This blog post ‘should’ have been about our mental health struggles throughout the build of our Tiny Home (well… my mental health struggles and Daniel coping with them); as signposted by the previous blog ‘There is work before the work.’ However, I haven’t written an UpLiving piece for six weeks and it seems more fitting and timely to write about what we’ve been up to. The mental health struggle post will come to fruition, when the time is right. I want to do it justice, you see. And right now, I have one hour, whilst Daniel and Koa are out for a spin on the bike, to whip this piece of writing up – not the time for deep introspection which aforementioned blog post requires.
To give some context, we’ve actually left our Tiny Home. We’ve left New Zealand. In January 2020, we received news that flipped us 180 degrees and since then, we’ve been mapping out an entirely new life. Sometimes we sit down and allow the enormity of the change we’ve experienced to process, to settle. The word ‘change’ doesn’t even begin to do it justice – it’s not like one of us got a new job or one of us discovered we were gluten intolerant. Absolutely every aspect in our being has transformed, for all three of us.
So… I suppose this blog post is about a few things. Certainly, it’s about adapting to change with a capital C H A N G and E. But it’s also about how deceiving expectations are. How nothing is really as it seems. What seemed a complete shit storm of a situation – abandoning the lives we’d worked four years to establish with zero warning – ended up helping us to see with clarity. Oxymoronic aye? How does one see clearly when, in all directions, there’s a fucking cyclone? Yet, whilst moving back to the UK seemed wrong, and therefore expected to feel wrong – seeming is not believing. You have to feel it. Touch it. Experience it.
You can look at these beach huts, admire their golden halo, their vibrant colours and think to yourself ‘that seems like a nice place for a walk’. But you’ve gotta stroll that promenade, with your feet bare enough to feel the sand underneath and your soul bare enough to connect with your experience. You’ve gotta smell that salty-air. Or maybe, you’ve even got to dodge some broken glass on the floor. Who knows until you’re there?
In early January this year, we were driving around the South Island of New Zealand on a camping trip. I woke up one morning, turned my phone on and received messages from my brother asking that I call him, on two different platforms. It was obvious to me then that something life changing had happened… queue the ultimate dread of living so far away from your family. I actually often envisaged this moment. Well, my amygdala did (the part of the brain which processes emotion). On a regular basis it would pinch me and say, ”Hey Jade… What if something happened to Mum, Dad or James and you’re a two-day flight away?” I’d feel the anxiety ignite in my stomach, but before those initial crackles could blaze through my body, I’d take a deep breath and reply, “Thanks Amygdala. But what if I abandoned the life we have here ‘just incase’ something happened, that might never happen? Cheers for the info though. I know it’s only because you care.” Nonetheless, in my (our) case, it did happen. That doesn’t mean my Amygdala was right, or that I should have listened to its unfounded fears. It just meant that life happened. As it does, as it always will for as long as we’re lucky enough to experience it.
My brain processed the words ‘Dad has had a stroke’ in almost perfect synchronicity with my heart launching to the pit of my stomach, like those drop rides at theme parks. Everything around me stifled, silenced. After collapsing and being nurtured by loving friends and whanau (I love you Faye), I was on a plane with nothing but my backpack, passport and laptop. Five weeks later, Koa and Daniel joined me. And since then, we’ve been readapting, recalibrating, rebuilding. Ultimately, this is what I want to tell you about. Imagine living in a place that encourages and embraces alternative, non-conventional living choices and suddenly you’re returning – completely unprepared – to a place where frankly; these kind of choices could well be misunderstood and stunted. We were sure we’d need to rent again… both work full time just to be able to pay for the rent, bills and weekly food shop. But things unfolded surprisingly differently for us and in the last six months of reconstructing our lives, we’ve been able to uphold so many of our lifestyle values. From my perspective, to a greater degree than NZ allowed; albeit with some sacrifices; as each and every choice carries. SO here’s a breakdown…
How have we upheld our values?
- We continue to maintain a very low-cost lifestyle. In fact, we actually need a significantly lower income to live here than we did in NZ. Four weeks ago, we bought a Static Caravan. It is situated approximately 200 metres from the beach. Our outgoings, inclusive of all bills, pitch rent and insurances, equate to £100 per week. This means that, with myself working 19 hours a week and Daniel working 20, we have an abundance of time with our precious little Bear, as well as for ourselves and one another. On top of this, we’ve plenty of dollar left over each week for the things that – to us – truly matter. We’ve been able to book a surf trip to Cornwall at the end of this month, go on weekend camping trips with no rush to return on a Monday morning and even buy a pair of new mountain bikes and skateboards.
- I’m able to afford weekly private psychotherapy sessions, which is the best money I spend every week.
- I’ve joined CrossFit, which is something I’ve been wanting to do for years. I couldn’t manage this in NZ because of Daniel’s long working hours.
- Daniel now lives at the skatepark and sometimes takes Koa too.
BEST OF ALL, we have our gorgeous families here with us.
In light of this, there have certainly been some sacrifices. And should you read the following and feel stereotyped or offended then please let me remind you that it is not my responsibility how you perceive my words. This is just our experience, not fact. We miss the expansive open-mindedness of those we had around us. That sentence does not equate to ‘people here are not open-minded’. It just means that, where we were once swarmed by those with bottomless pits of ideas who seldom judged others, that feels less relevant here, for now. It’s also challenging to see recycling in landfill bags when we used to compost and buy our food shopping waste-free. Of course that’s not to say we can’t do that here, but seeing a less conscious majority is conflicting. We’ve also traded Jacinda for a Boris and everything that goes with that.
In the end though, you can weigh up the pros and cons of all the choices, because there’ll always be an abundance of each. The point of this post is to demonstrate that it kind of actually doesn’t matter. What does matter, is living how you want to live. We didn’t want to work full time. So we don’t. We didn’t want to pay somebody else’s mortgage. So we continue not to. Irrespective of the adversity we faced, we stuck to our values. You have to live in alignment with YOUR values. But the over-arching message here, dear reader, is that we didn’t expect to be able to. So don’t expect your expectations. We expected impossibility in navigating our adversity, but it was actually our golden compass all along and taught us exactly what we needed to be taught.