Quite a bit of time has passed since our last post and it’s hard sitting down to put it all into words. Arriving in Perth has been a rollercoaster ride and honestly, not quite how we imagined it was going to be.
However, as I write this from our campervan home with Willow asleep on the dashboard, the mood in the van is immeasurably more optimistic than it has been over the past month.
As we left Carnarvon we were sad to say goodbye to everyone we had met and it had me reflecting on what had been missing from our lives over the past 8 months. The reality of van life is that it can be an isolating and lonely existence perpetually moving on and having the same ‘Where are you from? Where are you going?’ conversations.
This year has been incredible as we found some top campsites on the Eyre Peninsula, went opal hunting in Coober Pedy, and spend weeks and weeks exploring Ningaloo Reef and swimming with turtles. Steph, Willow, and I are so lucky to have been able to have all these amazing experiences on the road, but it is now time for us to settle down once again as I find myself needing that sense of community that only comes with staying put for a while.
Though, how naive we were as we arrived in the big city. Perth, like the rest of Australia, is in the midst of a housing crisis with rental occupancies at a horrifying 0.7%. Fortunately for us, our home on wheels afforded us shelter as we searched for a more conventional roof to protect us from the Perth summer just around the corner.
Our campervan is an exercise in self-sufficiency, but there are a few things that it cannot provide as it takes us through the vastness of the Australian continent; friends and family, access to healthcare, or refuge from 40c days are some of the things that come to mind.
We started applying for rental properties and found ourselves lining up with 50 or so others waiting for each viewing. My heart sank and I felt physically ill. If probability was anything to go by, it would take dozens and dozens of applications before we secured a place to live. What were we doing here? I thought to myself.
But it had been our dream, our plan since we left Hobart to find ourselves back here, in the city that Steph and I first met. During the week when there was availability we would fork out and stay at a caravan park – but it didn’t feel like a holiday. There we would see whole families set up in tents awaiting accomodation to become available.
Every morning we’d see the kids in their school uniforms playing before being taken to school. These are hard working people, employed, who just have no where to go due to the crisis situation that has developed due to the complacency of our governments.
In the campsite next to us one night sat parked a late model AUDI next to a BIG W tent.
‘Are we homeless, too?’ I asked Steph. ‘I think so.’
There we were, 4,000km from my home town, without the energy to carry on travelling. There was one particular street we would find ourselves parking in overnight. There was something about the area that made us feel safe so we grasped onto it.
On one of our caravan park stays I went for an early morning walk to beat the impending day’s heat. On my return I heard a sharp meow cutting through the morning sounds. I looked across the road and saw the most adorable blue 3-week-old kitten running towards me. I crouched down, picked her up, and cradled her in my arms.
Then I remembered why I was really here, why we had travelled all away across the continent. It was to help the cats, but more on that at another time.
I introduced the kitten to Willow hoping her motherly instincts would take over, unfortunately she just hissed at her! Not how we behave, Willow! I met with the park staff who took her into their care before taking her to the local shelter.
If things weren’t miserable enough in the van that week, the scratching in my throat prompted me to take a Covid test – I had never seen a test line shine so brightly, so quickly! Luckily, it turned out to be a mild case, though it wasn’t long before Steph succumbed as well. Willow remained fit and healthy.
After my recovery we were able to catch up with our friends at Camp Winnie who we last saw in South Australia. So great to see these friends again!
And so, we were back to our rental search, submitting applications and scheduling viewings. We enquired about one property and were astounded when the owner called us and invited us to inspect even though they were currently in Sydney. We met the current tenants and everything seemed perfect so we submitted our application. It wasn’t long before we got a call telling us they were happy to sign a contract when they arrived in Perth in a few days.
Steph and I were over the moon, but then, things took a turn. The owner was demanding a $500 holding fee when it’s only legal to ask for $50 – alarm bells were going off. It was when we mentioned this that things went pear shaped. The owner then went off their mind on a 10 minute rant accusing us of wasting their time and how renters have too many rights – which is a novel idea in this market! Long story short, she told us she wasn’t interested in renting to us so we closed the call and Steph and I were left scratching our heads.
To make the week even more stressful, we had to take the van in for a service and recalls and to figure out where this sudden shudder had developed from. This meant boarding Willow and worrying whether we would have somewhere to sleep that night. Without the van, suddenly we felt very vulnerable in this big city.
It was at that moment, standing outside OfficeWorks Malaga, that we got a call. It was the agent for a property we inspected a few weeks ago. Their first choice had pulled out and they were offerring it to us!
Steph and I were so happy, but it was a bittersweet feeling. We had no idea how many weeks/months it would take so we were so glad that we can finally start our new life in Perth and be sheltered from the summer heat, but it’s hard knowing that so many people are still waiting, still struggling. How fortunate we are is not lost on me. We only had to wait a month to find a place. But I have to say, that month had a toll on my mental health. I cannot fathom having to wait 6 months or a whole year like many.
We picked up the van and picked up Willow. It turned out the shudder was our tyres which had been thoroughly put through hell on the Ningaloo roads – there goes a $1,000!
The moment called for a little celebration and what better way to celebrate than with a little champaign.
Tonight is our last night in the van for a while. We cooked dinner at a beach carpark and I could feel some of that stress from the past month leave me as I breathed in the salty air. Willow’s woken up and is batting at my laptop to tell me it’s time for bed. We’ve driven back to our safe street, the same street we parked at when we first got to Perth. Funnily enough, it’s just a block away from our new home.
There has been a heatwave warning for Perth in the next days, so all this couldn’t have come at a better time.
Tomorrow we move in and Willow will get to explore her new pad, and on our weekends we will go on lots of adventures in the van and maybe some bigger trips. Willow is still batting at my laptop so I’ll have to leave this hear. Goodnight!