Is this How it Ends ?

24th of March to 20th of June

Feature Photo: Art Work by Elli Moody of Mandurah.

***Any comments or thoughts expressed in this blog are purely the opinion of the author.***

Massive lifestyle changes ahead.

Hi everyone glad to have you here. No this title is not suppose to be a bad case of click bait. Humongous upheaval is currently happening. Don’t worry it is not the end of team wiljen. We both are alive, healthy, strong, happily in love and as committed to each other as ever. At the moment our future is a bit uncertain so we both feel unsure.

This post is about our past, present & future. I’ll pop up some photos with detailed descriptions of some short duration, vehicle & hybrid camper, based trips we have been on during the past 4 months. Contained in this blog post is a bit of soul searching, some financial number crunching and finally, after over 7.5 years of “freedom”, me ending up back in full time employment, working for a multi-national company. Read on to see how the first half of a turbulent 2022 has lead us to double down on our preparation for the future and the final push to realise our dream to find the secret of not having to work for a living. We have had the most fantastic time, especially the first 5-1/2 years after selling & finishing up at the Roadhouse back in October 2014. At the time I was 45 and Jenny was just about to turn 44 years young. Here is a brief rehash on some of our testing out retirement accomplishments:

  • 2015, the year commenced with some vehicle based trips, a camper relocation in a converted Toyota Troop Carrier to Adelaide and a trip in our Landcruiser down south to Bremer Bay. Then in March we flew off to Madrid, Spain to properly cycle tour for the first time, from Alicante to London, England, 3900kms over 4.5 months. In late July we returned to Australia and decide to cycle across the Nullarbor starting at South Yunderup WA and eventually finishing the ride at Kangaroo Island in South Australia, another 3800kms. For the return trip across the Nullarbor we did another camper relocation in December, back to our home in WA.
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  • 2016, we completed the interior fit out of the VW Kombi. Sold the South Yunderup large family home, temporarily moved into a much smaller house in Coodanup and commenced a complete renovation of the future “Travel Home Base” in central Mandurah. Oh yeah we also found 2 months to go ride Motorcycles across India from New Delhi to Goa, 5000kms.
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  • 2017, we move into the Mandurah Travel Home Base with it only at 70% complete. 6 month motorcycle tour around Australia and New Zealand totalling 21500kms. Jenny’s Dad, Joe sadly passed away. Towards the end of 2017 we head off to the Bridgetown Blues music festival then off we fly to London & spend 6 weeks experiencing winter in the UK & help to celebrate Jenny’s sister Sue’s milestone birthday. While visiting Sue and Brad in the UK we spend Christmas and see in the New Year. Team wiljen find some time in our busy schedule to do some winter Brompton (folding bicycle) touring on our recently purchased Swiss Army Knife of the cycling world the Brommies.
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  • 2018, the beginning of the year saw us complete the final piece of the puzzle for our Aus/NZ motorbike tour with the help of Neil and Tracey. We borrowed a couple of GSX650cc Suzuki’s and toured for 2 weeks with them around Tasmania. Then possibly the boldest, biggest, baddest and best trip of all time for team wiljen. Nearly 6 months in North America. Travelling from Calgary, Canada, over the Rockies, across to the Pacific Coast then made our way southwards and eventually ending up in Dallas/Fortworth, Texas. 5200kms of cycling and about 4000kms driving a large rented RV. (We had 5 year visas and plans to return in 2020). Mind blowing journey !
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  • 2019, Another trip to New Zealand, then in May the Canning Stock Route, WA. Team wiljen with fellow cycling mate Max attempt to do a vehicle supported ride south to north along the CSR, 1600kms (ultimately I ride 500kms and Max manages 1300kms). At Halls Creek we part company with Max and spend a few weeks touring along the Gibb River Road in the north east Kimberley. All up it was a 4 month adventure. We add a dog into our lives, Jenny has her left knee replaced and I do a harvest season for CBH in Wagin, WA.
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  • 2020, Early in the year we purchase a new hybrid camper, we are told it will be ready in 2 to 3 months. Then the big one, Covid 19 Pandemic hits, Government enforced policies throw a rather large stick into our spokes, badly affecting our finances and sending our travel plans into disarray. Most of the year while confined by the government we do home improvements. There was the minor trips away, like heading down to Bluff Knoll with my mate Darren, but overall it was a wasted year thanks to a paranoid government. The Camper takes 6 months to be completed but we aren’t allowed to pick it up from Brisbane due to Government Covid rules so have it shipped across to WA. There are some small vehicle based trips in WA’s midwest. Our first grandchild Annelise is born. We sell the Coodanup rental property for a minor loss. Jenny has her second knee replaced and I complete my second season on the CBH harvest, 8 weeks working full time, 12 hour days, again at Wagin.
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  • 2021, January we face up to reality of our wants versus needs & sell our beloved VW Kombi Camper, DIXYBUS. Then decide that after 20 years it’s time to update the old but owned since new HZJ105 Series Landcruiser, so we place an order for the very last of the V8 twin turbo diesel 200 Series Landcruiser model. In May, with friends Julie and Allan, we attempt to cycle the Munda Biddi trail from south to north. Due to a mechanical failure (rear cassette and wheel rim self destruct, zoom in on the photo, to spot the rim cracks and bent sprocket) team wiljen only complete 90% of the MB trail, aborting at Dwellingup after 26 days and 911kms. Government mandated Covid 19 rules are still enforced but we (naively or rebelliously, you take your pick) attempt to drive the new 200 Series Landcruiser with Hybrid Camper to Queensland and back over 12 weeks and 16000kms. Ultimately we make it to the very tip of northern Australia, Cape York Peninsula, Queensland ! To top off a disjointed and challenging year we are blessed with another grandchild, Charlie.
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So there’s an extremely condensed timeline of our first (7.5 years) attempt at early retirement. When I review it now in this blog, Jenny and I have achieved a lot & there are many things I have left out, like my 2 week trip to Tasmania in early 2016 with my Dad, Bill. Sailing weekends with Andrew, Nancy, Janet, Mike and other crew members. Multiple motorbike get togethers and rides with the Horizons Unlimited WA mob and other motorcycle people we know, just to name a few. As you can guess we burnt through quite a bit of cash, but hindsight is now showing us we are glad that we did. Travel has now become harder, living expenses have sky rocketed because of inflation, the world has changed and we all are being forced to adapt at a rapid rate.

