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February

2018

INSIDE A TRAVELER’S WALLS MOTORHOMING FAMILY: THE CODDIWOMPLERS

INSIDE A TRAVELER'S WALLS
Here we go again! Inside a Traveler’s Walls is back with another amazing motorhoming family. It gives me great pleasure to introduce The Coddiwomplers to all of you. My goodness, there is so much yumminess in this post. Get ready!

The families trekking through jungles, living on boats, exploring third world countries…THEY are the travellers I revere and place on a pedestal! I aspire to be a brave traveller…. one day!

Oh Michelle, you are the real deal. Funny how as traveler’s we are always thinking what is the next adventure that will take us to new heights. We do it too! The boat is our end game! There is so much honesty in this post that I want to put the whole thing in quotes! And just when Michelle has gone real deep she throws in a one liner that has me laughing out loud. Her description of Baymax and how it fits their dynamic, adventure desires and “home” needs is making me think we need to show Lemonade more love. We love her, but they LOVE Baymax. Good thing Lemonade does not read the blog.

We found out pretty quickly that fulltime travel brings with it the same mundane stuff we were trying to avoid in our non travel life…If you think fulltime travel will sort out all your issues, well…it won’t. At least it hasn’t worked that way for us! But it gives you time to check in with yourself. That’s a good thing.

One of my favorite take aways from the entire post is how The Coddiwomplers have released some expectations from their previous life because they just did not work in a motorhome. Their ability to make it work in a small space with modifications is amazing. I am so happy to share another perspective from a family traveling through Europe in a motorhome.
Travel has opened our eyes to new possibilities. One thing is for certain, life will never quite be the same. WARNING: TRAVEL WILL CHANGE YOU!
Grab a cup of coffee, a comfy seat and get ready to be inspired.

Motorhoming Family

Introduce us to the people you live with?

Coddiwomple (v.) Origin: English Slang Word. Definition: To travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination.
We are the Coddiwomplers, an Aussie family of four: Me (Michelle, 41), my husband Ben (nearly 41) and our kids Harry (15) and Matilda (12). Before setting out on this amazing adventure, we lived for seven years on a tiny sub-tropical island in the South Pacific. Norfolk Island is halfway between Australia and New Zealand. When I say tiny, I’m not kidding. The island is only 5km wide and 8kms long. Norfolk Island is an amazing place and we miss it very much, but there’s a big wide world out there and we want to experience it! My interests are photography and sustainable living. Ben loves fishing and all things techy. We both love yoga. Our kids love anything to do with Lego and like most kids these days, both are quite tech savvy. They enjoy reading books and comics and love watching Japanese animation. From time to time Harry and Matilda are what I term, reluctant travellers. They love hanging out in Baymax and would both hole up with a good book if we let them. We drag them out of the van kicking and screaming sometimes, but nearly always they tell us they are so glad we did! We are a family of introverts and those who know us well would say we are not risk takers or thrill seekers. Travelling like we are is kind of a big deal, it’s stretching us out of our comfort zone, but in all the best ways! Some of our friends and family think we are brave for selling up, quitting school, putting our careers on hold to travel fulltime, but compare us to lots of other travelling families out there, and I think we are playing it safe! The families trekking through jungles, living on boats, exploring third world countries…THEY are the travellers I revere and place on a pedestal! I aspire to be a brave traveller…. one day! I guess that is why motorhome travel suits us and why we chose Europe to test ourselves as travellers. We have our Baymax (that’s what we call our motorhome) and Baymax allows us to retreat from the world when we need to! It’s our happy place, our safe zone! And best of all, Baymax allows us to get from one amazing place to another on this vast and varied continent! Why ‘Baymax’? Named after the unwitting hero from ‘Big Hero 6’, just like his namesake he’s very big and very white and is designed to protect us all. Now if only I could rewire the horn so instead of beeping it went “Fistbump – ba la la la lah”….

Where are you in the world and what are you living in?

For the past 14 months we have been living and travelling full-time around Europe in our motorhome, an Itineo SB740. Right now we are in Italy.

Why did you choose to live in your current arrangement?

