We’re Rejecting Luxury to Live & Work in a Camper Van

By Claire Carradice, SEO Freelance Writer

Many years ago, I became fascinated by the idea of packing up home and living, for a while at least, in an RV, travelling all over South Africa while making a living by freelance writing.

I’ve heard of quite a number of people in America who have done just that, but no daring South Africans…

Until I came across Cindy Alfino who blogged about her family’s plan to work on the road for a year…with their 3 small children.

I had the privilege of interviewing this award-winning Mommy blogger, so that if you are someone like me who dreams of abandoning the safety of life’s routines, you will be inspired by her answers to make your own dream come true.

Please tell us about your family?

I never really know how to introduce myself to strangers.

I mean it’s pretty weird listing things about yourself that you think define you, the things that really make you different from anyone else.  

In fact we’re pretty run of the mill.  My name is Cindy and I guess the most important things that define me are that I am a Mom of three and a wife to my husband Seth.  

The kids with their father Seth, experiencing the camper van as a practice run.

Seth and I met when I was 16 and though we got married young (I was 20) we’ve managed to stay happily married for the last 11 years.  During that time we had three children, Kyla 8, Riya 7 and Knox 5.

When I’m not running around playing taxi to my children, or watching a series with my husband, then I’m at work.  

Work for me is being the Operations Director of a small insurance brokerage in Cape Town that I co-own. When I’m not doing any of those things, I’m writing on my parenting blog called 3 Kids, 2 Dogs and 1 Old House.  (We were very creative with the name, I’m not sure you can guess what it’s about…)  

We live in the too-sunny Cape Town but love to explore the other towns around us when we get the chance.

What are your and your husband’s aspirations?

Funny you should ask.  

If you had asked a couple years ago it would probably have been something like wanting to earn enough to renovate our house so that it would be big enough to host our friends and family for more gatherings.  

Seth and Cindy Alfino.

And to just be that ever elusive “comfortable” you know?  

But we’ve done a lot of soul searching over the last year and we’ve realised that somewhere along the line we lost focus.  

What’s really important to us is to spend more time with our children teaching them and building relationships with them.  And seeing more of the world, especially South Africa.

And then so we are trying to change our mindset to live a more content, sustainable life in our day to day choices.  

What does everyday life look like for you and your family?

Pretty normal really.  

We usually wake up with our alarms but sometimes we don’t; either way, we rush around in the morning trying to get ready for school. 

This involves quite a few arguments and a lot of coercion, but we eventually walk out the door!  

Seth and Cindy’s kids in the camper van.

Then once the kids are safely in the hands of their teachers, I head for work and a strong cup of coffee, or two.  I’m in the office usually till around 2 when I start the taxi service part of the day.

So many extra murals!

After that it’s supper to cook, kids to bath and homework to be threatened through.  

We have dinner around the table and then the kids head off to bed.  

Once they’re asleep, then Seth and I have a chance to unwind with our favourite series.

Then rinse, roll and repeat basically every day.

You have won South African blogger awards for your blog site which is about parenting and lifestyle. When did you begin blogging and why?

Yes, we have been very blessed to have won a couple of awards over the years, from being the Runner Up of the Best African Parenting Blog of the year to recently winning the Best Travel Inspired Mommy Blog a couple weeks ago.  

It’s pretty crazy actually because when I started back in 2010, I didn’t even think this was possible!  

I started really just to have a place for our memories.

But as it happened, while I was recording these memories I started building relationships with other moms who were in the same stage as me, those that could understand the frustrations I was going through and who just helped me to feel part of a community rather than feeling completely on my own.  

Since then it’s grown somewhat and I am really appreciative of all our readers that have followed along with us on our journey of sleepless nights and constant vomit to now heading out on date nights and exploring together as a family.

Do you make money from writing or blogging, and if so, how?

I am very lucky to occasionally make some money through our blog.  

It’s not my job, so I definitely don’t rely on it to come in every month (because then I’d probably hate it), but it’s nice to have a little bit of extra money at the end of the month.  

We work with a variety of brands that align with our values and what we would actually use every day.  

When we find partnerships like this that feel right, we work with them to create campaigns on our blog and/or social media.  

Most often we get paid with cash monies but occasionally we work on a trade exchange basis (we take product in lieu of money).  

We prefer cash obviously, as shoes don’t help to keep the lights on, but if the product is really worth it, then we are totally open to the exchange.

