Lappin’ It Up – Livin’ in a Van Down Under
“Let’s make it a year or more!” were the words that passed my lips the night I returned home from my first day back at work, after a five-week camping expedition to North Queensland. I’m Trent (39 years), Assistant Principal of a primary school in suburban Newcastle. My wife, Jessica (38 years), is also a primary school teacher. Stella is in Year 4 (9 years), Tommy is in Year 3 (8 years) and Sage is in Kinder (5 years).
It was October 2017. Just five weeks on the road was enough to create an insatiable appetite for a life of freedom exploring our beautiful, massive continent – a 12 month ‘lap’’. But how would we afford it? What would we do with our house? Rent? Sell? What about our careers? How would the children be affected being out of school for a year? Could we survive life together 24/7? All rational questions, but the yearning desire to make invaluable memories with our children won out. We’ve always heard people say, “Make the most of it. The children grow up so fast and before you know it, they’re gone!” I don’t think until you’re a parent and you experience this happening right before your very eyes does it ring true.
2018 would be the year of sacrifice – PLANNING, PREPARING and SAVING. Being teachers, we live by the adage ‘fail to plan, plan to fail’ – so we back mapped a plan, dividing each month up with our names in the top columns and jobs in the rows. As we achieved the jobs, we’d tick them off which added to the excitement and sense of accomplishment. We sold off most of our furniture, built a wall down the middle of the garage for storage (quotes for storage were $5000 p/a – RIP OFF!) and rented the house out late December 2018. We saved around $55k and the rent from the house would be a handy income stream to top up funds. Being a stickler for spreadsheets, I created a budget sheet so we could track daily spending on our iPhones.
We spent months trying to conjure up a blog name to record and share our memories. We wanted something that encapsulated Australia in a single word or phrase. Then one day in October, it came: the classic Australiana song from 80’s group Men at Work – ‘Down Under’ adapted nicely into ‘Livin’ in a Van Down Under’’. We registered Facebook and Instagram accounts, bought a drone, laptop and started up-skilling on thetechnology interweb thingy that all the young kids are on’.
December 21 was here before we knew it. We drove out of Newcastle bound for destination 1: Shoal Haven Heads Holiday Park – South Coast, NSW. Because of weather restrictions, we’re heading south and then west. Here’s our rough itinerary:
Both being educators, our children’s school have granted us a Travel Exemption. This means that we are not bound by the guidelines Distance Education and Home Schooling require and we plan to use that freedom to its full advantage. Our blog updates will focus on the ways we educate our three children throughout the ‘lap’. We will also feature any interesting stories and characters we encounter along the way. We may be away for 12 months, 24 months or maybe, never return home. Whilst it’s daunting, we have a real sense of optimism and excitement for what the future holds and feel incredibly blessed to be in a position to make this investment in our family – an investment that the caravanning and camping lifestyle can make possible.
So grab a vino, sit back, relax and join us on our journey Livin’ in a Van Down Under! You can follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/livininavandownunder
–Trent and Jessica