Before we left on this trip, I obviously did a lot of searching for van and vanlife, related things, as this is what we were setting out to do, and the internet can be full of useful information if you look in the right places. However, it is also filled with a lot of crap, and one of these is the picturesque vanlife scene. I’m specifically referring to a video about ‘milenials’ who are giving up a normal life to live in a van on the road…’ oh the dream! In this video, you know, the ones that come up on your Facebook feed and even though you don’t want to watch them, you do, well it’s one of them. It seems as though the modelling crew for Hollister was rolled out with a whole host of classic VW vans, with their prayer flags extended across the window and Indian sheets and cushions were all present, just to let you know how cultured they all were. As well as this they were parked on the beach, running half naked back to the van after surfing some ‘fat’ waves like a pro. All this looked amazing, and I thought…. what a load of shit!
That said van life so far has been full of quirks and little adventures in itself, and here are a few of my personal observations to keep the vanlife reality in check!
Door to door phobia
We have noticed a massive aversion to door to door parking, it is to be avoided at all costs. The other day I parked door to door with another van, we said hello, they ignored us, and then we left for a walk into town. When we returned later they had gone through the trouble of turning their van around. We were only there for the evening and night, and were gone for most of that evening, but still they went through the effort of moving. This is not the only time, but it is a prime example of door to door phobia. I now nearly always park door to door just to buck the system! I understand privacy, but a bit of socialising is nice and occasionally we have had great van neighbours! Although, much of the time not so great. I think that there is a little bit of motor home higherarchy, and we are at the lower end in our self build, and therefore motor home owners maybe do not want to socialise with a van so low on the social chain as it may affect their social standings!
The great O2 hunt!
At home water is easy, pay a bill, turn on a tap and boom, ‘water’, literally on tap! In the van we have a 60 litre tank for fresh water and although we have usually found water easy to come by, occasionally it is a few days between water gathering spots. A full tank usually lasts a few days depending if we have had a shower, done some clothes washing, or just used it for tea etc. However sometimes we need to stretch it further when we just can’t seem to locate any!
One night we have just pulled up for the evening at the top of a hill and as soon as I turn on the water pump, it starts spitting. We have been on the hunt for a water source for more than a few days and have so far come up empty handed. We decided to take a walk into the town that we had just passed through; armed with plastic bags full of recycled plastic bottles, we go on the hunt for water. Once in the town we pass fancy restaurant after fancy restaurant, I feel a little like a homeless man with a trolley full of cans, however my trolley is bags of empty bottles.
We wonder around and find nothing, apart from the centre piece fountain in the middle of town, which we decide is probably not a good idea. On the way out of town, we pass a carpark with a garden exterior and just sticking out of the ground is a tap, I’m guessing it’s used to water the grounds. We then enter stealth mode and kneeling down behind a car proceed to partially fill up all the water bottles, as we need to crush them to get them to fit under the tap. As car headlights approached and passed we became smaller and stiller, holding our breath until it passed (as if it helps, but you can’t help it), it was just one big game of adult musical statues, without the music or the fun. Once this is done, we emerge from the side of the car with bags full of heavy water bottles as if nothing had occurred!
We then needed to hump the water up the hill, back to our van which was a massive slog! We both related to how much work is needed at times just for the necesities of life, although collecting water is a small price of labour to pay for such a cool lifestyle and a cup of tea! I keep imagining the day when we are jumping into gardens and through hedgerows to find garden taps, to fill our needs, Aubrey this will be a story in the future!
Often the night’s are so hot I can Barely sleep, especially on the Med. We are basically in a tin can (think oven) that is steadily warmed throughout the day, so at night even with the door open you just sweat and sweat instead of sleep! It reminds me a little of the time I was in Iraq and we were working inside a shipping container when indirect fire (mortars and rockets) started hitting the camp I was on, we grabbed our helmets and body armour and went to run to the hard standing building on the other side of the compound. As we did this I heard the sergeant major scream for us to ‘get back inside and take cover’. This seemed a little ridiculous to me, I would rather spend a few seconds in the open, to gain solid concrete cover, over the entire barrage stuck in a pre made shrapnel container if we were hit, however we did what we were told and settled in until the all clear. Now in the mid day summer sun in Iraq it soon became unbearable in there, and all caution was thrown out the window (a poor use of phrase, there was no bloody window) and we stripped our body armour and helmets and were soon sat there half naked sweating to death. I could have filled an Olympic swimming pool with sweat, there was that much pouring out of me! Often at night when it is so hot it reminds me of times like this…
Apart from the heat, sometimes there is other entertainment to stop you sleeping at night, this is from one of the posts that I put up recently and shows another side to van life!
That night I had the battle of all battles with a relentless mosquito. Every few minutes, I would wake with a new itch, and a buzzing that would waiver as it got nearer and further away, occasionally I would see him in the dim light a try and kill it, but it always evaded me, this mosi had skills! As the night went on I felt more and more like I was at the wrong end of the food chain as the mosquito was eating chunks out of me itch by itch. I decided to up the anti and turned the light on, even though I knew it would disturb Jess, I saw him on the cupboard, the wall, each time I would swipe for him and miss, this guy was like Mohamed Ali, ducking and weaving everything I could throw at him. This light turning on and off, continued so many times I cannot remember, I even upgraded to a rolled up magazine, but still he got away. In the end he left me be and I’m not sure where he went, however I hope we never come face to face again, as I would have to upgrade to a flamethrower or something to get this guy!
So that’s all for now, just a little update on living in my van and the realities of life! Don’t want to sugar coat it, but it is fun!