Yeh yeh, we’ve all seen the instagram posts but what about the realities? The everyday, nitty gritty of eating, sleeping travelling and pooping on the road. Well here are some we’ve come to discover here in NZ…1. Not all fellow vanlifers are amazing/friendly/respectful/nature-loving/sensible people.
I think this was a bubble that burst REAL hard for us as we travelled around during the first few months here. Perhaps it’s just who our community of friends are back home – with vanlife (and just generally having a van to go away in) being an indicator of being a generally good egg, liking adventure and respecting the places you go. Now, NZ has quite a big problem with tourism and freedom campers (probably a whole post’s worth actually) but we were increasingly surprised to find people littering, being dicks and doing stupid shit. Don’t expect everyone to be alike in their vanlifing ethos is all I’m saying…
2. What do we even DO everyday?!
Unless you’re on a short holiday or rich AF it’s HARD to think of things to do each day! J and I are definitely not short of hobbies between us, all of which are fairly ideally placed in NZ. BUT like everything in life, too much choice and freedom isn’t always the most conducive to actually doing shit. It’s hard because you want to experience all the things people talk about which often are inevitably hella touristy or expensive (I’m looking at YOU Hobbiton!), but you also can’t sustain this long term. Sometimes you just have no idea, no motivation and no money to do anything. Life on the go is definitely not always one big happy picnic, and this is definitely something to prepare for if you do something like this long term.
3. Monotonous Meals.
You’ve got no fridge (unless you’re hella fancy and in a Jucy camper or something), no oven, no toaster, no kettle, limited funds, limited storage space. This is something I really didn’t think I’d struggle with, but after eating dahl every week for 4 months I’m just saying, it’s harder than you think. When the cold and the sandflies bite you don’t want to be spending time cooking outside, so meals also need to be cookable inside (without killing yourself with gas!). You come up with weird concoctions (Soup – a la – noodles) and eventually if you’re me, you throw an occasional tantrum and find something weird like a bottle of teriyaki sauce and start putting it in everything. Simplicity is nice, for a time. Then you just want to throw the pasta and noodles out the window and go drink mohitos and eat tacos at the nearest bar…
4. Where can we poop today?
Yeh, this is what you really came for isn’t it? Totally. This is surprisingly low down by list of bugbears of vanlife but still, it gets old when you want to wee in the middle of the night believe you me. NZ has a surprisingly high number of public toilets and they’re treated as just another public venue that needs cleaning and maintaining (UK, take NOTE!) but they often close at night. Having grown up on camping holidays and a holiday cottage with no plumbing it’s not something I’ve ever been overly precious about but it’s more the having to find them. You think, oh it’ll be fine we’ll just set off on our hike/surf/swim/kayak this morning. But what if you’re in the middle of no where? What if you’re in the middle of Wellington so sneaky wilderness wees are out of the question? It’s a daily mission that get’s a bit boring, but you do become a connoisseur of toilet types. ‘I prefer the long drop’ or ‘These toilets FLUSH!’ will all be things you find yourself saying.
5. Where the hell are we parking tonight?!
Oh ma gawd. THIS just drives me nuts. The incessant and ever-pressing need to find somewhere different to stay every night is often soul destroying. Trawling CamperMate and WikiCamps, checking reviews and pictures and toilet availability. As mentioned before, NZ has quite a problem with van-tourists so almost every district is quite strict on how many nights/where you can stay etc. I will do a whole post on the ins and outs of NZ van life but just for this final point, adhering to every districts rules, arriving at a spot to find all the spaces filled at 9pm when you just want dinner and to stop driving – UGH. It happens. Some spots are shit, some are amazing. Some are ALWAYS full, some have stupid giant campervans taking up 3 spots in, some are dodgy as hell. It’s a really mixed bag and definitely NOT the picture perfect ideal that gets put about on social media a lot of the time. That amazing ‘out the boot’ picture with a morning coffee overlooking the sea? Yeh they’re probably surrounded by another 10 vans and have a stinking short-drop toilet just along the way and will only be allowed to stay there 1 night. It’s great a lot of the time, but by no means a dream.
DISCLAIMER – van life is pretty cool and you realise how much freedom you have when you stay in one place in a house for a while. But you also realise the things you miss (like fridges for your wine…). I LOVE a lot of the time in the van, but I think like anyone things become a bit annoying after a while. Overall, vanlife is a great way to travel and see things – just prepare yourself for a bit of shit stuff as well as the cool stuff. 🙂