23 January 2013

Researching what it might be like (image: Original Gypsy Fair)

Lately as I have wandered around the Gypsy Travellers Fair, watched videos of independent travellers and talked to bus drivers about their coaches, I have had the peculiar sensation of droplets of water welling up in the resevoire of my eyes.

There is obviously something so deep within my being that is resonating with the idea of breaking free from this common life and venturing forward onto a road less travelled.

The only other time that I feel this phenomena is when I help people who actually need it.

Talking to those that are location independent is way better than trying to share your lifestyle idea with those in the life that you want to escape from - your friends, family, co-workers.  You catch their enthusiasm, they give you advice and tips that you don't read anywhere else, and wouldn't know to ask about!  [Thanks 'dragon lady']  You see the rigs they are living in, many with creature comforts such as cats and dogs I might add!

Even seeing Atlas off at the bus stop this morning, we looked at the coach in a totally different light.  We were all talking about how to modify it, how high the ceiling would be, what goes in the storage etc.  We walked down the side and marked out where the different 'rooms' would go. We know where to find out the model number of the vehicle, the RUC weight rating. The driver did look at us with a perplexing glare when he saw us taking down details, but relaxed when we said that we wanted to modify a bus and were trying to find out as much about it as possible.  Today's investigation was into a Scania K114, 18 tonne GCW coach, 2 doors, 13m, for which the driver had a class 4 license.  At that length, we wouldn't be able to haul a toad, even if we wanted to later.

How or where can you meet like-minded people who will support your dreams and ventures?

29 November 2012

I started to research what it would cost to have a bus converted.  

An acquaintance who used to be in the business told us to budget NZ$10,000 per lineal metre of a bus, for the cost of the refit (on top of the bus purchase itself); and allow 6 months!
For an 11.5m bus that's $115,000 plus up to $30,000 for the bus; and a little for contingencies.
In a perfect world, we'd have the money, but we don't. [I am still trying to work out the finances for our day-to-day trip expenses].
We could get a loan, but is that really a wise choice for a depreciating asset? Would that put too much pressure on our cashflow while we are travelling?
Then a little spark began to grow, and I wondered whether there might be businesses or individuals out there that wanted to be part of making our dreams a reality, in exchange for advertising, brand endorsement or warm fuzzies.
What if we could crowd-fund the initial cost of the motorhome bus? Would that really be possible?  Are people/business still spending money on marketing and advertising in our current economy?
A quick look at Kickstarter was disappointing as we didn't really fit their criteria. GoFundMe and IndieGoGo were possibilities but took up to approx 10% in fees – that's a lot when you are talking NZ$150,000.
Then I thought about it from an investors point of view, to try and answer the question 'What's in it for me?'.
Here are some of the benefits that I have come up with so far:
  • 9 -12 months brand exposure to the general public who see the bus 
  • Brand exposure through the magazines who publish articles about our journey
  • Brand exposure to the blogging community of like-minded travellers who read our blog
  • For some it may be the opportunity to break into the New Zealand market
  • For others it may be the edge that makes them stand out from their competition
  • The feel good factor / Paying it forward

Vega and I wondered if we could install an LCD screen on the footpath side of the bus that played videos and advertisements for our sponsors, then I saw this idea of scrolling advertising and believe it really could work. We could put it at the back of the bus and offer billboard sized advertising for sponsors.  One company in New Zealand who uses this technology guarantees advertisers 900 views per week, and their unit is also back-lit so it can be used at night.  I like the additional idea that advertisers can log-in to their website at any time and see via GPS where the vehicle is, where it has been, and for how long etc. Isn't technology wonderful.

What would you do if money wasn't an object?

28 November 2012

You've probably gleaned the answers to who, what, why, when and where; from reading so far; so that leaves 'how' – our biggest question.

How are we going to travel around? How are we going to afford it? How can we make living, working and travelling function in practical terms? 

What we've thought about so far is to travel by motorhome / converted bus / rv etc. I can not see us travelling with a baby, backpacks and no idea where we are going to sleep at night, let alone the baby sleeping during the day. Yes, other folks have probably done it, but what is right for one family isn't necessarily right for another. We may grow into that lifestyle as the children mature, but for now there needs to be a little bit of stability and 'comfort'.

Our van does not have a tow bar nor would it be able to tow a caravan of the size that would sleep 7.  We could still take it in convoy if we need the seating and transportation over whatever we end up with though.

Atlas & I will undoubtedly have to sit our Class 2 licenses. At $800-$1000 each I expect it will just be him for the moment until our plans reach fruition and we are ready to launch.

So how are we going to afford 'it'? Yeah, that's just it – I don't know. I have looked at the figures over and over and over again, and I think I can squeeze what I need to out of them to cover the pre-trip expenses but nothing else.

One estimate from a motorhome rental company was that 9-12 months of travel would cost $20-$30,000 for a 6-berth. This is a fraction of the quotes online.  Perhaps we could take a portacot, get tethering straps fitted for the child restraint as the 7th seat; and fold out seating at night as the children's beds.

What isn't optimal in this situation is that we need to work while we are on the road. When you are on holiday, it is okay for the children to stay up a little later and all the family go to bed at a similar time; or for the parents to turn in for the night a little closer to the children's normal bedtime.

I figure that Atlas will need to work in 'chunks' throughout the day and dependent upon when and where he can get internet access. So 2 hours in the morning after breakfast, a couple after lunch and then the rest after dinner when the children are in bed. At home we can get about 4 hours in the evenings and this is often the most productive. Or if we are both able to dedicate 4 hours each evening, then that would take care of the other 2 sessions during the day and allow us to explore.

This is where we are gravitating towards a bus that is converted for living in (read that as having permanent beds so you don't have to convert seats, and the buffet table every night!).

Looking around Trademe, the Motor Caravanner and the MCD reveals no 7-berth sleep/seat vehicles out there, unless you look at the 2 ex B&B buses purposed for backpackers that only have a kitchen area for breakfast, bunks and seats.

Searches overseas in say, Great Britain net quite a wide range of motorhomes (as opposed to converted buses) at reasonable prices, but you have the 'hassle' of importing them.

We can't economically look at bringing a vehicle in from a country that is left hand drive as it would need to be converted to right hand drive for our roads. This also raises the question, IF and it is a big IF, we continue our nomadic journey to Germany and Europe, would we take any sleep-drive vehicle with us, being that 85% of their transport systems drive on the right side of the road?

There is also the far-reaching possibility that we will find someone who owns a converted bus that sleeps 7, who is willing to loan/rent it to us.  The one concern I would have in this situation is for the wear and tear that we may cause.

Although another equally viable idea would be to spend 3-4 weeks at various holiday homes throughout the country. They wouldn't need to be at the beach - just wherever. Then we could easily travel in our van, not have to get HT licenses, and have some of the creature comforts of somebody else's home. I wonder if there are people out there willing to rent their places in exchange for a fair and honest review? Hmm....worth thinking some more about I reckon.

So short of a miracle I am not sure what we are to do.

Take time to day-dream and let your sub-conscience work on the answers.