Question Time at Wondering Wanderers

Ever since we started thinking about this crazy idea I have been talking to as many people as possible about it. This has helped to cement in my mind a proper plan, as in explaining it to others you have to be able to clarify and articulate it properly. It also means we get all manner of interesting questions and challenges to the idea thrown at us. By talking to all sorts of different people I get many different perspectives.

My parents are fairly opposed to the idea, but then they are also fairly opposed to the way we Home Educate, go camping for holidays, keep chickens and ducks in our back garden and many other such things. They are still supportive and because they love us and more than anything else they want us to be happy they can see that this is something that is right for us to go and do even if it is their personal idea of hell in campervan! Plenty of their comments have been really helpful in making us realistic about the plan, sensible about what risks we are prepared to take and conscious of being responsible parents along the way.

Friends are largely supportive, envious, not surprised, excited on our behalf. Several have come up with great ideas and suggestions for the plan and we feel like we have lots of people cheering us on from the sidelines and planning to follow us virtually as we go.

Work colleagues, casual acquaintances and random people we know and have told vary in their responses. I have to say it is less daunting than explaining about Home Education in many ways as for most people it is something they would simply never do so it doesn’t really challenge them or make them feel defensive whereas Home Ed does seem to push people’s buttons.

Anyway, the purpose of this blogpost is to ask for your questions. If you are reading and have a burning desire to know just how / what / when / when / why the bloody hell… something then please ask. You will get your question answered, other readers might get something interesting read and it might throw up something we haven’t yet thought of. No question too silly / personal / trivial, providing it is actually related to our WW plan I will attempt to answer it.

Over to you…

I’m going to edit in questions from people and my answers underneath this post, so keep ’em coming 🙂

Joyce said…

OK, too tempting to ignore 😉 I guess I have a couple of things I’ve been wondering. The first is about how you will fill the gaps between woofers. I know you plan to have as few as possible, but I would have thought it inevitable that you will have some, even if they aren’t planned for. The second is about how you will live while away. So while I understand that you would be as self-sufficient as possible, with most meals and parking provided, I can’t help wondering about how anyone can manage money free for a year? So things like petrol, food when you just want to eat by yourself, prescription costs, occasional camp site parking, van repairs, toilet roll, the odd bottle to wine ;-), needing to replace kids shoes etc…I’m interested because I’ve been trying to work out how we would do it (NOT that we are thinking about it, lol), and I can’t seem to get my monthly maintainence costs down to less than about 300 per month. Hope that’s not too nosey!

First question – the intention is to fill the year aside from planned breaks, staying with friends etc. We are never more than a days driving away from someone we know who would be happy to let us park on their drive. The reason for having a campervan is that we can live in the van if needs be. There is of course the element of risk of a WOOF hosting going wrong but our contingency plan is to have a basic weeks worth of food in packets / tins (we’re planning on working out what that is pretty soon) in the van at all times along with keeping gas bottles topped up and ensuring we always have enough money to fill up with petrol so if all else fails we cans simply drive to the nearest friendly face. We will keep a hard copy of the WOOF hosts directory with us which has phone numbers so we can also contact the nearest host and see if they are up for having us.

Second question – We intend taking as many clothes, supplies of things like basic food rations, loo roll, drugs (of the painkilling, cold remedy, general medicine variety), stuff like contact lenses, toothpaste etc as the van can hold. We will supplement this with fishing, trapping, foraging where possible for food to make up any short fall from WOOF hosts. Any food / shoes etc we need along the way we can hopefully pick up from charity shops.

Money wise we will be renting out our house which should cover the mortgage, a couple of monthly bills I would prefer to carry on paying and give us about £200 a month income too. Along with child benefit (we don’t get any other benefits / tax credits) we should have just under £100 a week. This should cover petrol, any food / clothing expenses, pay as you go mobile and internet etc. It is our intention to have paid for car tax and insurance before we go. We are also hopefully timing leaving so that we go with our final months wages which will give us a bit of a contingency fund – not much but hopefully enough to cover the inevitable emergencies we haven’t factored in or thought of yet!

Jay said
The money thing was making me wonder too.
Also, how will you stop from going mad in a confined space for *such* a long time? I can see it being fun for a fair chunk of time, but living on top of one another for a year in such close quarters? 4 people in about half the size of a room where no upset or hormonal kid old can strop off to his/her room, not much chance to be alone with your thoughts and no privacy for, well, sex. I was wondering how you’ll manage for that sort of stuff.
Then again, personal space is A Big Thing for me and for L but not so for everyone so maybe it doesn’t apply?
What happens if you can’t stand the people you are WOOFing with?
How do you think the kids will do without regular friends to see, just each other and a new group of people to live with every few weeks?
DO you think any of you will struggle being “visitors” for a year so always on nicest politest behaviour? I need to revert to my natural witchy self after a bit of Playing Nice For Company; not that you’re witchy, but will Willow provide you with enough of a get-away?
I’m not wanting to be negative, Nic – you know I think it is a marvellous plan – but I was wondering what you’d thought about these potential issues.

