"I wanna hang a map of the world at my house. Then I wanna stick pins in the locations that I`ve traveled to.
...But first I have to travel to the top two corners of the map so it won`t fall down."
-Mitch Hedberg

Friday, April 30, 2010

The Gypsy Fair!

Lately I’ve been going on and on about freedom camping – mostly because Care and I are getting into the “renegade” aspect of life on the road, but also because we spend a good deal of our day in the van. However, as cool as our van Flash is, and as good as we think we're getting at freedom camping, we can’t hold a candle to the folk that comprise the Gypsy Fair.

I’d heard about these “houses on wheels” from other experienced freedom campers along the way, but I’d written off the stories of fully functioning house-trucks as elaborate exaggerations. How would the house trucks drive around? Wouldn’t they fall off? Where would they park at night?

Turns out everything I'd heard was true.

The Gypsy Fair is a conglomeration of lifestyle freedom campers throughout New Zealand that build and maintain their own uniquely designed wooden frame houses on the backs of trucks, big rigs, converted vehicles of all shapes and sizes, and even hitched trailers. They drive around New Zealand setting up at fair grounds and parks on specified dates to entertain locals and tourists alike, sell their handicrafts, food, and goods, and to basically educate people about their alternative lifestyle.

These amazing structures are all “self-contained” and compliant with the strict regulations New Zealand places on freedom campers, but they do so with an amazing flair for design and detail. Honestly some of these houses are bigger than my apartment in New York City. They have wood burning stoves, fireplaces, second-floor bedrooms, and even back porches complete with rocking chairs and flower pots. It’s really incredible to see what some of these artisans and craftsmen put together.
The coolest part of this hodge podge nomadic village is that they are always seeking new members. The only stipulation is that applicants be self-sufficient and provide a marketable service or sell a unique good that is not already in the group. That’s what really got me interested in the Gypsy Fair – they're not just hippies driving love buses trying to change the world with “good vibes”. Nope. They've got marketing savvy. They're a viable economic entity that understands that while independence and freedom are crucial to an alternative lifestyle, so is making that lifestyle sustainable.

Just like the rest of us, they have to make money, pay for things, sell goods, and keep a healthy community running. It’s great to see that the obstacles that we all face in normal society are the same as those in the Gypsy Fair. They just choose to solve the same problems from a slightly different perspective – the driver’s seat.

Care and I were so happy to see this unique New Zealand experience, and we spent the rest of the afternoon daydreaming about what we could contribute to earn a spot in the Gypsy Fair. Wooden swords? Nope, they already sell those. Cotton candy? Old news. Musician? They’ve got five. Miniature ponies? Aluminum can artwork? A tattoo artist? Got it, got it, and, ouch, they got it. After running out of ideas that the Gypsys hadn’t thought of first, we gave up the dream of joining their clan and continued down the road Hans-style...solo.


  1. Hello Shawn and Carolyn!
    Your blog is very informative and if i'm not already in NZ i'd have packed my bags to come over after reading about your freedom camping adventures. My hubby and I are travelleing and working in NZ, we've just arrived this week. Wish i found your blog earlier! You guys seem to have toured north and beginning south journeys... where to next?
    Happy camping!


  2. Thanks so much for reading, Lyd! It's great to hear feedback. We've just arrived in Queenstown and had so many great adventures along they way that we're still trying to get our readers up-to-date.

    Feel free to send us a message if you ever have specific questions!

  3. Care - if you go to the iSite in Queenstown say hi to my friend Clare!

  4. what an interesting, exciting, and fun sounding lifestyle! I love the cool campers! I wonder if they have anything like that here in the US. it would be fun to attend one of these events. I could not live this lifestyle myself, but sometimes its fun to fantasize that I could.

  5. saw a picture of one of your fabulous vans on my facebook page which in turn led me to your blog ... I would love this lifestyle, me, the husband and our dog! Once our debts are paid and we can save some money to convert a van/lorry into a palace on wheels we can travel the UK and Europe! Good luck to you all, peace and love x