Another spanner in the works

We just got an email saying delivery of the campervan will be delayed.

Lack of silicon chips. Shortage of container ships. Australia at the bottom of the market list. Whatever the cause, the impact is the same.

Our campervan won’t be ready until May (if you believe the van will even arrive in Australia in May).

We have to decide: do we cancel our order and get our deposit back? Or do we hang on and hope it won’t be delayed past July?

If we cancel, we can hire campervans at a much cheaper rate. But we won’t have future years of long weekends and road trips. And we will save quite a bit of money in the short term.

If we wait, we can still hire a campervan for April to drive around Victoria. And then get delivery after our Fiji trip, to drive up to the top of Queensland.

It’s not just 2022. I am thinking of beyond next year.

Dilemmas. Dilemmas.

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Freedom Day

I didn’t like the trend of calling the lifting of some Covid restrictions, Freedom Day.

It seemed to conflate the Covid safety controls with war-time restrictions. And we weren’t really free anyway. Still couldn’t go into interstate and overseas, let alone leave Sydney.

But now I’ve co-opted the term for something more trivial. My freedom from work. The start of my Adult Gap Year.

The thought of not having to address artificially imposed growth targets for standardised testing, not having to deal with mental staff, not having to deal with angry/crazy parents, and not having to deal with double-speak & marketing-focused bureaucracy. Now that’s freedom.

So how long to Freedom Day?

Six weeks and four days.

To the top!

I’ve always wanted to go to the very top of the east coast of Australia- Cape York.

It’s a different world. Communities are cut off in the wet as roads become impassable.

And I’ve always wanted to go to Thursday Island. It sounds like an island from an adventure book.

So now I’ve booked another tour on our Adult Gap Year.

Starting at Cairns, we’ll travel in a 4-wheeled drive bus up the Cape and over to the Gulf. Then ferry to Thursday and Hope Islands. Finally, fly back to Cairns.

Unbelievably, well I found it unbelievable, many of 2022 trips are already booked out. One tour operator has 2023 trips open! Who knows that far in advance what they’ll be doing!

The season is short – impassable roads and horribly hot and humid weather and storms make The Wet a no go. Still, I’m glad I didn’t leave it much longer to book.

Fingers crossed on the campervan coming! I’m planning on driving to Cairns via the inland route snd rhen home down the coast before summer holidays for schools kick in.

Do you have anything booked?

This year, we were meant to go on a cruise with friends for their 40th wedding anniversary. [If it sounds a bit strange to accompany friends on their wedding anniversary (no, we’re not swingers), know that they’re great friends, we went on a cruise together a couple of years ago, Mr S has known them most of his life and he was in their bridal party, straight after they finished high school. Our last cruise together was great- we don’t live in each other’s pocket – have breakfast together, do our own thing during the day and catch up at dinner.]

Anyway, this cruise was meant to take place during our year off. As in this year! My plan was we’d go to the UK, spend May, June and July there, fly home straight after the summer equinox and hop over to Fiji for our small boat cruise. Then Mr S would ski for a few weeks while I pottered around. Then we’d drive north to the top of Australia.

But COVID, postponed year off and all that.

We moved the dates. And moved the dates. And just now, with the Australian governments announcement that we are “allowed out”, we’ve booked dates for next year.

As soon as the fortress was open, our friends looked up flight deals.

So now we have a holiday planned in our year off. Three nights in a resort, a seven day cruise, and finishing with five nights at another resort.

Although we’re not going until July-August next year, there’s a real buzz in having things to look forward to. The planning. The anticipation. The future.

Of course, things can change. A new variant! But for now, we’re happy and our Adult Gap Year is taking structure.

Bula.

How long will you stay after your gap year?

This is in the top three questions asked by colleagues after:

  1. When is your year off?
  2. What are you doing?

Yesterday I had a conversation with a colleague on the same level as me. She asked questions numbers 1 through to 3, with the large part of the discussion at number 3.

We are roughly the same age. I asked her how long she’s “staying”. She said, “If next year’s like this one, two years. If it isn’t then around 5.”

Ah, there’s the rub. I need this year off. It’s not like my post uni gap year. That was adventure and finding independence. This gap year is about restoring.

Restoring my mind.

Restoring my spirit.

Restoring my purpose.

To not always be thinking about work: problems and solutions. To not spend 8 to 9 hours at work, with minimal break times or working while eating, and come home to answer emails and think about more work issues. To not be too exhausted to do much else. To look forward to the weekend for some rest.

Last night I had a nightmare. About a lovely staff member who was so affected by work that after 15 years of service, she quit. Burnt out, exhausted and mentally ill. A loved and lovely teacher. An amazing teacher who got great results. A beautiful person. I tear up thinking about her.

So how long do I have after I come back?

It depends on a lot of things. Cost of renovations that will come the year after our year off. How much the job shits me. My health.

Roughly, I think it will be 5 to 7 years.

How should we be paid?

During our Adult Gap Year, can elect to be paid in one of three ways:

  • In one lump sum
  • In two lump sums, six months apart
  • Fortnightly, as our pay usually comes in

One lump sum, would allow us to pay off our mortgage – and then we’d have nothing to eat. Lol. We could control the funds and earn the interest. The reality is interest rates are so low, we’d earn nothing. So that makes it pointless. It won’t affect our tax, as we’ve already paid tax on the income.

