Life after the island
Imagine you spend three years living in a parallel universe, on an 18 hectare tropical island with about 25 people.
There are no roads. No vehicles. No TVs.
The internet only works well when the wind is blowing in the right direction, so you spend more time talking to the people who are around you than the ones who are not.
In this magical place, you are never exposed to advertising. So you’re never being told you’ll be prettier, healthier, happier, richer and more successful if you just use this miracle product you can buy for $49.95.
Even if you can’t afford it — because while you were tucked away on that island the world invented some thing called “After Pay.”
It’s a place where your power runs on sunshine so you do, too. Where you wake with the birds at dawn and fall asleep with the stars, so the only artificial light you need is one soft amber lamplight to read a book at night.
Here, you sleep in a glass box by the ocean and shower outside in a tiny forest of trees. You can walk everywhere you’d ever want to go on a path made of warm sand, so you never need shoes…
Then imagine stepping off the plane at Sydney airport.
The fluorescent lights. The advertising billboards lining the walls.
Airport staff zipping around you in little golf buggies.
A duty free shop stands between you and the Australian border and as soon as you enter, hundreds of companies are jostling for your attention with their bright red signs screaming “DISCOUNT” and “2 for 1!”
A sneaky inner voice tries to convince you that you need an enormous triangular prism of Toblerone, but deep inside you know you really don’t.
So you speed walk through the shop as fast as you can towards the machines. The machines that process your passport. Machines that take your photo. Machines that open a mechanical gate. Then eventually you’re spat out into a giant hall packed with hundreds of people, baggage carousels and floors so hard and cold they squeak beneath your feet.
You’ve crossed an international border, walked through a retail store and retrieved your bag without having to speak to another living soul.
The adjustment has been a bit of a ride.
But we’ve been gentle on ourselves, taking plenty of time to make the transition from a slow, quiet, disconnected piece of coral, back into a fast-paced, loud and permanently connected concrete society.
Leaving one home for another
Now as you all know, I’m a multipotentialite so I love this kind of change, even if it’s not entirely stress-free.
And it’s not like things are unfamiliar in Australia. I grew up in Oz and I’ve lived here for half of my life. We’ve also visited Australia heaps of times while living in Tonga because it was only a five hour flight away.
Australia hasn’t changed very much, although now it seems to rain like a hurricane or not at all.
It also burns far more violently than I ever remember and there have been days when the air was so full of bushfire smoke I couldn’t bring myself to leave the house.
We arrived in Australia just as an unprecedented number of bushfires ignited and we’ve watched in helpless horror as the nation burned around us. Friends lost their homes and many others were evacuated. We were the lucky ones. The fires came to about 20kms away from my family’s house and stopped at a river.
But most of the time we felt safe because my family lives on a peninsula, so we knew we could jump in the water if we needed to.
Having to be so disaster-ready is new and terrifying, but otherwise Australia is still pretty much the same. It’s just that how we live has changed.
So there’s this whole process of arriving back in Australia and trying to work out what parts of our Tongan island life we can keep, what we need to discard, what we can do better now we’re here and how to compromise on everything in between.
The two things I’m still struggling to adapt to are shoes and light.
Three months after returning home, I still truly believe in my heart that rubber thongs are acceptable footwear for all occasions.
I also struggle with how brightly lit our buildings are, flooding rooms with fake light at night. People keep asking “Why are you sitting here in the dark?” and “Why are you wearing sunglasses inside?” and I’m not sure what to tell them or why my eyes still haven’t adjusted to the light.
On the flip side, I am LOVING the food. The berries… the cheese… the chocolate-covered honeycomb sprinkled with Prosecco popping candy from Aldi. And the CHAMPAGNE. Ohmygod, the champagne…
Having access to world class health care is also a massive bonus.
And of course being able to spend so much time with people I love because so many of them are conveniently located on the same patch of dirt.
So adjusting is a process.
But the biggest challenge we’ve had to take on was working out the answer to the one question everyone insists on asking us…
So what’s next?
Honestly, when we first got back we didn’t know. We had a ticket from Tonga to Sydney and that was our only plan. We didn’t know if we would stay in Australia or continue on to France. Or maybe Kazakstan.
We felt completely lost about what direction to take next, but this wasn’t our first rodeo. We’ve been lost plenty of times before, so we knew we just had to put aside a morning to do the GPS for the Soul workbook that I’d pulled together for exactly this occasion.
That day, David and I went off to the beach where we got married, parked ourselves in the sand right where we said our vows, and spent the morning scribbling the answers to 25 questions onto paper.
Then we pulled out a picnic lunch and took some time to compare our notes, seeing what insights had come up for each other.
By the time we retired to a nearby cafe for coffee at 1pm, we had a plan. A seriously exciting plan…
It only took about 5 hours to go from lost to found and we both new exactly where we wanted to start.
Throughout our years in Tonga, we got a taste of what it’s like to have a longterm base and a living space that was ours. It was the first time we’d stayed such a long time in one country and the first time we’d experienced living off the grid in an untouched natural environment. We loved having our little nature bubble to retreat to, even if it was only on loan…
So after 18 years of nomadic living for me, and 22 years of nomading for David, we started to realise — to our initial shock and terror — that we wanted a little home of our own.
