Month: April 2016

Home Building- Week 3

March 24th-31st 2016

This is the last week of major internal changes. There will continue to be smaller changes for the foreseeable future, but the bulk of things have been done.

The wheel arch area on the door side has had several potential uses throughout the planning phase. First, I was thinking of installing a unit for keys, wallet, shoes, umbrella and other little things you need just as you are leaving or want to stash as you arrive. As the project came along though, I realised I had created other areas for these almost by accident. When I discovered the original use for that space in this model of caravan was a vanity unit/dresser, I considered restoration as an option, but finally, it was Piccolo that made the decision.

The little ramps I’d made were just too daunting for him and I wanted him to be comfortable with our home too. I could have trained him to accept the ramps, but I figured there was no point when he didn’t like them and was already ok with jumping up to the bed via the wheel arch. Why re-invent the wheel(arch)? So the first task of the week was insulating and tiling the arch structure in the same way the floor was done. Seemed as good a use of the excess materials as any.

It also made sense because the dogs are often tethered in situations where free roaming could be dangerous for them (i.e. places with inadequate fencing, near kiwi colonies or busy roads). The tiling covered the particle board cladding that was then the top layer. This gave it a protective layer to prevent wet ropes damaging this particle board covering.

Actually, plumbing was the FIRST job of the week… but I had no idea what I was doing and after trying for half a day to “fake-it-til-you-make-it”, I realised I should abandon that and seek some help from someone at the hardware store. So I moved on to the wheel arch that day and made a point of getting down to Mitre 10, Stratford the next day, where I picked up all the ideas and materials I needed to get the job done. Once it had been properly thought through and all the proper parts had been procured, it actually came together pretty easily. Everything lined up well and got cemented in place with no dramas. The result was a much more simple, accessible and watertight grey water line.

The table… Oh how I wish I’d not done the table how I did. It is by far the project that took up the most time and it was entirely because I’d tried to be too clever. The worst thing is once I had it all working great, I broke it. But that’s life. It still works, but when I’d finished it all, I went to drill a hole to hang the peg from. Unfortunately the place I chose to hang it (the top of one of the stabiliser rails) didn’t deal well with the vibrations from the drill. In fat, the vibrations shatters a vital piece of plastic holding the rail together. In the end, I think it got raised in perfect working order maybe three times. Now it is a much more sensitive operation. Still, it is handy to have a table at an ergonomically correct height. Even if my bachelor habits of computing on my lap and eating while standing at the bench are well-ingrained

The best thing this week was also one of the simplest. The bench extension makes all the difference when I consider practical application. It’s not even a metre long, but it created a storage place for my suitcase and hiking pack as well as a dumping ground for everything. Oh… and I suppose I could use it as a kitchen bench some day too. I went for simple on this design. A couple of pegs fit into the wall at one end and the other end rests on the current bench support. The hardest parts were making a piece to fit the available space out of off-cuts and lining up the pegs and holes. I am amazed how much difference a bench makes.

The next part was one of the things I enjoyed most in the whole thing. I liked the problem solving. I made two key pieces of furniture: a shelving unit and a wardrobe. Without them, there really wouldn’t have been much point in the whole restructure, as they made use of the vertical space available at the front end. But they were made to be light. Unfortunately, while the light materials were strong enough to stand alone, they didn’t really stack up when they were stacked up. My solution was to use lightweight plastic twine to lash the corners together and create diagonal tension braces. Happy to report that the plan worked out swimmingly.

The bed furnishings had been underway for a few days. They were projects I’d been slowly chipping away at in the evenings. The headboards/armrests and bed width extension all came from the previous second bed. It was just a matter of slowly chipping away at first making the pieces and then sewing the covers. The mattress cover was just a matter of downsizing the previous one and the headboards were old velvet curtains, repurposed to fit the need.

Next came the bookcase. This was a job which had been put off so many times I lost count. This time though, it wasn’t through procrastination or laziness, but through unexpected or unforeseen intermediate steps. Often, the reason was that I had to complete some other stage in the bed development before I was needed. Once the table was finally done and the trellis work was finished, there was no reason not to crack on. So that’s what was done.

