18 Nov HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS: WHY WE CHOOSE ALTERNATIVE LIVING
We have been living on the ‘road’ as a couple, longer than we have in a traditional sense. We’ve calculated that in the last five years we’ve only been together in Sydney (‘home’) for about two years (in bits and pieces), and have moved well more than 30 times in that process. In our travels, we’ve been to about 52 countries between us and have been living in our camper fulltime for about 9 months so far.
These statistics probably sound like a bit of a wishy-washy way of living – but hear us out. There actually is sense to the madness and clarity amongst the chaos. For most people moving more than once a year is a bit of a nightmare, but for us it is probably one of the most exciting parts of our lives.
One of the most frequent questions we get asked is: HOW DO YOU DO IT?
A lot people make assumptions that perhaps we are being funded by rich parents (we’re not!) or some sort of illegal dealings (ha! Also, no). You don’t need either – just finding some tips for a few simple ways to pursue the life you want and some courage to take that first leap!
Since we met we both really knew that there was a way much better than how we had previously been living. Working fulltime 9-5 jobs in the city, spending another couple of hours commuting each day and feeling like zombies by the time we got home, cooking a boring weeknight dinner and zapping out our brains by watching rubbish on TV. It is an all too familiar story. Fast forward a few years and we have time in our days to do whatever our hearts desire – study, volunteer, yoga, hike, and even write this blog!
So at the very beginning, in came an opportunity that really began to shift things for us. We discovered housesitting. Hallelujah! We could live in nice parts of the city (which we probably couldn’t afford), be surrounded by incredible pets and all of the money which we were earning was going straight to our savings and not to a landlord. Ka-ching!
As a teacher in a private clinic, Nat was also given the opportunity to work and live in Singapore and Japan, with all living expenses paid. Which gave us even more of a boost. This is also a great opportunity for budding TESOL teachers out there too.
On our trip to Central America, we also accidentally discovered the delight of wild camping with a tent, after our trip to an island was cancelled due to bad weather and we decided to instead rent a car and buy some camping gear. This took us to the most remote and beautiful beaches and landscapes through Mexico, plus inspired us to do the same in Cuba, Japan and Israel.
We also signed up for volunteering through WWOOF and WorkAway, which give you volunteering opportunities of all kinds to exchange your effort and skills for accommodation and food – plus making loads of friends in the meantime. This has taken us across Tasmania, India, Israel, Guatemala, Japan and now Spain.
We’ve also stayed in Ashrams, a Kibbutz and a Vipassana Centre. These places all had an impact on our spiritual paths these last couple of years, and have really reinforced the fact that there is always a place for you.
We’ve also met so many incredible souls along the way, who we’ve gone back to visit in their hometowns and have very generously given us a place to stay for the night, or week!
Finally, (this one is kind of cringey because Instagram has made it so cliché, but -) van life! We had been talking about this plan for years, but we could only make it possible last year after saving and planning. We bought our fabulous little camper, Daisy, in very far North Eastern Poland and have so far added nearly 20,000 km to her feisty engine. The freedom of being able to live comfortably and simply, yet being able to pack up and move to the next beautiful lush forest or beachy coastal town, is something you can’t put into words.
DON’T YOU MISS ‘HOME’?
Sometimes. But not the life we had back at home. We miss our loved ones but nomad life is really what we are digging right now. When you simplify your life and begin to get rid of all of the unnecessary baggage like furniture, clothes and trinkets, you have space for new friends, new experiences and a whole new perspective.
Tips for making the shift to a slower, simpler, fuller life:
Look online for what suits you. We use trustedhousesitters.com because they have listings in Australia and internationally, but friends have used aussiehousesitters.com and have loved their Australian listings. You can find incredibly beautiful homes and even more wonderful fluffy friends, to care for. We once looked after a beautiful house with two dogs, two cats and two lizards – it was amazing.
- Work exchange
WorkAway, WWOOF (search on google for regional WWOOF sites), HelpX are all incredible websites to get connected with opportunities around the globe – all you need is a profile and a good attitude. You can find opportunities from farm work, to au pairing, to teaching, to construction, to anything in between. I even worked on a horse farm in rural Hokkaido, Japan caring for 30+ arabian horses with the most beautiful Japanese family! The world is your oyster.
- NGO Volunteering
AVID and other organisation which facilitate International Community Development volunteering are a great place to start. Be weary of voluntourism though and please, do your research to make sure that what you are being a part of is beneficial to the communities you come into contact, ie. it isn’t packaged up as an experience for you, it is a helping hand for others. Great initiatives are – education, construction and assisting refugees.
- TESOL Teaching
If English is your native language, you like people and you have an passion for connecting with others – you could be great TESOL teacher in a paid or voluntary capacity! You can do a qualification online (with practical placements and assessments), at TAFE, at University or at a Private Centre. TESOL/ TESL/ TEFL s a little complex because it isn’t standardised internationally so depending on where you want to teach, you can choose your qualification to suit – once you have your basic qualifications, many proper schools give you additional free training as a part of your job orientation. I studied with Teach International, which has been fantastic and I have used for volunteering and in South-East Asia. I would recommend a CELTA qualification for those planning on teaching in Europe or in a more formal capacity.
- Work overseas
If you are in an industry like IT, teaching, hospitality or agriculture; you shouldn’t have much trouble finding work overseas. I was relocated to Singapore and Japan with my teaching job, and it was a fantastic way to experience real life overseas. If you work for a big corporation, you can also see if you can be relocated or take on a secondment in another international office. Do your research, make contacts and put yourself out there.
- Wild camping
People thought we were insane for travelling with nothing but a tent and a couple of sleeping bags across the Baja Peninsular, Mexico, but it opened up so many new irreplaceable experiences for us. After this, we were hooked and still have our faithful two-man tent in our camper (just in case!). Once you get past the fear, you realise there was nothing to fear in the first place. Most people don’t even notice you are there and more importantly if you are responsible – locals love new people around. Be modest and kind, this will get you far. Help the local economy – buy at local stores or local bars, and you’ll be set. Most importantly – don’t leave a trace, so that the next happy campers can have the same blissful experience of nature which you did. You have fresh air, simple living and you’ll probably get to meet others who want the same happy life as you. Just a tip – you probably won’t get to shower as often as at home, but that is kind of the fun of it too – getting back to basics. If you really need a daily bath, wild camp on the beach and you’ll have a daily dip, just like at home.
- Van life
Get a van which you love, and it will love you back (we highly recommend Solar Power, for off the grid life). We also use the app Park4night, which gives us places all over Europe to park for the night for free (or not, too) like in great town initiatives for campers, forests, beaches and aires. In Australia, you can use WikiCamps Australia, or search the app store for plenty of others. Plus places you can drop your black water when needed.
- Ashrams/ Spiritual centres
Chances are that along the road, you’ll get connected with mama earth and the universe (it is only a matter of time). Staying at ashrams in exchange for helping to cook, clean, feed and service the other volunteers becomes the clearest Karma Yoga you can find. Giving is so fulfilling. We have stayed in ashrams in India, Israel and a Vipassana Meditation Centre in Singapore. Finding these places, even as pitstops on your journey can really change your experience, and even your life. Be open to these new experiences and see other ways which you can live your dream.
Alterative, nomadic living takes us down new and wonderful paths we never new existed. We really, truly wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Take the plunge, you won’t regret it!!
N & G