Van life reality – chasing the porcelain express

As is becoming the usual on this trip, occasionally I accumulate enough things that go wrong and defy the perfect #vanlife perception that I’m able to write a blog post on it. I will also make sure the post has pictures of our van in only the best settings, as who takes a picture of their van when parked next to rubbish heaps or when parked in an ugly busy street, or maybe when I’m just to scared to get out of the van when the guy stood next to our door has just climbed out of the bin? You get the idea! As usual and as per the title (which is what we spend a bit of time doing), there is a bit of toilet humour and it is crude at times… just a warning.


So it was my turn to do the toilet again, I’d emptied it at the Aire, and then decided to sort everything else out in the van. For those not in the know, there is blue liquid that goes in the toilet bowl which basically stops the waste water smelling. I was putting this into the toilet bowl and then realised that I had not opened up the drop, without a second thought I pulled on the drop and whereas when I’ve done it before everything just, well, drops… not when it’s got blue liquid in it, I pulled the handle and blue liquid exploded all over me and the bathroom. I’m not kidding, I was drenched from head to toe, I could have auditioned for the blue man group or joined the smurfs. Once I’d cleaned out my eyes which stung a little, I was left with a view of a splattered blue bathroom. It was everywhere, on the ceiling, walls, toilet, steps and shower, there was not a spot that had not been blued. I was looking forward to spending the evening resting after a hard days climbing, however ended up spending the best part cleaning myself and the van. Over the next couple of days I kept finding new spots of blue that I had missed on both myself and the van, only a few stains are left as a permanent reminder!

There’s a funny smell in here?

We have had a leak on our waste pipe system since we melted our smell trap in Slovenia. To cut a long story short, it was -12, and we had our heater on for a considerable amount of time as you might expect, unbeknown to us, at some point in the last few of months our exhaust for the diesel heater had snapped off and only a small bit remained. The part that remained directed the heat directly onto the waste tank and inlet system. It melted the tank, smell trap and pipes. In short I kept trying to fix and bodge this for about a month, always unsuccessfully, so it leaked every time we dropped water. Since then I have removed the smell trap and just fitted some spare pipe in place, and voila, leak sorted… new problem though… without a smell trap to trap the smell, we occasionally have a funky smell, usually when driving and all our waste is being churned releasing a pleasant odour of sewage! Nice! So, as it’s getting hotter I’m sure this problem will only get worse and we will have to suffer for a few more months until I get home and fix the waste problems, who said this life was not luxurious?

Getting comfortable!

As you might imagine, living in a 2×6 metre box you start getting pretty comfortable with what you are sharing, and this is defiantly the case with us. The topic of some of the conversation has become a little too vulgar for the dinner table so to speak. Shit has become a topic and not just something we do, there are complete tales of poo that have done the rounds in the van! Not to mention the shit minefield that we had to navigate to get to the beach recently, literally every little nook and cranny had a pile of tissue or just surface laid mines waiting for someone in flip flops to come a cropper. Wierdly there was a fair share of used Jonny’s lying around, so some people must love to fuck surrounded by shit! Come to think of it, jess and me had one of our best laughs when we happened upon the mother of all shits, how this came out of a human I do not know, and how they walked away after is another mystery altogether! I’m sure this little example allows some insight to the general #vanlife conversation.

When I started this post, the initial thing I was going to write about was going to the toilet with the door open. I know for some this is common place, however for me it’s always been a no go area, I go to the toilet in privacy. Although even I managed to let standards slip, as I was talking to jess and readied myself for the toilet, sat there in all my glory when I realised that the door was still open. I had not quite opened the waterworks, so had time to rectify, however this was one example of getting comfortable!

How big?

Now this is just an observation, but it seems to me the bigger (and often more expensive) the motorhome/camper, the more shit they need to bring along. As we live in a medium wheelbase merc sprinter, the two of us are a bit squashed at times, but most of the time it’s comfortable, and we are carting around the motherload of climbing equipment, bouldermats, five ropes, racks (sport, trad, winter), full alpine kit, ice axes, boots, via Ferrata, tents, sleeping bags and a load of other stuff I forgotten about, not to mention the normal stuff like clothes and food etc. Yet we fit in comfortably. Now what I can’t get is how these motor homes, that are already twice the size of ours, and only have two participants still need to tow a trailer that’s half the size of the van behind? What’s in there, the kitchen sink? On days off I people watch and van watch and I still can’t understand what’s in there? Most are retirement-ish aged and just sit and read, go into town to look at churches and shops, visit restaurants and cafes and all that good stuff, but it still doesn’t explain what’s in the trailers? Maybe it’s a library of books? Maybe it’s all the little trinkets they have brought from the shops? Maybe it’s full of tourist information leaflets and maps, just incase they go back?

I think my big bother is that this trip has awoken my understanding of how little I want or need, I have boxes of things stored at home, and so far on this trip I don’t think I’ve wanted or needed anything from them, so why do I have them? Back to the point at hand, maybe it’s an excess thing, they have a bigger van so they have to fill it with things, and feel the need to cart more things in the trailer behind. Maybe it’s just me, but living on the road feels like a simpler life, and by dragging everything else with you, you never quite get away from it all!


4 thoughts on “Van life reality – chasing the porcelain express

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    1. I’ve just tried to have a look at your blog, however another unfortunate downside to travelling Europe is finding decent wifi, so will have a look another time! I haven’t quite sold everything, although there will be a major clear out when I get home! It was only yesterday when we were talking to our new van neighbours about how good this life is, it might be cliche but vanlife is the way forward!

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