Confined space – yep, I can’t deny it could well be an issue. That said we don’t have oodles of space in our house and given our Home Ed lifestyle the kids and I are pretty used to doing the all day, every day thing in each others’ company. In theory we will be staying in the hosts houses in most WOOFing places, the van is the back up, which should give us time away from each other. Also we are planning to be working outside most days so even when we are sleeping in the van it should be just that – sleeping. We don’t have much stropping off to rooms here and as it simply won’t be an option while we’re away (what with not having a room to strop to and all ;)) I guess if they are going to be kids who do that they will have to delay it til we come home or amend it to ‘stropping to behind a tree’ or something :). I’m hoping a brisk walk with a parent or leaving the other three behind for a while should give everyone the personal space they need as and when they need it.

The kids will still have each other and they are very definite that each other is the others best friend (did that sentence make sense? Not sure but you get the idea). I do think kids need kids but they do have their best friend alongside them, I think family is just as important and a huge plus of this plan is the amount of Daddy time they are going to get. Various of the hosts do actually have kids – some even Home Ed and I think kids are great at making transient friends who suffice just fine for playing with. We will be catching up with friends along the way (we are lucky to have friends scattered all over the UK so will be doing lots of meeting up with people as we go). I can’t deny they have some local mates and cousins they will miss but I think they will get enough from the experience to compensate.

If we can’t stand the people we are WOOFing with we will either have a massive row with them and have to leave early (see reply to Joyce as to what happens then)or we’ll put up and shut up on the basis it’s so very temporary with an end always in sight. I can’t deny I can be very hot headed and often decide I hate everyone and am crap at hiding it. I think I will learn a lot about tolerance and living with others during the year, even if what I learn is that I can’t bloody do it! A big part of having the van is for those ‘I can’t possibly be on my best behaviour for another single moment so I need to go and be a complete cow’ times when I intend dragging the neares member of my family into the campervan with me and being horrid to them until I’ve got it out of my system! We do do a fair bit of communal living over the course of a normal year though – in 2010 we will have spent a week sharing a villa holiday with another family, at least 8 weekends either staying with other families in their homes or having families to stay with us in ours, several weeks camping alongside other families, a week in a youth hostel with 13 other families cooking communally. I’ve just flicked through my diary and I reckon we spent at least a quarter of the last year living in the company of other people.

Merry said…

I’m curious as to how exactly you are going to convince a nosey social worker if someone reports you and you get barraged with “well, how exactly are you going to make sure they learn all the basic National Curriculum ideas they need like maths, science and literacy this year then????”

(Not because I am remotely worried about this or don’t know the answer but I can well imagine you running into a jobsworth or two who refuse to understand and could make life awkward!)

I guess in the same way as I deal with it now really. It will depend on who is asking and how real the threat of them interfering is. A genuine interested question will be met in the spirit is is asked, I doubt a social worked will come knocking on our van door as we’ll be moving along so frequently. I am confident that D and S can carry themselves well enough to appease any genuinely concerned people. But for the record – I think this will be an incredibly rich educational experience for D&S with geography (travelling all over the UK), science (couldn’t get more hands on for biology – how plants and animals grow, physics – how the van runs, how machiney operates, how work moving heavy loads etc gets done, chemistry – what feed is used in plants and animals, what medicines and chemicals etc.), literacy (reading will be a daily skill in that lifestyle just as it is now with the navigating involved in travelling, the writing of job lists, the reading of books and stories and cookery books, the widening of their vocabulary, the conversing with so many different people), numeracy (how much feed for animals, how many eggs collected, how many lamb chops per animal, what yield percentage on crops). If I wanted to spin this to fit someone’s tick boxes and agenda I have no doubt I could manage it ;).

HelenHaricot said…

i just wondered how you will blog from phone! you’ll have to be 1 word instead of 7!

Lol – we’re planning on going down to one contract phone a month with internet on it although when we take a closer look at finances that might go too. We will get a PAYG dongle for laptop use and many of the hosts state internet access as available at their house. It will be sporadic I suspect and you are right, I may have to become rather more brief ;).