We don’t need a big sum to pay for our planned travels, except the campervan but we have that covered in other ways.

The real question is: as fortnightly wage earners all our lives, are we ready to self manage? I know we wouldn’t go overboard. We are not going to blow the amount on some luxury. In fact we don’t see this as a windfall – it’s our year’s pay.

Two lump sums: half the amount is attractive. We could pay some big bills with the campervan with the first lump sum and know there’s more coming in six months.

Fortnightly pay: this will make it more like our regular pay and budgeting approach. I use the term budgeting loosely – we live within our means but don’t really track or budget, except to save for big things we want or need.

Our regular bills are monthly (mortgage and insurance), quarterly (water rates and utilities), yearly (land rates and car registration) or weekly (food). With or without travel, these things will remain largely unchanged.

Regular pay helps with our cash flow budgeting.

So which would you choose to be paid?

How much have we saved

Saving for the adult gap year is enforced. Once we signed up, and the first year of the program commenced, we had no choice. The money is taken out by our employer and put in a bank account we are not able to operate.

Mr S was nervous that we wouldn’t be able to live on 80% of our salary. I knew we’d be fine – we were doing OK before we got promotions. Mr S wasn’t convinced – but then he doesn’t like any change.

For four years – 2017 to 2020 – twenty per cent of our after tax salary was taken out.

We were fine. We were more than fine. We still paid our mortgage, travelled to France and Germany and the US (three separate trips), Mr S had his annual ski trip, we went on road trips, we frittered away money on eating out, alcohol and clothes.

For the whole of 2021, our gap year money has been sitting there, waiting for our adult gap year.

Enough to continue to pay our mortgage which we will increase to cover the campervan, to travel around Oz, to allow Mr S to have his annual ski trip, and to fritter away money in eating out and alcohol. (Not clothes – I plan on not buying any in 2022.)

How much, you ask?

Between the two of us, we have the tidy sum of over $160,000. Mr S has been tempted to cancel the year off and pay off the mortgage. Me, not so tempted.

Have I told you lately I have next year off?

I can face a lot of the shit at work because I’m having next year off. And with only one term of this school year left, the year off is getting closer.

While we are back in lockdown and can’t currently travel across our city, let alone to other states, with vaccination rates increasing, it looks likely that we will be able to travel out of our state next year.

Our Prime Minister is promising we’ll be allowed out of our island prison. Soon.

Up till now, we haven’t planned anything. There didn’t seem any point. Stay at home orders and closed borders made it pointless.

But now we are being tempted with promises of things opening up, it may be time to start planning.

The plan involves going no where in January. Why would we face the traffic of school holidays? We’ll be free of kids and families and higher prices.

We have a trip to Fiji in July around which we will fit our local travel plans. Fiji? Yes, I know. I will let you know about the trip in a future post.

Mr S wants to ski at his favourite ski resort in August. I will probably spend that time at my parents.

In March and April, we will go down the south coast, to Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road, Mt Gambier and home along the Murray.

In September and October, the plan is drive north to the top of Queensland and back down on the inland road.

Fingers crossed, our campervan will be ready.

My gap year in Fortress Australia

Our government says they will not open the borders until mid 2022, if that.

With our year off starting in January, what should we do?

That’s a rhetorical question as I’ve already decided.

A few weeks ago I convinced Mr S to go with me to the Camping Caravaning Show.

I’d almost made my mind up before hand. But Mr S knew he had no hope of convincing me otherwise when he saw my eyes light up.

What made them sparkle so?

The modern combi.

A VW Transporter, with internal setup done in Australia.

Mr S wouldn’t let me sign them and there. But, wise one that he is, he asked how long for orders to be delivered m. Clever man! Of course we no longer make cars in Australia. (No political rant here but geez, we’ve sent so much off shore.)

So if we order NOW, delivery is anticipated to be February 2022.

Better get a move on then!

I had looked up second hand campers. As no one can leave Australia, campers and RVs are holding value. Everyone wants to hit the road. Second hand wasn’t much cheaper than brand new.

So within a week I had ordered my new campervan.

Time to start planning the road trip.

Not yet, Lucinda

This was to be my year off. My adult gap year. My year of pottering. Of gardening. Of exploring the far north coast of Queensland. Of pootling around the UK. Of reading. Learning German.

With two weeks left of Term 1, and with all that has happened around the globe, it is hard to fathom that I had planned to be in England right now.

Will we be allowed to leave Australia this time next year? Our borders are tight – except for the really wealthy or powerful.

In the meantime, I feel this is my fourth year of working before the year off. Last year was such a whirlwind, it doesn’t count.

This year’s preparation, in lieu of booking flights and accommodation, I will prepare by:

Decluttering

Who doesn’t like some decluttering?

My goal is to “wear out” some office shoes and dresses and a couple of handbags.

Here’s a bag of clothes I am letting friends look through before taking to the op shop.

My target (like the segue from the photo?) is to have a much paired down wardrobe.