Life of confinement on the road: how a family of six traded their home for a caravan

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Four months ago, the Coulter family left their small town of Hadspen in northern Tasmania and began their journey as “green nomads” with no return date in sight.

For parents, Billy and Hayley, selling their six bedroom home and buying a trailer was an attempt to buy time with their four children – Rocky (one), Dusty (six), Ruby (14) and Lily (16) ).

“You put your kids in daycare so you can go to work,” says Hayley.

“And before you know it your kids are in elementary school and you missed them being babies because you worked your ass.”

The Coulters have made more than 20 saves along Australia’s east coast, escaping lockdown where possible. (

Provided: Clan in a van

)

The freedom of their new lifestyle means they can retire backwards.

“We are physically and mentally in the best condition we have ever had. [We thought] ‘Let’s do it now,’ ”said Billy.

“Let’s give our years of work to an employer later, and our best years to our family now.”

Escaping COVID hotspots

While the pandemic and numerous lockdowns have meant little to no travel for many Australians, the Coulters have been to more than 20 locations in the past four months.

The very sudden border closures kept the family on their toes, looking for relatively safe places to travel by car.

“We missed Victoria and New South Wales so much just because we felt like we were constantly being chased by COVID,” Billy said

“Every time we got somewhere we would soon hear on the news that it was getting closer, so we would pack our bags and move on to the next place to avoid it as best we could.”

A 4x4 towing a caravan, parked on a dusty road.
The family had just left Croydon, en route to Karumba, 2,159 kilometers from Brisbane, Queensland.(

Provided: Clan in a van

)

Despite this, they couldn’t always escape COVID restrictions when crossing different states.

They are currently stationed in the regional town of Mount Isa, Queensland, awaiting agreement to continue to Darwin.

But that didn’t stop them from enjoying their new lifestyle.

“We just have a pretty carefree attitude,” says Hayley.

“And when we’re ready, we’ll move on.”

A family poses together for a photo at a waterfall.
Hayley (far left) enjoys family time with the kids, Rocky, Dusty, Ruby and Lily at Milla Milla Waterfalls in the Tablelands area of ​​Queensland.(

Provided: Clan in a van

)

And even when obstacles arise like this, Billy says being on the road helps put things in perspective.

“The good thing is that we have time to overcome the obstacles. We are together, so you are not doing it yourself.

“You have your teammates in the car.”

Changing the rules of the difficult mask for children

Government regulations mean that wearing a mask has become standard for much of Australia’s east coast.

Billy says this has been a barrier for their young children when it comes to communication.

“They couldn’t see our facial expressions and our reactions to things. They couldn’t see our smile or our eyebrows, but we can see their confusion,” he says.
A little boy is walking on the beach with a stick.
Mum Hayley says wearing masks often made it difficult to communicate with Dusty (3) because he couldn’t see people’s facial expressions, making it difficult to identify moods.

For Dusty who is three and Rocky who just turned one, Billy said most of their communication relied on reading facial expressions, but everywhere they looked there was a sea of ​​masks.

“They couldn’t visually identify the moods or emotions that we saw that were really hard on them,” Billy says.

Hayley says the need to cover her face impacted Dusty’s behavior.

Now that the rules for outdoor masks have relaxed in Queensland, Hayley says she can now see more of Dusty coming out of her shell.

“We’ve noticed that he opens up more and he’s happier because he’s more reassured by people’s facial expressions.”

Adaptation school around travel

Billy says managing the transition of kids from school years to distance learning on the road was one of their main concerns.

Two older girls and a younger boy are smiling together on a boat.
School hours are a little different for Lily (left) and Ruby (right) when they live on the road, who sometimes watch their classes after tea at night.(

Provided: Clan in a van

)

Originally, they planned to model their school days on traditional school hours, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., but Hayley says this has become a problem for girls Lily and Ruby, who are in high school.

Instead, the family has set up their own system called “Catchup,” where the girls relax after tea to watch their evening classes online.

“There are days when we don’t do anything and we just sit around the van so they can log in and go to school,” Hayley says.

“But other days, they just sit on their iPads and watch their classes in the evening after tea.”

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