THIS MUCH I KNOW
A Kiwi couple share their story of life on the road with two little ones
Ever wondered if there’s more to life than just the daily grind? Kasteel (Kas) Craw, a former business owner, and her physiotherapist husband Nic did. Two years ago they were living a busy life in Tauranga – juggling work and house renovations, with their two young children. Life grew even more hectic when their oldest daughter Frankie, who suffers from Cystic Fibrosis, fell ill for about six months requiring constant medical treatment. The couple knew they wanted to spend quality time with their children before they hit the school years while living a more simple existence. So early last year, they took the bold step of saying goodbye to life as they knew it. They sold their newly-renovated house, along with nearly all of their possessions, and bought a caravan. As Kas explains, their plan was to spend a year or so living largely off the grid while exploring the length and breadth of the country, and making every day count. “We saw the caravan in the morning and paid a deposit by lunchtime. We just locked it in and said okay, we’re going to do this now. I guess friends, in a way, probably expected no less and they all just thought it was amazing, but we did get feedback through family that maybe we weren’t prioritising Frankie’s health. We had that in the back of our minds as well… is this the best thing for her? You just never know. Before we left she was on a nebuliser machine and she needs to be in a private room to do that treatment, so if she needed that again, how would we do it in a caravan? There were lots of ‘what ifs’ but we decided we can only give it a go, and if things come up then we can change our plans.”
“I’d say the biggest thing the kids had to get used to was sleeping in the kitchen. We sit there doing the dishes right next to their heads. That would be the biggest adjustment – us being in their rooms when they go to sleep. But they were totally fine with it. And now they go to sleep anywhere. For me, I reckon it took about six months to really get into the swing of caravan life. The thought of winter was the thing that scared me the most, but I feel like we got through it pretty well. It was quite mild at the start through to July so that helped, then as we got deeper south it seemed like a really long season. I remember a week of rain in the Catlins, that was probably one of the hardest weeks – but otherwise it was not too bad. You just wear more clothes! And the caravan’s so easy to heat – you just flick a switch and it’s hot within a minute.”
“We definitely do still have a routine. Rio still has a sleep every day and we always work around that. In the morning, one of us may go for a run and I’ll do yoga or something like that. We do Frankie’s physio and then we’ll go and do some form of activity whether it’s going to a beach to explore, going for a walk, or going to a playground. Then we come back for Rio’s sleep. We’re generally around home until about 3pm, and after that we’ll do some other outdoor activity. We’re back in the caravan at about 4 or 5 o’clock for an evening of meals, books,
playing – you know, the standard - but the only difference really is that every day we explore a new location. We’ve covered a huge chunk of the South Island – right down to Slope Point, the southernmost part of New Zealand. We’ve done most of the southern part of the north and now we’re exploring Northland.
“We store our washing for about three days, then visit a Laundromat. At the start I thought I’d do hand washing but because we’re so limited with water we can’t really do that, and in winter we could never dry the clothes anyway. If we’re at a friend’s place then we wash all our bedding. Going to the Laundromat is quite a nice bit of time out for me. Just sitting there waiting for the dryer to dry the clothes is quite dreamy! The kids have a bath once every three days – and it’s fine. Sure they’ll have days when they’re grubbier and then they’ll have a wash, and in summer they swim in the sea or get wet in some way – but generally it’s a shower or bath once every three days. We have a little Shub, so the girls both sit in there and have a bath and they love it.
“I do miss my kitchen. I got a food processer before we left home and I miss that the most. We have to go the supermarket all the time because we have such limited storage so you can’t buy in bulk, and we tend to spend a lot more money as a result. But the kids are quite involved in dinner prep, which is awesome, because they get to see how things are made rather than it just turning up on the table. All our meals are quite simple. We haven’t actually had an oven since November because it broke, so that cut out a few other food options for us. Frankie needs extra fat and extra salt in her diet so we just tend to add things to her meals. She’ll often have cheese added, and always has extra salt. We tend to eat quite healthily, and then maybe once every two weeks we’ll go and get fish and chips just to give her a good dose of some fatty foods. We can kind of tell when she’s been eating a bit lighter because she tends to lose weight quite quickly so we have to keep those fats up for her. But she’s had the best year of health. A lot of it I put down to not
It gives you perspective on what society makes you believe you need. I’ve definitely realised that there’s more to life than just working to have ‘things’.
having much contact with other people, because she’s susceptible to bugs. Everyone says it’s the sea and fresh air and things, but I think the majority is just the noncontact.”
“A year on – this life we live feels so normal. We forget that everyone else is doing it different to us, and we’ve forgotten to a certain degree what life was like beforehand. Just the other day, Nic and I were discussing how much we’ve kind of removed ourselves from society a bit, and it gives you perspective on what society makes you believe you need. I’ve definitely realised that there’s more to life than just working to have ‘things’. I’ve become more aware of wastage and water usage and what we think we need in a house. We’ve talked about setting up a bit of a community with friends – that’s one option. We’ve got a few ideas so we’ve just got to lock one in and then start looking for the property to suit. It could be Bay of Plenty, but I think Northland is more likely. That was probably a big instigator of the trip. We thought we might like to move to Northland but we were too scared to take the step because we didn’t know much about any of the towns. We thought it would be cool to actually go around and see these places and get a feel for each before deciding where we want to live. The blogsite that we set up at the start of our journey is headed ‘Freedom and Simplicity’. That’s what we hoped for, and that’s what we got – 100 percent.”
Fresh start: Nic, pictured with daughters Rio (2) and Frankie (3), finds living simply and grid” “off the has been cleansing.
Kas and Nic may have swapped a house for the challenging yet cosy quarters of a caravan but kids Rio and Frankie get to explore the ever-changing outdoors as their vast playground.