“Dad, I want french toast for breakfast” calls out April from the top bunk. Groan… time to getup, the whole family rises together in our cramped living space, a 2m by 6m Toyota Hiace van on our 3 month tour New Zealand.

To make brekkie involves a complicated re-arrangement of bodies, put this leg there, move that box, daughter April (5) in top bunk, Sonny boy (2 1/2) in bottom bunk, one or both adults outside the car. We don’t have a fancy motorhome with queensize bed, table, toilet and shower, just our lovely 1985 Hiace van “Clare Belle”, fully equipped with kitchen, beds and sink, which we all squeeze into. It really is a case of “roll over, roll over and the little one fell out” of the bed.

In the past 2 months I’ve often been asked what its like sharing a tiny space with 3 people, day in, day out. “Yeah but how do you make it work? How DO YOU work?” as its really a working holiday, my office being the passenger seat of the van most nights. Days can be better when a shady tree, or sandy beach lookout becomes my office for the day.

Every little item has its place in Clare Belle, maps and book on the dashboard, laptop behind passenger seat, basil plant in center console. And if its not being used, its thrown out. We have been ruthless with extra kids toys, the shovel we inherited (not used for 3 days), chairs, shoes or anything not actively used.

We do the ‘op shop swap’ with kids toys in the larger towns such as Auckland, Whangerei or Gisborne, the kids have to choose which toys they will take back to the Op Shop, and can then pick the same number of new toys.

April has become an absolute bower bird during our trip, finding and collecting anything colourful on the beach, parks or from people’s houses. This is possibly a reaction to the strict number of toys she can have compared to her whole room of toys back home, and its forced us as parents to teach her not to steal. She understands the concept of other people’s things, but just can’t help herself when something shiny and new catches her eye… so we’ve come up with a solution that addresses the problem, and has a consequence that she feels.
We line up all her toys, take away the stolen item of course, but also choose another toy or trinket she has to give up. “No not mousie! You can have that one… NO NOT RABBIT, please please, ok you can take my pink Unicorn instead” April squeals.

Rainy days are worst, everything has to happen inside the van, eating, cooking and working, and we have treated ourselves to a few days in a ‘real house’ from time to time.

The fishing is excellent, and I have to admit I haven’t caught a fish big enough to eat yet, although Sonny, April and my wife have all caught lovely big Kohowai and snapper. I’ve shown the kids how to kill and gut the fish, my little boy now shouts excitedly “Cut fishy in the bum, cut in half, see poo poo in fishy” and takes great interest in gutting and seeing what the fish has been eating. April was also very interested, but has now started to “feel funny in my belly about killing the fish” and developed a conscience. Its another opportunity to explain how we get our food, the meat we eat, fish from the shop and even the milk and eggs, all have come from animals, and we need to appreciate it so very much, as often they have died for it. We make the most of our fish, eating everything we can, making stock with the bones and head, to fully honour the fish and what its given up for us.

Its a great adventure, and we have 1 month to go before we come home to Australia and get back to ‘real life’.

Anyone want to buy a great travelling van in NZ?


4 comments on Four in a shoebox travelling NZ

  1. Neil says:

    Sounds like a great adventure Yari and opportunities to teach the kids all sorts of valuable life lessons

  2. Scotty says:

    Rainy days trapped in a van sent a shudder down my spine but overall sounds like a beautifully rich experience mate.

  3. Jim says:

    ah.. living the life me old lad!

  4. Rick says:

    Six in a two bedroom unit, I feel for you brother.
    Nice to live minimalistic while you can, enjoy.

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