My non-camping friends when I tell them we’re going away with our campervan and toddler:
“Oh how relaxing, have a lovely holiday!”
Is it relaxing? Some of the time.
Is it a holiday? About as much as backpacking is a holiday. Or a stopover in a random city. It can be the time of your life. It’s an experience. It’s the essence of travel. But relaxing? Mmmm not all the time.
I just don’t think these people who truly believe you are away having a relaxing holiday have any idea of what you are doing in that van most of the time.
The amount of times I’ve been on the road and have had the thought pop into my head, if today was a normal day at work I’d be having a better day. Why? Because sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it would have been much easier to just stay home.
But it’s not bad, it’s just different.
And I always need a week to get into the new schedule of campervan travel. My mind needs a week to move down a gear from normal everyday 15-minute-timeslots to get-shit-done to ‘this task is going to take a lot longer than it should but that’s ok because you don’t have much else to do anyway’. And eventually I’ll get to that place where I start walking slower, stop wearing shoes and read whatever crap I can find just for something to do.
Sure you have more time, more time to sit on the beach, more time to read a book or just talk (the beauty of not having a TV) more time to spend with your loved ones. And let’s be honest, these are the photos we’re putting up on Facebook. But it’s hard in the beginning because everything takes longer in a campervan.
Need to wash your dishes? If you’re staying at a campground you’ll have to work out how to get your dishes to the camp kitchen, then wash them oh so slowly (all the while thinking about how much you love your dishwasher at home) then dry them, then get them back to the van, hopefully without dropping a knife on your foot. Or a clean dish in the dirt. But let’s be honest, doing dishes in a camp kitchen is a camping luxury. Try doing day old dishes in 40 degree heat in a tiny sink with only cold water. Oh and the water tank is kinda low so you need to RATION that stuff, do NOT waste it on rinsing dishes!
Have a baby, or toddler, or child under a certain age who might sometimes have a tiny accident in bed or in their pants or in their clothes or on their favourite beloved blankey that then urgently needs to be washed? This presents another issue while camping. Doing the washing.
Been to Europe? You’ll find yourself walking a kilometre to reception to pay for a token to take to the laundry room (that you need a key for, also from reception) that houses the washing machine, instructions definitely not in English. It’s probably going to rain just as you’ve finished hanging the last towel on a spare tree branch nearby. Ah, the luxuries of home that we take for granted.
And I haven’t even started on the real issues. The two weeks of uncharacteristically bad weather, cold weather, rain that doesn’t stop, no phone reception to find your camping spot, no map (Melways are SO 90’s!), nowhere to fill up clean drinking water (thanks Kangaroo Island), sick husband or cranky toddler (cranky husband and sick toddler are another good combination).
Oh and we can’t forget my primary camping hate – noisy camping neighbours. So paranoid am I, I won’t camp within 100 metres of another person – OK slight exaggeration but I do search for surrounding P plate cars and then leave the vicinity if there are any, even if we’ve just taken 30 minutes to check in and set up.
So why do I do it? Why do I love it so much? Why do I spend my working days selling and building campervans, my holidays and weekends living in campervans and my nights watching movies about people in campervans? I’ll tell you why.
Because those people who have no idea what we DO in a campervan really have no idea.
They’ve never had that feeling of elation when you roll up at an isolated, pristine and completely empty beach on a perfect summer’s day.
They’ve never opened their eyes in the morning, opened the curtain and had the feeling of gratitude that you’ve slept IN a beautiful rainforest, on a breathtaking clifftop, the list goes on.
They’ve never tasted tea or boiled eggs eaten on camping chairs looking over the clifftop, into the forest, watching the sunrise, with the wonderful feeling that there are no other human beings on earth but you. When the most beautiful places in the world are your doorstop it doesn’t even matter if you forget the sugar for your tea or salt for your eggs.
They’ve never felt the lightness that comes with only having 2 Tshirts to choose from, no reason to look in the mirror or comb your hair, no housework to do but sit outside.
They’ve never had the feeling of freedom that you get when you’ve got your van packed and you set off down the road to check out the next beach/town/it doesn’t really matter because you don’t need to book accommodation because you’re like a tortoise or a snail or a gypsy and you are truly free because your home travels with you.
What can you tell someone whose about to buy their first campervan? Well it’s the same as having a child really.
It’ll be hard at times, but it’ll be worth it. It’s a different way of living, but once you’ve done it you would never go back to the old way. And although sometimes you’ll be angry and frustrated (at the teenagers with loud music at 4am) the other times it’ll be so great you’ll never want your journey to end.