Breaking Free: Meet Jan & Chris

Photography by: IMAGES SUPPLIED


After travelling extensively by RV overseas, Jan and Chris Lawrance realised that going back to a house wasn’t for them. They tell MCD editor Claire Smith about the highs and lows of living permanently on the road

A visit to the Northland township of Whangmomona
A visit to the North Island township of Whangamomona

Chris and Jan Lawrance have been travelling by motorhome for long stretches of time for many years. They purchased their latest RV, a 7.6-metre 2013 Auto-Trail Tracker, known as Howie 2, in Europe in 2017.

"Chris had been racing his sidecar at the TT races on the Isle of Man, and once that was over we spent five months tiki-touring around France and Great Britain before we shipped Howie 2 home.

A permanent holiday

While they were travelling overseas , the couple had been renting out their home. "We came home in October 2017, did some travelling in New Zealand and then in March 2018, we went back home and worked part-time for a year before deciding we didn’t like this working lifestyle!"

So in April 2019, they decided to rent the house out again and hit the road, and that’s where they’ve been ever since.

"We love the freedom of living in a motorhome and only having to work if we want to. We live on our rent money, which is not a lot, but on the whole we are doing okay. We worked for eight weeks or so at a campground at Lake Benmore last summer, which we really enjoyed.

"Living in a RV means getting used to living with not much stuff, reducing the size of your wardrobe and finding homes for the stuff you want to keep but not take with you. If and when we go into a house again, we will have to get some new furniture, but it’s amazing how little you actually need to live comfortably."

motorhome life on the road nz
Relaxing with friends

The challenges

Jan says one of the things she misses most is having space, and seeing her grandchildren and family. 

"However, if I lived in my house I would have to work so I wouldn’t get to see my grandkids much anyway," she says. "We do go back to Auckland every so often to catch up and babysit.

"Lately my mother has required some support and extra help, so it can be tricky when you’re away from family and they need you."

life on the road Chris and jan grandson
Grandson Alex is all smiles when he joins Chris and Jan on their travels

Living in an RV over winter throws up extra issues too.

"I don’t like being cold so we are extra careful with our batteries and monitor the levels in the gas bottles closely. We probably spend more money on campgrounds in winter so we can power up our batteries. We have solar so in summer it’s never an issue."

Deciding where to stay overnight can be a challenge. "There are so many places to visit in New Zealand, so the big decision is where are we going to park up for the night. Most of the time we just wing it, and that has worked out pretty well so far. We often change our mind on the day, but that’s the advantage of living in a RV – you always have your home with you!"

While health issues can be a big concern for anyone living away from home, Chris and Jan haven’t let this stop them. Chris has had a kidney transplant and a heart valve replacement, so he has a renal appointment every three months, plus monthly blood tests.

"The renal team that Chris sees are really good, and there are times where they do a phone consult, arrange for him to have a consult at another hospital, or agree to wait for another three months. Chris is very much on top of managing his medicines and the renal team is just a phone call away."

Life on the road Chris and Jan Autotrail
Chris and Jan with their Auto-Trail

It's all about choice

Breaking free from the routine of everyday life is what life on the road is all about for Chris and Jan.

"We can change our plans easily, we have a different view every day if we want to, we can choose what we want to do in a day. We’ve had lots of amazing experiences – free camping beside Lake Wakatipu, New Year’s Eve with good friends at Simpsons Beach, exploring the MacKenzie District when we were working at Lake Benmore; the list could go on and on.

"You do have to change the way you live your life in a motorhome; it’s not for everyone. It’s very relaxed, most of the time, and we have certainly enjoyed our cruisey lifestyle. We often say to each other that we don’t have time to work, we are too busy living life!"

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