Right about now it is worth mentioning the many fantastic people we have met during our life journey. They have all helped us in their own special way. I wish I could name everyone of you but there are hundreds. Mentors, Bosses, Friends, Workmates, Employees, Family, random nice people, the bullies & don’t forget the tools. We remember you all…

If you read this you know who you are, from the bottom of our hearts thank you for sharing a part of your life energy and love with us. You are all beautiful people and we hope to cross paths with you again on the wonderful road of life…❤️…you tools and bullies please stay away. 🥴👌

February 2022, Stockton Lake, one of the original open cut coal mines just out of Collie WA. Nice spot but avoid it on weekends, very busy, popular and noisy.

March 2022 : Catching up with Allan and Julie at there new retirement home near Cowaramup WA. We went on some nice bush bicycle rides. First met these two fantastic people in 2014 on our first multi week cycle touring attempt on the Munda Biddi.

April 2022, the inaugural family get together at Myalup, WA. All 3 of our adult children, their partners and grandchildren got together for 4 days. It was nice and we intend to do it again in 2023.

May 2022, Kondinin and surrounds. Some great camping with our friends Grant and Terri on a former family farm, once in Grants family. John the owner allowed us to camp in an old shed located in a remnant piece of bushland. Great fun. During our drive home we camped on the Avon river 10kms south of York in an area known as Gwambygine.

Prior to the pandemic we were holding it together financially. With some modest passive income, seasonal casual work, part time book keeping work by Jenny and limiting our expenses. We were scraping by quite nicely, but the WA State Labor Government’s rent moratorium meant we lost 2 income streams for 6 months when the self entitled tenants of both properties requested rent reductions and eventually just decided since the landlord had no recourse they would just stop paying their rent. 

The Federal Liberal Government decided that having a big spend up and wasting billions of tax payers dollars was a good policy idea. Prior to March 2020 the policy of allowing 250000 immigrants to migrate to Australia every year along with an infinite amount of temporary work visas helped create extra economic demand but also stifled wage growth. 

The Reserve Bank of Australia thought the modern monetary policy of Quantitative Easing (money printing) and nearly zero percent interest rates would help stimulate the economy but instead dismally failed and just created catastrophic inflation, ridiculous house and rent prices. Now all Australians, well 90% of us will have to suffer in some way.

It has been pretty obvious to me since before the start of the pandemic that Australia is headed for some sort of major financial catastrophe, nothing notable has changed since the GFC of 2008 which led to me being made redundant in 2009, if anything the system is even more rigged & corrupt than before. 

The RBA money printing has temporarily postponed the inevitable crunch. Initially I thought, if Jenny and I just did some adhoc casual work it would be adequate, but towards the end of 2020 we realised that it wouldn’t be enough. So I started applying for full time employment with companies that will pay me a six figure plus annual salary.

There is also the new lifestyle factor of grandchildren, meaning future multi month travels will be difficult as we want to be regular grandparents and see the grandkids often. Being involved in the development of our grandkids is super important to us during their early childhood years . 

About 7 weeks ago just as I was beginning to become a bit discouraged with the job hunting and then some positive news, I was finally successful. Albemarle, an American company is building a new Lithium processing facility at Kemerton near Bunbury. They contacted and advised me that I begin my training on the 30th of May. The only catch is, I am required to live less than 55kms from the processing plant. So the hunt for an adequate rental property began. Over a 4 week period with 3 trips to the Bunbury area we ended up looking at about 10 properties, all priced between $400-$500 per week. 

