We’ve always loved the freedom that any sort of leisure vehicle gives you, starting out with a tiny 2 berth caravan not long after we first met back in 1988, I was just 18 years old and driving off for the odd night away to our local haunts in Snowdonia, it was a welcome break from the hard working week and a proper little home from home, sadly we had to sell the small Sprite to buy a more essential bit of kit, a washing machine!!
Throughout our twenties and thirties with babies in tow, travel cots, bottle warmers, prams, toys and bikes all accompanied us over the years, seeing caravans replaced by motorhomes and children becoming teenagers then adults until we reached the big milestone of empty nest syndrome and our now late forty something selves, we’re back to being just the two of us with time to expand our travelling wings and take on new vanlife adventures of a slightly different kind, taking on a smaller van, a 4×4 Sprinter, to get us to those more out of the way places no matter what the terrain.
These 30 years of caravan, motorhome and van travels have led to a complete array of destinations across Europe and further afield covering a 23,000KM road trip of Australia and 3 separate van tours of New Zealand. We’re hoping these are just the beginning of more long haul van explorations, one reason we opted for our Sprinter in the hope that we ship it over to Canada, America and others to get a taste of different worldwide travels in the comfort of our own van.
We’ve learnt so much over the years, experienced so many weird and wonderful destinations and most importantly found out the nitty gritty in’s and out’s of everything van related, from fixtures and fittings, equipment, problem solving, what we love and hate in a van, what we can’t do without, what we can leave behind and those bits and pieces that you think are a good idea at the time but turn out to be a complete waste of time and money!
Sometimes, we’ve learnt the hard way, for instance, the first time we travelled by camper into Europe, we booked several weeks of campsites before we left home, thinking that we would be touring in a similar way to what we used to do with our caravan! Oh my goodness, what a mistake, passing beautiful villages, amazing scenery and driving for ages just to reach a campsite didn’t last long!!
After a few days our first lesson was well and truly learnt, those campsite bookings were cancelled and we discovered why all the French campers were parked together in something called an Aire de Camping Car!!!!!…….gosh it’s hard to believe looking back now that we didn’t even know about Aires back then, there was no English Aires book to give a list of All the Aires in France and certainly no mobile phones, let alone an app!! We did, though, find a French publication that gave us a rough idea of what we were looking for and where we’d find our parking spot for the night and never looked back!
We’d first bought a garage model van with a fixed bed above, something a bit unusual then, it was a British Swift Bessacarr and unusual for a British manufacturer then to actually build a fixed bed European layout, in fact, we got it at a highly reduced price as the dealer couldn’t sell it to the Brits who wanted a traditional lounge type layout! The garage fixed bed layout still suits us now, storing all the outdoor gear out of sight, bikes, skies, boots, wet clothes, bbq, outdoor chairs have all been hidden away in the garage and no having to make up and put away a bed each day and night!
Over the years we learnt many tips and tricks to get the most out of a trip and how to deal with things when they go wrong, especially those dreaded moments when the heating stops working or the lights go out just as the temperature’s dropped to some unkindly extreme and there we are fumbling around with a torch for a solution. We’ve also heard a tale or two, some real strange ones during our business years of our motorhome hire company, it certainly reminded us that nearly all problem solving has a back to basics approach, as 9 times out of 10 there really is a simple solution to an issue.
We hope to enlighten you with a little of our knowledge, we always think that even if you learn just one thing then it could be enough to jog the memory when on your own travels or maybe guide you on your path to what to include in your own van or even help with a little problem solving no matter how big or small.
There’s so much information to give, too many hints, tips and tales to tell in just one article so watch this space, follow our blog and social media as we gradually bring out the best of our knowledge and share the warts and all of vanlife with the masses!!