Dumping the comfort of home and hitting the road isn’t such a hard thing to do in your 20s, but making the change later in life takes an adventurous spirit, writes Greg Fleming

"BB King and Willie Nelson always had buses and, even as a kid, I thought that was cool,"
Waiheke musician Aaron Carpenter tells me, as he navigates his new home — a 1967 Bedford bus he's christened Lucy — (The Beatles' Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds was released the same year) through the windy Waiheke roads.

He's still getting the hang of operating Lucy's 12 gears (he only recently acquired his HT licence) but everything else has run smoothly.

He'd been thinking of embarking on the troubadour life for a while but a recent health scare was the spur Carpenter needed to take the plunge and hit the road.

"Earlier this year I had a blood infection and it turned quite serious. I had to go to hospital where they put me on really strong antibiotics. For a while there it was touch and go. I'm fine now, but that got me thinking — life is short and if ever I was going to do this thing, now was the time."

Advertisement

And it's worked out financially, too. He saves over a $100 a week living this way ("rents here are crazy over the summer, or the landlord just kicks you out") and his two kids love the new home when they visit.

And who wouldn't? Carpenter can park up in Waiheke's most picturesque spots and watch the sunset whenever he wants.

He spent last night alongside Onetangi Beach and may head to Rocky Bay tomorrow, then it's a few days at a friend's campground or where ever he fancies.

Carpenter found the bus one day while browsing Trade Me.

Despite its age, the bus was in excellent condition, having spent the last few decades parked in a shed where it had been rebuilt by Dutch craftsman Nick Bossche and his wife. Although he didn't have quite enough to secure it at first, the owners liked Carpenter's troubador spirit and a deal was eventually struck.

Waiheke Musician Aaron Carpenter now lives on his 1967 Bedford bus. Photograph by Ted Baghurst.
Waiheke Musician Aaron Carpenter now lives on his 1967 Bedford bus. Photograph by Ted Baghurst.

"She has an Isuzu motor 6db1 147 horses and cruises along at 90km and everything inside is run on solar and gas."

Carpenter loves the freedom his new lifestyle offers and plans to incorporate it into his music life, recently taking it over on the ferry ($600 dollars return) and parking at Vector Arena, when his band Aaron Carpenter and The Revelators played at Tuning Fork.

"Having a bus as a home has changed my way of looking at life," he tells me.

Advertisement

"Although it's early days, I've found we have way too much stuff. I came to Waiheke 15 years ago with just a guitar and backpack and I'm pretty much back to that again and it feels good. As a kid, my folks took us on amazing sailing adventures, which I still remember. This new off-grid lifestyle will create memories for years to come for my kids too. They will meet interesting people and see places they wouldn't get to see. Life should be about adventures!"

I've always felt happier when I'm moving from place to place. A home should not be an anchor, but a mast.

He hopes Lucy will also prove musically inspirational — "forward movement at a slowish pace watching the landscape going by, you can't help but be inspired to pick up a song or two".

"As a musician and traveller, I've always had a little dream to do the tour bus thing for comfort. I've had too many years of cramming gear and the band into little vans. This is way slower but also lots more fun. I've always felt happier when I'm moving from place to place. A home should not be an anchor, but a mast."

Carl Rapson and Justine Forster's new home is The Moog. Pic Carl Rapson.
Carl Rapson and Justine Forster's new home is The Moog. Pic Carl Rapson.

Mid-life freedom

That sentiment is shared by enterprising Auckland couple Carl Rapson and Justine Forster.

Forster had worked as an occupational therapist in South Auckland while Rapson had a high-pressure job as a senior project manager for Vodafone.

"After 10 years at Vodafone, I was fed up with being just a cog in the corporate wheel," says Rapson.

"There was a round of redundancies and, although I was fine, it made me realise that these corporations don't really care for the individuals. It was time for a change."

So a few years back the couple began to make plans to live the life they really wanted.

They sold their house in Auckland and bought a motel — a stepping stone to their freewheeling life on the road.

He admits both were used to big upheavals as they had worked and travelled overseas for many years.

They ran the motel in Kerikeri for three years, with only one weekend off, and sold it, buying the tiny mobile home (the size of a small garage) they've christened "The Moog".

"Tiny living is a philosophy and a way of life," says Rapson.

"It's not just about being crammed into as small a space as possible. In The Moog, when we are sitting in our lounge we can reach our stereo and TV without really moving, the fridge is only two steps away and the bathroom another two steps. Any more space just becomes space in between, and we really don't need it."

He says they didn't want to wait until retirement to get out and do the things they love, such as kayaking and surfing. "We already feel the aches and pains of getting older and know this will only get worse."

When I talked to them, they were on the shores of a lake in Rotorua with no one else in sight.

A couple of days later they were parked on a beautiful Coromandel beach watching the sunrise.

To finance this new lifestyle, they sell their artworks at markets and online, run a Patreon page and do a spot of motel minding — but Rapson admits it's tough. "It's a real balancing act to get just enough work to tide us over but not too much so that we end up stuck in one place for too long. Most people don't understand why we wouldn't want to make as much money as we can, but we've been there and done that and we're now seeking a better way of living."

And last month the couple celebrated six months on the road.

"It's been an incredible journey so far, and has more than exceeded our expectations," says Rapson.

They've travelled thousands of kilometres, been to all corners of the North Island and met "heaps of really lovely people".

"It's not been all plain sailing though and there's been a few lows to go with the highs, just like there would be in any walk of life, but the highs have far outweighed them.

"We love this lifestyle, and our freedom, and I can't see us becoming house dwellers again, until ill health or old age catches up with us at least, so best we keep moving."

And their advice for anyone contemplating a life on the road?

"You don't need to have a heap of money in the bank to do what we are doing — but we would recommend that anyone contemplating this lifestyle has at least six months of their planned monthly budget to tide them over until they can build up their income streams or find work."

●On the web facebook.com/acandtherevelators; lifeontheroadnz.com