Lesson learned from the wardrobe and shelving too. This time it seemed wise (since it was built from the same wood) to notch the joints for extra strength. The result was a very sturdy little support structure. Not a bad thing, since it was to support the bed base. I don’t know how often it will ever actually have books in it, as it will be moved at least twice a day, every day. It will, however be handy as a charging station once the inverter and USB ports are wired in. It’s a handy little addition.

Now, the curtains had actually been complete for about a week by now. However, I’d not worked out a solution to the morning condensation issue on cold mornings. I wanted to see if I could solve this dilemma before hanging the curtains, as the previous curtains had started to develop a little mould from the dampness in Turangi. It didn’t seem to be such an issue in Taranaki though and even though I was headed back to Turangi, I made the call to hang the curtains anyway. Being less porous, they are less prone to absorbing moisture. Time will tell whether it was a good call or not.

The final big job was sewing up the wardrobe skin. Originally, there was a skin planned for the storage shelves too. But on seeing the shelving, I decided that it was more practical to allow access to the crates from the top. After all, it’s only likely to be me in here most of the time and I don’t really mind if I can see what’s in my storage containers. Plus, it confused the hell out of me when I was trying to sew up my self-designed pattern. Luckily, technicraft in intermediate school and a very crafty mother had equipped me with the sewing skills I needed to get it done. I surprised myself when it not only fitted, but actually fitted closely enough to add a little more strength to the wardrobe. WIN! I don’t mind admitting I did an actual victory lap of the caravan when I tried it in place and it worked.

With that done, it meant that all the big things that would affect pack-down were now complete. It was time to test if the whole rig would still fold down. In theory, it should work fine. A couple of brackets would have to be moved because the bed height had changed. I’d have to work out how to pack everything so it overlapped or fitted around other things, but the theory worked. I was still nervous though. How often in the past have things worked in theory then failed miserably in practice? Luckily, this was one of the occasions where it all worked out as planned. In fact, the new configuration supports the walls more completely and permits less movement, so it stands to reason that travel will actually be less traumatic to the poor old girl.

Other little things still to come are: electrical work, which was delayed by non-delivery of parts from an eBay order; water catchment system; a toilet/shower extension. These projects are all at different stages.

The next step though, is the most important. Now that the rig is more homely, the plan is to set up a home and start learning through experience of farm life. Learning how to live a life of sustainable practice through experience of sustainable practice. First stop: back to Awhi Farm where I had arranged to set up shop for an extended period.

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Steiner Camp

April 4th– 8th 2016

Returning to Awhi Farm after the renovation meant I was just in time for hosting a school group: a Steiner School group. It was really interesting to see the contrast between the mainstream public school system I was in and the Steiner model (link to the NZ Steiner Federation).

School camps are nothing new to me. In fact, nine months of my life in 2001 was devoted to nothing but school camps. So please forgive me if I don’t get over-excited about how much fun the kids had. Rest assured that once upon a time I did get all the warm fuzzies that one gets seeing happy kids enjoying their time away from home.

I say ‘kids’ but this lot were actually around fourteen. The thing that struck me most about the week is that they were actually not the awful group of pains in the ass that adults have grown to expect of such a group. No. They were in fact, quite good kids. They were well-balanced and thoughtful. Imagine that! Thoughtful teenagers!

I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on the Steiner system of things, but from what I gather, there are two very important factors in the approach: 1) whole process learning and 2) progress as the child is ready for it. See the Steiner link above if you’d like to learn more. Watching this happen was quite a treat. The kids engaged so much in the tasks (… at least on the FIRST day) and the teachers were skilled at finding teaching moments in seemingly insignificant things. Everything was linked back to where it came from and how. They were divided into three stations.

The first was making and repairing various hand tools. A permaculture property tries to minimise consumption of energy/fuels by utilising hand tools where possible. This means some fairly harsh punishment of said tools. These kids got schooled on everything from setting up a covered outdoor workshop to making a blacksmith’s fire pit to working the metal and finally joining handles using traditional woodworking and blacksmithing techniques. I learned a lot from this station too. If I ever have to fix a hand tool, I guarantee it will be fixed a whole lot better than it would have before I was introduced to Mr. Lawry. And whenever I need to sharpen a knife, my new knife sharpener will make short work of it, thanks to Bryan Innes.

