And then Life Throws You a Curveball...

Who doesn’t know this situation: You have a plan. You’ve spent time thinking about your options and then decided what you want or need to do. You feel good about it. You know where you’re going, what your goals are and how to get there. You’re excited. 

And then life throws you a curveball and your thoughtful and exciting plan gets knocked out of the park. Just like that. 

That is exactly what happened to me this week. After weeks of working through confusion and uncertainty, I had finally decided that I will continue to live the vanlife and chase my dream of being a writer a bit longer (read part 1 and part 2 about it). I felt so good about that decision and was excited to see what the next year would bring. 

Enter the curveball. 

 Josie failed her Warrant of Fitness (a safety check cars and vans need to go through every 6 months to be road legal in NZ). And she didn’t just fail a little, she failed big time due to rust issues. It’ll cost me a lot of money to get her fixed. 

 I wasn’t completely surprised when I heard she failed due to rust issues, but I was definitely shocked when I was told how bad it is. Apparently, this should have been an issue for at least the last two Warrants and probably should have been picked up on during the pre-purchase inspection I had done before I bought her 1 1/2 years ago. In other words, the problem didn’t just appear yesterday. 

 Though if I’m being perfectly honest, I probably have to admit that this is partly my own fault. She has been showing signs of rust for a while, and even though I did a treatment last year, it was a bit half-hearted. I just didn’t take the rust issue serious enough (isn’t hindsight a beautiful thing…). But in my defence, I did ask both the garages who did the last two warrant checks, and neither raised it as a significant concern. I should have known better, but there’s nothing I can do about that now. 

I’m not gonna lie, I had a couple of tough days after this.

After being given the news at the testing station, I was still somewhat positive. I’m generally very solutions-focused, and I don’t often let problems like this get to me. Instead, I tend to focus on finding solutions. In this case, the solution seemed simple: Find someone who can fix her. But turns out, that’s not that simple at all. On Wednesday morning, the day after the big shock, I talked to at least 15 panel-beaters and rust repair specialists between Wellington (where I am right now) and Auckland. All of them were either completely booked out for 4-6 weeks, weren’t able to do the work, or were so negative and rude that I didn’t want to trust them with my van (one actually told me I’m an idiot (his words) for letting it get this far – not how you win customers!). Having said that, several people I talked to were super friendly and wanted to help but just couldn’t for whatever reason. 

After spending almost 2 hours on the phone with no solution in sight, my usual positivity took a bit of a hit. 

The problem with her having failed the Warrant is that I have to get it fixed within 28 days. After that, she won’t be road legal anymore. The other challenge is that it’s impossible to predict how long it would take. I’ll be without the van for at least a week (cause apparently things need to settle and dry before the next steps) and it can easily take longer if they need to wait for parts or the problem is worse than assumed. 

Because of all of this, I’ve made the difficult decision to try and sell Josie as is. I love this van a lot, and the idea of saying goodbye to her makes me really sad. But the truth is, I’ve been thinking about upgrading for a while, mainly because I’m really uncomfortable driving Josie over long distances. Something about the way I sit and how my leg angles to the gas paddle, combined with the fact that I’ve always had issues with my right knee, make for a less than ideal set up. And I also would really like a bed that is slightly longer. So I’ve listed her on Trademe (view listing here), thinking that maybe someone who’s looking for a bit of a project, and has another home, wants to take on an otherwise awesome van for a reasonable price. If someone wants to buy her as is, I’ll let her go (probably with tears in my eyes). Otherwise, I’ll get her fixed up and hang on to her a bit longer. 

I think given all this, losing some of my usual positivity is kind of understandable.

I made a deal with myself when I first started ‘doing life differently’ that I’m only allowed to use a certain portion of my savings. When that portion is used up (which it will be with the current situation), I have to go back to earning more to make up for it. That means I’ll have to work a lot more this winter than I had planned and will have less time to write and promote my writing. If she sells, I’m gonna be officially homeless. If she doesn’t, I have four weeks before I’m without a road-legal home/car and I can’t find anyone who can do the work before then, and even if I do, I’m going to be homeless for at least a week, possibly longer, while she gets fixed. In other words, not an ideal situation.  

I had finally figured out what I wanted to focus on this year. I felt positive and super excited about the coming months, having decided to keep living the vanlife and concentrate on writing. But I guess life had different plans for me. 

Yip, I had a little cry. 

But after feeling angry at, and sorry for, myself for a bit, I picked myself up and reminded myself of one very important point: My ‘worst-case scenario’ right now is having to move back to Auckland for winter to work lots.

If that’s my ‘worst-case scenario’, life really can’t be that bad.

In fact, I think that sounds a lot better than some people’s ‘best-case scenario’. 

I believe that things happen for a reason even if it doesn’t feel that way at the time. I often look back and realise that many things that seemed hard and unfair at the time, ended up being some of the best things that could have happened to me because they put me on the path I needed to be on (even though it might not have been the path I wanted to be on at the time). 

I also believe that how happy we are is not determined by what happens to us or in the world around us, but by how we react and respond to what happens. I think that, while we often can’t control what happens, we can always control how we respond to it. I have a choice, I can feel sorry for myself and feel angry and stuck. Or I can stay positive, focus on finding solutions and, most importantly, remind myself of how completely insignificant problems like these are compared to what other people have to cope with. Needless to say, I chose the latter and will make the most of the situation. 

So here’s the new plan: Sell Josie if someone wants her. Otherwise, get back to Auckland and find someone who can fix her. Doing it in Auckland means I can do (more) work while I wait and I have friends around I can stay with if needed. Either way, I will then try to find housesitting jobs in and around Auckland for winter, which will make it easier for me to find work. I will still make time to write, just not as much as I’d hoped. But I’ve just been asked to be a regular contributor for an NZ Travel magazine (paid work) which is super exciting and means I’m making progress.

So, to sum it all up: it’s been a tough week. But I’ve come out smiling and feeling positive(-ish)