Em said…

I have been thinking and thinking about any questions I might have, and it sounds rediculous but I don’t! But then, I’m of the mind that sort the basics out and the rest will sort itself out. If a family can not kill each other on a tiny boat for a year, a van and dry land is ooooodles of space 😉
and then came back later with:
I have one….how will Ady manage without a carpet to vac?

Lovely, LovelyEm 🙂 Ady will be getting a dustbuster rechargable by cigarette lighter as he assures me the tiny square of carpet in the van will need to be kept hoovered!

Bob said…

Will you be able to have a library card / loads of library cards that let you use the library wherever you are? If the form filling etc. isn’t a barrier, your affinity with libraries and need for free entertainment that only temporarily takes up space means I guess libraries are a Good Thing for you.

What will you do with things that you and/or the children create while you’re away. I expect that D and S will want to draw pictures to do with where you are, or make interesting things. Will you just photograph them and then bin them? Post them somewhere e.g. a friend to hold until you stop wandering?

How will you get things posted to you?

What will you do about backing up computery things like photos? Will you just trust Blogspot, Flickr etc. to look after everything, or will you post memory cards like posting children’s drawings? (Which requires buying new memory cards.)

and then because one Bob comment is never enough he came back for more with:

Forgot this one. Will you have any hello or goodbye rituals? Maybe nothing as extreme as this http://www.avantgame.com/cookierolling.htm although biscuit-related does sound good. (She has qualifications in performance art and english, which might explain it.)

I am intending getting one of those Universal Library Tickets that so much fuss was made about earlier this year, if indeed any libraries actually took up on them. I know mine didn’t. Our policy is anyone can join with proof of address and you can join as a holidaymaker for a limited amount of taking out books. I think we will probably just scour charity shops for books / dvds as and when we have time to read / watch and have run out, probably swapping in our own used / unwanted ones as we go to keep van contents to a minimum. Hopefully hosts may have books to lend too and I may think about something like bookcrossing as a possibility.

I’m hoping creativity can be gifted to hosts, temporary or creative juices given over to building / planting etc. Anything too precious to leave but too bulky to keep can indeed be posted home to be stored.

We will be redirecting our post to my parents. I believe you can arrange to collect things from post offices if you have stuff sent to you there and of course with prior arrangement we can have things sent to our hosts address for us. Our official postal address will remain here at our house although it will actually get sent to my parents.

I think we will trust flickr / blogger etc for pictures, I have til this point and am shockingly bad about not having stuff backed up. We might get photos printed and sent home or send memory cards home as they are pretty cheap these days.
I’m waiting for a BobFact, then my blog will feel complete 🙂

LOVE the cookie rolling. I think our plan is a pic of the four of us in W W pose (see side bar) at every host. We’re also hoping to get hosts to sign our River Cottage diary on the relevant page date that we stayed there. I suspect we will get more able to do the WW pose as time goes by and we adopt the basic principles of weight loss – eat less, move around more – you can see by our faces that A and I struggled rather 🙂

Mazportico said…

How often and where do you think you will have sex?

Funnily enough not the first person to ask this question! :)and then
My proper question.

On 13.09.10 you said (after sustainability camping trip):

‘We decided not to camp in the end as we were simply camped out, the kids were really tired and likely to crash and burn and we all felt just one night in our own beds hadn’t quite been enough’

How do you think you will feel after 7 weeks rather than 7 nights ‘camping out’?

I suspect as regularly as we do now but with more creativity and different venues 😉

Good question – it did occur to me when I wrote that very sentence you have quoted and my answer is I don’t know yet. I am hoping that in the same way you get used to being parents or living in a different house you get a new normal rather than getting back to the old one. We will have our own beds, it’s just that they will be fold down ones in the back of the campervan, we shouldn’t be tired because this will be our life for a year rather than a one week holiday when late nights / lots of drinking / eating marshmallows every night is okay.

I guess we will either adapt well to the nomadic lifestyle or we won’t. If we don’t then we will need to rethink a whole year away and either decide we can tolerate it for that length of time knowing we will be living in a house again at the end of the year or we will cut the year short and come home.

Ali said…

Loving the questions!
Mine is ‘which of the four of you will struggle with which aspect and which aspects are you each particularly looking forward to?’


Ooh good question 🙂
Nic – I think I will struggle with being more flexible about what I will and won’t eat. I can be a proper princess with my food and I know I will have to get used to being grateful for what is put infront of me and either eating it or going hungry. I will miss my bath, I will miss my hour or so after everyone else has gone to bed and I sit alone.
I am looking forward to meeting some very interesting people. I love getting to know people and finding out about different ideas and takes on things. I am looking forward to learning loads of new skills and finding out whether the dreams I have now are really what I want to be doing.

