Anna and Royce Ashton pull back the curtains of their house truck each morning and sometimes, Royce says, they get a surprise. “Oh, that’s where we are! We have a new view almost every day: beach, lake, mountains...”
When the family left Queenstown five years ago they’d outgrown their two-bedroom home but they weren’t sure where to go next.
“So we thought, ‘Why don’t we get a house truck? We can just keep driving and always have our home with us.’”
The change also appealed because they weren’t spending enough time together as a family, explains Anna. “I was working evenings, Royce was working days, Dylan was at school and I didn’t see her anymore.”
She remembers setting off on their first journey. “There were so many firsts and they were so exciting. Parking overnight in a beautiful spot at Braemar Station near Mount Cook. Eating together because we were all on the same time schedule.”
They homeschool Dylan, 12, and twins Dallas and Jaz, 6, and always look for interesting activities to do and people to meet. Royce enjoys that challenge.
“Because you’re not going to work at the same time every day you constantly have to plan and manage what you're up to. But that’s not a downside. You don’t get bored.”
A year after the Ashtons set off, they hitched their wagon to the Extravaganza Fair, which tours New Zealand for seven months each year. They run a crystal shop, and stage the Ashton Family Circus.
Dylan and Royce also perform a magic show and Dylan writes a blog as part of her schooling. The Ashtons spend half of each week with the fair and the rest on their own adventures and schooling.
During colder months, they park up in Motueka. Inside the 11.5m vehicle hangs a map of New Zealand; thick lines trace the routes they’ve travelled so far. Pictures, photos and pots crowd the walls.
Gas runs the oven, fridge and califont shower; other needs are met by water tanks, a cassette toilet and a log burner. Solar panels run the lights, computer, kitchen whizz and freezer.
What if everyone’s grumpy and it’s raining? “We do a lot of activities and tramps, so sometimes when it rains, it’s kind of a treat. We have to relax and watch a documentary or a movie,” Royce says.
Anna misses having a couch, because everyone ends up squished in their bed – including chihuahuas Pixie and Jema.
But she’s keen to continue this life as long as they can. “We always gauge it by how the kids are dealing with it.”
Amid the photos and pictures on display in their house truck, a card reads, “All you need is love.” That’s what really makes a home.
Reported by Mary de Ruyter for our issue