Wednesday, 22 January 2020


Whitianga couple’s love of motor homing inspires new book

If taking to the open road in your own caravan or motorhome is up there on the bucket list, then you can literally take a leaf out of Whitianga couple, Don and Marilyn Jessen’s latest book.

The husband and wife team have combined their extensive writing and photography expertise with their love for and knowledge of motor camping to produce a charming and informative new resource, “RV There Yet - A guide to owning and using a recreational vehicle in New Zealand”.

From choosing and setting up your recreational vehicle (RV), to living life on the open road, according to Don and Marilyn the book is designed to walk readers through all stages of the decision-making process, starting with identifying their RV dreams and then tackling the practical realities of RV ownership. “We wanted to show people that it can be done, it can be done responsibly, and it doesn’t have to cost the earth,” said Marilyn.

Using their own extensive experiences and those of many friends and acquaintances they have encountered on their travels, the couple highlight the pros and cons of various vehicles while sharing some personal stories about their owners. “It’s sort of like open homes except it’s open motor homes where the owners invite the reader into their caravan or motor home and give them a guided tour,” Marilyn explained.

“We also did a tremendous amount of research and married that with our own knowledge that we have picked up over the years. There is so much information that people need to know just in terms of legislation alone. Whether it’s building, purchasing, self-containment, powering up, legal responsibilities, safety or maintenance our aim is to assist people to become informed, confident and responsible campers.”

An explosion in the number of RV owners and users in the past decade, along with the lack of an over-arching resource to assist people who are starting out, inspired the Jessens to write the book.

“The New Zealand Motor Caravan Association (NZMCA) has seen a huge growth in membership in recent years. It took 40 years to reach 10,000 members. By 2016, when we re-joined, they had reached 64,000,” Don pointed out. “Travel the length and breadth of New Zealand, stop at DOC camps, freedom camps, New Zealand Motor Caravan Association parks or motor camps and you cannot help but notice the RVs parked up everywhere.”

New Zealanders use their RVs for holidays, to live in permanently, to put up extra guests or as temporary accommodation when working away from home. Their owners come from all walks of life with many in their fifties, sixties and seventies opting for a life of adventure on the open road. “We give you a tiny glimpse of some of these outstanding RVs and the wonderful people who inhabit them. We step inside their rigs and talk to them about their road to becoming RV owners and how they enjoy this wonderful lifestyle exploring all that New Zealand has to offer.”

This is the third book Marilyn and Don have produced together. They wrote it having just spent a summer exploring the lower North Island and East Cape. “Our current RV of choice is a fully restored and self-contained 1958 14 foot Liteweight Kiwi Caravan. Over the years we have owned many RVs including eleven caravans, a six metre Toyota Coaster bus and an eleven metre Isuzu bus, both of which we converted from bus to motorhome. Amongst our RV experiences is nine months living in a caravan while our house was being built, braving the cold of a Waikato winter, and acquiring many hilarious memories including dead possums curled up around the hot water tank, a mice invasion of plague proportions and frozen water tanks,” the couple recall in the book’s introduction. Don has years of experience in the caravan industry working with his father Tek Jessen, the founder of Liteweight Caravans Limited.

Ultimately, the husband and wife team really just want to help people getting into motor home ownership have a positive experience and maybe even inspire those who are contemplating the idea, but don’t know where to start. The book includes tips for planning your perfect trip, including how to find the perfect spot, staying in touch when on the road, freedom camping and tapping into local events.

“RV There Yet - A guide to owning and using a recreational vehicle in New Zealand” is published by Bateman Books and is available at all book shops around the Coromandel including Paper Plus and Mosaic in Whitianga.


Don and Marilyn Jessen pictured alongside the vintage caravan, with their new book “RV There Yet - A guide to owning and using a recreational vehicle in New Zealand”.


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