Changing our lives has been rewarding yet also very challenging. There have been so many hurdles in the way that it could have been easy to just give up and quit. Then go back to what we know as familiar, solid or certain. Achieving anything that is easy, however, would never leave us with the same sweet taste of satisfaction. At least not the same as it does when you commit to something that puts you out of your comfort zone. If we have to knuckle down, ride out some tough periods, think on our feet and keep forging ahead, then when it comes time to reflect, we can do so with smiles on our faces.
This was not an ideal situation by any means. But one which has been born out of necessity than anything else. By moving into the bus as soon as we could, we could start saving precious money that we were spending on rent. We could then spend these savings on the bus. It is so liberating to actually own a home of your own rather than renting a space that you always feel is never quite yours. However, moving into a half-finished project is quite a sacrifice of comfort. In any normal time of our lives this might not have been too hard. However, the timing of our shift into the bus had Vaida at 5 months pregnant!
Right at a time in her life when she was wanting to nest, have everything nice and ordered, clean and comfortable, we packed up our things and moved into a half-finished project and parked ourselves on a vacant lot of farm land. This was a big sacrifice and in hind sight could have been a mistake. However, at the crux of this story is how sometimes you need to make significant sacrifices to make long lasting changes in your life.
If you talk to any successful person, they will have countless stories about how they had to give up on things in order to reach their goals.
I’d have loved to be pouring all my human capital into learning about all the stages and nuances of pregnancy. Really being connected and focused on the changes in Vaida, and tending to her needs physically and emotionally. Or most importantly – just be resting, relaxing and waiting for our arrival. However, a lot of my focus had to be turned into building our home. And although, I did the best I could to balance both situations, we both had to make some compromises in this situation.
However, at the crux of this story is how sometimes you need to make significant sacrifices to make long lasting changes in your life.
I think this can be viewed in two ways. The first way is that achieving something through hard work is more satisfying than just being given what you want. The second is that don’t sacrifice too much to get what you want. Some sacrifices aren’t worth the ends that you seek. Think of Donald Trump. He is morally bankrupt but largely successful using standard measures. It’s important to find a balance of what you are willing to give up to achieve your goals. We made sacrifices in comfort at a time when comfort is most wanted. And we will always remember this as we reflect on this part of our lives.
When we first purchased the bus in May of 2018, we were renting a house in Margaret River. The lease on that house was due to expire in November of that same year. And hence that was our build timeframe before we move in. What we didn’t know at the time of purchase was that Oliver was going to be conceived one month later. This was going to wipe Vaida out completely. She was very nauseous and tired growing our little human. Yet this reduced our human capital for bus work by half.
Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get there. Dalai Lama
In the months of September, October and November, I basically worked on the bus every waking hour. Except for when I was at work. It was a gruelling time. Every Monday at 4:30am I would drive 300km to Perth and work in the city as a consultant. I would work Monday to Wednesday wearing my business attire, and sitting at my desk in the open plan office for 8-9 hrs.
I would stay at my mum’s house for Monday and Tuesday night, while Vaida stayed in Margaret River. Wednesday evenings, I would finish work and drive the 300km home generally returning at 8:30-9pm. Bleary eyed but with a smile on my face to see Vaida. Thursday I would be up early and graft away on the bus until about 9-10pm at night. And repeat that each day until Monday would rear its ugly head and it would all start again.
The only shining light during this time was my brother Callam. He moved in with us for couple of months, and helped out with the build. His help was invaluable and we will be forever grateful for his time in helping us out. Even with his help, this period of work resulted in some major sacrifices….
We had friends from overseas and interstate, or family member in town, and we basically couldn’t catch up with them. The bus build timeframe was so tight that every hour was essential and could not be spared. It’s at these times that things can get really hard. A half-finished project. Letting people down. It can all really weigh on your soul. As hard as it is, reassurance that it’s not forever is what got us through.
Surfing, diving, exercising and bush walking were all put on hold. Even walking the dog became a challenge and Boris had to make sacrifices with the rest of us.
