Our Campervan – Start with Why

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.


Jennifer, somewhere in Arizona, in December 1988


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 …

21 thoughts on “Our Campervan – Start with Why

Add yours

  1. “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…”

    Such a powerful reflection point, the “why” of it all that many people struggle with. I look forward to following your journey – certainly inspiring me to live with a greater sense of purpose vs. duty.


  2. Awesome piece of writing Doug. Although I do think you’re being a bit harsh on yourself. Enjoy your new freedom .. enjoy your time together xx


    1. Thanks Aly. I appreciate the feedback on my writing, it’s something that I want to develop. But I must defend my “somewhat harsh” self-assessment. I was at work many times when I should have been with Jen at the doctor, or in the hospital, and most of those times I could have just said “I need to take care of something at home”, it would not have been an issue. But this overdeveloped sense of duty has been a thing for me when it comes to my work. There’s a part of me that is wired to comply, without questioning.


  3. What an honest, thought-provoking article. It’s not often that we stand out by exposing our vulnerability…I applaud your braveness…and your obvious love for your bride, Jennifer! 😊


  4. You’ve really whet our appetite – can’t wait for thoughts, experiences of your journey to continue – you both are amazingly interesting people who are able to put into words exactly as life is happening in a pure and honest way. May God bless you each day with His peace and direction and safety and keep you in the hollow of His hands. Love and prayers be with you. Love and hugs Peter and Shirley


  5. Wow what a post! Moving from success to significance- now that’s some something to chew on. You are such a relatable and accomplished writer- can’t wait to read more. Happy Trails and road trips.


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