May 2022, Just a small selection of the rental properties we checked out around Bunbury. There wasn’t very many good options and they are over priced. $400-$570 per week. It proved to be very stressful. Imagine when the agents asked about our rental history. Ah yeah about that, the last time we rented was in 1993 ! Work history, nah can’t really give you anything recent. Unless you accept a reference from my ex-boss Jenny. Ultimately we do have enough friends and old work colleagues who came to our rescue to help get us approved.

Lots of stuff goes on behind the scenes. I brew my own beer, Jenny does the majority of the vegetable gardening, I repair house and vehicle things. Jenny manages the bills and finances. Until recently we both cleaned the AirBnB rental unit in Fremantle, we walk the dog every day. It is not too difficult to fill up a day with jobs. Here I am doing some Reconn2 Hybrid Camper maintenance, check brakes, grease bearings, rotate tyres, replace busted stabiliser & working a solution to negate excessive stone damage.

Only one place was acceptable but just before signing up there was one final house to view on our way back to Mandurah, after spending a weekend enjoying Margaret River. It was priced at $570pw but far superior to all the other places we had looked at. Without hesitation we signed up then & there. 2 years ago it would most likely have rented out for under $400pw, the market has gone crazy and it’s not just here.

*After 2 years of “Fortress Australia” Jenny’s sister Sue visits the family from the UK. A week before I start work with Albemarle Lithium we start moving stuff to the Bunbury rental property. Sue gets to ride Jenny’s “Miss Penelope” 883 Harley Davidson the 100kms south. A major first for her. Sue’s usual bike back in England is a 300cc Vespa. We buy a new mattress for our bed, and to give me something to sleep on while I spend the first week solo in Bunbury. Jenny’s in charge of the big move. We had a quick trip to Margaret River to catch up with friends Nicole & Baz. Our friend Ingolf recently refurbished the wood heater at the “Travel Home Base” so we thought we had better have at least one fire in it before the big shift. Let’s not forget the nice visits from our daughter Olivia and her beautiful children.

A lot of effort, energy and money went into creating our future retirement home, team wiljen and Rodgie dog will miss it. At least it is good hands, Harper and her partner Jen are renting it off us. The backyard self contained studio unit is reserved for our use when we need it.

Time to move the majority of our life a whole 100kms south. Who said living life is simple !

The new location, north of Bunbury, about 10 minutes drive to work. Who knows how long this will be the new home base, we certainly don’t. I am pretty certain this will be my last full time job. 😀🤞

Place of employment, Albemarle Lithium, Kemerton. For now I am a Finish Product Operator, my area is the large sheds in the foreground of the aerial photo. Currently we are doing commissioning, production begins soon. Full production will produce 50000tpa of LiHO, Lithium Hydroxide Monohydrate.

So what happens next ? That should be reasonably straight forward. I am not willing to divulge our exact plans so early into this next life challenge (you never know who’s reading and everything is in such a state of flux that it’s all a guess at this stage). We will keep our THB in Mandurah, it is going to be rented out. 

Most likely we will take the financially smartest choice when it comes to renting versus buying a place down here near Bunbury. Which means it all depends on how the property market develops over the next 12 months. I’m betting on at least a 20% reduction in real estate prices, if that occurs then buying a house is a no brainer.

At this point I hope to stack the cash while employed with Albemarle and get as close to 60 years of age working for them as I possibly can. Then once I reach sixty I can access my share of our superannuation tax free. Though we all know that there are many variables and anything can happen.
If no massive curve balls come our way this will most likely be my final full time job “working for the man”, I intend to do my best and help my fellow work colleagues and Albemarle be as successful as possible. I have a lot of knowledge and relevant previous work experience. I think I’ll become an integral part of the team & operation while I’m there. It should be an interesting wrap up to a extremely varied work life !

When ever the end of my working days do arrive Jenny and I intend to become full time travellers living on the road. So between now and that last day of work there is a lot to do. Looks like many mini trips in our immediate future, while aiming to downsize our overheads for a streamline life as nomads.

This is not the end, it is a transition. Most of our future plans are already cemented in place, we are just having some time to fill up our bank accounts, remind ourselves of what life is like for the majority of 20 – 60 year olds and then get on with living. 

Thanks for stopping by, look forward to seeing you on the road soon. 🚴‍♀️🚴‍♂️🐕.

Until next time, thanks for reading, Will and Jenny. ❤️

One thought on “Is this How it Ends ?

  1. Great & inspiring summary of preliminary retirement. And, yes, circumstances do change. Brave are you to return to working for The Man. As my own recent return attests (my 3rd or 4th ‘preliminary’ retirement started 2013 & ended 2019 for a 2.5 year working blast), the rewards can easily outweigh the drama & shock.
    Look forward to following you on your new journey.
    Keep in touch & keep up The Ride!
    Hugs … M


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