Prior to our fulltime travel adventure, four years in a row we flew from Norfolk Island to New Zealand to spend our winter school holidays travelling around NZ in a motorhome. Yes WINTER! We are suckers for snow and don’t get a real winter on Norfolk Island. New Zealand is gorgeous all year round, but those snow-capped mountains…WOW, they are SO beautiful. I’m talking ‘my-eyes-hurt-this-is-so-unbelievably-stunningly-beautiful!!! Anyway, it was in NZ we fell head-over-heels for the motorhome lifestyle and the flexibility motorhome travel brings! Driving a motorhome in NZ is a cinch. The roads are excellent and there are many places to free camp. It is easy to track down services (water, dump points) and find suitable parking. New Zealand is a motorhome enthusiasts dream come true!
We chose to explore Europe whilst living fulltime in a motorhome because:
  • After NZ, we were familiar with and totally comfortable with motorhome travel
  • We wanted to travel around Europe for a year at least, maybe longer. Our travel budget wasn’t going to stretch far if we went down the hotel/renting path.
  • We had freecamped in NZ and loved the freedom associated with it
  • There’s a sense of security with having a motorhome. Baymax is our home. It feels good to have our “own place”. We don’t have to cart bags around from hotel to hotel. There’s a place for everything in our van. We have scooters and bikes, yoga mats, our favourite veggie peeler (ha ha, when you find a decent veggie peeler you stick with it, right?). We brought our trusty old stick blender and our thermal cooking pot etc. It doesn’t matter where we are, returning to our van at the end of the day feels good. Its’ familiar and cozy. It’s our home! When we shut those blinds at night, we could be anywhere. But inside our van, we are home…in Italy, or France, or Ireland. It’s our ‘constant’ on a journey that is ever changing and evolving! My kids need that familiarity, actually, we all do.
  • Motorhome travel is flexible. We think it’s fun.

What do you do to personalize your unique (less traditional) living situation?

We bought our motorhome brand new. It has a sleek and modern interior with blackout blinds and comfortable furnishings. We kitted it out with all the usual items; kitchen equipment, linen, camping chairs etc. Many items we brought with us all the way from Australia (our cutlery, some cooking utensils, our kindles, computer gear etc) and other bits we bought from Ikea when we arrived in Scotland (bedding, plates, storage). We take a lot of pride in keeping Baymax in top-notch condition as it’s our intention to sell the van when our trip comes to an end. As a family, we don’t function well with clutter or mess, so our van is fairly minimalist in appearance. Everything has it’s place. Harry and Matilda have their own space at the back of our van. They each have storage cupboards, a bunkbed, a seat and a table they can share. They are free to decorate their space any way they want. Matilda loves arranging posters and pictures in her space whilst Harry doesn’t care for such things. He has his skateboard, a kindle and his Nintendo Switch, so he’s a happy camper.
 

Tell us your favorite and least favorite room in your space and why?

So there’s this little thing called a toilet cassette! You’ll find it in my most favourite and least favourite room! Favourite because who doesn’t like a toilet all of their very own…but least favourite cause that thing fills up and someone (that someone is ordinarily Ben) has to empty it. Matilda loves her bed best, because it’s all hers and Harry likes our table, which can be arranged in different positions. As for least favourite space, Matilda thinks our bathroom is too small and Harry says it gets a bit congested in our kitchen sometimes when you are trying to get from one end of Baymax to the other. Ben has a love-hate relationship with Baymax as a whole. He loves that we have our home with us all the time and that contained within its four walls are all the items we need. BUT he hates that our house on wheels is almost 7.5 meters long and well over two metres wide! Baymax’s size does make it impractical to reach certain places at times. Now and then we wish we were travelling fulltime by bike or on foot!

What is the biggest misconception you had about your current living situation before you started living in it?

