On the road: Northland couple travel the country with their dog, having adventures

Laura, Bean and Lloyd love having adventures in their repurposed Toll delivery van, Coddiwomple. Photo / Jenny Ling

Squeezing into a seven-square-metre living space with your spouse and a dog for months at a time may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

But Northlanders Lloyd and Laura Jerome have relished every moment of life on the road in a repurposed van they fitted out themselves.

Over the last two years, the Kerikeri residents have had many experiences as they tour New Zealand in their motorhome with their dogs, first with their labradoodle Lulah, and now with a spoodle called Bean.

Initially, they named their new family member Te Van until they could come up with something better.

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Then Lloyd found the definition of Coddiwomple, which means ‘to travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination’.

That’s been shortened to Coddi.

This is the story of Lloyd, Laura and Bean, and the adventures of Coddiwomple.

The Jeromes didn’t know anything about motorhomes before they bought Coddi.

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They’d done a trip around the United States in 2018 which had given them a taste of this type of travel.

But that was in a car.

“It occurred to us, if we were doing a road trip in Northland, it would be better,” Lloyd said.

“We’d not even been in a motorhome before.

“A lot of our friends were laughing at us and said, ‘Maybe try holidaying in one first, you might not like it’.”

In 2019, after travelling to Auckland several times to search for a van to no avail, they put out a call on social media.

Lloyd and Bean relax at Tokerau Beach in the Far North during one of their many trips around Aotearoa.
Lloyd and Bean relax at Tokerau Beach in the Far North during one of their many trips around Aotearoa.

Within 30 minutes, a guy with a Toll delivery van messaged them and said, “We’ve got one and we’re selling it”.

“And that was that.”

After stripping out the interior of the van – a 2015 Mercedes Sprinter LWB – the Jeromes got to work on repurposing it.

Their goal was to have it ready for full-time living by the end of summer 2020.

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It took nine months to convert Coddi, which has just seven square metres of living space.

They installed insulation and a custom-designed kitchen, along with a shower and toilet, and a comfy bed on the mezzanine floor.

The couple has made clever use of the small space, fitting in a small seated area next to the kitchen which houses a fridge and gas cooker.

There are wardrobes next to the bed, a retractable shelf for the laptop, and solar panels on the roof.

The Jeromes credit YouTube videos and a can-do attitude, along with some handy friends – an electrician, plumber, gasfitter and boat builder – with the success of their project.

“We just got good at it and learned things along the way,” Laura said.

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“It was really fun until the last two months.

“Then it was working full days trying to get stuff done.”

The van was ready for its first trip in March 2020.

Life on the road is relaxing and fun for Laura, Lloyd and Bean. Photo / Jenny Ling
Life on the road is relaxing and fun for Laura, Lloyd and Bean. Photo / Jenny Ling

Lloyd, a dentist, had arranged a six-month sabbatical and a locum to take over his position and house-sit.

Laura, a former teacher and current cake-making extraordinaire, toiled for hours, planning the route.

But after months of hard work and organising, their dream trip came to a screeching halt when Covid-19 struck and the country was forced into a Level 4 lockdown.

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“We got as far as Golden Bay, and turned around and came north again,” Lloyd said.

“We’d only been away two weeks and had to come home,” Laura said.

“I remember crying a lot because it was such hard work.”

Another great sadness was saying goodbye to Lulah, who died the following month.

The couple did get back on the road after lockdown and ended up having four glorious months in the South Island.

Instead of summer, it was during the winter of 2020, but that didn’t dampen their spirits.

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The couple enjoyed spending time exploring – and falling in love with – Golden Bay, the West Coast and Wānaka.

A stand-out for them was the freedom camping site at Lake Ōhau in the MacKenzie District, which was “so beautiful and so isolated”.

Other favourites included the Gentle Annie campground north of Granity on the West Coast, Lake Tekapo and the freedom camping spots around Lake Pukaki.

“The first time, we bumped into each other a lot, then we got into a routine,” Laura said.

“I thought by four months we’d be sick of it. But we could have kept going.

“When we came home, the house felt ginormous.”

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Taking Bean on road trips is no trouble, as he's a very happy traveller. Photo / Jenny Ling
Taking Bean on road trips is no trouble, as he’s a very happy traveller. Photo / Jenny Ling

Laura spends a lot of time planning their trips.

They usually park at freedom camping sites, along with paid campsites, and they are also members of the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association.

Earlier this year, they planned to circumnavigate the North Island, but the weather forecast for the east coast made them change their minds.

Instead, they went from Kerikeri through the middle of the island, and back up the west coast.

“I like to plan and look at people’s blogs and note them all down… if the weather is bad, we won’t go that way.

“We have a plan, but we’re incredibly flexible. It’ll very likely change.”

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They’ve now got many weekend trips under their belts, along with the odd week away.

Trips are now with Bean the spoodle, who they brought home at the end of 2020.

Nothing beats being on the road for a while, Lloyd said.

When the weather is fine, there are walks and lots of exploring to do. Even when it rains, it’s fun when you’ve got an old laptop with a DVD player and lots of books.

“You can be right there all the time. You’re in the moment, and that’s a very relaxing thing to be,” Lloyd said.

“All your troubles are left behind. It’s very stress-free.”

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Bean loves it too.

“He’s very happy in the van. He has a special harness and bed in the front seat.”

'You can be right there all the time. You're in the moment, and that's a very relaxing thing to be,' Lloyd says. Bean thinks so, too.
‘You can be right there all the time. You’re in the moment, and that’s a very relaxing thing to be,’ Lloyd says. Bean thinks so, too.

The couple fondly recalls staying at a Kāwhia farm, near Raglan.

“The horses were in the same paddock, and they’d stick their heads in the van in the morning,” Laura said.

“That’s the sort of thing I like. It’s like having a bach and plonking it down wherever you want.

“We can go way off the beaten track and stay at lots of places many New Zealanders haven’t even heard of.”

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The Jeromes plan to visit the east cape for two weeks in December, then do another stint in the South Island.

Lloyd said they have learned a lot, not only about creating a motorhome, but about the art of travelling.

“One of the mistakes we made early on was being impatient for the next place,” Lloyd said.

“Sometimes it’s nice to park up and explore where you are and just be, and read and eat well.

“We travelled too much and stopped too little at first.

“Now we have longer stays and shorter drives and explore where we are.”

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Lloyd and Laura’s tips for the best adventures

  • Do it, you won’t regret it.
  • Expect the build to take much longer than you think.
  • Pack for a week.
  • Be really flexible and keep an eye on the weather. Camping in bad weather is no fun.
  • Don’t try to do too many kilometres in one day.

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