7 Things I Learned While Packing Up Our Lives Into A 40ft Sea Container!
We are officially on the road, and living in our 23 ft motor home full time for the foreseeable future. Over the next six months we will travel through the USA, Mexico, and if the roads permit after all of the earthquakes we will also be travelling through Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Belize.
The past month was filled with fun times, sad times, exciting times and stressful times. Let me tell you, packing your 5 bedroom house and storage into a 40ft sea container is not a task to take lightly. There is much planning and preparation just to get the container ready for packing. B built shelves in hopes to keep everything organized for easy access if we need anything when we get home. There was a 2 ft aisle down the middle of it but in the end, which ended up being filled with mattresses and a few last minute boxes as we were running short on space and time.
If I could give some advice to anyone planning a life altering adventure in the future, where all your worldly belongings are going to be stored away for the foreseeable future, the following 7 tips would be my advice.
1) If you think you are starting your preparation early enough, you aren’t! You can never start too early. Set a final move out date and organize your time accordingly! This is not your average move where you just have to move your stuff from one house to another. Everything you own needs to be packed away and organized (this is coming from me, who is not an organized person). It has to be organized!!! Organizing and packing is time consuming, especially with two small children in tow who are constantly unpacking behind you as you go. So start packing and organizing early. This in itself is difficult as while you are packing, you need to keep out the items you are still using and needing. It’s a fine line to walk. Packing up, but being able to access things you use daily.
Also start building shelves or some sort of organization system early. The earlier you are ready to start storing things and minimalizing, the better. We gave ourselves just two months of having the sea container prior to leaving and it definitely would have been beneficial to have had it earlier. Between kids activities, family time, work, and packing it felt pretty hectic for the last two months. So get storage system early so as you are packing and organizing you can move things out.
2) Start your reading and education about your trip, where you are going, what you should bring, safety, etc a year in advance. We feel we are well prepared about safety, road conditions, what to bring, and where to go after starting reading books, websites, other people’s experiences, and travel guides. We bought countless books, contacted other travellers, and did extensive research about how to do an over landing trip…with kids. You need to be prepared to take on a six month overlanding with two small kids. There are lots of people who have done these trips but it is most definitely not commonplace nor the norm.
Buy RV Living Now!
3) We hold on to a lot of materialistic things that we may never use again. We have had things stored for years hoping we would fit in it again, or use it again. But the reality is that we forget about it. This realization made us purge 7 half ton truckloads of clothes and household goods we no longer use.
Purging was freeing and we felt a huge load lift off our chests. Less is more! If it has no purpose in your life, it is just adding clutter. Your old useless things can be new and useful to someone else so share the wealth and feel the euphoria of helping others less fortunate and cleansing your home of unnecessary goods.
4) Start living in your RV in advance so you can do a test run with everything you have packed. We thought we were being minimalistic until we went to load up all the clothes, toys, bikes, toiletries, tools, medications, etc. Then our motor home was busting at the seams. So we thinned things out not once, not twice, but three times until we felt we were not crammed into a small space.
Keep in mind that there are stores all along the way. Pack minimal food and buy groceries every couple of days. If you run out of toothpaste or soap, you will find more along the way, I promise. And now that I realize this and we don’t have to bring everything from home, we can live in harmony with one another and enjoy our travels in our small 23 ft motor home.
5) Through all the packing and prepping, you realize how strong (or maybe weak in some people’s cases) your relationship is with your spouse or partner.
B and I had our disagreements, debates and a couple arguments. What do you expect? We are human and even though this trip is exciting it is also a stressor to prepare for. We never go to bed mad at each other and we never sleep in separate beds. I have learned our bond is strong and we always come to a compromise or understanding of what one and other want. Communication and compromise are so key to a successful relationship, not just with your spouse or partner but also with your kids, friends, family and co-workers.
6) Even though you may feel like you have lots of close friends, you get to know the strong bonds that will survive through anything, and who really wants to make time for you and spend time together before you leave for months on end. After previously moving away to Australia and then moving back home, we were so excited to have our friends and family again. However, it is the reality the life goes on without you around. Friends grow closer to others and when you return, you may feel displaced or forgotten. Just remember, those friends still care but relationships change and other people’s lives cannot go on hold because you have gone away on an adventure. We learned this before and have realized again it in preparation for this trip. Please just remember that the most important people in the world are with you on your adventure! I am eternally grateful for B and the kids.
7) You are not doing this trip to save money. Driving a small SUV and staying in hostels would be cheaper. Flying and staying in vacation rentals or hostels would also be cheaper. But…you miss out on so much of the scenery and hidden gems if you are on a schedule to get to your next booked hostel or rental. You don’t have the option of sleeping on the go or the convenience of a fridge and freezer to pull over and BBQ where you are.
Our motor home is nothing short of a gas guzzler. When we first took it for a trip we were shocked at the cost of fuel. By going slow and doing less kilometres each day we can still see amazing sights, enjoy our time, have the option of sleeping at the beach, have a retreat from the unforgiving sun for the kids, and even decrease the amount we will spend on gas. The flexibility of what we can do, to us, outweighed the fact that we could save money by flying or driving a small vehicle (which would have been very limiting on what we could bring with two kids in car seats).
The memories we will make on this trip are priceless. We are an average middle income family, who lives within our means, just following our dreams and to us, this far outweighed the price of our fuel.