or,
- Consider my third alternative, which was to buy a caravan and resign myself to living in a tiny space again, after vowing and declaring I would never go down that insanity-inducing track again.
And so, the universe chuckled and here I am living in a tiny space again, only without the three kids, two dogs and parrot. And to my surprise, I find that I absolutely love it! Once again, I have to wander across the yard to use the bathroom, but I look at the trees, birds and stars and keep in touch with nature more than I would if living in a house. I wake up every morning, look at my wee home and think ‘mine, mine, mine!’. I can do what I want with the interior and exterior – change things and put shelves up and cupboards in and paint the whole durn place bright orange with purple highlights if I want, and it doesn’t bother anyone else and I don’t need to ask permission. From my bed, I can look at just about every belonging I have and enjoy it over and over again. And it keeps my overheads down, so I can continue my mad jaunts to Asia and go play with elephants once a year. Laugh all you like Universe – it doesn’t get much better than this…