I don’t know what it is about a road trip and a van. The freedom, endless possibilities, timelessness, stillness of nature, hills to be climbed, books to be read, and space to be found.
For me, the idea for our family to build a tiny house bus and go on an adventure of a lifetime first came over two years ago, when I was looking out the window in hospital. We were waiting, then waiting some more.
One of our twin baby boys continued to have worrying results following numerous surgeries, so more and more tests were needed. This was after eight months as in-patients for our sons, seven of which were in ICU.
Looking out the window, I was dreaming of the time my husband and I bought a small van and travelled around New Zealand. How we had immersed ourselves in nature, and how much joy, fun, and healing we experienced. The trip was after a long illness I had been recovering from following a season living in south-east Asia.
Looking at our two beautiful boys, with so much continued medical and disability uncertainty for them both, the idea to take them on an epic adventure was born. A moment of clarity came – one that can perhaps only come when faced with death. The knowing that it is in how we spend what precious time we have together that matters.
At this point, we weren’t able to see people easily and were often in isolation due to risks of viruses to our son. We often dreamt that if we built our own tiny house on wheels we could have all we need with us, away from all the nasty bugs, and go off into the wild.
So a few months after our boys turned one and we were finally home from hospital, we bought a fully operational 11-metre-long school bus, complete with some kid’s hat and lunch they had left in it the day before. And so the bus arrived – a bus we didn’t even know how to drive!
Knowing how hectic our life was managing two babies with health issues, and with hubby working part-time among all the hospital time, our plan was to outsource the conversion work.
Initially this plan went well, and much of the grunt work was done by a good friend who is a carpenter. But then money started to run out and I think, honestly, we developed a bit of cold feet for the whole project.
This was about the time our two boys were diagnosed with cerebral palsy, and with continued hospital admissions and deep exhaustion, this dream became too much for us to pursue.
Converting a school bus into a tiny house is actually really complicated and hard – who would have known – so we put it on hold.
We tried to do some work on it on weekends, but with managing our boys and desperately needing quality family time, not much progressed. And so our half-converted bus sat in front of our house as a daily reminder of this dream we once had.
Then, at the beginning of 2018, both my husband’s and my mental health were struggling. Our relationship was in need of nurturing, and my husband’s job was really ramping up in both time and stress.
It was also around this time that the enormity of our boys’ disabilities began to become more of a reality, as decisions about wheelchairs, future surgeries, and seeking interventions began to pile up.
I remember turning to my husband and saying that this was the year we had to make a radical change. We had to choose space for healing, or none of us would be able to go the distance.
At the same time, this desire to open up the world to our boys really accelerated as we were realising that regardless of their mobility or ability, we wanted them to experience this wonderful world in all its wildness and wonder.
So, as the chaos of it all reached its peak in the middle of last year we decided to take a leap.
My husband went on long term leave from his job and decided to finish our tiny house bus himself – both for his own mental health, and for the dream that the bus was for our family.
Starting in August, my husband worked on our tiny house bus every day.
Every single part of the project has been harder and trickier than we could imagine. From the carpentry, to installing a full plumbing system and bathroom, we have had to continually problem solve, and we have made lots of mistakes.
But we made it. A week before Christmas, we moved in – and I can’t believe it.
We have not got here alone. So many “bus angels”, as I like to call them, have helped us turn our dream into a reality.
One close friend secretly gathered funds for us, another came for a year to build a beautiful custom kitchen, while others let us park our big ugly bus (before the paint job) in their driveway and fed us at all hours.
This support honestly moves us so deeply. It reminds us we are not alone and that our crazy dream is more than just our dream.
I don’t know where we will be going on this trip of a lifetime, or who we will be at the end of our adventures. Hopefully we will be a little more healed, more present, more grateful, more rested, more zoned into one another after a rough patch, and a little more resilient.
The bigger dream? To see how we can all continue to open up the world to those with different abilities, dreaming big and beautiful stories of healing and connection.
And it has just begun. I can feel the wind on my face and see the long road ahead.
- This story originally appeared on stuff.co.nz