Now we come to the meat of this interview: early this year, your husband and yourself decided you would be packing up and traveling South Africa for a year in a camper van come July 2018. While this seems to be quite a popular idea overseas, it is a very unique concept here in South Africa. So my question to you brave people is, this: what made you guys decide to do something like that?

Our journey to this point has been a long one.  

And actually, my personal journey to this point even longer…

Seth had slowly come to realise that he was missing his children growing up and that somewhere in the process of our day to day life, they were getting used to a life of excess.  

He originally wanted us to move into a smaller house and purge our lives of excess of things that we had accumulated.  

I was not on board. For obvious reasons.  

Optimus, the Camper Van. 

This will be the family’s home for a year while they travel around South Africa.

Slowly but surely, the more I thought about it, the more keen I was. But still not keen to give up everything…  

So we reached a compromise where we would purge and live in a smaller space, but that we would have the safety of our home to come back to at some point.  

Then the idea evolved another step in that, why just live in a smaller space and stay where we are? Why not explore South Africa while we’re doing it?  

So we bought a camper van back in October and now we’re in the process of renovating it before leaving to tour South Africa in it from July.  Eek!!

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Are your 3 kids and 2 dogs all going on the road with you?

As first we really toyed with the idea of our dogs going with us.  

But it really complicates things.  

We are wanting to travel over borders into Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique and Namibia and they would need a crazy amount of paperwork.

But it’s not just because we’re too lazy to get that done, it’s also really hectic for them to be on the go for that long in such a small space.  

They are almost 10 and although they would enjoy some of it, it’s putting them under a lot of pressure.  

So now we’re desperately searching for a family to look after them while we are away, but it’s a lot harder to find than we thought.

We’re definitely taking the kids though. They are really excited.

Why do you think you guys decided on such a radical idea, while many other people would only wish to do what you plan, but instead just continue doing the same thing day in and day out?

I think we realised it was really a now or never thing.  

The older our kids got and the more hectic our work lives got, the less chance that we would be able to do this.  

Plus Seth and I have a history of making it through crazy – our girls are 12 months apart.  We thrive on crazy.

So we saw a chance and grabbed at it with both hands.

How do you guys earn a living, and how will you earn a living on the road for a year?

I work and will continue to work while we’re on the road.  

Seth will be homeschooling the children, so he has taken a cut in work hours (down to 3 hours a day).

So while we will still be getting a single salary we still need to watch our pennies while on the road.  

We’re going for a minimal, no-excess lifestyle, so I think we’ll be able to do that (mostly because we’ll be forced to).

What about logistics? What is the extent of your planning (like WiFi, etc.)?

We’re big planners on the big ideas, but not really great at planning a lot of the smaller things.  

So the most I have planned so far is that I know that we are going to buy data with all the leading providers so that at any given time at least one of them should work.  

We’re also sticking to the main towns, leaving the “off grid” venues for long weekends.  

We have also booked our first week and a bit but not more than that.  

We’re not wanting to box ourselves in…  

If we love an area we want to stay there longer, if we hate it we want the option of leaving as soon as we can. 

I think the only place we will book is the Kruger because that’s obviously not a given to get into.

Where in South Africa are you planning to go?

EVERYWHERE!  

Our first leg will be up the East coast, hitting places like Mossel Bay, Jeffrey’s Bay, Durban, Lesotho, Wild Coast, Kosi Bay, Swaziland, Mozambique, Kruger, Joburg, Kimberley, Oudtshoorn and more.  

Our second leg will be up the West coast – I can’t even think of those places, but ending up in Namibia before coming back down again.

Any tips for others who might wish to take the same brave and wonderful step you are?

It seems flipping daunting when you just start thinking about it.  

But if it’s something that you really want to do, there is almost always a way to make it happen.  

Just DO IT.  

Even if it’s for a few months.  

It’ll be worth it!

Follow the family’s journey on their website. You can also follow them on all their social media sites – get the links from their website.

 

Start your own work-from-anywhere business with this freelance writing business blueprint.

 



Author: Claire
Claire is not just a writer. Her expertise is increasing website traffic and online sales through the use of smart, search engine optimised content that is targeted towards a certain audience. She specialises in compiling marketing case studies and blog posts using SEO techniques, and providing services to online marketing, CX, small business, recruitment and HR niches.