A key part of this next chapter for me, and for Jen, is to reinvest in our 30-year marriage. When it comes to priorities, I have not been a great husband or father, almost always putting work before family. This was more out of an overdeveloped sense of duty than out of ambition, but the effect on Jen and the boys was the same: I was often not there when I should have been. If I had my time again, this is one thing that I would change about my working life.
As a side note, I don’t think my work output or my career would have been compromised in the slightest. I have learned (too late for my own family) that people are at their most effective at work when their whole lives are working and balanced. So, I could have been a better father and husband by being with my family at those important times that can never be repeated, and my work output would have been the same or better. I now coach others to avoid making this mistake …
So it is that I am now looking forward to spending more quality time with my bride and actively reinvesting in my marriage, as a specific aspect of our Second Half. We really enjoy being “just the two of us”, savouring each other’s company and experiencing adventures together.
When Jen and I describe our campervan aspirations, we are met with responses ranging from “Oh, that’s my happy place, I’m so jealous” to “I cannot think of anything worse”. It’s clear that this idea is a polarising one, so let me unpack what being in a camper van means for us …
First, it means wide open spaces, whether they be mountains, lakes, forests or sea. Jen and I have always felt drawn to “getting away from it all”, to quiet and solitude. I find that my soul sings when I take in the awesome wonder of the natural world that we live in.
“In all things of nature there is something of the marvellous.”
Second, it means easy. A small space, thoughtfully equipped, with everything in its place, and no unpacking when we arrive at each destination. I find van life to be a form of decluttering, of essentialism. And it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that Jen is a homemaker of note – she will make a beautiful space out of a tent, a 5 bedroom house, or a cottage – I can’t wait to see our camper van project come to life.
I find van life to be a form of decluttering, of essentialism
Third, it means quality time together. We love road trips, sitting side by side, chatting as we watch the countryside unravelling in front of us, and sharing the journey. We often get in our car and drive to places that others would fly. For example, last year we had a work conference near Jacksonville, Florida. Instead of flying all the way there, we flew from Johannesburg to Washington DC, and then rented a car and took 5 days to drive there via the Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Come to think of it, we just like driving. We’ve driven Highway 1 from Los Angeles to San Francisco. We’ve driven across the USA from California to Florida. We’ve driven from Toronto to New Brunswick via Boston, and then via Quebec. We’ve driven across Australia (and back) from Melbourne to West Australia. And countless “more manageable” drives like Melbourne to Brisbane or Johannesburg to Cape Town.
You get the picture – we love a road trip.
Finally, it means flexible. Shall we stay longer? Or move on? Turn left instead of right? We get to follow our noses and our hearts, see where the road takes us, and stop where we feel like stopping. I like that. No fixed itinerary, just a mild plan, and lots of freedom within a framework.
30 years ago, Jen and I spent most of our first year of marriage in a VW campervan in the USA, and we found that we loved it. This experience was occasioned entirely by circumstance. Essentially, we were backpacking, with almost no financial means. Through our combined efforts we managed to raise a modest amount of cash, and we bought a dodgy second hand VW campervan for $900. Jennifer renovated the tired interior and made it beautiful, and so we ended up with a campervan as our temporary USA home for a season.
Ever since then, we have toyed with the idea of owning a campervan again from time to time, but our circumstances and the timing never seemed right. Until now. Once we settled on Malta as our home for this next season, we realised that this would be the perfect opportunity to own a campervan again. And so we started exploring …