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Mr. Lawry’s outdoor classroom/workshop/happy place

Station number two was also courtesy of Bryan. Thankfully, my woeful roofing skills got a boost here as well as eco insulation. At Awhi Farm, there are a number of earth ovens. The one out at the market is a very large one, capable of making around 50 loaves of bread in one baking. This oven had been exposed to the elements for far too long and the earthen materials were beginning to suffer. The next stage of construction was finally able to be undertaken now that the labour force and knowledge to get it done had converged on the place at the same time. Task number one was to put a decent roof over its head. If left to me, it would’ve been a case of slap up some sort of rickety shack, but luckily Bryan (one of NZ’s leading experts in many things permaculture), the school’s woodwork teacher and the school’s bus driver brought a little more skill to the party. The kids brought loads of youthful enthusiasm and grunt. The end result was a strong and aesthetically pleasing structure that now keeps it dry.

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Bryan directs the roof construction efforts

Throughout the building of the roof, cobwebs were blown out and the fires were once again set alight. The object of the game was to drive out the moisture that had already permeated the structure. Once this was done, we set to work layering on a mixture of partly ground pumice, lime and cement. This layer was to be an insulation layer over the current biomass layer which also contained clay. This inside layer is to absorb and radiate the heat back into the oven, while the new layer is to prevent that heat radiating away from the oven. A final sealant layer of plaster is yet to be added and is (obviously) to seal it and keep moisture from invading the oven in future.

Bryan also ran us through the construction history of the partially completed Earth Dome. With its construction techniques founded in a fusion of earth building and the Unfinished Cathedral of Barcelona, it’s a truly unique structure. When it is finished with all its layers and gardens, it ill be a truly magnificent structure. One to watch for sure.

The third was gardening and what those kids were able to acheive in a short time was phenomenal. here is a before and after of one patch (the “lover’s patch”) at an interval of only two hours. Nice work!

While my return to Awhi turned out to be more short-lived that expected, it was a great experience. It allowed so many opportunities to learn from people with such varied and practical skills. Many new friendships were formed and business relationships made. Leads emerged for potential future travels and I gained a new reverence for teamwork through watching how well the kids worked together. To top it off, I also found a ukulele tutor in amongst the mix. One of the kids was practically glued to his ukulele (apparently gifted to him by the school’s music teacher because he loved it so much and showed such promise). He proved to be a top bloke and taught me a few of his tricks to get me off the ground with my little ukulele.

After the camp, we cracked on with our previous works. You may recall our exploits in creating the new solar shower block (link to Paradise Found?). The frame had taken shape a little more since I left and we carried on with that now. I applied some of my newly-learned roofing skills and whacked up a (somewhat less pretty, but solid) roof according to head architect Jannes’ well-laid plans… augmented slightly by Bryan. In the end, I can honestly say that it is a roof.

Alas, it was time to move on. On balance, although I am eventually planning to head north to the Whangarei area, I felt it would be a mistake to miss a visit to the hippie epicentre of the Tasman district on the South Island. So that’s where the rig, the dogs and I headed. Onward to Motueka!

The Worst Week So Far

April 20th 2016

Drama and helplessness were the theme of this past week. One thing after the other has just been building up and the weight of it just about crushed me. The worst of it is that most of it is completely my own fault.

You would be forgiven for thinking that I am on an extended holiday. After all, I haven’t had a ‘real’ job for nearly four months and have been travelling around the country like a backpacker. Right? Well, yes. But the why and the how are needed to give it context and the result has become anything but relaxing. In fact, this week I just wanted to curl into a ball and cry.

This post isn’t about me reaching out for sympathy or even to vent or have a whinge. This post is about what I did instead.

