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Couple downsizes to enjoy

extensive road trip

across Canada and the U.S.

Signpost photo by Wendy Spence
Longtime Dorchester residents Mary and Bob Haven pose for a picture in front of their new home, a van that they will live in as they explore Canada and the United States.

by Wendy Spence

     Longtime Dorchester residents Bob and Mary Haven have sold most of their worldly possessions and are hitting the road in a camper van, excited about travelling throughout Canada and the United States. They had lived in the earth-sheltered home on Marion Street they built 36 years ago. Bob and Mary have downsized from their 2,000 square foot house to their new 70 square foot home on wheels. Most of their friends are supportive of what some would consider a radical decision.
     Mary explained, “This could last a year, or this could last a week.” Bob added, “…or 20 years.”
     “It’s only stuff,” said Mary of the items that they sold on Facebook, Kijiji and at a yard sale over the past month. “I think the older we get, the less we are attached to stuff,” added Bob. The couple is not into collecting things and managed to condense all of the items they decided to keep down to six bins. Since they are both in good health and don’t have work commitments that tie them down they figured this was a good time to hit the road.
     They will first head down to Georgia to visit their daughter and will come back to Canada so that they can explore this country during the warmer months and head south when it becomes cooler here. Bob and Mary also have a son in Washington, D.C. and relatives in Colorado and Michigan who they look forward to visiting. The couple will spend time with friends in Bright’s Grove, close to Sarnia, and their home will become the Haven’s new permanent address. Other possible destinations include, but aren’t necessarily limited to Alaska, Route 66 (for a motor scooter trip), northwest B.C., Alberta and Newfoundland. While on the road, they will camp, hike, bike and more.
     Bob and Mary have insurance in place as well as CAA if they run into mechanical difficulties on the road. Banking while travelling is much easier than it was 20 years ago.
     “We’re not big city people,” said Mary. They plan to enjoy the beautiful natural scenery along the way. Besides a bed, the van is also outfitted with a fridge and cook stove. “We’re blessed to have a van like that and to be able to travel around,” said Bob. He and Mary rarely eat out. While on the road they will mostly prepare their own healthy food. They’re taking along their cellphones and iPads so they can stay connected and also read. Mary has more than 400 books on her digital device. The couple has also packed toiletries and bathroom supplies, a pop-up tent, an inflatable kayak, lawn chairs, a camera and lenses. Bob will continue with his photography and web design and development. The happy wanderers will enjoy a combination of boon docking (camping sometimes without hookups on undeveloped land with likeminded people), stealth camping and campground sites while travelling.
     Both of them will only bring a few changes of clothes, mostly casual. Mary admitted that she might pack more than her husband, who said, “If we have to dress up, we don’t have to go there.”
     They’re being pretty common sense about security and safety while on the road. Mary said the best defence is keeping your eyes open, being cautious and also being aware of your surroundings.
     Bob loves driving and will do most of it, with Mary as a backup. Bob will take care of mechanical issues and Mary will clean and cook. Their personalities differ somewhat, but also complement each other. “She plans and I’m spontaneous,” he explained.
     They did a test run and travelled in the van for two months last winter. “We just loved it,” exclaimed Mary. The couple had been thinking of selling their house and came up with the idea to be footloose and fancy-free and travel. “I’m a nomad,” Bob said. “I like to wander and we love to travel.”
     Years ago the family had a 1986 Dodge van and crossed Canada five times. Bob and Mary also travelled and slept in a Honda Element.
     The Havens’ excellent adventure is not only about travel, visiting with family and friends and exploring, they also look forward to performing random acts of kindness in a spontaneous kind of way. “That will keep us from aimlessly entertaining ourselves,” said Bob who is calling the expedition The Giving Back Tour. “We have been very much blessed in life and we want to live thankful lives,” Mary said.
     They will use their considerable combined skills to help people wherever and whenever they can. Mary is a retired educator who worked as a principal at a Christian school in London, and a teacher before that. Besides his photography and web design, Bob worked with a non-profit organization for a long time, Good News Church in London for 17 years and built the family home on Marion Street.
     “I’m used to working with all kinds of people.” Mary is no slouch in the construction department. “I can hit the right nail once in a while.”
     You can find out what Bob and Mary are up to by subscribing to their YouTube channel HavenVan (Mary said it might take a week or two for them to post a video). If they reach a certain level of subscribers they will receive advertising revenue from YouTube, which will go back to fund their charity work. “I think that’s a cool way to be a part of other people’s lives,” said Bob. “I think it’s time for a movement like that to start.”
     Bob and Mary have dual citizenship and have lived in Canada since they married in 1975. They met in Michigan. When Mary got a teaching job in Canada they decided to make their home here.
     Leaving their home will be bittersweet for the couple. “We have loved our time in Dorchester.” Mary said it’s a wonderful community with wonderful neighbours and good friends. “It’s been a glorious 36 years and we’ll miss it.”

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