Yup, we did it.
We made the leap and decided to buy a vintage camper to live in this year while we find our feet back in Australia and work toward planting ourselves permanently in Sydney’s inner-west.
It may be a little crazy, especially after being ‘homeless’ for the last (almost) year, but our reasons for this are many. Some probably obvious. Others, perhaps not so much…
This is a long post so if you don’t want to know WHY we’re doing this, skim the headers or skip down to Part II or Part III.
Part I: The WHY’s
Sydney is mind-bogglingly expensive. (Can you imagine spending $50K annually on rent alone? Yeah… we can’t either. *shaking my head in disbelief*) Living in a “van” (as Aussies say – short for caravan) will help us keep our living expenses way down for a period of time so we can save up to be able to afford to plant ourselves in the heart of downtown Sydney where we’re beginning a new urban missions initiative. (Read more about For The Love of Sydney here if you’d like.)
We have a lot of travel planned for the first half of this year as a part of our preparation for moving into the city and while we develop and hone our vision for our urban missions work. Some of our travel is so that we can get further equipped for the roles we are stepping into (we’ll be attending three separate seminars in Melbourne and Perth), and some of it is so we can connect with other regional ministry centers and spend time getting to know them better on their own turf. As much fun as to-ing and fro-ing can be, it takes a toll on a family’s sense of “home” and groundedness. We felt that living in a van during our period of travel will provide some stability for our kids in particular, giving them a little place to call their own, whether we’re parked in the heart of Melbourne, in country South Australia, on the shores of the Indian Ocean in Western Australia, somewhere in the red middle, or even in the suburbs of Western Sydney just a freeway jaunt from where we plan on permanently locating later in the year. Really, it’s one giant trip across Australia and back so Ryan and I can get some training before planting a new ministry center in Sydney… but we want to make it fun for our kids and consider their stability in the process.
You’ll notice that I’ve decorated a little (thanks to my birthday money savings – yes, I like to spend my “blow money” on throw pillows and cute tea towels – doesn’t everyone?!). We feel it’s important to create a sense of “home” even while we know we won’t live here permanently. There are a few more things we plan on doing, besides replacing the floors and painting the entire thing white, which Ryan’s already done. Ryan would like to do a little tile backsplash around the counter tops, he still needs to put the sliding door back up (to separate the bedroom), we have a few small shelves to add near the “bathroom” area (aka the mirror and teeny tiny counter in the corner), and I’m looking for the right size world map to put above our dinette in that big, empty space (‘big’ being a relative word – ha!). But already, we love the feel of this bright, happy little van that we bought from a beautiful couple in their eighties in country Victoria. It’s important to us that we don’t despise being “holed up” in our tiny place and that we created a place where we want to come home to. And this place? I want to be here. (Lucky me here alone today – writing in my current favorite place in the world: home. This is especially wonderful after having lived in our parents’ homes for the last almost-year. And the kids? They’ve been sharing a double bed for that long, too. Imagine their delight at now having separate big boy bunks! Off. the. charts.)
Another big draw card for us is that our favorite way to be refreshed as a family is to steal away and go camping. (Extra points if it’s camping near a beach or lake!) Living in a caravan for a little while now would mean we’d be able to reap the benefits of having a holiday van for easy, on-the-fly weekend getaways when we do finally settle in a house (or apartment) later. As we start this next chapter of our lives, we’re seeking ways that will help us continue our work and ministry for the long haul, and we’ve realized that regular, intentional breaks are going to be a key part of that. We’re aiming for longevity, here. (And just maybe down the road we can use the van as an office or a guestroom if we can find a house with space to park it – fingers crossed!!)
Lifestyle, adventure, stuff
There’s also other reasons such as learning to live small (with less stuff) so we can live bigger (with more freedom), becoming more intentional with our lifestyle choices including sleep, food, fitness, and leisure (all of which will have to shift so that we can function together in a tiny space), and creating a wonderful sense of adventure and bonding as a family as we learn to live in close quarters and tow our home behind our trusty Holden.
Part II: The even bigger WHY
Living from a place of ‘rest.’
