For some, Van Life #VanLife maybe just another one of those travel fads, as cliched as backpacking in Thailand, either way, it’s probably the ultimate millennial hashtag. You can’t look on social media and not be plagued by photos from bohemian hipsters on Instagram in seriously cliched shots of starry nights or some gorgeous mountain backdrop blogging their lifestyle and how they’ve given up their 9-5 day job and now freelancing, or how the world is their office with their nomadic lifestyle.
Romantic dreams of waking up in your campervan on a mountain pass or a pretty beach with waves crashing against the rock is great, but in reality, as we found out, the sound that wakes you up is not the waves of the sea but the rain hammering the roof or your dog licking his balls one foot away from your face in the narrow confines of the tin can you’re all living in. Successful campervan living and Van Life requires a sense of humour, patience and will forge a bond that will bind you closer or tear you apart.
So we’ve done it, we’ve hired a VW Campervan for life on the road, our first go at Van Life. We went to hire a Campervan last year with a view to buying one but the campervan company went bust 3 weeks before and instead we ended up going to God’s waiting room, or the Lake District as most call it.
The campervan we had originally hired this time though was going to be a bright yellow classic VW T2 bay with the spectacular name of ‘I am Spartacus.’ But with a months worth of rain due to fall within the next 30 hours while being battered by gusty winds, we were offered a newer van, a VW California Ocean, complete with a heater. We took it.
Our van, van lifers never call them campervans, has a pop-up top, sink, gas hob and a fridge. Perfect for off grid living. The speedometer goes up to 160, which is optimistic. Devon’s roads are dangerous this weekend. Hills need a good run up, preferably 3 days. Selecting a gear on a wet, windy and drenched narrow Devon road is more art than science. It doesn’t matter though, a campervan is about having a more leisurely pace of life, which is a good job ‘cos we won’t get a choice with the weather this weekend as it threatens to aquaplane us off the road.
Our first night was on the high ground of Dartmoor, that month’s worth of rain made itself known and we were forced to take shelter in a pub. We should have known better, we went to Dartmoor last year and it chucked it down. Those Dartmoor ponies must be made of hard stuff. Probably not as hard as this campervan, or as hard as the campervan bed, and while the wind and rain battered the van, we were quite snug for our first night in the pub car park not needing our heater. Snug because we hadn’t parked on level enough ground and ended up rolling into each other.
As the weather eased up the next day we decided on a little jaunt to the coast at a quite flooded and breezy Westward Ho! It’s a great stretch of beach for the surfers and kiteboarders, even better for us to pull up and make a cup of tea. We settled down for the night at a nearby site. Thankfully the wind had died down and we could use the pop top to add some space in the van. Which was needed as Sam proceed to then use every pot/pan/plate/cup and utensil in the van to warm up a can of vegetable chilli. Settling down for the night with the pop top up, we nearly froze to death before flicking the heater on.
Our last day ended up being rather glorious. Making our way to Ilfracombe and Woolacombe, we parked our van at surfer central by the beach next to all the other campervans and had a glorious sunset, with a squint you could have mistaken it for California, the campervan living up to its name before we spent our last night we spent on the edge of Dartmoor at Okehampton under a starry night sky.
Did we enjoy it? It’s been a vantastic experience We’re glad we’ve tried it. We know what works and what doesn’t, what we’d like etc and what’s real and what’s not real in campervan culture i.e. the completely fake vanlife couple from Wandxr Bus on YouTube. All we need to do is get on YouTube ourselves, just don’t go expecting a thumbnail of some fit bird in a bikini standing by a van who looks like she’s never eaten a bag of crisp her in her life. Trust me, those thumbnail pics get all the views.
Happy Campers in a VW campervan – our first go at Van Life #VanLife
Next up – The Realities of Van Life #VanLife
We hired our van from O’Connors Campers