Campervan’s The Must Have Accessory

Campervan's The Must Have Accessory

Campervan’s The Must Have Accessory

Go back a few years and the phrase ‘vanlife’ conjured up images of a clapped out old Ford Transit van. Campervan’s, now being the must have accessory of recent years, weren’t exactly appealing not so long ago.

Once, opening the back doors of a van, often meant being greeted by piles of rubble, rather than a mattress. After all, a van was usually seen with tyres deep in mud at the local building site.  

Fear not, coming from a family of builder’s, I’m neither anti-transit van or anti-building site. Back then, a van used to be a dirty, essential workhorse, often with rust, dents and well, cement dust.

The van was not something you’d want to spend more than a couple of hours in – let alone sleep in. I remember my Dad’s van’s being filled with builder’s tools, materials and plenty of used tea bags, when it regularly doubled up as the work canteen!

Campervan's The Must Have Accessory
Wherever I Lay My Hat…That’s My Home!

Our first Motorhome days

When we first started our motorhome adventures back in the early 2000’s, generally, you either had a motorhome or a campervan. There were no in-between varieties, although I guess they must have been around – somewhere.

However, slightly different modes of transport for sleeping, eating, travelling and often living in were slowly appearing. Although, these went largely unnoticed and weren’t particularly admired.

To put it bluntly, people dreaming of a campervan trip, instead of a package holiday to the sun were still few and far between. In other words, campervan’s and motorhomes were definitely not the must have accessory for most of our early van travels.

Vintage caravanning
Loving our little Sprite van aged 18 and big hair

My eccentric Aunt and Uncle

Roll back the clock to the mid 1970’s and my first encounter with a van conversion was a fascinating one.

I vividly remember a rather eccentric Aunt and Uncle visiting us at our home in the most intriguing campervan. The homemade conversion, bearing a striking resemblance to that of an ambulance, looked super cosy.

Freshly painted in a striking powder blue finish, it was delightfully fitted out with solid, dark wood panelled units. The windows were even decorated with homemade floral curtains, fresh off my Aunt’s sewing machine. Whilst, matching upholstery covering the plump, foam filled seat pads, co-ordinated perfectly.

I was only about 5 years old, but completely mesmerised by this home on wheels.

Original Vanlife Pioneers

Despite my parents dismay of our relatives travelling the length and breadth of the country, living out of a van, I found it rather appealing. To me, it was like playing house on a large scale, venturing inside a ‘Wendy House’ for grown up’s. How exciting and adventurous it seemed.

Of course, looking back, my Aunty Mona and Uncle Dylan, were absolute trend-setters way before today’s vanlife mega mix. Their nomadic spirit would prove them to be pioneers of the first vanlife movement, yet they were totally unaware of how big this almost cult-like phenomenon would become, a staggering 40 years or so later.

Dreaming of my own campervan

Perhaps, I have a little bit of their campervan gene in me. Recalling endless pestering to my parents for a campervan of our own.

I craved the yellow and orange VW campervan’s that regularly featured in our local Volkswagen garage showroom. In fact, I’d beg my Mum and Dad to buy one, eager to take me and my Sister on adventures far and wide.

Unfortunately, my Mum and Dad hated the idea of anything remotely campervan related. Instead, preferring to fly us away to the beaches of Greek Islands or anywhere else chosen from the Christmas edition of a Thomas Cook brochure.

Of course, I’m not complaining, because I loved my annual package holiday too and flying is still something I enjoy to this day.

The strange thing is, years later when I could buy my own campervan, the VW I’d craved no longer appealed. After all those childhood years of VW yearning, the practicalities of no shower room and very limited space got the better of me. In reality, by the time Nigel and I bought our first motorhome, we both wanted the total opposite to a VW.


the big vanlife appeal

In the last few years, the vanlife explosion has moved to a whole new level.

Starting out in America and quickly spreading to Australia. The appeal in those countries seemed endless, thanks to wide open highways and some pretty decent weather. However, It wasn’t long before those talented and creative individuals began churning out some pretty impressive designs worldwide.

Coinciding with the rise of Instagram, there was suddenly the perfect platform to showcase their layouts and designs to the world. The vanlife appeal, suddenly reached smart phones and tablets across the globe. In doing so, introducing an otherwise oblivious audience to life on the open road.

Most importantly, the big new difference to conventional ‘shop bought’ campervans and motorhomes was “sex appeal”. These vanlife creations looked amazing and the incredible marketing of the image through beautiful people in fabulous locations, brought a whole new audience to the vanlife desire, ultimately selling the nomadic lifestyle like never before.

Campervan's The Must Have Accessory
A mix of vans in Spain


I tend to call our own campervan a camper. Although it’s not a conventional campervan or a motorhome, there’s no other term for it. Unless, possibly an adventure van or just a plain old panel van.

There’s such a connundrum of ingeniously home crafted, often hippy inspired designs out there. Now, the freedom of design goes hand in hand with the ever-changing outdoor lifestyle.  With the changing face of Ford Transit vans and every other base vehicle around the world came many inspiring, nomadic and free-spirited folk, happy to embrace life on the road.

In truth, everyone has the same goal and wants to travel that same journey, no matter what van they choose.

Making the most of life in a simpler format, living the way you want to live is so appealing. To be in a different place, a new beginning, a fresh outlook each day – how magical it appears.

Aires in France

Campervan’s bring freedom – The Must Have Accessory

It’s the opportunity for change that’s also just as important. That chance to enjoy nature, as well as rich landscapes, special cultures and the freedom the outdoor lifestyle affords. Of course, there’s challenges too, after all, living life on the road for long periods of time isn’t always easy.

Vanlife is liberating, it’s almost a feeling of rejecting the materialistic consumer driven forces that overwhelm society in this modern world. Bringing a bond shared between all of us, regardless of what van we choose – whether it be big, small, old new, conventional or self-built.

Somehow, Vanlife feels almost like a rebellion or a form of therapy from conformity.

Whichever the perspective or the opinion, vanlife has been a global revolution that is still thriving. This growing trend amongst so many, often from people disillusioned, who just want to get out there and see the world.

Campervan's The Must Have Accessory
Large Beach Side Aire France

FROM THE 1970’S TO PRESENT DAY – Campervan’s The Must Have Accessory

For me, choosing to see the world by campervan still seems as idyllic today as it did as a 5 year old. Thankfully, I was lucky enough to marry a man who shared that same dream. Buying our first caravan at just 18 years old, we’ve had over 30 years of amazing road trips by caravan and motorhome.

To be honest, we can’t recommend van travel enough. Years ago, we used to say we couldn’t understand why everyone didn’t have a motorhome, now it seems everyone does!

Campervans are the must have accessory of recent years, and it will remain to be seen how long the trend lasts. For many, it will be a long, happy relationship, bringing memories to last a lifetime.

For us, we don’t live in our camper, simply because, we still also love bricks and mortar. So, we share our house life with vanlife and it’s our perfect combination. Our van is a place to escape, often for a few months at a time, sometimes longer, occasionally shorter.

Above all, it brings freedom. Taking each day as it comes, enjoying every minute, and the thrill of wanting to know what’s round the next corner never leaves us.

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Campervan's The Must Have Accessory
Our old Carthago motorhome