Today we are excited to share some of the most invaluable things we have learnt from living on the road, in our campervan living alongside two tiny humans.
Its all too easy when your first set off travelling to get excited and dash around on every new adventure that presents itself, every possible destination. After a few weeks though it will get tiring and it won’t feel as fun. Its important to mix up your time and your rhythms. Some weeks visit a city or tourist area to check out some culture and sites. Then the next week find a spot near the forest or a river. Park up and kick back for a few days in nature. Relax and unwind to recoup the energy you have expelled ready to explore another day.
Also slow travel stretches the budget even further… It costs next to nothing to live in a parked up campervan when wild camping. If you travel for one week and then park up for one week then you could effectively stretch 3 months of travel budget to 6 months!
Talk to the Locals
Say good morning in the language of whatever country you happen to be in. Smile, ask them how they are? Ask for directions… And most importantly ask them for their recommendations of where to visit next? Where to eat? Which route to take? Even if you think you know exactly where you are going and have it all planned out.
Some of our best places we have visited have been suggested to us by local people… After all they know the feel of the area a lot more than any guidebook. Also, some of our most fun moments with new friends have occured as a result of a random chat with a kindly neighbour or chatting about life, whilst walking the dog.
Park4Night App has taken a load of stress away from finding wild camping spots, watter taps, toilet drops and washing machines.
It is our top recommendation for any road trippers or van dwellers and its totally free to download!
Top up Water When You See a Tap.
It sounds simple but took us ages to get this in our heads, we were always waiting till we used nearly all our water in our tank and then having a mini panic driving around last minute to find a tap, often burning a lot more diesel in the process.
We have learned to top up a little bit each time we find ourselves next to a tap so hopefully we don’t get caught out at any point. The same ethos goes for toilet disposal points.
This is a new one for us and an idea we completely stole from our friends (Thanks Edie and Martha!) who are also on the road with their family. Can’t believe we didn’t think of it sooner!
Most of the time as part of this nomadic life we are outside living…sometimes though, you just need 10 minutes to do something and this can be tricky once you all pile into the van at the end of the day.
On our friends recommendation we downloaded ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’ (narrated by Kate Winslet) for the children to listen to and they LOVE it.
They curl up together with pillows and a blanket, happily being carried away in their imagination to faraway lands.
So as we would feel mean keeping such a good recommendation to ourselves, we just had to share it with you. If you haven’t yet got this book… Download it!
Toilet Drop Taps
Never. I repeat, NEVER be tempted to flush the emptying station at the chemical toilet drop before you have finished emptying and FIRMLY closed the metal lid. Due to the occasional high pressure explosion of water that may occur. Vanlife taps are not your average flushes or water taps.
Also handy to have an old pair of gardening gloves or easy reach hand cleansing spray if you have no immediate access to hot water whilst interacting with toilet drop stations.
Simple, space efficient but effective. Our small metal, fold-away tactical shovel has been endlessly handy for all sorts of random odd jobs on our travels. We have dug out treasure, built pop up awnings and buried the occasional passing child in the sand!
Most importantly though if you ever get stuck in sand or soft mud whilst adventuring you have a way of getting out.
Dont Always Rely on Park4night
As amazing as the Park4night app actually is, it can also make you a little reliant and dare I say it.. A tad lazy at exploring new places!
So ignore the park4night occasionally and rock up to new places with fresh eyes ready for adventure and exploring… Sometimes the best things happen in moments like this.
We used to spend a lot more of our travel budget on campsites for shower days, now we have learned to rely less on soap and more on mother nature. We wild swim to freshen up most days, having ditched the chemical wash products long ago.
Everyone should experience the benefits of wild swimming for themselves at least once in their life! Its a beautiful way to connect with nature, keep healthy and have a load of fun along the way.
Pick up All the Litter.
When we first set off travelling we still had a certain mentality that took a while to shake off… Everyone looks after their own problems. We always dutifully put our litter in the bin and would never dream of leaving our mess anywhere we made camp.
However if there was already litter lying about we would just assume that someone else would pick it up. Someone who was probably going to be paid from the council. It genuinely would have occurred to us that we could just pick it all up.
Since travelling we have learned a new love for the land and any rubbish makes us feel sad. Its not about who’s fault it is, or who picks it up, just about lessening the effects of litter on the wildlife and habitats around us.
Take Time Out For Yourself.
OK so this one is more do as I say, not as I do, kind of advice! It’s something we are working on and doesn’t always happen as much as we’d like!
When you are travelling, eating, sleeping, playing, learning as a family together every day sometimes you forget how to operate on your own. It’s potentially true of any family dynamics though I guess.
Its a beautiful thing to pack a hobby into your van just for you… A yoga mat, a meditation CD, a musical instrument, a Surfboard or some knitting needles. Go for a walk along the beach, write an entry into a journal, or order yourself a 1€ coffee to enjoy whilst people watching and pondering life.
If you travel long term its important to find time to do the things that make you happy and nourish your body, mind and creativity along the way. As exciting as it can be to have all these new places to visit, a good friend reminded me the other day that you need to take care of your roots too and it’s so true.
Mosquito Net, Inscence Sticks & USB Fan.
Its really hard to imagine it could ever get hot enough in your van that you would need to sleep with the back doors open, especially when doing a van build in England… in the Winter!
All we could think about was insulation, heaters and how on earth we were going to keep ourselves warm enough to sleep through each night comfortably.
We never even thought that the sunshine could potentially be a threat to a good night’s sleep! Fast forward a few months and you have driven much closer to the equator in the middle of Summer and you realise you are slightly under prepared!
We quickly had to dash out to local shops and buy a large mosquito net to drape over the bed so we could sleep with our windows open, smudge the whole van each night with incense to keep the fly population down and eventually in Greece we even discovered you can even buy mini fans to plug into USB points to help sooth that midday sun!
On really hot nights we also quickly figured out if you back your van up against a hedge or wall you can crack your back doors open easily without anyone being able to see and sleep peacefully and a lot cooler!
Embrace the Van Mezze.
Don’t feel guilty about not cooking ‘proper’ meals in the van. Most of our meals end up simple, cheap and quick to prepare.
We eat a ton of chopped fruit, crackers, sliced avocado’s, chopped peppers, side salads, carrot sticks, hummus, jars of sauerkraut, homemade coleslaw and cold pickles.
A Mezze meal is super simple to prepare in a small kitchen, reduces washing up time (and water)…as well as saving a load of gas in cooking fuel too.
We’d love to hear what any other travellers are out there doing in the world and the helpful things you have learned along the way… Drop us a comment or message and we can compare tips?