A – says he will struggle with the insecurity of not having a regular income, worrying about what happens if things go wrong and what will happen at the end of the year. He is most looking forward to not having to deal with spreadsheets, office politics and to all the time he is going to have with D & S, really getting to know them well and just being alongside them all the time.

D – says he is finding saying goodbye to our chickens and ducks hard, is struggling with getting rid of stuff and feels he will miss seeing friends. He is looking forward to ‘living a different lifestyle, working on farms and living outdoors, learning new stuff’.

S – is going to miss her ducks and the chickens, will miss friends and is unsure of how we will get on with all the new people we are going to meet along the way. She is looking forward to ‘learning about animals, a cool adventure and living in a campervan’.

14 thoughts on “Question Time at Wondering Wanderers

  1. OK, too tempting to ignore 😉 I guess I have a couple of things I’ve been wondering. The first is about how you will fill the gaps between woofers. I know you plan to have as few as possible, but I would have thought it inevitable that you will have some, even if they aren’t planned for. The second is about how you will live while away. So while I understand that you would be as self-sufficient as possible, with most meals and parking provided, I can’t help wondering about how anyone can manage money free for a year? So things like petrol, food when you just want to eat by yourself, prescription costs, occasional camp site parking, van repairs, toilet roll, the odd bottle to wine ;-), needing to replace kids shoes etc…I’m interested because I’ve been trying to work out how we would do it (NOT that we are thinking about it, lol), and I can’t seem to get my monthly maintainence costs down to less than about 300 per month. Hope that’s not too nosey!

  2. The money thing was making me wonder too.
    Also, how will you stop from going mad in a confined space for *such* a long time? I can see it being fun for a fair chunk of time, but living on top of one another for a year in such close quarters? 4 people in about half the size of a room where no upset or hormonal kid old can strop off to his/her room, not much chance to be alone with your thoughts and no privacy for, well, sex. I was wondering how you’ll manage for that sort of stuff.
    Then again, personal space is A Big Thing for me and for L but not so for everyone so maybe it doesn’t apply?
    What happens if you can’t stand the people you are WOOFing with?
    How do you think the kids will do without regular friends to see, just each other and a new group of people to live with every few weeks?
    DO you think any of you will struggle being “visitors” for a year so always on nicest politest behaviour? I need to revert to my natural witchy self after a bit of Playing Nice For Company; not that you’re witchy, but will Willow provide you with enough of a get-away?
    I’m not wanting to be negative, Nic – you know I think it is a marvellous plan – but I was wondering what you’d thought about these potential issues.

  3. I’m curious as to how exactly you are going to convince a nosey social worker if someone reports you and you get barraged with “well, how exactly are you going to make sure they learn all the basic National Curriculum ideas they need like maths, science and literacy this year then????”

    (Not because I am remotely worried about this or don’t know the answer but I can well imagine you running into a jobsworth or two who refuse to understand and could make life awkward!)

  4. I have been thinking and thinking about any questions I might have, and it sounds rediculous but I don’t! But then, I’m of the mind that sort the basics out and the rest will sort itself out. If a family can not kill each other on a tiny boat for a year, a van and dry land is ooooodles of space 😉

  5. Will you be able to have a library card / loads of library cards that let you use the library wherever you are? If the form filling etc. isn’t a barrier, your affinity with libraries and need for free entertainment that only temporarily takes up space means I guess libraries are a Good Thing for you.

    What will you do with things that you and/or the children create while you’re away. I expect that D and S will want to draw pictures to do with where you are, or make interesting things. Will you just photograph them and then bin them? Post them somewhere e.g. a friend to hold until you stop wandering?

    How will you get things posted to you?

    What will you do about backing up computery things like photos? Will you just trust Blogspot, Flickr etc. to look after everything, or will you post memory cards like posting children’s drawings? (Which requires buying new memory cards.)

  6. Can’t think of a question either, but I’m sort of wishing that everyone had posted their questions anonymously and we could have had a ‘match the question to the poster’ quiz.

  7. Loving the questions!
    Mine is ‘which of the four of you will struggle with which aspect and which aspects are you each particularly looking forward to?’
    If it doesn’t make sense I can do nothing about it as I hit the ginger wine at 6.

  8. My proper question.

    On 13.09.10 you said (after sustainability camping trip):

    ‘We decided not to camp in the end as we were simply camped out, the kids were really tired and likely to crash and burn and we all felt just one night in our own beds hadn’t quite been enough’

    How do you think you will feel after 7 weeks rather than 7 nights ‘camping out’?

  9. I was going to ask whether you thought a week was really long enough to learn an awful lot, but I see you have mentioned in the post below that you are planning to try for longer visits now! So I guess I don’t have a question 😉

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