What does "living the simple dream" mean to me?

I always hear people from our generation saying "Ahh, living the dream" when they are doing somthing our of the ordinary - for example: sipping cocktails in a spa of a fancy resort or perhaps they post "living the dream" as the caption beneath a photo of them moving into their new $500,000+ mansion-esque home they have just mortgaged their life away for. At first I was confused by how simple my ambitions were. All I wanted was to live in a caravan and be able to spend as much time enjoying the outdoors with my husband and son, without my husband having to be at work all the time. So for me, this became my simple dream. I find myself having those "Ahh living the dream" moments when I am sitting in a natural hot spring with my husband and son, drinking a beer, ten feet away from a crocodile infested river. Now mine, my husbands and my sons life is all about chasing our simple dream.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Being organised and prepared

Staying organised in your van is fundamental to living comfortably in there. There are many different things you can do/purchase to ensure you are organised. There are also many ways you can be prepared for potential problems, despite living in a small space!
First you bolt the safe case (the big hollow box/sleeve on the left) in then you slide the safe into it and lock it in. This way the safe cannot be removed without the key. This is the same as our safe.

Get a safe!
We keep important documents in our safe:
We keep a copy of each of our birth certificates in our safe as well as our spare Medicare card, any important paperwork (such as our insurance policies etc.) the safe is bolted into the van to keep it nice and secure from thieves. It’s a great idea to have your identification information in your safe as if you happen to lose your I.D card/licence along the way you can easily organise a new one with those documents. We mainly have them as we live in the van 100% year round so it’s essential for us to have those items with us.
Emergency Money!

We also like to make sure we have some emergency money in there:
We also keep some emergency money in our safe. One of the best reasons we discovered for having “emergency money” on the necessity list was that many remote places do not have an Eftpos/ATM service. If you are relying on these services you could miss out on many activities. Many restaurants and tourist attractions and camp areas in remote areas do not have Eftpos facilities. It’s also great to have – in case of an ACTUAL emergency. You may need cash to buy someone’s jerry can contents off them if you’ve run out of fuel, or perhaps to purchase a tyre from a helpful local, either way it’s a good idea to have some emergency money! Sometimes this money is handy for non- emergency situations for example when we camped at the remote station out at 80 mile beach they held a market day (that we hadn’t previously heard of) and many people held little market stalls with lovely items, without our “emergency money” we wouldn’t have been able to purchase a few little handmade bits and bobs we bought for friends back home.
Other things we have in order to be organised/prepared:

Large accordion style file folder
This is a great and cheap, space saving, alternative for a filing cabinet. We keep one in our van and have the different sections labelled for different things such as; bills, receipts, warranties, bank statements, any additional insurance paperwork that we don’t need in the safe, registration information, instructions for items we have purchased (such as the bread-maker) and a myriad of other important papers. This way you have all the information you may need organised as opposed to “shoved” wherever it fits. It’s so easy to find whatever you need when you need it!
This is our actual "travel money folder" I put th emoney in for the photo just to show the size of the folder. This folder was purchased at K-mart in the stationary section.

Mini accordion style folder
If, like us - you are very budget conscious when you are on the road – this is the solution for you! We find that if we use our key cards we spend far more mindlessly, so we have devised a new approach. We purchased the above pictured “mini accordion” folders and we labelled the interior pockets with things that our weekly budget consists of – e.g. Fuel, groceries, caravan park fees, phone credit (we stay pre-paid, but more about that later) and a section for our “spending money”. At the start of the week (or fortnight) we withdraw the amount that our weekly (or fortnightly) budget is and we put it into the folder in the appropriate sections. This way we are not using our cards and spending mindlessly and we also have any money that is leftover there to rollover to the next week. If we find that we free camp A LOT then the money in our “caravan park fees” section will be put in our “spending” for the next week, which adds to the fun! I use this folder system in everyday life even when we aren’t travelling its very effective!