(This paragraph is mostly a whinge, so skip it if you’d rather get straight to the main point) Having said that, here’s what’s up: 1) my money is just about gone and by that, I mean lower than my bank balance has ever been as an adult with no reserves or income in sight; 2) I had to buy expensive food for my dogs special diet; 3) I had to take my car to the mechanic; 4) the car I own (and have been trying to sell since before I left) in Melbourne had its number plates stolen. The last one was especially problematic not only because I’ve been counting on that money, but because Victoria (Australia) is infamous for being hard to deal with in ‘official’ matters due to its identification protocols. The fact it now has no plates means I have to deal with Police, organise new ones/deregister/move off the road/deal with fines/add costs/decrease the value in selling it. AND it’s been especially frustrating because the car is actually quite a good little car. I can’t understand why it hasn’t sold. (Rant over) Luckily, I have an awesome brother who happens to be over there and has been amazing helping get things done.

Yes, I wanted to give up and to have someone else fix it. The only thing is, I knew that no one would do that. In fact, no one COULD do that.

The problems are that I am giving too much attention to situations beyond my control and I am not taking actions that I need to take. The main reason no one could fix it is that the problems were all in my head. People say that like it is less of a problem than physical obstacles. But mental obstacles can be as problematic, if not more so. The reality was it’s not so bad. As noted in ‘Waihi’, I have perfectly good plan to start generating income. I know the steps needed to make it happen. There are no obstacles in my way… except my own mind. The progress along the path to getting my books done has been slow. There HAS been progress, but it has been slowed by my hesitant mind.

Why? Fear of failure? Fear of success? Paralysis by analysis? Lack of confidence? All valid suggestions. All partly responsible if I am honest with myself. The bottom line is that I am not acting. As a result, I am really no closer to bringing in any money to continue this journey to sustainability.

Yes, this is just part of being an adult and dealing with unfavourable events. It’s also something that many people struggle with. On balance I thought it would be a worthwhile post because it might help others who are afraid of making a leap toward what they actually want out of life. It might help to see me admit that I am really nothing special. I am flawed, scared and vulnerable just like you are. And just like you, can accept that, define those fears and then act to solve the problems.

So yes, this was a tough week. It was ALSO one of the best things that could have happened to me. My distress became the eustress I needed to start taking action. The result? After taking action to mitigate the money situation, I have a part time job offer, an interview next week for another part time job and an offer of a self-employed contractor role. This will allow me to keep WWOOFing and getting experience in the skills I need to keep learning as well as slowing the money drain. I also used it to prod myself into action on the book project, which is back in full swing.

This WWOOFing ‘holiday’ was all about removing the illusions we place in front of ourselves to distract ourselves from what we really want… and the fact we are not reaching for it. It’s about facing the darker realities of the psyche and a resolve to push through obstacles. It’s about creating the opportunity (in both physical and mental contexts) to bring about change.

How could you create yours?

Home Building- Week 2

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March 16th– 23rd 2016

Week two was a different beast. Having reclaimed all the materials from the previous version, this was more about CONstruction instead of DEstruction. The first project was the bed space, which consisted of several parts and which also had a few prerequisite jobs to do. You can watch a video summary of it on YouTube HERE

Getting the base level was first up. That meant getting everything done on the ground before permanently fastening the cabinet (which was to take the majority of the weight) to the floor. After measuring everything up and sketching up a few different alternatives, I decided to build a box to raise the area where the previous bed was. This was done entirely out of materials from the previous design and the trellis I was kindly donated by my hosts.

Because of the different thicknesses, this meant a box with two different levels and it all had to line up with the support on the other side of the caravan. So everything was dictated by the eight of the greywater pipeline and the housing around it. The table was specifically designed to flip over to rest on the housing and become the bed base on that side. This double purpose design is what allowed space to be freed up and more efficient use of the space.

Once that was built, I had to do the flooring I had planned before completing the bed. Again, this is because it was going to alter the height the bed would sit at. I chose a thin foam insulation and pre-glued vinyl tiles… which I will never choose again. Using these two things in combination was a nightmare. As soon as the tile touched the insulation later, it had to go down. It gripped instantly and couldn’t really be removed or repositioned without ripping the insulation. Alas, I did my best and came away with a passable result. I did however, opt to use a silicone sealant to fill the gaps between a few of the tiles as it wouldn’t be so flash to have water seeping down between the flooring layers and just sitting there to cause rot.

