21st-century nomads
go! - South Africa|October/November 2020
The Cloete family have turned adventure into a lifestyle. Two years ago Pieter, Rut and their children, Declan and Charma, left their home in Pretoria to embrace a more nomadic lifestyle. Why work from home when you can work from anywhere in the country?
KYRA TARR

Who are the Cloetes?

Rut: Charma (8) is our little girl. Some of her favourite activities include swimming in the sea and discovering treats in the padkos basket. Our son Declan (12) is the comedian and always keeps us entertained. He doesn’t shy away from starting conversations with strangers – we owe most of the friendships we’ve made on the road to him. Pieter and I share the duty of adding structure to our“free” lifestyle. He inspires us to try new things. I’m the organiser who loves to tick items off the list. Together we’re the Cloetes!

What inspired you to pack up your life and go on a countrywide road trip?

Pieter: In November 2017, our neighbour in Pretoria told us about one of his retired clients who was planning to tour South Africa in a bakkie and caravan. We couldn’t stop talking about this man’s plan. I felt a twinge of envy for the massive adventure he was about to embark on; all that loomed ahead for us was monotonous routine and countless school obligations.

Rut:We have our own payroll processing business. We used to have offies in Braamfontein, but since 2010 we’ve both been working from home.We realised that we could station ourselves anywhere in South Africa – there was nothing physically tethering us to Pretoria, besides the kids’schooling.

Pieter: After some discussion we decided we could homeschool the children, splitting the load between the two of us. Now the question was:Why not?

Rut: Pieter and I joke that this was his version of a midlife crisis… In truth, we’re both adventurers at heart. This was one of those life opportunities you just have to say “yes” to, not despite the fear but because of it.

What did your planning process look like?

Rut: It started with a lot of research and reading up about people who had embarked on similar journeys.

Our main reference books were: Op pad in Suid-Afrika: Verken Suid-Afrika Streek vir Streek by BPJ Erasmus; Reader’s Digest: Illustrated Guide to Southern Africa by TV Bulpin; and MapStudio’s Padlangs SuidAfrika: Suid-Afrika se Agterpaadjies.

We came across testimonials online from people who had sold their possessions and set off into the wide world, only to return three months later because their money had dried up. We were determined not to follow in their footsteps.

Our income stream could not be disrupted – we had to make sure that we were always available to our clients. The work can be done from anywhere, as long as we have a decent Internet connection.

We arranged for a Johannesburg-based employee to stand in for us when we would be in areas with poor signal, or on the days when we knew we'd have to drive long distances. It seemed that our operation could continue as normal…

Pieter: We tightened our belts before departure because we wanted to prepare our house for tenants and we had to renovate certain areas, like the kitchen and bathrooms.

What did the kids have to say?

Pieter: They were on board from the beginning. They got involved with the planning and now they find us houses on Airbnb.

How did you decide on a route?

Rut: We drew 12 large circles on a map of South Africa: one area for each month of the year. We tried to plan our route so that we’d be in a province at the best time of the year for that region. For example, KZN is less humid from May through to July, and we wanted to be in Namaqualand in September for the flower season.We planned to set up house through Airbnb in the middle of each“circle” and explore from there. We used go! articles and guidebooks to make lists of the things to see and do in each area.

And then the big day arrived

Pieter: On 26 April 2018, our Mitsubishi Pajero Sport was packed. Suddenly, the full weight of what we were about to do descended on me and I began wondering if we were actually crazy. All it took was a single glance at the rest of my family – all laughter and excitement – to settle my nerves. To make the initial “jump” easier, our first destination was my dad’s farm near Newcastle in KZN. We spent the first month there and considered it our safe harbour from which we could journey onward. It gave us a soft landing to be able to get ourselves out of the door and on the road.

How do you find homeschooling?

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