It’s fair to say this was the hardest sacrifice for Vaida. She was pregnant, often very tired and uncomfortable. With her body changing significantly – simple things such as showering, sleeping, getting in and out of bed, putting on shoes became quite challenging, often even frustrating. So not having a comfort of your home made life even harder. It probably was a combination of a lot of things going in our lives at that time, but clearly living in unfinished bus didn’t help.
It took a toll on her mental health too, which was something we had to put first and focus on. Hence why we often dropped the tools and spent our days in nature rather than working on a bus.
In a perfect world it would have been good to know how long the conversion will take us as that has challenged both of our patience. I guess this has been the biggest takeaway from the overall experience and the greatest lesson: to not sacrifice the comfort as much and think it all through, especially when you are having two big projects at a time. In our case it was Oliver and bus.
Every cent that we made was getting tipped into our project. We could have easily been spending this money on winery dinners and holidays to Bali. But we know that if we are to make genuine long-term change, we needed to finish what we started. We saw it all as an investment into a future holiday from our old lifestyles. A permanent holiday that was more aligned with what we valued in life.
You see, building the bus is what has allowed both of us to work 100% online. Because our expenses are so much lower now that our income can be lower. If you think about it, the cost of renting a house is generally about $450 per week (that’s what we were paying anyway). Over the course of a year that equates to a savings of $23,400 right back in our pockets. Best pay rise ever! But we had to work bloody hard to get that pay rise.
We saw it all as an investment into a future holiday from our old lifestyles. A permanent holiday that was more aligned with what we valued in life.
Because at the heart of making change and the difficulty of making sacrifices are the habits that we hold onto.
Change management is a whole career path in the business world, entire books are devoted to this subject, because we as humans really don’t like it. We like routine and certainty. Think about a full-time permanent job. What everyone aspires to. You work 40 hrs a week, usually with unpaid overtime. Then get 4 weeks leave a year, half of which is usually forced at Christmas time wether you like it or not.
Then you spend more time with your work colleagues than with your friends and family, all while doing jobs that most people don’t like. In fact, 30% of people say that if they didn’t turn up to work it wouldn’t matter. In other words, they aren’t doing any work while at work. My point is that we put up with all of this just because we like the certainty of a job, the routine of daily work and consistent money.
There is an aptly named book called “The power of habits” by Charles Duhigg, which has a great analogy to explain why habits are so rusted onto us. It goes like this…When we are born, our brain is like a hill covered in a thick crisp blanket of fresh snow. It’s a clean slate. Each thought we have is like a skier heading down the slope, which leaves a little track. The more times we have a thought, the track in the snow gets deeper and deeper allowing us to move much faster down the slope, but it gets much harder to jump out of the track once we have started.
It’s a clean slate. Each thought we have is like a skier heading down the slope, which leaves a little track. The more times we have a thought, the track in the snow gets deeper and deeper allowing us to move much faster down the slope, but it gets much harder to jump out of the track once we have started. This is just like habits. We build our habits slowly over time, but each time our brain uses a neural track, that track becomes faster and stronger. This is great for efficiency, as it allows us to complete simple tasks without thinking. The downside is that once a habit is triggered it gets very hard to stop and try a different path. Remembering this was the key to making change and was the key to how we got to where we are.
All the things we did on auto pilot once upon a time had to be modified. But the drive for lasting change is what got us through. The final and largest sacrifice we had to make was our relationship. All of the hard work and focus on our changes meant we had less time and energy to put into each other.
This was particularly difficult as Vaida was pregnant and this amazing time of growing a human was filled full of stress and hard work. It meant that I couldn’t spend as much time reading and learning about all the changes in Vaida’s body. Or focusing on how to be a great parent. I was away working almost half the time, or had my head buried in the tool on the bus.
If our relationship was like a wooden ship, and the bus project was like a storm battering us, then what you could hear was the creak of wooden boards. We were contorting and bending, but we held our course.
And in the end – a sacrifice often turns into a benefit or a positive over time. You just can’t give up.
And all the creaking of the boat was the necessary noise to release friction so we could continue to make headway. We held strong and its made us better people with a better connection with each other.
The biggest bonus of all is that we broke the back of those pesky habits and have changed our lives for the better. Yes, it took sacrifices, but they were all worth it. And in the end – a sacrifice often turns into a benefit or a positive over time. You just can’t give up.