Couple who quit jobs to adopt ‘minimalist life’ with kids in a van reveal benefits and ‘biggest struggle’

Couple who quit jobs to adopt ‘minimalist life’ with kids in a van reveal benefits and ‘biggest struggle’
  • PublishedOctober 8, 2023

From how they make ends meet, to what day-to-day life is like, Kirianna and Lockie tell all.

flight attendant and her pilot husband have detailed how they ditched their bustling jobs in the sky for a simpler life on the road – raising their three children in a caravan.

Kirianna Poole, 36, and her husband Lockie, 37, have been living in a cosy caravan towed behind their humble 1962 Volkswagen Kombi – dubbed Izzie – with their kids Riley, seven, Alba, four, and Elsie, one.

The minimalist family has clocked about 70,000km after driving a full lap of Australia – twice.

“We saw an opportunity to pack up our house, put everything in storage and build our own tiny home on wheels to experience a minimalist lifestyle on the road,” Kirianna tells 7Life.

“We wanted to get away from new-age distractions and see the world at our own pace.”

The minimalist family has clocked about 70,000km after driving a full lap of Australia – twice.

“We saw an opportunity to pack up our house, put everything in storage and build our own tiny home on wheels to experience a minimalist lifestyle on the road,” Kirianna tells 7Life.

“We wanted to get away from new-age distractions and see the world at our own pace.”

And the family has been on the road since, exploring all the beautiful places Australia has to offer.

“It hasn’t always been easy, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Long before starting a family, Kirianna, from New Zealand, and her Aussie husband Lockie were leading fast-paced lives at 35,000 feet in the air.

“We met at work as we both flew for the same airline,” she says.

With a leap of faith, the seasoned travellers moved from New Zealand to Tokyo in 2013 after Lockie was offered a pilot role for a Japanese airline.

“While the career move was already amazing, we decided early on that this would be a time to immerse ourselves in the world,” Kirianna says.

The family has clocked about 70,000km driving a full lap of Australia - twice.
The family has clocked about 70,000km driving a full lap of Australia – twice. Credit: @wearelemamaphotography

The birth of their son in 2016 didn’t stop the new parents from travelling the globe over the next 12 months.

“After Riley was born, we travelled extensively, visiting 37 countries by the time he was just one,” the mum says.

“But Australia was always calling us back, and we knew we wanted to do a lap of the country.

“It was a dream come true when we finally bought our own Kombi and started preparing for our journey in 2017.”

The family-of-three completed the first lap of Australia in 2018.

Kirianna was working as a flight attendant when she met pilot Lockie who’s now her husband.
Kirianna was working as a flight attendant when she met pilot Lockie who’s now her husband. Credit: Kirianna Poole

“It was an incredible experience,” Kirianna says.

“Our first lap was about one year, and the route was a loop around the coastline with an additional exploration of Tasmania.

“We loved every minute of it, and we knew we wanted to do it all over again.

“But at that stage, we settled down for a year in Lennox Head and welcomed our baby girl Alba.”

‘Off we went…’

When Lockie’s job was put on hold in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic, the family decided to take on a second round of The Big Lap.

“And off we went… This time an extra car seat with our wriggly baby girl Alba,” Kirianna says.

“Fortunately, we had some savings before setting off on our journey. So we fund our travels from savings and also do freelance photography and writing along the way, which has provided our family with an income.”

The family’s personal belongings all packed into their humble Kombi Izzie.
The family’s personal belongings all packed into their humble Kombi Izzie. Credit: The Slow Road
The family’s living expenses range from $50 to $100 per day, which covers food, essentials and fuel.
The family’s living expenses range from $50 to $100 per day, which covers food, essentials and fuel. Credit: The Slow Road

After spending years living in Tokyo’s tiny, cramped property, downsizing their family home into a Kombi was effortless.

“Our Japanese home was a small apartment with a very minimalistic amount of belongings, which meant moving life into a Kombi came pretty easy in this sense,” she says.

‘Good knack for Tetris’

“My time as a flight attendant also helped with packing and I even discovered a good knack for Tetris… I realised we didn’t need a lot to be happy.

“Also, I would honestly say that our Kombi, Izzie, has been a game-changer for us.