Oh gosh, where do I start? This travel caper was all my crazy idea. I felt that life was passing by too quickly, my kids were growing up before my eyes and our daily grind had become relentless! When I proposed to Ben halfway through 2016 that we should sell up and travel fulltime around Europe in a motorhome, I never expected him to jump on board! And here we are now, with 14 months of fulltime motorhome travel under our belt. We are still going strong and are so much wiser! We found out pretty quickly that fulltime travel brings with it the same mundane stuff we were trying to avoid in our non travel life. We still have to clean (though it takes waaaaaay less time now), wash clothes, buy groceries and cook meals! I still struggle with time management, mother guilt and decision-making. Put four people fulltime in a space smaller than a school bus and there’s bound to be some emotionally charged moments. We all went through a period of hefty self-evaluating and analysis. Even our kids. If you think fulltime travel will sort out all your issues, well…it won’t. At least it hasn’t worked that way for us! But it gives you time to check in with yourself. That’s a good thing. We thought motorhoming in the UK would be just like it is in New Zealand. In reality, the UK is not really set up for motorhomes, unless you stay on caravan and camping sites. We did eventually find places to free camp in the UK, but it wasn’t easy. Locating places to fill the water tank or empty the toilet cassette is quite challenging. It’s much easier to freecamp on The Continent, especially in France, Italy and Spain! We save a lot of money by free camping as often as possible. But even if we have to pay for a camping site, we seek out the most affordable. Some sites are less than €10 a night.

What is the one household item you carry with you every time you move or the one item you cannot live without? 

Ben and I have a strong bond with our yoga mats…they travel with us, but more on that later. For Christmas years ago, my sister gifted Ben and I an amazing top-notch quality French made cooking pan. It’s the cooking pan of all cooking pans. Perfect for cooking eggs, pancakes, stir-fry’s etc, it stores perfectly in our kitchen drawer and is a perfect match for our small gas burner. We can’t live without it! I should mention here we have a self-made washing machine in Baymax. We bought a large water-tight barrel from a tiny hardware shop in Portugal. We pop our dirty washing inside, fill it with water and washing detergent and pop the whole thing in our garage. While we drive along the washing agitates nicely and when we reach our new destination, we empty out the water, rinse everything and set about getting it dry. It works a treat! I’ll confess though, once winter set in, we used it less and visited laundromats more frequently.

What do you miss most about permanent, stationary, traditional living?

Apart from family and friends back home, we miss yoga! We brought the afore-mentioned mats with us, but in reality, they have had minimal use. We thought we’d just roll them out wherever we are. It sounds a bit lame, but it’s mostly been too cold to do yoga outside and our travel budget hasn’t stretched to include drop-in yoga classes. Nutrition is very important to us and before travel we always aimed to eat locally sourced organic foods. In our pre-motorhome life, we made many things from scratch; kombucha, sauerkraut, bone broth, kefir, yoghurt. We even made our own washing powder and toothpaste. We don’t have the equipment or space to do that in Baymax. These days we buy our groceries from the cheapest supermarkets we can find (hooray for Lidl and Aldi). We have relaxed many of our hard to maintain eating ideals. It is what it is. Sometimes you have to adjust your expectations for travel, and do things a bit different. It keeps life interesting!

What is the one item your children carry with them to make their unique (less traditional) home more comfortable?

Harry plays classical guitar and Matilda the flute. So we have both of these instruments in Baymax. Daily music practise is interesting at times and can test the nerves!
 

Do you have a pet joining you in this journey? If so, has this been complicated? Any advice?

I’m a self-proclaimed pet-hair phobic!!!!!!!!!! The very thought of animals sharing our tiny space is enough to bring on an anxiety attack. One day we saw a man leave his motorhome with four huge Alsatians! BLEW.MY.MIND! Eeeeek! Hats off to families travelling with furry friends…it’s not for us.

What is your best resource to find items you need for your place?

We love second-hand shops. We’ve bought lots of second-hand items whilst we’ve been travelling – books, card games, clothes. We even bought a snow sled for £3 in Edinburgh! We have given stuff away to second-hand shops too. If it doesn’t get used in the van, it’s taking up valuable space and has to go!

If you could only have one of the following in your home which one would it be and why?

Space, natural light, dishwasher or above average internet.
Hands down, definitely internet! It’s our life line to everything! It’s how we keep in touch with friends and family, plus without google, we’d never find out the information we do about the places we are visiting! It wasn’t that long ago that folks did what we are doing now, without this amazing thing called wifi! Imagine. I can’t!

