Jackie's Journey: Meeting young motorhomers

By: Jackie Norman, Photography by: Gareth Scurr, Karen Nisbet and Dan Beed


More and more Kiwis in their 20s, 30s and 40s are taking to the road full-time. Jackie and her husband Gareth talk to some of them.

Before hitting the road in 2016, the only thing we knew about motorhoming was it was something retired people did, and living in a van was for hippies. Despite being neither, we jumped in.

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Peace and tranquility at one of Dan’s favourite camping spots

Of course, once our travels got underway, we realised we were far from alone in being ‘different’. More and more Kiwis in their 20s, 30s and 40s are taking to the road full-time. Here are some of them.

‘I wanted things to be simple' -  Dan Beed

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Dan and I at this year’s Hokonui Moonshiners Festival

From hiking and kayaking to swimming and CrossFit, whatever any given place has to offer, 41-year-old Dan Beed will give it a go. Home for Dan is his 2009 21-foot Lunar Lexon caravan, which he shares with his cat, Abby.

After living on the road for the past 18 months, he can’t imagine ever going back to a house. Like us, Dan had no prior knowledge of motorhoming, but as a self-employed draughtsman, he’s found it to be the ideal work and lifestyle solution.

"My work has a very ‘peak and trough’ income flow. I couldn’t guarantee my wage and didn’t want to put myself in a situation where I couldn’t pay for my home.

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Keen hiker Dan takes in the view

"In buying a caravan, however, it reduced the amount of stress and gave me something which was mine, a sanctuary. I wanted things to be simple and this was the easiest option. It really works for me; my cost of living is minute.

"I do wish there were more people around my age on the road. I find being younger than other motorhomers, they tend not to talk to me.

"That can make things a bit lonely, particularly when you’re staying somewhere like Niagara in the Catlins. With no internet or phone coverage, that was my least favourite campground.

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Abby surveys her new surroundings from her home on wheels

"Saying that, you can’t categorise camping in New Zealand. What is happening in one campground is definitely not happening 20km up the road. I’ve been to Slope Point and found 75 ‘sliders’ parked there and they have all been friendly. You can’t predict anything.

"It’s easier to upgrade your vehicle than your house. I would encourage anyone to try this lifestyle. Who knows, it may work for you too." 

‘I’ve no plans to stop’ - Karen Nisbet

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Karen has been living on the road since 2016

Karen Nisbet, 36, has been motorhoming full-time since 2016, working and travelling in her UK caravan.

 "I’ve worked as a graphic designer for over 10 years and have been freelancing since I started caravanning. I’ve started earning with my TravellingK brand too, mainly through Patreon,  where people who like my YouTube videos can contribute monthly.

"I also earn a tiny amount through YouTube ads, selling photos on Shutterstock and selling branded merchandise.

"Originally I was saving for a house, but when I realised that wasn’t going to happen I started looking into other options and purchased a second-hand caravan.

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Another day on the road for Karen, this time in Gisborne

"It makes a comfortable, affordable home and gives me the flexibility to move around easily. The original plan was to find somewhere nice to base myself, but I’m enjoying travelling so much, I have no plans to stop!"

Being a younger motorhomer, as well as a female travelling solo, Karen finds other motorhomers act differently towards her at times.

"I’ve had a few older members assume I need help because I’m a younger female on my own, but I soon show my competence.

"I’m always learning new skills. I can’t believe how much I’ve learnt about maintaining the caravan and giving things a go when something breaks.

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Karen at the top of Mount Bruce

"I get a few surprised faces when I first turn up for campground group drinks, but people are welcoming, and soon I’m in the thick of things talking about motorhoming issues.

"I’m currently at a campground with a great community, which never happened when I lived in a city. I’m the youngest by far, but made to feel welcome.

"Because my expenses have dropped, I’m able to work part-time and have the time to focus on my ‘passion project’ – TravellingK. I don’t think I’d have progressed this far if I was still living in Auckland."

As for recommending this lifestyle to others? Karen’s advice is simple. "Don’t overthink it – just do it!" Before hitting the road in 2016, the only thing we knew about motorhoming was it was something retired people did, and living in a van was for hippies.

Despite being neither, we jumped in. Of course, once our travels got underway, we realised we were far from alone in being ‘different’. More and more Kiwis in their 20s, 30s and 40s are taking to the road full-time. Here are some of them.

‘It's helped me evalutate what's important’ -  Gareth Scurr

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Perks of the job. Gareth at a recent music festival

At 23, Gareth Scurr is possibly New Zealand’s youngest full-time motorhomer, but is far from new to life on the road. It’s a lifestyle that has not only enabled him to travel the country from end to end, but has also resulted in a new career, as a professional photographer and film-maker.

"I’m not your typical motorhomer," he readily admits. "If it wasn’t for people recognising me from MCD, people would just assume I was a European camper. Most people are nice, but others still snub me because of my age and appearance.

"Initially we wanted to buy land but didn’t know where we wanted to be, so it was the cheapest way to live and get around while experiencing something new.

"Now, we wouldn’t live any other way. I like the simplicity and nomadic nature. It’s more in touch with how we once were, migrating seasonally with our homes, rather than never leaving them.

"Saying that, sometimes it’d be nice to have a base which is just our own. Other motorhomers often assume we’re on holiday too, and don’t realise we have work to do!

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Today food, tomorrow landscapes, it’s all in a day’s work for Gareth

"I can never imagine going back to a house. At times when we have house-sat it’s felt quite unnatural to be in that situation. There’s just too much room! "While motorhoming isn’t common for people my age, I think more should try it.

"You can understand how little you require to live. It’s allowed me to see I don’t need a full house, it’s not a goal I wish to aspire to any more. It’s helped me evaluate what I want more in my life."

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Gareth hard at work

People to watch

There may be considerably fewer of them than the usual age demographic, but young motorhomers are out there doing all kinds of good things. Check out these – and be sure to say hello if you see them on the road!

  • TravellingK: Karen has been sharing her informative motorhoming blogs and videos since the start of her travels. There’s something for everyone and plenty of things to learn. You can keep up with her adventures every week at:

- travellingk.com
- youtube.com/travellingk
- facebook.com/travellingk

  • Nomad Visions: For Gareth, photography and film-making is almost a full-time job. See New Zealand through the eyes of a young traveller with his breathtaking images at facebook.com/NomadvisionsNZ. You can also check out his comprehensive motorhome tutorials on YouTube by searching ‘Southern Campers’.
  • Young RVing Kiwis: This Facebook group is aimed at motorhomers in New Zealand who are under 50 and working to keep the lifestyle going. It’s also open to people considering this lifestyle and wanting to find out more. With home ownership becoming more elusive than ever, more young Kiwis are looking to a mobile lifestyle. Friendly and supportive, they’re easy to find on Facebook. So why not join in!
  • Tiny House & Alternative Living Conference: Young full-time motorhomer Sharla May is a human dynamo when it comes to all things tiny living. With the conference in its third year and growing, you never know when one will pop up near you.

For more information on upcoming events, visit tinyhouseconference.nz.

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