First aid kit/medication kit
I really don’t think this needs any explaining, but I’ll tell you about ours. As well as having a fairly comprehensive first aid kit (the kind you can buy fully packed from the Red Cross) it’s also a great idea to have a “medication kit” (as we call it). Before we left I purchased bulk boxes (from “Warehouse” or “discount” pharmacies) of items we use the most such as panadol/panamax, Ibuprofen, throat lozenges (strepsils now do a very cheap bulk pack at Woolworths), anti-histamine (my mum taught me that an antihistamine and a panamax/panadol is the same as a “cold & flu tablet” but  1 hundredth of the price when purchased in bulk), children’s paracetamol and ibuprofen, cough medicine, and bulk Band-Aids. Having all of these items well stocked up in our van (in a lunchbox, under our bed) means that we never have to purchase them from service stations or expensive “after hours” chemists and we never have to go without them when we are in remote areas. We also keep a bottle each of paracetamol and ibuprofen in our car glove box in case we ever need them.  Another thing we keep (which is great for people with children) is a nifty little red tube of cream that comes from the chemist, called “Eurax cream”. My son has terrible reactions to mosquito and sand-fly bits and they swell up like eggs and itch, once we put this cream on them they don’t bother him at all and heal up very quickly. We use it on myself and my husband as well as it stops the itching almost immediately. Also chap sticks are very handy, when you go walking outdoors a lot in winter you’re bound to need a chap stick!

A generator
I wouldn’t call a generator a necessity, more of a “luxury” but they are certainly handy. I can (embarrassingly) tell you that over eight months of life in the van we used ours twice, once in winter to plug in our “sandwich toaster” along the side of a highway somewhere – to make breakfast then another time in the heat while we were free camping and wanted to see if the aircon would run on it (it did).  Generators have come a long way and you can find compact, “quieter” models now-days. We have a small Honda one and it’s perfect! We purchased it online for a discounted rate, brand new and it came with a free inverter kit that we can plug in to use our power points off our caravan battery/solar set up. You can find second hand generators at garage sales, tender centres and pawn shops for around 50% of the cost of a new one! Generators are definitely handy but can be bulky and you may find you never use it!

A few disposable items:
I’m generally against using disposable stuff when you don’t have to (mostly to save money) but when you are free camping in between towns and trying to drag out the “free” campsite for as long as you can you need to preserve water. For this reason alone we went and bought the biggest, cheapest (home-brand) packs of plastic cups and cutlery and paper plates. When we are free camping and trying extremely hard to limit our water intake – not having to do many dishes is VERY handy! It means the water in our tanks goes a lot further and we can extend our stay! We don’t use them very often though because there is generally “some sort” of supply of water even if it isn’t the best quality. We are very conscious of taking our rubbish with us or putting it in the bins provided and we follow a tip we read in the “Camps” book “leave the area cleaner than it was when you arrived” (it’s a great way to KEEP free camps open to the public AND free, we need to look after them!)

Yep, spares are definitely a necessity. Spares of EVERYTHING! Mainly though – bearing in mind that a lot of the time you won’t have electricity or you’ll have limited electricity (while running on solar or a generator) it’s fantastic to have spare batteries of all shapes and sizes. You can easily replace the batteries in torches, lanterns, cameras, radios, kid’s toys etc. Batteries are something you always seem to need! We keep a set of those mini plastic draws you get from cheap shops and one of the draws houses our spare batteries, one houses our spare pens and pencils and the other has spare fuses and light bulbs (also handy to have around). You should also endeavour to have spares for your car too, namely the spare items you need for servicing such as Oil and fuel filters, coolants, etc. This way when your service comes up if you are mechanically minded you can simply do it yourself! We also keep spare belts for our car too as they are the one thing you always hear people saying broke at the most inconvenient of times! Spare tyres are another obvious one and we even carry a tyre puncture repair kit – these kits have come a long way and although they are very  cheap they are extremely effective (not to mention simple to use). Puncture repair kits are under $10 at super cheap auto and can save you a WHOLE lot of hassle!

A few (non-food) items that tend to run out at inconvenient times and are good to keep an extra one or two put away so that you are prepared or at least so that you can save a bit of money by not having to buy them in a place where you are limited to one, very expensive, small store!:
Toilet paper
Insect repellent
Gladwrap/alfoil/baking paper
Fuel (keep a jerry can)
Dish washing liquid (it can be fairly irritating when you run out of this!)
Garbage bags (these are full of wonderful uses – rain jackets, floor covering to sit on when its wet, parachutes (just kidding), laundry bags, as well as for containing rubbish!
Paper towels or chux (very handy!)

 This is just a few of the things we carry with us. Please bare in mind that we live in our van year round and do not have a home base anywhere waiting for us so dependent on our situation our needs may be very different to yours. Ultimately, we could live without most of these items but when you have the option to have them and you are already living with so little, well, for us - we chose to have them! If we were travelling with a camper trailor or just a swag I'm sure our "needs" and therefore what we pack, would change dramatically based on how much space we have.

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