If you were to compare your unique (less traditional) home decorating style to a kitchen appliance or gadget what would it be and why?

A splade. Half fork, half spoon – sleek and ergonomic. Baymax is our house AND our car! He’s sleek and well designed. How’s that for a two for one deal?

How do you keep traditions alive for your family in your unique living situation? 

We celebrate all the usual holidays (Christmas, Easter, birthdays) just like we did before fulltime motorhome travel. The great thing about travel is you experience new holidays and traditions. In Germany we joined the festivities for May Day, in Scotland we watched fireworks for Guy Fawkes Night, and in Salzburg we watched a Krampus Parade, just to name a few. We’ve taken on new traditions and ideas since starting this adventure!
 

How do you decorate for the holidays in your unique (less traditional) home or do you skip it all together?

Skip the holidays? No way! When you are a long way from home, family and friends, it’s extra important to make holidays special. We make the usual fuss, put up decorations, make crafts, cook special dishes. We didn’t have a Christmas tree in Baymax, but we had plenty of Christmas cheer, including lights and decorations! We did a month-long Christmas market tour in the lead up to Christmas. We visited Christmas markets in France, the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria and England. It was amazing to experience so many traditions. We ate so much delicious food! I bought a Christmas decoration from each country so we’ll always remember our European Christmas!

What is your favorite part about this lifestyle choice? 

Uh oh. I can’t narrow this down to one thing. There’s so much I love about our lifestyle! I love seeing and experiencing new places all the time. It’s a privilege to visit someone else’s country, to observe and participate in their customs. I love how much time we have, time to do as much or as little as we see fit. I love being with my family. We have had some doozy blow-ups, but we’ve also grown very close. I love the simplicity of motorhome travel. It has shown us how little we need to be happy. We weren’t materialistic before, but we are even more aware of how much possessions can be a burden.

Many traveling families subscribe to the “house is not a home” theory. What is home to you?

Home is where the heart is, right? Home is wherever Ben and my kids are. Baymax is home right now! I reckon a home on wheels might be the best kind of home yet!

What makes you love the place you live?

Big sky and open space. We are always drawn to natural spaces; lakes, rivers, beaches, forests and mountains, especially mountains! Cities are great and we love to visit them but it’s in the less populated places where we really feel at peace!

Can home be a person, or an idea?

A person can feel at home sitting under a tree, so ‘home’ is a state of mind I guess. Can home be a person? I ‘feel’ at home when I’m with Ben and my kids. But I need more than that. I need the tangible version too, a place that gives me shelter and protection. I think ‘home’ is more than just an idea, it’s a combination of the metaphysical and a feeling.

Words of wisdom to anyone considering venturing out into the world of unique, less traditional homes?

Some people will think your choices are crazy! Don’t let it stop you. Live for the moment. You never know what’s around the corner. And don’t think you have to grow a money tree to travel. If there’s a will, there’s a way. We have a very strict travel budget. We almost never take guided tours and seldom visit sites with a paid entry fee. There’s so much you can do and see for free. If you visit England though, join the National Trust. The membership well and truly pays for itself after a few visits, and there are hundreds of fabulous historical sites to explore. We also save a lot of money by free camping as often as possible. But even if we have to pay for a camping site, we seek out the most affordable. Know that things sometimes go wrong. We woke to thieves attempting to break into our van in Ireland, Ben got knocked off his bike by a car in England, Baymax got a cracked windscreen in France and a flat tyre in Italy and I chipped a tooth in Germany! Whilst testing times, they pale in comparison to the standout moments; seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time, riding a Camargue horse, hiking the Path of the Gods, riding a bike around Amsterdam, hearing Haydn sung in a Cathedral…you get the idea!

Anything else you would like offer?

Have an open mind and be realistic. It’s easy to get caught up with how others are living their travel dreams! Read blogs, join Facebook groups and get inspiration from Instagram…but keep in mind you are only getting a small part of the picture. Travel, living fulltime in a motorhome, homeschooling…it looks and feels different for everyone. There’s no right or wrong way. What works for someone else, may not work for you, and that’s OK. And enjoy the simple things; getting a haircut, going grocery shopping, seeking help from a mechanic. These seemingly everyday occurrences make for memorable moments when you can’t speak the local language! Ben, Harry and I each had a haircut with a gorgeous Italian hairdresser the other day. He didn’t speak a word of English and we not a word of Italian (besides the basic greetings). It’s amazing how well you can get by with charades, google translator and a good dose of laughter!

