So what is van life really like? Well it has been quite the learning curve for sure, we’ve had lots of helpful advice from experienced camper friends but much of what works for us has been discovered by trial and error. We’ve had to find the best way to store our belongings, figure out what works and doesn’t work in terms of equipment, what are must have items and what things just don’t work for us. The nice thing about the three week blocks of travel we have being doing is that each time we are on the road we learn a little more and then when we get back to base we have been able to refine our set up.
We have discovered that there are two modes for the camper, one for moving and one for when we are parked up. In order to know where things are we have an assigned place for everything in each mode. Although the inside of Tigín, our camper, is a small space, it is tightly packed and finding misplaced keys, glasses, phones, or anything for that matter, can require quite a search if they are not in their assigned location, especially as only one of us can move around the camper to search at any one time, remember the Tigín two-step.
On moving day we first need to pack Tigín so everything is safely stowed and she doesn’t rattle as we drive. A three to four hour drive with your house following you can be a head wreck if the pots and pans or other equipment are clanking and clattering along behind you, or even worse falling and breaking. On one occasion I had everything battened down, as I thought, when 10 minutes into our drive a loud bang came from the bathroom, I had forgotten to put the last few items away in the cabinet and they had hit the floor as we turned a corner. More recently our smoke detector shook loose and hit the deck and then proceeded to chirp indignantly every 30 seconds until we could find a safe place, on a windy mountainous road to pull over to restore order.
Once the interior is secure our attention then turns to the garage of the camper. Our garage is a large space under our bed which can be access via two doors, one on either side of the rear of the camper. We use it to store our e-bikes, patio furniture, and other equipment such as electric cable for hooking up to power, fresh water hose, grey water caddy and crates with cleaning supplies, hiking and biking equipment, tools etc. Packing the garage is like a very awkward game of Tetris with large bulky pieces, but as with the interior, over time we have refined the process. Everything has its own spot on moving day and we work quickly and efficiently to secure all the pieces.
With all the hatches battened, we then unhook and wind up our electric cable and remove our levelling chocks from under the wheels. They are then packed in the last Tetris spot, an accessible location, in the garage as they will be the first thing we need at our next stop.
Our next port of call is usually the services area. This is a designated area on most park ups and camp sites where we can fill fresh water, empty grey water and empty and clean our toilet cassette. We first position Tigín over the grey water drain and open the valve to allow our tank to drain from beneath the camper. While that is draining we attach our water hose to the fresh water tap and fill our water tank. Whomever drew the short straw gets the unenviable task of emptying our toilet cassette, washing it out and adding the eco friendly organic fluid we use to keep everything smelling of eucalyptus, it is then returned to its housing. Services take longer than you might think but they are an essential part of van life and it is always easier to do them on moving day, as doing them mid stay involves securing everything and driving to the service area or ferrying water and toilets across the campsite, which on longer stays can be unavoidable. Now we are ready to travel and explore on route to our next destination.
When we arrive at out new park up or campsite we reverse the process. We take out the levelling chocks, hook up the electric and organise the interior into park up mode, until the next time. Then we boil the kettle and put up our feet and relax, we will have time in the coming days to explore and enjoy our new surroundings.
If you have any burning questions or your are curious about van life or other aspects of our travels please let me know. Leave a comment below or contact me through my Instagram message page @kate_ullwer where I post pictures and stores in realtime.