I have always dreamed of living in a house truck or bus. From the age of six to ten, my mum, sister and I, along with our cat and dog, lived in an old 1949 Ford bus. It didn’t drive much anymore, and it was parked in an old cow shed on my mum's friend’s land. I loved our time there, and ever since, I have dreamed of going back to a home like that.
I feel comfortable in a small space. I dabbled in house truck living for a couple of years when my older daughter (now 21) was 8. We rented an old house bus that was built into a hillside on those same friends’ land.
The rest of my life, I have moved from rental to rental, never staying in one place for more than 2-3 years at a time. Until 2020.
My oldest daughter was 18, we were renting a little house we loved, and I was expecting a new baby. When the pandemic hit, we lost our house as the landlord wanted to move back in.
I came out of that house, paying $230 a week rent into a market in which a house cost $600 per week and I was about to go on maternity leave. Even if I’d had the money, which I didn't, I couldn't find a house to rent. There were just not enough houses for the amount of people searching. For the first time in my life as a renter, I was shut out of the market.
So I removed myself from it. I took out a loan, while I still had a full income and they would still give me
one, and went looking for a home online. I fell in love with my beautiful truck through photos, unable to see it in person due to travel restrictions and lockdowns.
I took a leap of faith.
Having just done 18 years of parenting, and looking towards the next 18, I thought I'd do something for me. I wanted to stop talking about it and make my ‘one day’ happen now. As a low income earner, home ownership was financially out of reach for me but I wanted to have something of my own.
You could say I'm living my dream. Or you could say I’m creatively avoiding homelessness.
Passionfruit is a humble little truck. She was cheap and came with a very basic set up. But I saw a blank canvas that I could make my own and call home. I wanted to provide a stable home for my youngest daughter (now 2 and a half), that could come with us whenever we had to move. I moved in with mum for a while to have my baby, and we have been living in it permanently since she was one.
My whole set up is removable and lifts up. I attach nothing to the ground so I can up and move to the next bit of land when I need to. I am now a renter of land, and my home can come with me. I have just started to create a potted garden, so now I can take that with me too.
I have everything I need. At a very basic level. Water and power have been the biggest challenges.
Hard to live without either of them, obviously. Initially my truck's power source were the batteries which run the engine. While this worked for a while, the batteries eventually wore out and I wanted to separate the house power from the engine batteries, to preserve them.
After researching how to set up solar panels, I worked it out. I was lucky to score a free deep cycle battery, and some cheap second hand solar panels. Along with a battery box/cover that allows you to plug USB into the battery, and a bit of help from a friend to connect them together and put them on my roof, I was away.
Not having any appliances,
it's a perfect set up. All I need to do is charge my devices, and some USB lights. You very quickly realise what you don't need with this lifestyle, and appliances were the first to go. I do miss having a blender though, so a USB rechargeable blender is next on my wishlist.
The composting toilet system is a work in progress and I am trialling my first system now. While the concept of composting toileting waste is hard for people to get their heads around, I think it's all mind over matter. We currently have an “if you can't see it, it doesn't exist” attitude when it comes to our waste. I liken it to putting rubbish out on the kerbside. It goes in the plastic bag to be taken away by the truck and that's it. Like magic, it seemingly doesn't exist anymore. When we see the dump with our own eyes we know this isn't true.
It’s the same with toilets. Flush it away and it's gone. Easy! I find it strange that people are okay with mixing our waste with chemicals and pumping it into the ocean, or the issues around waste flooding homes when there’s a lot of rain, but can’t get their head around our waste turning back into soil that's good for the earth.
Initially I bought my truck because I wanted a home to call my own, but more and more it has become about living consciously and sustainably, with the earth, and off the grid. I have always been a subtle environmentalist, but living like this has allowed the passion to really take flight in me. I want my life and home to have as little impact on the earth as possible.
And I'm getting there. If I had 10 times more money, I would reach my off grid dream more quickly. But as it is, I am slowly creating it piece by piece, as finances, energy and abilities allow. I'm not in a hurry, and there's a certain pride that comes with creating this life from scratch.
My life is lived on a blurred line somewhere between camping and glamping. It's not quite glamorous, but not quite roughing it. It is by no means perfect or easy. Everything I do involves at least one extra step.
Instead of filling the jug from the tap and putting the kettle on, I fill the kettle from a container of collected and filtered water, and then put the kettle on. Instead of turning on the shower, I switch my gas bottle over, connect the submersible pump, and then have a shower.
Maybe eventually I will have those extra steps eliminated while still being off grid. But I kinda like working to live. Everything is that wee bit more satisfying when you've worked for it.
I wouldn't change it for the world. Building and creating my own home, and holding myself to account for its footprint on the earth, is worth the extra effort.
Words by Emma Photographs by Thomas Teutenberg