In 2011 Ken and I decided to retire from work in 2012, take the plunge and become Gypsy’s.
After all, as they say, ‘You only have one life, so LIVE IT.’
At an age when friends were having Heart attacks, strokes, cancer and all the other delightful experiences that happen when you hit the 50’s, we decided that as healthy, fit and experienced campers, we would opt for this lifestyle while the going was still good.
As keen kayakers, we have been to many beautiful rivers and dams in the past but now we had to take care about where we decided to stay as with no salary and company fuel, we were going to have to address the restraints of a budget without impacting our lifestyle.
In the final year of working, we upgraded all of our caravan stuff and bought new, high quality and durable equipment. No more house ‘seconds’. Anything that we hardly ever used, was taken out of the van and sold or given away.
Our tent was modified to increase the space and we invested in lightweight, aluminium camp chairs and tables.
We had paid off our home, caravan and car (Mahindra Scorpio mHawk 2.2 Turbo Diesel Automatic) and we decided to sell up the house and furniture as well.
When it looked as if the market was too slow to sell, we put tenants in the house, built a separate ‘campsite’ on the plot so that we could return to see the kids at Xmas and Easter and have a base to come back to if necessary.
In August 2012 we set off to Richards Bay Caravan Park, our first stop in our new life.
What an adventure with so many new places to see, people to meet and the joy of living in nature. We sleep in the caravan, eat and cook in the tent and live outside in the most beautiful surroundings at a fraction of what it would cost living at home. Life is simplified, diets change and the lack of stress and increase in exercise adds years to one’s life and takes years off the outlook.
We come from a beautiful place, Walkerville, outside of Jo’burg, own a 6 acre plot with millions of birds and trees and real bushveld, so are very critical of anything not up to standard. The peace here is incredible and we really love the place but we no longer wish to be part of Gauteng and the rat race.
We knew we would miss the kids and grandchildren but then maybe quality of time spent with them is better than quantity. With us being away, they are encouraged to join us where we are and hopefully they will eventually do this as campers, so that they will see the long term benefits of this lifestyle. They do appreciate the eccentricity of our decision and know that one day we won’t be able to continue with the towing and setting up tents, but right now that seems like a long time away. When that time comes we will deal with it.
It is natural for people to want to hang onto their stuff and have a base to return to if things don’t work out. Everyone is different and we now know that we should have sold our property before hitting the road but it has taken 2 years of the Full time Gypsy lifestyle to convince us that the last place we want to be is ‘back home’.
We are currently stuck here as we came back after the tenants left to sell the plot.
Only someone who has been a full timer can appreciate the home sickness for the open road that we have experienced. But as the old saying goes ‘We will be back!”
But at least we now know that we made the right choice and that our decision to sell up was the right one for us…not so for many others who have plans to go into old age homes or retirement villages once they are tired of camping. It is a very personal choice.
This is not an expensive way to live. Campsites vary in price but this depends on what you like.
Game reserves and SANParks are expensive and municipal parks are atrocious as they have been left to house contractors and no money is spent on them. This includes the Cape and while they are a lot better than some of the other provinces, the disrepair is evident.
Fuel is our most expensive item on the monthly budget so you have to have a reliable tow vehicle with lots of packing space. Diesel far outweighs petrol in the towing department and we are extremely happy with our ‘Punjab Landie’ which tows like a dream and is very comfortable. A decent size tent is a must as you are living in nature…it gets hot, wet, cold and windy and you need the protection on those inclement days. Plus we all entertain friends and the caravan, no matter how big, is too small to let your hair down!
Camp hopping is not an option as you don’t get pensioner discounts unless you spend a month or more at a place.
Claim your pensions if you qualify for it; keep a medical aid or hospital plan and stay within your budget.
Insurance is a must for caravan and car and we found that we would rather have DSTV Premium than the cheaper options as sport is BIG in campsites. It is expensive but then it costs more to go and watch the rugby at the local Spur! Also less dangerous if you are a Sharks supporter in the Western Cape!
So dust out the caravan, buy new stuff and plan a life ahead with hundreds (if not thousands) of other Gypsy’s living life to the full.
Share in this beautiful country and enjoy the wealth of experience that meeting people from all walks of life in a classless society brings. Forget the bucket list, forget all lists. Live for the moment as tomorrow may never come!
Lynn and Ken Finlay