The other thing I was aware of (along similar lines) was the potential for moisture to build up under the storage spaces if things were stored on the floor. The solution: to raise the storage spaces off the floor slightly. Using the trellis once again, racks were created to fit the spaces and allow airflow between stored things and the floor.

Once all that was done, It was time to actually set down the bed. Another trellis layer was cut to size. Again, to prevent moisture build-up and to allow airflow under the mattress. It’s just a cheapy foam mattress without any of the fancy breathable technology of modern mattresses. Since it is essentially a large sponge, it obviously has the potential to soak up sweat and become mouldy. Best to help it aerate. The trellis/slat base needed to be cut in two lengthwise to effectively stow away under the mattress in ‘sofa mode’. It then gets hauled out and laid down side by side to become the slat base in ‘bed mode’.

The table performs well in its folded state and as a bed base. Once the book case is there to support the floating section in ‘bed mode’ it’ll be a lot stronger. Having said that, the overlapping nature of the bed design means it is already pretty strong and the forces are distributed along the whole base. Another small job to finish the base was to add an extension to the existing bed base. This is purely because the previous bed space was a little shorter and it just created a flat surface for the slats. That was whipped up just using off-cuts from other projects.

The second foam mattress was mercilessly brutalised to become the extra bed width. Off-cuts were strengthened with some small wooden flooring off-cuts to become arm rests that doubled as a headboard. Nothing fancy. It was just a big job of hacking things to pieces with a knife.

Sewing the outers for them was a little more delicate and was again made possible by the kind donation of my hosts. This time it was some old curtains. They were repurposed under an ad hock design pulled out of my nether regions. Luckily, it all worked out OK. Turns out I still remember how to use a sewing machine. Who knew?! This fact came in handy when creating curtains out of another set of donated, pre-loved curtains. All these projects were starting to come together and the caravan was really taking on a more comfortable feel.

With that all done (and with the arrival of news that the people I was housesitting for were returning early), it was time to turn attention to the front end of the caravan. This was always going to be more a case of furnishing than of renovation. Because of the way the caravan folds down, any extension above the folding point MUST be collapsible or removable. The main purpose of the design down this end was to use as much of the wall space as possible for storage. So everything had to be able to be stored in the new floor space created. I wanted everything to be light, but strong enough to handle movement during freight. This presented a few design challenges.

I opted for using the remainder of the (very light) trellis wood. It was solid, but I wasn’t entirely happy with the strength it had. This was an issue I took on the following week. But the main structures were built and ready to go. Again, they were made up entirely of recycled materials.

The other small project that I did, but failed to mention in the video was a bench extension. I opted for a design based on dowels running into the wall at one end and the bench just sitting on the existing bench support at the other. There’s a picture of it in the video, but no verbal explanation. With a curtain to be added later, it not only added bench space, but also created a storage space for things that wouldn’t be accessed too frequently.

That was pretty much what happened in week two. It was a busy week and was when I saw the caravan taking on new life. It was becoming a homely space instead of a travel space. It was pretty exciting to see actually. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but Casa de Stephen was really beginning to feel like home.

Home Building- Week 1

March 8th-15th 2016

You can see a more visual representation of this process on a little video I made. It can be found on YouTube HERE. Before we get into the renovation of this week, it needs to be noted that almost exactly a month ago, when this journey all began, in this very same place, we started the renovation. It all started by assessing a leaky pipe situation and trying to work out the lighting. It ended by ripping out a wall and removing the lighting entirely.

This week, though, we carry on from that point. The reason why we ripped out the wall is that it was a divider for a toilet cubicle. While it was a good idea for the original owner of the caravan (an elderly man with plans to travel with his wife), for me (a single man travelling with only his dogs) it was just in the way.

‘Microcorridor’ is a term which has sprung up with TinyHouses. It refers to a floorplan which creates spaces which can’t be used for anything other than as a thoroughfare. Now, this caravan has some wonderful innovations which made it super convenient for travelling. The hard fold-down walls, drop-down stove and bench, the little catches on the backs of the drawers and even the cubicle itself are just some of them. For a long-term living space though, the cubicle equated to the creation of a microcorridor and really wasted valuable space. It had to go.

