You can be a strong advocate for keeping life simple and still get carried away when excitement hits. A new adventure or something you really want and you throw caution to the wind and go for it. Sometimes we do things and wonder what possessed us to try such a thing, and other times it turns out absolutely perfect and was completely and totally worth the risk!
There will be big differences in what is important to one person may be of no value to another. Whether it be financial gain, wisdom learnt or experience earned, the true value of something is determined by each individual.
Our risk was purchasing a motorhome for a family trip, and even though we made some mistakes that cost us financially, the benefits of the experience for our family were of far greater value. It was worth every dollar spent!
We bought a camper/motorhome in the spring of 2014 to go on a month family trip around the South Island of New Zealand. We had been living in Christchurch a few years and new we wouldn’t be there forever so decided to do a longer trip further south to show our kids.
We didn’t want to take a car and pitch tents every night or have the hassle of expensive accommodation, so a camper was our next best option. We decided to buy our own, it was far cheaper than renting one and meant we weren’t locked into specific dates we could travel.
We didn’t buy an expensive one, just a good-enough one. We’re not 5-star travellers, as long as we are warm, dry and clean.
The issue was that we didn’t have the cash for such a large purchase on a whim so we had to take a loan.
While we were travelling we had repair and maintenance of the vehicle that we were doing up to 200kms in each day in. This would have been fine if it wasn’t for the fact that it was an older truck and things seemed to break, a lot.
Our first stop was an hour out of Christchurch for afternoon tea and a swim at the park.
When we went to leave our camper wouldn’t start, the battery had died. Because we couldn’t drive anywhere, my husband James had to walk 2km to buy a new one and then carry it back!
The second issue came about a week later heading into Milford Sound, a steep, remote and hilly highway to travel. We realised the battery wasn’t holding its charge at all. A number of times that day we had to get a jump start from tourists. My husband is incredibly handy and likes a task generally, but he couldn’t work out what was going on with the battery.
A few mornings later he woke with an idea that might work and managed to fix the battery by fixing the fan belt…I think that’s what it was? The kids and I had breakfast and collected stones by a beautiful lake in Cromwell while he had his head under the hood trying to get us on the road again.
What road trip would be complete without a flat tyre, this happened for us about 10 mins out of Omarama. Everybody that passed by offered to help which was awesome, we were thankful but we didn’t need it.
Every issue we had throughout this month long trip created some kind of worry, about our safety in remote areas, financial pressure affording all the fixes and getting tired.
Quite possibly from the outside, it might have looked like we were living simply and being frugal, having an adventure but trying to be smart with our expenses. But at the time it didn’t feel smart at all.
We asked ourselves every other day if we made a good decision buying the camper.
We were locked into maintaining that $20K loan for the summer, not counting the extra expenses we were paying for repairs, plus our regular costs of living that continued back home.
We saved money by doing free activities like museums and visiting the animals at places we stayed. At Coralie Bay in the Caitlins, the kids swam with rare Hector dolphins…for free!
We spent our time at the beaches, lakes and rivers. We stayed in doc camps that are less expensive and paid for a camper association card that allowed us to stay in places of other camper owners for less charge than a camping ground.
We bought treats and paid for some activities, but we concentrated on enjoying our country and our time together.
When we got home we decided to keep it until the end of summer and do a few more weekend trips away. There were always other places to go and the camper made it super easy. We kept toiletries and cooking gear on board 24/7 so we never needed to pack much, clothes, a towel, food and a book.
In those last 6 weeks of ownership James needed to replace the radiator, what a job that was! Then the truck came due for annual registration and needed some compliance’s updated.
In summary, we were pretty skint financially over this summer period. But at the end of summer, we sold her on to another family for exactly what we bought her for. We repaid the loan, licked our financial wounds and sat back to assess what we learned.
We realised again that things are not always as simple as they seem in life and don’t always go the way you plan them. BUT…our trip was incredible we had a fabulous time with our kids and we got to show them things textbooks would never have taught them, it’s one of our best memories.
We didn’t have a solid plan, and we certainly didn’t have a lot of money, but we knew what we wanted to do, so we took what we had and we made the best of it. Regardless of whether it was a fail or a win, we learnt SO much I can only consider it a positive.
We learn from all our experiences, whether they are easy or hard, we learn.
Would we do it again? Absolutely no regrets, it was worth every cent, and sleepless night. Totally worth the risk.