It’s hard to believe we’ve been living on the road for a year already, the time has seriously flown! We’ve learned tonnes in that time and thought we’d share some of our more interesting and unexpected discoveries.
In no particular order, here is what we have learned from 12 months of living in a tiny home on wheels.
1) Living closer to nature is amazing! We’ve seen so many things that you never do living in a conventional house. We’ve had dolphins swim past not 6m from the front door in a deep river channel. We’ve seen a bird catch and carry away another bird to eat it. We’ve had possums stomping loudly on the roof and seen bioluminescent phytoplankton glowing blue on the shore at midnight. We’ve witnessed some of the most spectacular sunrises and sets that mother nature can dish out from the comfort of our own bed. We’ve watched shooting stars, satellites and multiple eclipses, some incredible storms, we’ve been blown (almost) off the face of the Earth while a raging sea buffered us all night long (I LOVED every second of it! Jack hated it and baby slept like a dream.) One pitch black evening Jack stepped out for a smoke into an unexpected ankle-deep king tide!
2) People are really REALLY interested in our way of life. It’s mostly genuine curiosity. (How does a whole family fit happily in a bus? How do you do things like washing clothes?) We get a lot of people coming to our door asking questions and hoping for a peek inside. Of course we have invited some in for a look- let’s be honest it’s interesting to see how others live. Others have actually walked right in the door uninvited as though it was a public bus in order to have a good old sticky-beak around! This wouldn’t matter so much if we didn’t have a baby, but I am absolutely not comfortable with total strangers inviting themselves inside our home. They don’t realize that it would be like me- a complete stranger, knocking on the front door of their house and asking to come inside for a look. Or worse still, opening their front door and just wandering in. We’ve also had more than one occasion when teenage kids (realizing that it’s a motorhome but showing off to their friends) have jumped on board without actually thinking of what would happen next . One look and a loud ‘HEY!’ from Jack and they crapped their pants and bolted haha! We had a good laugh.
3) Following on from above, people have zero concept of personal space. Again a lot of it is curiosity but when someone drives a caravan right in front of you and backs up to within 3 ft of your windscreen, and there are literally no other people for the next 200m ahead or behind you, you gotta wonder! I understand the ‘safety in numbers’ mentality. I get that but really?? Maybe it’s due to living in close quarters in the city. Maybe they’re lonely. Maybe it’s.. maybe it’s maybelline. I don’t know but I pity the fools at 6.00am when our toddler wants to play outside!
4) You really can find some spectacular places to stay for free. In 12 months we have stayed in caravan parks 0 times. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, we like our space and enjoy the peace and quiet of nature. Yapping dogs, drunken noise, music until all hours and a constant stream of people wanting to look inside the bus is not really our thing. Second, we are fully self contained and don’t really need any of the services offered by a caravan park and third, because of the length of the bus they like to try and charge us for two sites.
In Australia the majority of the population live along the eastern seaboard. This also happens to be the most heavily regulated area when it comes to free camping. In many cases the local caravan parks have a monopoly on the most beautiful scenery and are either in cahoots with, or are actually owned by- council, and the restrictions continue to tighten.
There are two sides to this coin. Some travellers completely disrespect the environment and others around them. It’s not uncommon to see used toilet paper (and actual poo!!!), rubbish, food scraps, used condoms, drug paraphenalea and other mess strewn from one end of a carpark to the next. Very uncool, especially when travelling with a baby. Of the two general groups of travellers on our roads- it’s not the Grey Nomads leaving this mess behind and it gives the rest of us a bad name. It’s no wonder the local councils forbid overnight stops.
On the flipside, in many cases it’s a very obvious grab for cash by caravan parks and councils who think that by outlawing overnight stays, travellers will be forced to stay- and pay- in the parks. Two points- some people simply can’t afford the ever increasing fees, and some (like us) would never pay to be crammed in on top of 100 other people, trying to get baby to sleep while listening to ‘Jan and Edna’s’ hacking wine-o laughter. We’d rather stay in a truck stop.
But all that aside, we’ve managed to find some really beautiful free spots that even out not-very-offroad bus can park up in, along the east coast.
Once you head over the Great Dividing Range it’s an entirely different story. Many struggling small towns realize the economic value of looking after travellers and welcome you with open arms. Some provide self contained RV specific free camps with toilets, bins, shady picnic spots- some even have free hot showers! We try and support the local economy in these RV friendly towns by buying fuel, groceries and whatever else we need at the time.
5) We’ve found loads of food growing wild- just this week we discovered a tropical fruit that neither of us had ever heard of: the Yellow Star Apple. Not to be confused with a star-fruit, this incredible South American offering from the Gods looks a bit like a smooth lemon and tastes like caramel vanilla custard. It’s a big call but these babies are even better than fresh mango!
We’ve found wild apples which we made into a pie, blackberries, loads of citrus, herbs, spring onions, strawberries, wild raspberries, grapes, leafy greens, macadamia nuts, more citrus.. and more citrus.
*Please take care to identify foods properly before consuming and never eat anything that you are unsure about.*
6) Cassette toilets, no matter what you do or don’t put in them, are disgusting. Don’t believe anyone who tries to tell you otherwise! I am a hands-on kind of gal- raised on the land and spent time in the army, but only once did I take my turn emptying the potty. My poor husband did it each time thereafter and I didn’t offer. (Sorry babes.)
Picture this- It’s a steaming hot day and the pooper is full. It has to be emptied or it’s trees for everyone. We get to the dump point and hubby gloves up. He sloshes the (HEAVY!) 20L of crap to the concrete drain, lifts the lid of the dump and undoes the back of the shitter. He’s pouring (and gagging) away, then something slips and shit splashes up all over him- hair, face, clothes… It’s not pretty. He’s cursing and growling while I run and turn on the gas so that he can have a hot shower.
Very soon after we built a composting toilet. a DRY composting toilet. No splashes. No stink. No pouring days-old liquified poop into … you get the picture. Yuk. We love our composting toilet and will never go back to a liquid loo!
Downsizing? Overwhelmed with where to even begin? We got your back. Be sure to keep an eye out for the new e-book coming soon:
‘How to downsize into a tiny home on wheels in two weeks with ZERO stress.’
7) The most valuable resource while living on the road is access to clean water. So much depends on it- drinking, showering, washing clothes, topping up the radiator, washing gak off the windscreen- it’s essential. We didn’t think this would be a big deal, but there are surprisingly few taps which we can a) park close enough to, and b) do not use reclaimed water. We are at a slight disadvantage as our vehicle is 40ft long and with about 30cm clearance, is definitely not built to go offroad (or even over gutters).
We fill our tank every 4-6 days with a 20m hose. To make life easy we’ve just invested in a retractable hose winder, it’s the best thing ever! Less winding and less water slopped everywhere.
Some time back we bought a ‘tap key’ from the hardware store. This is a brass device in the shape of a cross with four different shaped sockets on the ends. It undoes those pesky taps with no handles. *When using these, probably best not to show off your fancy tap key for obvious reasons- whoever ‘owns’ the tap doesn’t want people using their water.
Good quality brass fittings also make the whole water refilling experience easier. Brass doesn’t crack or leak like plastic fittings, and when you’re using them often it makes a big difference.
Downsizing to hit the road full time? Wondering what and how much clothing to take? Read this: How to decide what clothing to take when downsizing into a tiny home on wheels.
We hope you had a laugh and gained something from what we have learned from 12 months of living in a tiny home on wheels. Are you already living or aspiring to live on the road? Leave your questions or comments below, we’d love to hear from you!
Until next time,