Jackie's Journey: Reflecting on 2020 so far

By: Jackie Norman, Photography by: JACKIE NORMAN / GARETH SCURR

Jackie Norman sold her home in 2016, bought a motorhome and embarked on full-time life on the road with husband Gareth. In this issue Jackie reflects on the rewards and challenges of the year so far

The Banks Peninsula is stunning.jp
The Banks Peninsula is stunning

It’s been a strange old year. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in 2020, it’s to try not to plan anything, as you never know when the rug is going to get pulled out from under you and hurl everything into chaos. But that’s okay; change is good. When you’re a nomad, your whole life is one of constant change. You can either panic, or go with the flow and have faith the universe will provide. There may have been a few places we didn’t get to visit, goals we didn’t manage to achieve, and things we didn’t get to tick off our wishlist, but so many other doors opened instead. New adventures, new regions and countless blessings we could never have imagined. When times get tough, it’s these blessings I remember and they fill me with joy and hope.

A bump in the road

As I write this, I’ve been in bed for three weeks with pneumonia. Which is doing pretty well considering before that I was in bed for another three weeks. It’s been the way pretty much since March, to be honest. I got diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and for some reason my body doesn’t want to behave right now. For the first time, the prospect of travelling has been hard; it can be scary, overwhelming. But as soon as I climb into the passenger seat of our trusty van and turn around to see all the familiar things which have made it our home for so long, it’s as though we haven’t been out of it at all. Everything is exciting and new once again. When you haven’t been beyond four walls in a long time, even something as small as stopping in Waipukurau for an ice cream is an adventure. However, even on the days I’m immobile, I still get to travel and dream, thanks to my journal.

The views from Godley Head campsite are outstanding.jpg
The views from Godley Head campsite are outstanding

Precious memories

At the start of 2020 I began keeping a gratitude journal. Every day I would aim to write down three things I was grateful for, but before long I found myself able to fill up whole pages. The year started with such promise; we were travelling constantly and life couldn’t have been any simpler, or better. When I fell ill though, I stopped writing in it as much, and by the end of April, I didn’t write at all. It wasn’t that I wasn’t grateful any more; quite the opposite. I just never got around to it. I never imagined how important my daily ramblings would become until I picked it up the other day and began flicking through the pages. I smiled and chuckled again and again as I recalled the memories and feelings they evoked.

Our idyllic camping spot at Godley Head (1).jpg
Our idyllic camping spot at Godley Head

Reliving the magic

My journal took me back to scorching January days in Marlborough, reading on a blanket on the grass. It reminded me of the many people we met out and about, and how glad we were to have encountered them. The glorious wild flowers along the Taylor River in Blenheim and the golden vastness of the Wither Hills. Going foraging for wild foods to add to our summer salads. Watching the seals at Kaikōura. Cooking dinner under a shady tree at Godley Head campground, looking straight out at the ocean. Taking an evening walk and exploring the bunkers at the battery site there. The beautiful sunset which greeted us as we arrived at Chamberlains Ford. How the bed in our van is the comfiest bed in the whole world and we sleep better there than anywhere else, tucked up in our little cocoon. Lunch with friends in the bush on the Banks Peninsula. Delivering the mail by boat in Queen Charlotte Sound. Reliving that special day, I could still feel the wind in my hair on the top deck and remember how it felt to stand at the edge of Ship Cove, in perfect solitude, looking out at the entrance to Cook Strait. Browsing the Riccarton Sunday Market and enjoying a picnic in the park. Tucking into the surprisingly delicious campground curry Gareth made, even though it was bright pink! Sipping on the equally pink rosé which accompanied it. I’m never more relaxed than when I’m freedom camping; it’s the best feeling. Hunting in vain for The Wizard in Christchurch’s Cathedral Square. Hiking from Rarangi to Whites Bay and cooling off in the sea. The fun we had camping next to Colin and Mara at 90-year-old Reta Tuckerman’s POP at Dillons Point. Our dear friends from our very first freedom camp four years ago – it was as though we hadn’t been apart.

Blenheim walks
So nice to have the time to appreciate the small things

So many wonderful memories and thousands of kilometres covered in just the first few months of the year. I was so glad to have written them down; if I hadn’t, they would all have been long forgotten. Just reading them gives me itchy feet and reminds me why we choose to live the way we do, even when the going gets a little rough.

Travelling vicariously

We have a lot of travel lined up for the rest of this year and well into the next, health and Covid permitting.

Until then, I’m enjoying travelling vicariously through the Facebook photos and stories of the many friends we have met on the road. It really whets my appetite and makes me impatient to get out there.

It has also been great seeing so many domestic travel articles in the media, showcasing this beautiful country of ours and encouraging New Zealanders to go and explore. There’s something very rewarding about seeing all those places and saying ‘Been there. Been there. Been there too!’ It just goes to show how much we have achieved in four years of travel. Best of all, we still have many more years ahead of us and so much more to see.

We may have had to slow our pace a little, but we’ll get back out there. 

It was wonderful to be reunited with Colin and Mara again!.jpg
It was wonderful to be reunited with Colin and Mara


  • Awaroa/Godley Head campsite, Sumner, Christchurch – This campground is nothing short of breathtaking. Operated by DOC, it has a manager on site, as well as everything you could possibly need. An absolute must-stay. For more information, visit doc.govt.nz.
  • Chamberlains Ford Reserve, Leeston – This is hands down the best free campground we have come across. Well done Selwyn District Council. Great facilities, location and people.
  • Rarangi campsite, Blenheim – Another DOC gem, this is another lovely place to get away from it all. Heaps of space and peace, right on the beach, with plenty of gorgeous walks nearby.
  • Reta Tuckerman’s POP, Blenheim – NZMCA members are guaranteed the warmest of welcomes at Reta’s park-over property at Dillons Point. For more information, check the NZMCA travel guide or app.
  • Mailboat Cruise, Queen Charlotte Sound – This spectacular half-day cruise will stay with me forever. There’s no better way to see the Sounds. For more information, visit beachcombercruises.co.nz.

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