So when I say ‘the caravan is small, but at least our Tiny House will feel like a mansion when we move in’, I am a fool. The first night in our caravan, yes it did feel good. But I would liken that short-lived feeling to, say, going for that first run of your life. You set off, the endorphins start to flow and you begin to feel very impressed with yourself. But before that first song blasting in your ears has even reached the chorus, you’re panting at the lamppost.
That first night, we assembled a portable cot we’d borrowed from a friend and it didn’t even fit in the caravan. That’s right. It was 74cm wide and we could not make it fit.
This was our lounge and bed. Imagine standing in the middle there, facing the camera. Take three steps forward and you’ll find yourself here. Standing at the sink:
When my parents came to visit us in February 2019 and I took them inside this caravan, they both fell silent. For a long time. Mum said she wanted to cry. She said ‘You couldn’t even swing a mouse in here Jade.’
Indeed, it was suffocatingly small. Was it as suffocating as the $350 a week rent we were paying? Yes, it was. We traded one form of suffocation, for another.
Now, if it were just Daniel and I, we could have survived this 10 month stint and emerged with reasonable sanity. This was not the case; particularly for me me. Daniel has another level of resilience that I will always admire. But that’s another blog post. Looking back (hindsight, you thoroughly dislikable phenomena), we should have chosen a caravan that suited our needs; for example, one that actually fitted our sons sleeping vessel inside of it. Each night, we would put Koa to sleep in his portacot, on the top of our bed (which was also the sofa). When it was time for us to go to sleep a couple of hours later, we would lift the portacot up from the bed together (one person at each end), whilst praying that he would dream he was flying and absolutely NOT wake up. I can feel that ‘don’t. wake. up.’ anxiety run through my body as I write these words; two years later. After we’d placed the cot on the floor, the person closest to the kitchen sink stood there because they were totally blocked and couldn’t move. The other person would lift Koa from his cot and with gentle trepidation, place him on the bed. We’d then pack the portacot down sneak in with Koa. We did this for 10 months. 300 days. 300 days of pooped. And so, to summarise: the only time parents of young children get to rest is when their young child/children rest. And we couldn’t rest when our rest-thief rested, because there was nowhere to fucking rest.
Sleeping with Koa was hideous. The worst. I hate sleeping with my child. There’s tossing. There’s turning. There’s feet in mouths. There are thunderbolt punches in the face. There’s parents clinging onto the edge of a mattress, whisper-screaming at one another that they’ve no room at all. This all happens whilst their Lucifer baby star-fishes the entire space – eyes closed and a smug little smile on their face.
You can gather then, that sleep was a total gift that came as often as bank holidays. Couple the above with the numerous ear infections Koa suffered (meaning he woke almost every hour, for months, in pain) and we were the epitome of running on empty.
However, when the weather was good, the simplicity of it all shined through. We were living on an orchard, surrounded by fruit trees, mountains and goats. The building site of our THOW was now a stones throw away from our abode, as opposed to a 20 minute drive. From every angle, you saw nature. With every inhale, you smelled the earth. And all you could hear were bird chats. Bird chats and my mind asking me – why aren’t you loving this?
I realised, that whilst we had freed ourselves from financial and contractual obligations with landlords and the like, we knew absolutely nothing about freeing ourselves from conventional living. There would be no more seemingly endless supply of water; it was 40 litres per day and the dishes were done outside in Koa’s plastic blue paddling pool. There would be no more hot pressure showers; it was tepid dribbles and a persistent feeling of grittiness. And there would certainly be no more mindless toilet using. Instead, we traded this utter luxury (I still thank a God I don’t believe in everyday, when I flush the toilet) for a sobering trip to the dump site once a week. Yes, there were times when the toilet overflowed with our own shit. There were times when it leaked in the car and the smell never really went after that. There was a time, when as I emptied the cassette into the dumping station, some of it splashed into my mouth.
Was this continual discomfort worth our liberation from the conventional renting/mortgage route? Were we just exchanging one type of struggle for another?