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Camper Update

An update on the journey of our Camper conversion

05 August 2022

Camper Update

As you may remember we said goodbye a few months ago to our camper conversion to the lovely Georgie as she embarks on a road trip across Europe. While currently in spain, she has written an update on Van life and what her few months driving 'Vivienne the Vito' has been like. Give it a read below 🔽

As it’s been a few months now of van life,  I figured a blog about Vivienne (Mercedes-Benz Vito) was well overdue, as well as a little chat about my experience of vanlife so far.

Viv has had her work cut out for her, we have travelled nearly the furthest you can go from the good old Emerald Isle while remaining on mainland Europe, and a little more besides. She has (and hopefully I’m not jinxing her by saying this), been an absolute angel. No engine problems so far, and only one tyre pressure check. It has been a huge relief driving something so reliable, both for me, the parents and everyone else who thought I was crazy starting this trip!

Jan’s Lifestyle has also done a fab job converting her, I love the layout, I have everything I need here and there is tons of storage. Everyone who has joined me has been shocked at just how much I’ve managed to fit in, whether that’s in cupboards, under seats, tucked into corners or in bags. I now have a very good idea of how I want to lay out my next converted van (much to Dad’s dismay!) I think the best thing is the nifty little hook up which warns me when my leisure battery is low, or when I’m low on water. This is super helpful, especially when parked for a few days with several devices needing charged and a fridge to run. This blog will be accompanied by a van tour so you can get a proper idea of how she looks inside.

With all of this being said, these are some of the main things I think you need for a van trip, that I didn’t think about before I left:

  • A hose: free water points are often just taps – I would’ve saved a ton of time if I had a hose to run between the tap and the water portal in Vivienne, although I have become slightly attached to my plastic bottle which has travelled from Hungary with me, helping to fill my water tank.
  • Foil window covers: these are brilliant not only for privacy at night, but also to help keep out heat during the day. My black window cover only goes on the outside and goes some way in deflecting heat but can easily be blown up if windy, or even lifted by someone being a bit nosy (creepy).
  • A tool kit: this probably seems obvious to some, but I did not bring one with me, resulting in a couple of make shift fixes of a slightly loose awning and wonky cupboard door.
  • Mosquito net: at one point I think my legs were more bites than not, you need one, preferably one that fits your doors/windows.
  • Camping chairs/outdoor table: I suppose these aren’t essential but it is really nice to be able to sit outside and eat your meal. I have chairs, but no table and have often found myself wishing for one.

As a plus, here are the things I brought which have been incredibly useful:

  • Park4Night: my hero, the best app ever, it has guided me to safe places to sleep, points to get water, even saved money by pointing out sneaky free places to park in popular tourist spots (Lake Bled in particular was a win) – also tons of people use it, so it’s well informed and you can compare spots with people you meet on the road.
  • Dust pan and brush – this is literally used more than once a day, places are dusty and sandy and it gets everywhere.
  • A bin, this saves on so much plastic waste as I don’t have to use bin bags as often, I just put rubbish in my little bin and empty it when I find a proper bin on the road – I can even wash it if it gets a little manky.
  • Decorations and plants – this really makes the van feel so much more like home especially when you’re in it for a long time.
  • Jump leads - haven’t had to use them yet! But knowing they’re there is brill.
  • Electricity hook up – brill for campsites, especially as I need to be plugged in to use the 3 prong plugs.

I think it’s obvious that I am completely in love with van life. This trip has been the best adventure of my life and experiencing it both alone and with company has made it all the more fulfilling. My favourite thing is how living in a van makes the mundane seem amazing, brushing your teeth, reading a book, cutting your toenails all become something so cool because you’re doing it in the most spectacular places. For example, as I write this, we are parked looking at Europe’s highest waterfall. Granted I haven’t parked in a dreamy place every night, think that would be too much to expect! But 85% of the time I would say, I have woken to stunning nature outside. The feeling of living in the outdoors is probably a close second favourite of this lifestyle.

There are also so many different ways you can live the van life experience. You can stay in the wild, hoping you won’t be moved on by police, or you can stay in campsites. You can keep to yourself, finding secluded spots where you’re alone if that’s your thing (Park4Night regularly has reviews detailing good spots for exactly this). I always head for the spots where it says there are usually others there, partly because it’s safer, but also because I love a chat. The important thing is that there’s no pressure either way, and you can switch between either vibe. There’s also a ton of different ways of exploring the place you’re in and timeframes in which to do it in. If you want to do van life for a couple of weeks that’s super cool, or for the foreseeable that’s great too, I’ve met people doing both.

However, I have to say, sometimes van life can be hard. As Naomi (who I met in Greece), described it, it is like having a part time job. You have to check the engine, keep your limited space clean and very tidy, find places to park. Looking for places to spend the night can be tough, I have spent hours on my phone trying to find somewhere that’s suitably beautiful and wild, while also feeling safe. To be completely authentic, I did struggle at the start. You are totally responsible for how you spend your day, especially when you’re alone and it can feel like a lot of pressure to make the most of things. I also didn’t seem to meet people in the first couple of weeks and genuinely thought that I was doing something wrong. As much as vanlife is what you see on social media, in terms of the freedom, the views, the interesting people you meet – it’s not like that all the time and you have to learn to go with the eb and flow. I had to teach myself not to put pressure on things, and to live a slower place of life which I now love. Not to get too spiritual on anyone, but without any real intention, I feel more centred and that’s what travelling is about, right?

I could not recommend it enough and am eternally grateful to Vivienne for being such a supportive companion (and to Mercedes-Benz Truck & Van NI) for allowing me the opportunity to fulfil so many bucket list goals at once.

Here’s to more good times,
G 😊.

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