While others were baking bread in lockdown, this Sydney couple were making a van. Now, they’re travelling around Australia and discovering unexpected things about God and His people.
Zane and Sarah Geiser planned a world trip for October 2020 but the pandemic derailed their plans.
They looked for alternatives and decided the most economical way to get around Australia was in a van. Resigning from their jobs in January, this year, they gave themselves a year to travel.
They set off in February, beginning their journey on the South Coast of NSW. So far, they have been to Canberra, the Snowy Mountains, Kosciuszko, Tasmania, regional Victoria, Adelaide and Darwin. They are currently in Perth.
Hospitality vs entertaining
One of the biggest lessons they’ve learnt is the difference between hospitality and entertaining. Although there are crossovers, Ms Geiser said there is so much more to hospitality.
“[It’s] the servant heartedness, the flexibility and the sort of love that comes from a place of hospitality that isn’t bothered by inconvenience.”
Her husband has been encouraged by people going out of their way to welcome them.
“Hospitality happens when your life is not perfect and it’s not put together and you still go out of your way to give up time,” Mr Geiser said. “We are always agents of chaos in their schedule because we’re ‘randoms’ and outsiders and they weren’t expecting us.”
“Hospitality happens when your life is not perfect and it’s not put together and you still go out of your way to give up time”
While in regional Victoria, they met a young mum at a local church, the mother of six children all under the age of 12. She invited the couple to her house for lunch and Bible study after service.
“We walked in and the house was a mess – because six children; obviously they hadn’t planned to have two extra people at the Bible study,” Ms Geiser said.
“When I walked in and saw the mess it had the opposite effect to what a lot of people would think. I was not in any way taken aback by the mess.
“In fact, it sort of opened the door for me to feel immediately comfortable because I wasn’t worried about putting things away in the wrong place or sitting in the wrong spot.”
The mother also asked the couple to help butter bread for the group’s sandwiches.
“The way we were immediately treated as part of the family and part of the furniture was a major part in the way of making us feel at home,” Ms Geiser said.
“To me [this] is also the distinction between hospitality and entertaining; we weren’t guests, we were just part of the crew.”
Visiting local churches
Wherever they are that week, the couple have always stopped into a local church in the area.
“It’s been really important as a marker of the week but also as a marker of re-orientating ourselves back to a firm foundation,” Ms Geiser said.
They have been to churches with five congregation members and no minister, and churches with hundreds of people that are well organised, heavily-staffed and well-resourced. “It’s been fascinating to see how God’s community looks different everywhere that we’ve been,” Mr Geiser said.
“But for the most part, really encouraging to see that people are loving Him and getting on with doing life as believers, quietly and faithfully in all the places that we’ve been.”
His wife has been challenged to pray more.
“Seeing the spectrum of [churches] has been a real encouragement to know that there’s so many faithful corners of the kingdom across this country, but also a real call to prayer, especially for the places that are really remote and under-resourced,” Ms Geiser said.
“It’s been fascinating to see how God’s community looks different everywhere that we’ve been.”
Challenges on the road
Two-and-a-half months into their trip, the couple hit a massive roadblock.
“We had a complete engine replacement in Adelaide, which basically took the whole budget and five weeks to do; that was a major hiccup that almost ended the trip,” Ms Geiser said.
“I think we were both very challenged to find the goodness of God in that moment and questioned whether we should just end the trip or not.”
Their van also broke down three more times after that in very remote areas, but these were times they were shown the most generous hospitality.
Being separated from friends, family and their church community has also been difficult.
“When you’re the one who’s gone on the big trip and left the rest of the people back at home, I think often people just assume that you’re having the time of your life all the time,” Ms Geiser said.
“It’s common for people to stop checking in or saying hello; also, if you’re sharing things on social media… I think people think they know exactly how you’re doing because of that, when that’s often not the case.”
But this has driven the couple closer together and to God.
“In such a chaotic everchanging routine and world, Jesus is always a constant. [Learning] to continually come back to a God who never changes is something that really settles us both,” Ms Geiser said.
“When you’re the one who’s gone on the big trip… it’s common for people to stop checking in or saying hello.”
Navigating restrictions and lockdowns
Despite these challenges, one thing they didn’t have to worry about was lockdowns.
“We have been really fortunate that we’ve basically been ahead of each lockdown in every state, so praise the Lord,” Ms Geiser said.
“We got locked down for two days in Alice Springs but other than that we’ve made it across borders and been in and around places before things shut down.”
The couple bought their van in August 2020 and spent the next six months working on it over weekends.
“We’d go from Friday night to Sunday lunchtime and then we’d go to church in the afternoon and that was our whole weekend,” Ms Geiser said.
“It also gave us something to do while lockdown was going on. Some people were baking bread and we were making a van.”
After their trip, Ms Geiser said they will probably sell the van.
“We’re quite open to wherever the Lord is taking us, whether that be somewhere on the other side of the world or back to Sydney,” she said.
If you’re inspired to get amongst van life, check out the van and how it was built in the video below. All images supplied.