What is next for you? Will you continue to live in your current home or try something different?

One day I want to live in a yurt! Or a tiny house! But for now we plan to continue our motorhome adventure for at least six more months. Having said that, our plans are never set in concrete. We are keen to explore Eastern Europe and Scandinavia. Even when we return home, I think we will work towards more travel, whether it be in Australia or abroad. We have the bug now. Travel has opened our eyes to new possibilities. One thing is for certain, life will never quite be the same. WARNING: TRAVEL WILL CHANGE YOU!

If you have children what are your plans for education?

Ben and I are both school teachers, so you’d probably think we have the whole education thing sewn up. You couldn’t be further from the truth. Oh at the start I tried to replicate school in Baymax. I failed! Harry and Matilda just didn’t want to do the things I was asking. I was banging my head against a brick wall. My approach caused tension between Ben and I because he thought I was pushing too hard. It took a bit for me to realise Harry and Matilda needed time to de-school, to decompress. They needed time to take in their new surroundings, to adjust to travel. And guess what…I needed to de-school too! Over time Harry and Matilda have become quite self-directed. They more or less decide what they need to do. Almost everyday they work on Maths without input from us, and they are always reading. If you like labels, I guess we are unschooling these days, though labels make me edgy but I’ll throw around a few more…roadschool, homeschool, worldschool…we are doing all of these! I’m not sure what future education looks like for these two. If and when we return to a stationary life, I’ll be guided by Harry and Matilda. In the meantime, they have learnt more Geography, History, Social Science, Art and Humanities than they ever could have in a classroom! Kids will learn despite you. Who needs a text-book on Ancient History when you can walk around Pompeii and see it for yourself!?

How do you make a living?

For years and years we’ve been working and saving hard to buy a house. We woke up one day and realised home-ownership and all its associated baggage is someone else’s dream. So that’s how we’ve funded our trip – hard earned savings! Because of this, we may now never own a house…but we sure will have some fantastic memories! I’ve seen the Sistine Chapel for goodness sake! Right now we aren’t working. As I’ve already mentioned, Ben and I are both school teachers. I took leave from my job for all of 2017, and amazingly my request to extend for all of 2018 was approved. Ben was working fulltime before we started our trip, but his job wasn’t permanent. We have UK visas that allow us to work if we want to. Ben did teach in a London school for seven weeks halfway through last year, but it put the very stress back into our life that we were trying to escape! Plus teaching in the UK pays a lot less than Australia – and the agency he worked for took an enormous chunk of his pay! A large amount of the money he earned went toward the expense of living in a caravan park near London! Whilst it’s not ideal to have our savings dwindling down, we think travel is a worthy cause! It’s a choice we’ve made and we’ll live with the consequences. Did I mention I’ve seen the Sistine Chapel?

Quote to ponder

Some people will think your choices are crazy! Don’t let it stop you. Live for the moment. You never know what’s around the corner. And don’t think you have to grow a money tree to travel. If there’s a will, there’s a way.

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Who wants more? I know I do. We might start stalking them around Europe. There is so much food for thought in this post. Take it all in, process it and then lets get you WorldTowning.

WorldTowning’s services can help make this travel dream ‘your reality’ and we can do it all stress free. We will be there with you every step of the way.

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Go adventure,
Jessica

Inside A Traveler’s Walls is where we feature families living in less traditional and unique homes (tents, boats, camper vans, yurts, flats, etc). If you think you might be one of those families and are interested in being profiled, please contact us for details.

COMMENTS (2)

2 thoughts on “INSIDE A TRAVELER’S WALLS MOTORHOMING FAMILY: THE CODDIWOMPLERS

    1. I thought the same thing Helen. There is so much to love about Michelle and her family. Honesty about this travel life is key if we want to be able to help others who follow in our footsteps.

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