So as you may have gathered from reading ‘Our Story’, in the early months of 2018, we have a new baby and we’re living in New Zealand. We’re in a magical little place called ‘Wanaka’ and we’re living in a little sleep-out that is located a little outside of the town centre.
It meets our needs perfectly. It has an open lounge and kitchen, a small shower/toilet and two bedrooms. It costs us $350 a week in rent, which is due to increase to $400 once the landlords finish the works on the garden.
Of course, the first few months of life with a new baby is all consuming. You survive. Man works. Woman feeds. This is the conventional route and many choose to switch this reversal, which I applaud. But I’m writing our story, not anyone elses. So Daniel leaves the house at 7:30am and gets home at 5:30pm, Monday through to Friday. I feed, feed, change a nappy and feed some more. I spend most of my time feeding and trying to get Koa to sleep, usually due to the fear that I may fall asleep whilst he is awake.
Things roll like this for a few months. I guess there comes a point where we have a small window of capacity to realise – for us – that we’re kind of just existing. Daniel is earning $24 an hour as an Apprentice Builder. At 40 hours per week, and deducting tax, he’s bringing home around $760. Half of this disappears immediately to our landlords. Another $20-$30 is put into bills (far more in the Winter, where we need to pay for fire wood). And since our supermarket is the most expensive in New Zealand, we’re spending around $250 a week on a very basic food shop. Add on the other essential outgoings, such as fuel and phone bills and we’re not too far from the deflating $0.00 balance. Pay days fall on a Tuesday and by Sunday, we’re seeing maybe $13 on screen of our banking app. We’re asking ourselves if we should keep it incase we need to buy extra bananas for breakfast, or if we should ‘fuck it’ and go buy a cheap bottle of red wine.
Of course, we’re comfortable. We have a nice, dry, comfortable home. We eat nice, nutritious food. We can afford to run a phone and a car. We can afford to keep our baby comfortable too. However, one thing I am not going to do throughout this platform is explain how the circumstances we find ourselves in are lucky and privileged, compared to so many others. We acknowledge this. We are grateful. We often say to one another, ‘how lucky are we, to enjoy this comfort?’ Yet, in any facet of life, there is always room to compare. We can compare the quality of our personalities, to the size of our muscles, to the balance of our bank accounts. It is, in my opinion, one of the biggest hindrances of personal growth and development. And whilst we drown in this pool of comparison, we seem to show absolutely no awareness to the fact that we can never compare. Because there are no two humans the same. I am a unique human, who has had distinctive experiences. My encounters, the people I have met, the interactions I’ve had and the feelings I’ve experienced have been completely unprecedented. There is nobody else like me, or you, in this world. Nobody else perceives the world the way that I do, or the way that you do. And so, we waste precious mental resources and energy when our minds enter the world of comparison. Accepting and ‘just being grateful’ for the way we were living, when we weren’t feeling fulfilled at all, because so many others live this way; or even aspire to live this way, is simply fucking stupid. What we needed to do, was ask ourselves – what are our values? And are we living in alignment with these? Are we happy with the situation we’re in? Do we want something different? These questions need to be answered in complete isolation of anything else. In isolation of social conditioning, or ‘should’ and certainly any comparatives. Because this was our lives, nobody else’s.
Daniel and I felt stagnant. We felt suppressed. We realised that our current routine, structure and habits would not give us the opportunities or fulfilment we wanted. We wanted to be able to afford to buy a plane ticket to the UK or Ireland. We wanted to have extra cash to adventure around this beautiful country we were living in. As our hard-earned money came in, half of it paid somebody else’s mortgage and we survived on the rest. This was not okay for us. It was not living.
So during the limited time we spent together in these early new baby months, we’d lay in bed and either watch ‘Game of Thrones’ during our ‘must.turn.brain.off’ evenings; or over that cheap bottle of red (plain porridge it was until Tuesday) we’d watch ‘Living Big in a Tiny House’ on YouTube. We watched every single one. We loved the innovation and the creation. But most of all, we loved the emancipation that overflowed, from the faces and voices of those who were showing the world the life they’d designed for themselves. Their spry voices; fire in their eyes. The revelation of how simply we can live. And we wanted in.
So after hours of research during Koa’s nap times, we made a plan. We shared our idea with Daniels family and we asked for a short-term loan, to help to get us started. They were incredibly supportive; naturally wanting to do anything they could to help us from 12,000 miles overseas. We gave notice on our lovely, comfortable home and two weeks later, found ourselves living on a field, in a caravan.
Now, this may look ‘the dream’. We genuinely thought it was at first. We’d sacked off our suffocating rent payments for $150 a week; the rental of a very small, two-berth caravan.
We felt liberated and free. We felt we’d removed some of those metaphorical shackles. We said to ourselves – ‘Yes, it’s small. But at least when we’ve built and moved into our Tiny House it’ll feel like a mansion.’
I reflect on this naivety and I just want to give my 27 year-old self a hug that lasts so long, that she isn’t able to continue with this plan. This would not be a seamless journey of emancipation. There was a burn to be endured first.