But wait, there’s something more. Something deeper to this whole thing…
As much as financial implications, family stability, the allure of future family getaways in a camper, and all the other little reasons have factored into our decision-making process, the greater incentive for our family was birthed out of a much deeper place.
Call it a moment of clarity, a flash of revelation, or a nudge from heaven, but during a time of prayer a couple months back we felt God gently speak that he wanted to teach us to live out of a place of rest. And although this is a theme Ryan and I have been talking about, praying into, and meditating on for almost two years now, in this moment God showed us that a caravan is—quite literally—a place of rest for us as a family.
Would we learn to live out of that – a place of rest?
What if God wanted to teach us how to rest by using a very tangible, every day reminder that we can live there? And—gasp—even learn to work and minister from there?
Living in and from a place of rest
There is Sabbath rest that the bible speaks of, which has to do with a pausing and ceasing of work in order be centered and intentional about recognizing the provision of God in our lives and evaluating our priorities and the way we set about accomplishing our work. (I’ve explored and written about Selah and Sabbath here and here.) But in addition to Sabbath-rest there’s also a New Testament invitation to live in a place of rest.
Chapter four in the book of Hebrews is all about God’s rest and how it’s available to those to believe and will follow Jesus and enter in. Ryan and I are still trying to unpack all of what this chunk of scripture is actually saying as well as what it means for us to lead our family in living from that place. But we know that our little stint of caravan living will be a tool used by God to help shape our present and our future as we deliberately seek keys for living a life of rest. (Did you know you can work hard and still live in rest? Yeah, our culture is not very good at that… but we want to learn.)
It’s time to get creative
I realize it can sound terribly romantic to abandon all the trappings of stuff and take our family to navigate life on the road for the year ahead. And, yes, there’s truth to that. It is romantic. And it’s so not. It’s also hard. Only a little while in and we’re already experiencing the growing pains of adapting to a new lifestyle as we learn to live on top of one another, prefer one another, and get creative with our time, space, and choices.
We don’t know how long we’ll live in our “van” but we’re as certain as we can be that it’ll be no longer than a year (and perhaps much less?). I hope you’ll join with our family on this next big journey of living small and learning to live big—learning to live well—as we seek to more fully enter into God’s rest and understand how to live and work from that place.
Part III: Blogging our caravan life
Living small to live big
Along the way I’ll chronicle the joys and challenges of living on wheels, take you along on our epic journey as we move our home to the other side of Australia from Sydney to Perth (via Melbourne and Adelaide) and back again over a two-and-a-half month period, and of course give you some inside glimpses of our new life in our tiny home.
Send me your questions
If you have things related to caravan living or travel Down Under that you hope I might write about as this year unfolds, please let me know in the comments. (You want a more complete tour when we’re done finishing everything, right?!) You can also follow along with our family on social media (@adrielbooker on facebook, twitter, or instagram) using the hashtag #livingsmalltolivebig. Mostly this is just going to be us, living our normal lives in a slightly unconventional way. (Which includes being parked in a friend’s suburban driveway this month!) But we also have the big trip across Australia to throw into the mix, and we’ll definitely want to share the beauty of this great, red nation with you as we combine our journey across Australia with some fun (and frugal!) family travel escapades to keep the family sane on the road.
From little things, big things grow
Thanks for your encouragement and support as we’ve grappled with the reality of this decision and discerned what’s best for this season of creating a foundation that will enable us to live and work well for the long haul as we establish ourselves in inner Sydney by the end of the year. We truly believe God is setting us up to learn some amazing things in 2015 and to establish something wonderful and lasting in this new city we call home.
So, welcome to our tiny home and the first office space and meeting place of For the Love of Sydney. We believe that from little things, big things grow… and this is our family starting small.
Much love from Down Under. Here goes everything,
p.s. Want to know more about our family’s inner city ministry in Sydney? You can learn more about #ForTheLoveOfSydney here or learn how to get involved here. (We also have a #ForTheLoveOfSydney facebook, instagram, and twitter if you’re interested!)