Vanlife Pt.5: Finding Balance

Winters over and we’ve decided to migrate from Wanaka to Christchurch to enjoy the summer biking around Canterbury and the rest of the south island.

Living in a bigger metropolis has given us a similar feeling of home. The decision of moving to a big city like Christchurch meant we were going to risk the biscuit and live the rent-free #Vanlife way as we did last summer in Rotorua, but this time making an income.

We’re pushing into the 11th month of vanlife, and for us (and our budget) it’s becoming most ideal to find a balance where we can work & play. This simpler way of lifestyle is something we’ve obtained over the past year living in our tiny home on wheels by:

1. Downsizing: It’s easy to accumulate things overtime and where eventually you end up with more wants than needs. Living in a van makes things in that sense easier when space is limited and you have to question, do I really “need” that? Better yet, do we have the space for it? To break it down further.. our wardrobe consists of about 15 items each, including a couple pairs of shoes, a few weather specific jackets and hats, our bikes & bike gear, and some other miscellaneous items of interest (camping gear, yoga mat, tools, lap tops/ electronics, books etc.)

2. Sustainable Living: We learned the hard way our first couple of months in New Zealand that as much as we enjoyed the freedom to travel around and bike as we please, putting a dent in our bank accounts wasn’t so much. Having the option to work whether full or part-time while we travel, has made us living in this amazing country more enjoyable as we can use the income we make here to live off of and be smart with saving it when we do take time off to leave the city.

3. Adapting: It always takes a few weeks for us to get acquainted with wherever we decide to move to next. We come across the same obstacles every time; where will we park overnight, a water source, washrooms & other bathroom amenities, Wi-Fi, laundry, best deals on groceries and fuel.. the list goes on. It eventually becomes a solid routine based around a selection of interest points (which becomes location specific when accommodating to a work schedule is a factor). We’ve learned that in order to get our needs, we have to adapt and go beyond the norm to meet them. It’s sometimes not ideal, but at the end of the day it’s necessary and has become our norm.

4. Making Close Connections: When you spend more time living and traveling around a foreign country, making good friends is beneficial. We’re lucky that the purchase of our van was in Christchurch and that we’ve stayed good friends with the previous owner who in turn has given us a space to store our winter gear in his shed, send/receive mail to his home address, and if we need a day or two to sleep on a regular bed we always have the option to crash at his place. Some of our best memories as we travel around have been the random encounters with locals who are interested in getting to know us over a cup of tea or dinner invitation, to fellow travelers we’ve worked, biked, skied, or had a beer with. It’s an act of genuine kindness we’ve learned from the Kiwi’s, and intend to give back when the day comes where we settle in one place and a past friend or random traveler is in need of our help.

5. Monitoring the Budget: We knew living in New Zealand wasn’t going to be a cheap year. The purchase of the van itself started things off with a big snag from our bank accounts. Everything from then on became a reality this was not just some fun 2-week vacation. We were going to need to manage our money smart and watch it like a hawk! Believe it or not, we’ve kept tabs on every purchase made since the very beginning (in a very flashy master spreadsheet), in addition to income made, what’s spent each month, and further broken down into percentages of specific categories highlighting what we’re spending our NZ dollars on. It’s also been a great guideline to compare each month, see consistencies, where we maybe went a bit overboard, and plan out how much we need to save when the time comes to leaving our jobs. To be honest, I can’t see it not being a habit to continue doing with our budget once we eventually come back home.

6. Communication with Each Other: The most important, yet underestimated thing that can be forgotten when finding balance while living/ traveling with your significant other. Having good communication.. meaning daily assurance to one another that you both are on the same page whether it’s about travel plans, where the next location may be, interest in a type of job & work schedule, specific objectives & goals to meet/ aspire towards, that the finances are ok, emotional well-being and the balance of remembering that sometimes you have to give more in a circumstance to benefit you both.

However, it’s always easier said than done. We both grew up with plenty of “things” and more than we ever needed. Living in our tiny home on wheels and within a tight budget this past year has made us realize that in order for us to keep the balance and maintain a sustainable life; is to be minimalist for the things we want, monitor the things we need, and enjoy the simple things in life.

Posted by Marisa

3 thoughts on “Vanlife Pt.5: Finding Balance

  1. I am in awe of you, your dedication, strength, discipline and commitment towards what will be a meaningful end result, not only for you, but for what you can teach and encourage others, who might just do the same. Dear girl (and partner), if only the world had more like you! I’m so proud of you ❤️ Good luck and enjoy your journey, Marisa.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the kind words Geraldine 🙂 We’ve learned a lot the past year and its made us thing simpler and be smarter with our finances. Hope its the start of something we can build on! Take care,



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