“Her simple design and weight restrictions have forced us to reassess our excess belongings and prioritise only the most important items.”

The family-of-five living on the road.
The family-of-five living on the road. Credit: @wearelemamaphotography
Cable Beach in Broome, Western Australia.
Cable Beach in Broome, Western Australia. Credit: The Slow Road
Kirianna cooking for her family in the Australian Outback.
Kirianna cooking for her family in the Australian Outback. Credit: James Price

The second lap of Australia was spread over two years.

“We kind of did a figure eight pattern heading down the East Coast, around Tasmania again, along the bottom and then up through the middle and down the West Coast,” Kirianna says.

“This time we focused heavily on exploring the islands of Australia – including Magnetic Island, Great Keppel, Kangaroo Island and Fraser Island (K’gari).

“It was an incredible experience, and we adapted to living in a Kombi for long periods.”

Challenges

One of the hardest parts about travelling was struggling to adjust to the air mattresses.

“We faced some challenges during our travels, but we overcame them quickly,” the mum says.

“The biggest one was sleeping on air beds in our annex for two years… It was rough and definitely not great for the back.

“However, this trip humbled us and adopted us into a more minimalist lifestyle that has had a positive impact on our family.”

The family has completed two laps of Australia.
The family has completed two laps of Australia. Credit: The Slow Road
The family driving along Exmouth, a small resort town on Western Australia’s North West Cape.
The family driving along Exmouth, a small resort town on Western Australia’s North West Cape. Credit: The Slow Road
The mum cooking with Riley.
The mum cooking with Riley. Credit: The Slow Road

After giving birth to their third child, daughter Elsie, the parents decided to invest in a 1964 Franklin Caravan.

“It was great to find a solution for our growing family,” she says.

“However it required some renovations to make it work and it was an exciting time to build our own tiny home on wheels.

“Lockie was able to complete the renovation while Elsie was still a newborn.”

‘Grateful for this life’

Their caravan now feels “luxurious”, with its bigger kitchen, queen-sized bed and a lounge area.

“Every night, we get to enjoy a peaceful and cosy time in our caravan,” she says.

“On one side, Lockie and I snuggle up in a spacious queen-sized bed, while on the other side, Riley and Alba get to relax in a comfortable lounge area that doubles as a bed.

“And for our little Elsie, we have a cute little cot that fits perfectly next to us.

“Our setup may be simple and small, but it has everything we need for a comfortable and restful sleep.”

Kirianna concedes she loves her coffee machine, a gadget she says is “essential for all parents”.

But she does miss having a washing machine, because three kids who “live prominently outdoors get dirty a lot”.

“Overall, it is pretty good and we are extremely grateful for this life but I think the biggest struggle is missing loved ones back home,” she explains.

To keep costs down, Kirianna prepares all the lunches and snacks for the family every day.
To keep costs down, Kirianna prepares all the lunches and snacks for the family every day. Credit: The Slow Road
The family enjoying a day at the beach in Esperance on WA’s south coast.
The family enjoying a day at the beach in Esperance on WA’s south coast. Credit: The Slow Road
The incredible view at Uluru.
The incredible view at Uluru. Credit: The Slow Road

Kirianna says travelling in an older vehicle has come with its challenges.

“We have had our fair share of breakdowns,” she says.

“Lockie has now taught himself to do all our mechanical work which has helped and has got us out of many sticky situations.

“We have learnt to embrace the breakdowns, and some of the most beautiful experiences have come from stopping in places we would have otherwise missed, while we wait for parts.

“We found the kids have since become very resilient to plans changing and have learned to make the best out of any situation.

“This alone has been weirdly wonderful for us.”

Living expenses

The family’s living expenses range from $50 to $100 per day, which covers food, essentials and fuel.

“However, this can vary greatly depending on the destination,” the mum says.

“Our average weekly spending budget was around $700 to $1000 a week, the latter being more consistent now, as prices of everything have increased quite dramatically, especially fuel.

“Overall, I think it’s important to have a general idea of your expenses before you start your travels but also to be flexible and willing to adjust your budget as needed, based on your actual spending.”