It was the first casualty in a week of deconstruction. This process was really just a whole lot of inspections of structures, determining how it could be unscrewed, dismounted or just plain dislodged (usually by means of a hammer). Step two was carrying out said dismantling. Basically I smacked the divider with a hammer until it broke enough that I could see inside at the connection points then I undid the screws holding it to the walls and floor. The bracket for holding the toilet in place was unscrewed, the chemical toilet was removed and I detached everything that was plumbed or wired in to the cabinet space. Cathartic to say the least.

With that space cleared, task two was the main reason for the whole renovation: expanding the bed space. Prior to the renovation, one had the choice of two not quite wide enough, a little bit too short, nearly single beds. The goal was to have one adult-sized bed. The best way I could think to do that while making best use of space was to use the back wall (as the caravan was originally designed). This job was mostly putting a wall cabinet on the floor in order to create an alternative bed base/storage compartment. The cabinet was donated by my WorkAway host in Whakatane, who removed it in her rental renovation.

Next came clearing space from the previous bed position. This involved moving two drawers plus their housings to under the kitchen sink. You can see that the renovation was more of a reshuffle of what was already there. Again, this was mostly to rectify the wastage of space. The dismantling was a similar procedure to the cubicle i.e. smack, assess, process. The resizing was a bit more involved. It was lesson in the importance of measurement and the pre-consideration of clearances and obstructions. After measuring out the space available, I failed to remember to account for the width of materials and ended up making several extra cuts and was left with a drawer that could no longer fit my bin (which was not part of the plan).

Installing the shelf was more straightforward and was achieved by repurposing materials from the divider wall. It was important that as many of the materials were recycled from the original for several reasons: 1) there was nothing wrong with many of the materials; 2) I didn’t want to create unnecessary waste; 3) the budget for the build was fairly limited. This made for a much more difficult project on several occasions, as it meant preserving the integrity of materials while removing and redesigning them. This is often much more tricky than building from new materials.

After designing and making a brace to replace a folding support bar, I realised it would get in the way of folding down and had to explore other options. The option I decided on was to reinstall the bar in a slightly different way so that it could slide up and down instead of fold… hence the brace I spent so much time devising and making became useless. D’oh!

After freeing up this under-sink space and moving/creating the storage to fill it, the challenge was the second bed space. This was more disappointment than achievement. As the boards were disassembled and housings unscrewed, the previous attachment points became visible. The fruits of the caravan’s previous owner were revealed and it became obvious that I was merely reversing his previous renovation. To be honest, it felt a little demoralising to time undoing changes that the changer had not had a chance to use! However, it is was it is and I cracked on with what had to be done.

Mostly it was measuring the space I wanted to use and re-measuring to make sure that my plans would work. A circular saw got involved and then the whole thing was repeatedly smacked with a hammer, drilled and screwed. In hindsight: not such a pleasant day for the structure itself, but we came away with the result. In the end, there was a little more floor space created and the storage drawers contained things nicely. It got the cogs turning as to how best to use the end storage/bench extension space too.

Next came the bed base. Now, those of you who have ever spent a little time sleeping on a foam mattress or a futon will probably know that they absorb a notable quantity of moisture. If allowed to build up, this will lead to mould and degradation. Luckily, I’d been gifted an old trellis which immediately screamed ‘potential’ to me. Specifically, it seemed wonderful for creating aeration spaces under storage and the bed as well as use as building materials for other projects. In the fullness of time, all of these uses would come to fruition.

First came flooring so that the slats could be laid for the storage spaces. I approached this with reckless abandon and while it was laid down in a functional way, I’d not planned it aesthetically. End result was a subpar vinyl job using the pre-glued vinyl tiles you can get at many hardware stores for DIY renovation. Turns out they are much harder to use than a standard vinyl flooring roll. Particularly on an insulating underlay which adheres immediately. It should have been planned out more thoroughly prior and it should have been laid more carefully. If you go this way, make sure you learn from my mistakes. It works though and I have filled any small gaps between tiles with silicone sealant to prevent any runaway moisture build-up beneath the tiles.

