Ausnew Home Care | Erwin and Monique chose an odyssey of healing over the conventional life and they couldn’t be happier

Erwin and Monique chose an odyssey of healing over the conventional life and they couldn’t be happier

disability Disability Employment Services disability law disability stereotypes intellectual disability Living With a Disability NDIS NDIS Aged Care Approved NDIS and Personal Care NDIS Plan no ‘dis’ in disability. Personal Care Services under NDIS Seeing the ability in disability umbrella of disability

Two years and 10,000 kilometres have passed since Erwin and Monique van Vliet left their home in Manjimup south of Perth.

Home is now a converted horse truck — the front half living quarters, the back half full of feed, tack and saddles.

They live full-time on the road.

It was a journey sparked by a deep depression and a desire to fall back in love with life.

"This trip has to be so long, because I was in such a deep hole," Mr van Vliet said.

For 20 years, the van Vliets ran a successful horse business they built from scratch in southern Western Australia after they emigrated from the Netherlands.

On the ranch, they broke horses and trained riders.

It was a labour of love and a passion but eventually, it took its toll.

"It was a lot of hard work. Very physical for me and it went really well, but I think in the end I cared too much," he said.

"I kept thinking more about 'Is this good enough? Is my work good enough? Are the horses good enough?'"

He fell into a deep and anxious depressive state and even thought about ending his life.

Their relationship suffered.

A woman in the bush laughing.
Monique said the couple worked seven days a week for twenty years before they decided to change their life dramatically.(ABC News: Baz Ruddick)

"It got worse and worse until there came a moment that we thought, 'well, this isn't fun anymore. This isn't really how we want to live our lives,'" Ms van Vliet said.

She suggested they travel.

After a year of thinking it over, Erwin agreed but decided he didn't want to do it like a typical "grey nomad", but rather he wanted to take it slow and enjoy his horses.

They sold the business, the farm and all but two of their horses, converted the horse truck into a tiny home and set off.

Every day, Mr van Vliet saddles up and loads packs on his two horses, Tonto and Giles, and sets out on the road for a day of riding and walking.

Ms van Vliet takes down the yards, loads the truck and gets any supplies needed.

She drives the 25 kilometres to the next camp and waits for Erwin and the horses. She can see where he is on a GPS tracker.

"We actually never thought it would be this natural to us. In the beginning, you often think 'oh we don't have a home anymore. We don't have a place to stay,' but after a while, you turn into [nomads] more and more and it becomes a lifestyle more and more," Mr van Vliet said.

Climbing out of a 'deep, deep hole'

Three thousand kilometres into the journey, somewhere in South Australia, something changed for Mr van Vliet.

He felt lighter and he felt like he could breathe.

"I was walking in the middle of nowhere, and I don't know what I was thinking about, but something changed. I could breathe easier. I thought, 'I've done the first step in the right direction'," he said.

It was a methodical, regimented life with nothing to focus on but the day's destination and the surroundings that gave him another perspective.

A couple smiling with some horses.
Erwin and Monique van Vliet moved from the Netherlands and built up a horse business in Manjimup, Western Australia. They sold the business two years ago and started travelling full-time.(Supplied: Tales of the Trail Australia')

"I've got a mind that never stops, and nowadays I can really just relax and look around me and enjoy it," he said.

"I do a lot of singing. There's nobody there so I just sing as loud as I can.

"It [life] is beautiful. I try to enjoy it every day. I learned so much from being depressed and anxious and I've become really strong."

On days when it's hot and the road ahead is hard, he reflects on where he has been.

"Now I see the sunshine again and I can breathe again, so it made me stronger at the end of the day and I am very happy that I gave it a go."

Halfway through their lap, the pair travelled from Manjimup to Albany across the Nullarbor Plains to South Australia, through the Victorian and New South Wales high country and up the interior of the Australian east coast.

They're now headed along the Flinders Highway from Mount Isa.

At the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park in north-west New South Wales, a proposed three-day journey turned into nearly three weeks, complete with helicopter supply drops.

"It started raining and all the rivers came up, so I got stuck for nine days in a hut and I ran out of food, so Monique arranged a helicopter to come and dropped off food, which is a bit special," Mr van Vliet said.

"The rain stopped, and I had to wait a bit longer and go back the way I came. The little streams turned into rivers."

At one point, he was crossing rivers on Tonto's back when he was worried he was going to lose Giles the horse.

"He had pack saddles on and I was worried because he was taken by the current a few times. I looked back and the only thing I saw behind me on the end of the rope was his nostril and the top of the back saddles," he said.

"I couldn't do it without her [Monique]. I hope I can thank her enough."

An unconventional life

A man and a horse walk along the road.
Erwin described Tonto as "a bit of a clown" and always observing the things around them while Giles is "more business-like" and ready to do the job. (ABC News: Baz Ruddick)

Ms van Vliet said when they met people along the road, people were often confused about how they were travelling.

"The first thing they ask is, 'oh do the horses go on the truck?' and I say 'no the horses don't go on the truck, the horses go on the road.' They travelled all the nine and half thousand kilometres by themselves."

While most people who live on the road spend a significant amount of money on fuel, caravan park site fees and vehicle maintenance, for the van Vliets it isn't fuel costs that preoccupy them, but horse feed.

"We want to keep them [the horses] in good condition, so you have to feed them up," she said.

She said while the life they have chosen since selling the business may seem unconventional, they are determined to continue living like this.

"You grow up a certain way and you think you have to have a house and you have to be established," she said.

"It is a bit like we're doing completely the wrong thing because we sold the farm and we're just spending all the money. We love it and as long as we can do it we'll keep doing it.

"Life is so much calmer and that's really good. All the stress sort of falls off you."

Mr van Vliet says that with two years to go until they complete their journey, it feels like the trip is "too short".

As they travel, they are raising awareness and money for Beyond Blue.

"Don't try and do it on your own. I tried to do it on my own and I almost did, but you need friends and family to help you through it," he said.

"Sometimes you need a drastic positive change in your life to make a difference."


Source: ABC

Older Post Newer Post