The family-of-five will continue to travel around New Zealand for the next few weeks.
The family-of-five will continue to travel around New Zealand for the next few weeks. Credit: The Slow Road
The mum says she’s living the dream with her family on the road.
The mum says she’s living the dream with her family on the road. Credit: The Slow Road

To keep costs down, Kirianna makes lunches and snacks for the family every day to “refrain from quick buys on the road”.

In December 2022, the family loaded the caravan and Kombi onto a boat in Sydney, bound for Auckland.

“It was a dream to share my New Zealand heritage with our children and visit my home country,” she says.

“Lockie worked tirelessly for three months to prepare the caravan for our NZ journey.

“He also did lots of upgrades to the Kombi to get her ready to tow, such as bigger engine, gearbox, disc brakes and electric brakes for the caravan.”

Home school on the road

Although the family is living its dream life, Kirianna admits raising three young kids on the road hasn’t been easy.

”There are times when we’ve wanted to throw in the towel but ultimately the benefits of this lifestyle far outweigh the drawbacks. Our family is well-suited for it,” she says.

“Right now, Riley is our only child in school, and he’s seven so we home school him, and we also incorporate world schooling into our routine.

“We make it a point to complete his schoolwork during the first few hours of each day, and then we embark on our daily adventures.

“Alba, our four-year-old, is a keen bookworm and enjoys doing school activities with Riley which helps.”

The family cooking food over a fire in WA.
The family cooking food over a fire in WA. Credit: The Slow Road
The stunning swimming hole and waterfall at Karijini National Park in WA.
The stunning swimming hole and waterfall at Karijini National Park in WA. Credit: The Slow Road

Despite the challenges, the mum wouldn’t want her life any other way.

“It’s truly a dream come true that we can wake up next to our kids every morning,” she says.

“When we settled in a house in Lennox Head and Lockie worked a rotating roster out of Japan, we would only see him two weeks a month and it impacted all of us.

“Being together and watching the beautiful relationship Lockie has with our kids is truly a blessing.”

‘Move with the weather’

Every morning, the family enjoys oats for breakfast before Riley logs into school about 8.30am.

As Alba and Elsie play, the mum packs lunches before the family hits the road.

“We aim to leave for a destination by 10am where Elsie enjoys her morning nap for around one hour. The car trips normally involve lots of singing, games and drawing,” Kirianna says.

“We like to move according to the weather and sometimes we love a place and other times we don’t, so we love the idea of no real concrete plan.”

After years living in Tokyo, downsizing into a Kombi was effortless.
After years living in Tokyo, downsizing into a Kombi was effortless. Credit: The Slow Road
Family spending quality time together on the road.
Family spending quality time together on the road. Credit: The Slow Road

The family-of-five will continue to travel around New Zealand for the next few weeks.

“Then in November, we are shipping our Kombi and caravan to Japan to explore until April 2024,” she says.

“Next we will head to Europe with our Kombi and caravan to explore there for the rest of next year.

“After that, we have no plans and will see where in the world the road takes us.

“We have no end in sight. This lifestyle has taught us that time together is the most valuable thing.

“So while we are all having fun and still enjoying each other’s company we will keep going.”

‘Changed our life’

For families who are looking to travel but don’t know where to start, Kirianna says: “Just go for it.

“A travelling lifestyle has its challenges but the good far outweighs the bad, and the memories and relationships you make with your children are priceless.”

The family in the Eyre Peninsula.
The family in the Eyre Peninsula. Credit: The Slow Road
At Magnetic Island offshore from Townsville, Queensland.
At Magnetic Island offshore from Townsville, Queensland. Credit: The Slow Road

After spending years travelling with her brood, Kirianna is set to release her first book, a cookbook titled The Slow Road.

“During our travels around Australia, we enjoyed the beautiful local produce, and cooking over the fire in some of Australia’s stunning scenery is something truly special for me,” she says.

“I began writing my cookbook as an ode to many friends we met along the way with recipes fit for families in caravans and homes.

“My book will include guides on how to cook on fire, choosing the right produce and how slow living has changed our life.

“I hope it will inspire others to explore the delicious and sustainable produce that Australia and New Zealand have to offer.

“Hopefully my book will be our main income stream moving forward as we plan to continue travel around the world.”

SOURCE: 7NEWS

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