No, actually, we want TWO little homes — one in Australia near my family, and one in France near David’s family — so we can swing between both.
We want to live closer to our loved ones and be part of their communities, while also having our own little chez nous.
But how would that even work?
How could we ever buy a permanent, immovable house if the idea of being tied to one specific location still makes us break out in hives?
And if we can only afford to buy one house, how could we possibly choose between our countries and families?
And seriously, what would “home” even look like for two minimalists who own practically nothing and prefer it that way?
So here’s what we came up with…
Mori for short…
Our new bus / tiny home on wheels!
He comes complete with a double bed, kitchen, lounge, bathroom, office and an alfresco dining area.
This is officially the first home David and I have ever owned: a 1990 Nissan Civilian mini-bus we plan to live in over the coming year. Sometimes we’ll live by the ocean and sometimes we’ll live in the bush.
And sometimes we’ll live in the driveways of our friends’ houses if we want an extra glass of wine with dinner.
Then next year, we’ll head to France to set up a tiny home on wheels in Europe. From there, we can swing between our two homes, visit other countries in between, and we can rent out the one(s) we’re not using to other travellers. That way we have both a home and an income stream.
I know a lot of people couldn’t imagine anything worse than living in such a tiny space but honestly, it’s bigger than some apartments I’ve lived in. Believe it or not, my head is twice as far away from the toilet in our bus than it was in the studio where I lived when I first moved to France.
It’s perfect for David and I because we don’t have much, and we know for sure we don’t need much to be happy. And if it ever does feel a bit cramped, the smaller space forces us outside to exactly where we want to be.
Because these last few years living so comfortably close to nature have shown us just how good it is for the soul to be connected with the cycles of the Earth, to have to plan your day around the tides and wind and the position of the sun.
So we want all of that… but also a toilet, a super comfy bed, and the paraphernalia required to cook a cheese fondue.
Someone once told me all cars are female but our bus is definitely a bloke. He drives like a gutsy old man with a cheeky sense of humour and he looks like he hasn’t had a wardrobe update since the 1970s.
So we named him after David’s great-grandfather, Maurice, who was a warm-hearted shipping engineer and author who passed away when David was little. When he died, my mother-in-law asked him to always watch over David and it felt right to honour his memory in this way.
And I also kinda hoped Great-Grandpa Maurice would watch over Bus Maurice and keep all of us safe because for the first month we didn’t have a functioning handbrake.
Why live in a bus?
Given the nightmare our nation has endured this summer, and our government’s stubborn inaction against climate change, having a home that can be evacuated doesn’t seem like such a stupid idea, does it?
We can drive everything we own away from fire danger. We can roll our home further inland when the sea levels rise. We can follow the rain when the dams run dry, or escape floods by moving to higher ground…
Although we were originally considering the more eco-friendly and sustainable option of an off-grid tiny house, an off-grid bus with solar is a good starting point for us.
For now, it’s a way we can be part of our families and community while still nurturing our nomad spirit because our house can be moved around. So we can keep travelling without ever leaving the country…
Which, let’s be honest, is probably the closest thing we’re ever going to get to this “settling down” thing everyone keeps talking about.
Do you have a big backyard?
So now we’re looking for some places we can park Maurice around the Central Coast, Greater Sydney, Hunter and Blue Mountains area.
If you have a wee patch of land big enough for a mini-bus that we can rent from you on a short term basis, we would love to hear from you!
We’ll pay for a spot in your big backyard or on a rural lot, powered or unpowered because we’re able to go off the grid…
There are extra bonus points if you or someone you know has an alpaca farm where we can park our home for a while, because I fricking LOVE alpacas.
Sometimes when I see them, I laugh so hard I’m scared I’ll pee my pants. For reasons I can’t explain, just watching them makes me happy…
In other big news…
There’s still so much more to catch you up on…
David and I have started a new business.
We’ve also gone back to school. We have backpacks and textbooks and lunch boxes and everything.
But I’ll have to fill you in on all of that another time…
For now, I just want to tell anyone who read my last blog post, My Only Regret, that I did it.
I never thought this day would come, and I’ll never admit how many blocks of chocolate it took to get me here, but it’s done.
I finally finished my book.
And as I now poke my head out of the writing dungeon and start the process of trying to find a publisher (or an agent or whatever) I’m terrified I’ll discover that writing the book was the easy part.
So what does that mean for you, me and the Magic of Everything? Well, hopefully I’ll have more time, energy and brain space to blog and connect with all you lovely folk this year…
But for now I’m saying a big ‘ofa atu to all of you from our new home on Soldiers Beach! Who knows where home will be tomorrow…
P.S. If you’re in the same boat as we were a few months ago — feeling lost in life and not sure which direction to take — you can download for free the same GPS for the Soul workbook we used to work out what to do with ourselves next if you just click this link.
Laura has been working and travelling the world slowly since 2001 — exploring cultures, writing stories and learning languages in almost 60 countries. Now she helps other restless and curious souls design a life they love by exploring alternative ways to live, earn, explore and impact the world.