If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram you’ll have seen that, after a lockdown start to Summer 2020 and not being able to go anywhere, we threw ourselves into it wholeheartedly from mid-July to mid-September.
It seemed cruel that, having bought our van in October last year, with plans for 2020 to be the summer of roadtrips, Covid came along and stopped everything in its tracks. Not to sound selfish and self centred, as I’m aware there are a lot LOT worse things going on for people, but here we were with £12k of van sitting outside our house and nowhere to go. Even daytrips became out of the question.
We could have spent that time getting prepared for when the situation changed and we could get on the road, but that would have been too sensible. Instead, when restrictions were lifted and we felt safe enough to venture out for our first overnighter, we had a mad rush to buy plates, dishes, glasses, cutlery, a duvet cover, mattress topper, screen cover, tent pegs for the awning and a porta potti. Yup, if we were going camping we were doing it properly.
Our first overnighter, in Much Wenlock, was a learning curve. Our set up was easy thanks to our pop up tent which is so easy to assemble. Everything went pretty smoothly, I congratulated myself for the ease with which I had accustomed myself to life on wheels.
Alas it all went a bit wrong when we realised the screen cover was in the cupboard, behind the bed, after the bed was all set up ready for us to get into. I had a meltdown, cried, stormed off, said everything was shit and this wasn’t the life for me.
In short, I was a drama queen.
Not one to give in, I insisted we try again ASAP, doubling our chances of me losing the plot by going away for 2 nights. This time I forgot some of the ingredients for our Saturday night dinner so instead of being logical and making do, I threw everything away and we went to bed hungry.
If you think you can see a pattern emerging, I’m glad to say you’re wrong. From shit beginnings we have now absolutely nailed it, having completed two 4 night trips without incident.
More importantly, I love it!
So, what have I learnt so far?
We could not exist in a campervan alone
All credit to people who can live purely from their van, but we have stuff. We like stuff. Stuff makes us happy and comfortable and more likely to enjoy ourselves. When we go away the living space is packed to the rafters so we need somewhere to put it all. A stand alone awning (basically a tent) means we can unload. We have a dumping ground where bedding, dried goods, shoes, clothes etc can sit so it doesn’t get in our way during everyday life.
For us, comfort is key
We have a thick mattress topper, full size duvet, and we take our own bed pillows. A decent night sleep is key, especially if you’re short tempered and highly strung like me!
Organisation really does help
The first time we went away I put all of our eating and drinking utensils in a bag, then got really irritable when I couldn’t find things easily. After that I bought a set of 4 plastic drawers which keeps everything in it’s place. It’s lightweight enough to get in and out easily, and sits in the corner of our awning when we’re set up for ease of access.
A porta potti isn’t as grim as it sounds
The idea of peeing in anything that isn’t a toilet didn’t fill me with glee, but they really are pretty good and hygienic. We bought one with a proper flushable tank and with the right chemicals and specific loo roll even emptying it isn’t awful, because everything dissolves. Plus, if it’s a choice between that and walking to the toilet block in the middle of the night – no brainer.
Mundane tasks feel more fun in a camper
Cooking breakfast, making up the bed and even washing up have a novelty element to them. Not to mention having drinks from our well stocked bar!
A serviced pitch is good for longer stays
For us, an electric hook up is essential regardless of how long we’re staying, but on our one and two night trips that’s all we’ve needed. We can fill a water container from the central tap and make do without washing up by having enough crockery and cutlery and bringing it home in a black bag to stick in the dishwasher. For our 4 night trip we booked a serviced pitch, which means that, as well as an electric point, you also have your own water tap and a drain to empty away waste water. That way you don’t need to use the washing up facilities or walk to the tap which just makes life a little easier (this may sound precious, but I don’t care).
Camping people are both friendly and trustworthy
From sites not taking pre-payment, to other visitors leaving their deckchairs outside all night and people actually making eye contact and saying hello, there’s a feeling of camaraderie and all being part of something. It’s nice.
I’m far from an expert, and we’re not the type of people who can just pack up and go at a moment’s notice, but I’m loving the whole experience WAY more than I expected to. In truth I thought we’d go away every few weeks and I would grin and bear it for my husband but, if anything, I’ve been the driving force behind planning more trips, looking at destinations, and booking our stays.
Certainly, with our personal decision not to get on a plane this year, being able to still get away has been an absolute lifesaver. Mentally we’ve felt less trapped, medically we’ve felt less at risk by being more or less self contained, and financially that £12k van has earned it’s keep by being our home on wheels.
We’re pretty much fair weather campers; autumn winter camping isn’t for us. But I’m already excited for what next year will bring and where we’ll go. It really does feel like a whole new chapter of life.