Travelling the world in a VW Camper Van

9 things we learned from living in a van for a year

Author: Naomi Dunbar + Louise Charles

If you’re anything like me, then exploring the world by van is the ultimate ‘to do’ on your bucket list. I spend more time than I would like to admit scrolling through Instagram, at the posts of the jammy buggers who have had the courage (and the money) to pack everything in and pack everything up, to follow their dreams in the form of a van on the open road.

As with all pipe dreams, there are pro’s and con’s that need to be thoroughly deliberated before setting off, because nothing is as simple or romantic as it may look in a second snapshot image. So, with that in mind, we asked Louise Charles who lives life out on the road, to give us a list of nine things she learned while living in a van for a year.

1. Living with less frees your mind

Living out of a van means you don’t have much space for “stuff”. Space is limited so you have to carefully choose what to bring. We’ve little with us, yet miss nothing and there’s still 25% of things in our van we’ve not even used yet. Living with less forces you to focus on where you are and the beauty around you, rather than what you have.

2. How precious water is

Until the amount of clean water running from your taps is suddenly no longer an endless supply, it’s easy to forget this is a luxury. Having little water, we quickly learned how to make the most of every drop and to be resourceful with the water we have. Little adjustments made all the difference.

3. Trust the good in people

Everywhere we’ve been, whenever we’ve needed help or advice, people have always been kind and willing to help where they can regardless of nationality, language, gender, religion or race. News channels often portray the world outside as a dangerous place full of bad people. Living on the road and getting into contact with all sorts of characters has proved to us the opposite – the world is mostly a safe place full of good people.

4. Van life is the ultimate test for any relationship

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Be it travelling with your best friend, sister or partner, sharing 5 square meters of living space can test your relationship. There’s no escaping each others’ smelly feet or bad habits. So, if you want to check whether a relationship will last, go on a van adventure!

5. Don’t plan too much, things always change

Van life forces you to be more spontaneous, flexible and open to changes than usual. You could break down somewhere wild, get stuck in deep sand or mud, get blocked by a rockfall, get bogged down in a storm and just have to roll with it. A sense of humour never goes amiss in such situations.

6. Close to home deserves exploring

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Europe is a spectacular place to explore by van and the places you can wild camp will blow your mind. We’ve woken up to exceptional views that not even the best hotels could offer. Everywhere from white sandy beaches and snow-sprinkled mountain passes to amidst lush forests – Europe is van paradise.

7. You’ll need to get creative with cooking

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With only two hobs, a small fridge and no oven, we’ve had to get creative with cooking and have surprised ourselves at the tasty food we’ve been able to make. We’ve learned to experiment with fresh, often unidentifiable local produce – an adventure in itself.

8. Communicate with a smile

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We were surprised by how often travelling by van has pushed us to be a little braver than usual, especially with regard to communicating with people whom we’ve no common language with. We’ve learned that a smile can get you a long way and is by far the most effective way of communicating, regardless of where you are.

9. Travelling by van beats all

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For us, travelling by van tops all other modes of travel. You never need to book any transport or accommodation, can decide last-minute where to go and what to do, and you will always have everything you need with you. With a van, adventures are around every corner!

Louise is raising money for Climbers Against Cancer, a charity which is close to both her and her partner’s hearts. The couple have unfortunately lost several members of their family to the disease, so through their website they are trying to raise funds for the cause, with 100% of the proceeds donated to the charity.

Be sure to check out their website if you’d like to read more of their blog content on van life or climbing, you can also find out more about donating to their chosen charity.