Next came the bed base. Actually this was relatively simple. The trellis just so happened to be about the same height as the width of the ne bed. I’ll take an easy win. Thus it was onwards to slicing it in half with a power saw in order to give it double function as a sofa base as well as a bed base.

And that was the first week of renovation.

The real challenge for me was the sense of having “started”. Before this, it was travel and exploration. A severance from what I knew and from my comfort zone. After I had arrived and begun putting in the physical labour, it forced me to come to terms with the idea I actually was trying to break free and live the experience I want to have of life. The individual projects presented their own challenges. They also served as practise for some of the projects I envision in an ideal future and sustainable lifestyle. Ultimately though, it was the ‘trying’ that was most confronting for me.

What happens from here is whatever it is. But this was the real start.

The Bigger Picture (contains explicit language… only once)

It’s important to realise that the caravan is only a very small (but important) part in the scheme. In summary, and in the immortal words of Rage Against the Machine: “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!” (Bombtrack) “If we don’t take action now, we settle for nothing later. Settle for nothing now and we’ll settle for nothing later.” (Settle for Nothing).

I choose not to run the race I have been prescribed by my social environment. I choose to find a better way. I choose to act: to try.

In my travels, there have been many conversations about what exactly it is that I am doing. This is an attempt to break free from the cycle. It’s an attempt to engineer a lifestyle that is both more fulfilling and more productive in tangible terms. A great summary of the goal can be found at the Oneness Publishing blog HERE. But the best way I have heard it described is that it’s about growing up. I unfortunately can’t recall where I saw the video, but it was on YouTube somewhere and the guy said he sees moving off-grid and becoming self-sustaining as the next phase in growing up. As children we are dependent on our parents, then less and less so. As adults, we become dependent on employers and the utility companies and system of governance that runs cities and countries. Learning to rely on your own efforts and outputs to survive is the logical next step in becoming truly independent and free.

With this end in mind and through recommendations from people along the way, I’ve come in contact with some really interesting books. The most recently finished is “The Four Hour Work Week” by Timothy Ferris (link to his official site). This book is a true gem. You owe it to yourself to read it. Even if you are not interested in going about income generation the way he proposes, his philosophy and the resources alone contained within are worth it.

It’s about entrepreneurship primarily. At first, I found it unpalatable as he seemed lazy and arrogant. I pushed through though and I would suggest that you do the same, as the latter chapters give challenges for your beliefs and ideas that will benefit anyone that considers them. Ultimately, the gift the book can give you is an expanded way of thinking. It’s about understanding yourself and your limitations as well as giving you steps to overcome them. It’s about life design and taking ownership of the responsibility you have to seek fulfilment. It’s about becoming comfortable with change and choosing to focus only on those things that REALLY matter and that you can actually DO something about. Most of all, that’s what it is about: actions. DOING things to create the life you want.

I can’t recommend it enough. Choose to act. Choose to live YOUR way.

A Quick Update

It’s been quite a while since my last post so I thought I would update you as to why.

During the caravan renovation, I took video and pictures of the process and have now started trying to put it together into summaries of what was done. I hope to accompany these with a more detailed description of what it involved. It will by no means be a ‘how to’ manual as I am no sort of builder and have no place giving directions on that sort of stuff. It will be more of a journal of events to give someone who may be interested as idea of what sorts of things may be involved.

Why?

Possibly purely as a self-indulgence, but I hope that it actually serves someone else. I hope that by showing the process, I can encourage someone to start. Just to start working with whatever resources they may have to try moving toward sustainability. That is what the caravan really means to me. It’s the first tangible step toward a lifestyle change. It’s the vehicle (quite literally) that lets me start moving outside rent while still providing stability for my canine family. At the same time it helps put me in a different psychological place than just travelling. Having a home base feels like somewhere to work from while still being able to maintain the mobility to take opportunities. I can explore different versions of sustainable lifestyles in different places while I learn exactly where and how I want to go about it.

But it is only an intermediate step: a means to an end. That said though, I feel good about it and I’ll be posting about the works as soon as it’s written up. When that is will depend a lot on my situation and resources… more on that in a future post. Let it suffice to say that things are a little turbulent right now.