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The road less travelled: ten lessons learned on the road

Kimberlea Turner

Three years ago we decided to trade the hustle and bustle of everyday life for the open road. Hitching up our caravan and waving goodbye to house-life, our family of four hit the road to explore our country, Aotearoa New Zealand.

It’s been a whirlwind of experiences from picture perfect campsites, overnight hikes to breath-taking views, kayaking and sailing the stunning coastline, playing tourist in our own backyard and meeting a whole load of amazing people along the way. Sure, there have been some hiccups, (a flat tire in the middle of nowhere at 10pm at night comes to mind!) but the highs have always outweighed the lows and we find it so important to take some time to reflect on our incredible journey so far.

Here’s a deep dive into 10 invaluable lessons we’ve learned from 3 years of full-time family travel.

1. The first year is all about learning, the second year is when you really start enjoying the journey. 

The first year can be tough — you learn to live in a confined space with your family, you spend half your life in search of the next dump station (or laundromat, water source, rubbish and recycling, supermarket or fuel station), setting up and packing up your rig, and juggling the travel/work/homeschool balance. Somewhere along the way this becomes organic, leaving you more time to dream up and follow through on ridiculous ideas… Like buying a sailboat.

2. The old cliché, don’t forget the journey. 

Initially we rushed everywhere to get to the destination (the classic, kids are sleeping — let’s just keep driving!) but the more we travel the less distance we cover and the more breaks we take. Waterfall walk on the side of the road? Sure, lets stop! Kids spot a playground? Why not!

3. You will bicker, and that’s ok. 

When you have multiple personalities packed into a confined environment, especially after a few days of rain, there will be some tense times! But you will make leaps and bounds in learning to communicate better and when to give others some space, or take some yourself.

4. Opportunities are endless 

Opportunities are endless  once you’re available to take them. The best opportunities we’ve had along our travels (and consequently the friends we’ve made from them) have been as a direct result of us living on the road and being able to accept opportunities on a whim.

5. There will be some soul searching. 

You’ve left your job, got rid of most of your possessions and hit the road and it feels so freeing! Until eventually you discover how much of our identities are tied into the jobs we do and the lives we live. Who are you outside of what you do? Who do you want to be? What exactly do you want from this chapter of your life? There will be some soul searching… Spoiler alert: who you are when you hit the road is not the same as who you will be 3 years down the track… Personal growth, baby!

6. Home isn’t a place, it’s a feeling. 

It certainly helps we tow our 14m2 home on wheels behind us wherever we go, and when we’re tucked up at night we feel right at home no matter what landscape is outside our 4 walls, in fact, sometimes we have to crack a blind in the morning to remember where we are! But we’ve discovered that home isn’t the place we live, it’s the people we surround ourselves with and as long as our family is together, we feel at home wherever we are.

7. Take a moment to be in the moment.

 It’s so easy to get lost in the long list of things you want to do and see next or get frustrated when life inevitably throws a curve ball. We never would have dreamed 10 years ago we’d be doing what we are today and wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. Sometimes we need to stop and remind ourselves of that and take a moment to look around and appreciate where we are and the journey we’ve had along the way. And on that note…

8. You can see a lot, but you can’t see it all. 

How cute were we when we thought we could whip around New Zealand in a year or less?! 3 years later and we’ve been as far North, South, East and West as you can go and zig-zagged all over the middle. While we’ve ticked a lot off the list, we know we could do another 5 laps and still see new things each time. Have a list of top spots you want to visit but make time to follow your nose and ask for recommendations from locals and other travellers along the way. Be present and embrace the adventure.

9. Always have a plan B. 

Life happens, just have a plan B.

10. Just go. 

The rest will sort itself out.

Looking back at all we’ve learned and the memories we’ve made, we can confidently say: we wouldn’t change a thing. See you out there!

All photos ©2024 Two Kids and a Caravan

time to dream up and follow through on ridiculous ideas

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