Category Archives: Caravan Life

Travelling with a caravan, mostly in central Europe.

Home sweet home-away-from-home

Home sweet home-away-from-home

I started this blog post a couple of days after we arrived in New Zealand. Here’s how far I got in the last almost 3 weeks:

We’re in New Zealand and it is BRILLIANT. Really, it is ALL CAPS good.

It turns out that if you’re staying in a campervan (we are!) driving around a lot (we are!) and freedom camping (cheap and legal, hurray NZ) you don’t get much online time. Sorry guys! I have lots of thoughts I want to share about this part of the trip, but in the interests of posting at all before we leave, I’ll hang fire. Instead, here are 6 pictures that show some of the things I love about this part of our trip.

1. The van

White campervan under a rainbow

I’m not going to pretend it’s perfect, but it’s great to be back on wheels again. I was really stoked to try campervan life, after the caravan (trailer, for the Americans). It’s been a brilliant way to get about and has meant we could afford food and petrol (not much else though, first world prices are a bit of a shock after Vietnam).

2. The beaches

Long sandy beach with islands in the distance, sun and clouds in the sky

Even I’m not quite mad enough to swim when the air is below 10C and I’ve no hot shower (otherwise, sure, obvs), but they are thrillingly gorgeous. And everywhere.

3. Doing random stuff with K

K and I in front of a sign that says welcome to cambridge town centre

It’s a little hard to explain to other people (sane, rational people with jobs and mortgages and whatnot) why we’re on this trip, or why we’re going so far out of our way to do a particular thing. The only real answer is ‘because we want to’. We’re having a lot of fun, even if it seems a bit mad!

4. Geography

Sun is behind a mountain with hot spring steam in the foreground

This one’s a bit of a cheat because there’s a sunset and a volcano and a hot spring and a public park in there. Anyway, I’m enjoying all the geography they’ve got here!

5. Skiing

Ski slopes in the foreground with a brown and green valley and distant peaks

Skiing in August! The snow was good and I was enormously entertained by the piste names. We skiied ‘The M1′ and ‘Ego Alley’ and ‘Greengates’ among others. Oh, and you know those bits of just-off-the-piste that everyone skis? Yeah, here they name them and stick a black diamond on them. Random.

6. Bird watching

A black bird perched on a beige cliff face

I know, I know: it’s not a penguin or a kiwi. (We did see penguins. I’ll let K tell you about those since he’s still hugely excited by them!) I’m really enjoying all the wild birds we’ve seen around. I know that New Zealand is famous for ‘drab, ground dwelling and dull’ birds but we’ve seen lots of really fun ones. One fantail followed us half way home, and a green one gave us a full concert clearly inspired by a fax-modem combo! It’s bizarre to look at the rest of the wildlife (bats are the only indigenous mammals, e.g.) & plants and realise just how much of an impact humans have had in the last 200 years. More on that another time – the library closes soon!

Our home in Oxfordshire

Our home in Oxfordshire

At the top of a green hill, looking down on a caravan site and two small lakes

 

This is our home in Oxfordshire. It’s the second caravan site we’ve stayed at near the city, and much more friendly. It’s also, as you can see, really rural. The site is part of a working farm. It’s a 20-minute walk to the bus stop, and the bus goes once an hour (if it feels like it) so without a car (we don’t currently have a car) it’s a bit isolated.

When I took this photo, I was following a footpath up over the hill and down to the next village. It meant going through fields of sheep and horses – no cows this time. The sheep were wary, the horses interested. I’m a little wary of having anything with teeth the size of my face sniffing my hair, honestly. I know that few animals harm humans intentionally, but there’s no way to spot the grumpy one having a bad day.

Posting this, I’m feeling a little nostalgic. I’m in Switzerland for a week or three, and being here, looking at that photo, it’s easy to forget that it’s from several weeks ago, and the interim has been rain, more rain, and winds strong enough to shake the van. When the weather’s that bad, I simply don’t go out. K has to go to work, and comes back soaking wet, and it’s not much fun all round.

Hurrah for 2014

Hurrah for 2014

So the New Year has been with us for a week, and it’s wearing in well. I’ve decided to keep it, in fact.

I’m cautiously optimistic about this new year. It has the potential to be jaw-droppingly awesome or absolutely dreadful, and only time will tell. 2013 was a really mixed bag. Some things were pretty cool. For example:

Handknit socks with the Swedish flag pattern

Yeah, I made those. I am so chuffed with them – they’re the physical realisation of a knitting theory I’ve had in my head for a while. It took me ages to get round to testing it out, and I was so pleased it worked. Plus, I knit them with yarn I bought in Copenhagen, and K requested them because we spent a month in Sweden. I had never been to either country before, and I love visiting new places.

In total, I went to 9 countries this year: Switzerland, France, the UK, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Ireland and Spain. We drove through Belgium (accidentally, at least the first time) but didn’t stop. So that was very cool. I also got to explore the UK a bit more in the autumn. This year, I’d like to venture a bit further afield. Where’s somewhere you recommend I should go? Could be anywhere in the world, on my doorstop or on the other side of the planet.

We’ve been living in the caravan for over 6 months now, with the odd week away here and there. It’s still going well, but our poor van is showing a bit more wear and tear. It could really do with being dry docked, essentially, and having everything stripped out, scrubbed and put back. Not really possible at the moment – anything we take outside is likely to get waterlogged and/or blow away!

Oxford autumn mist

 

We’re still at the same site in Oxford as when I took this photo in October. K’s job is going well, and we’re pleased to be here. It’s a lovely site. That said, living in such a small space hasn’t always been easy. One of the things we’re discussing is whether we’ll continue doing this full time in 2014. For the moment, the answer is yes. but it may not be an effective long term solution. It’s been rough lately as all the wind and rain has kept us awake a lot.

I don’t have a clear idea of what 2014 will bring. I’ve got some secret hopes, some not-so-secret plans and a few good ideas. For now, all you really need is the few blog changes:

  • I’m aiming to read some long books off the Big Read list, so I won’t be posting Big Read reviews as often. 
  • I might post reviews of some of the other books I read or intermittent updates on the books I’m working through, to compensate.
  • I’m going to try to post more travel pictures. Current ones will be tagged ‘where we are‘. We are always somewhere interesting, even if it is the same as last week!

I’m open to your suggestions though, so if you always come for the travel photos, the book reviews, or really wish I’d write about something entirely different, leave a comment and let me know. 

5 things that suck about living in a caravan

5 things that suck about living in a caravan

I’ve got to admit, there aren’t as many downsides to living full time in a caravan as I thought. However, there are a few things that are really getting on my nerves at the moment.

1. Unrealiable Wi-Fi
So many places say they have Wi-Fi and don’t. Or it’s not working today. Or you can only log on for 12 minutes. I’m not just talking about caravan sites – I’ve pretty much stopped going to Costa because they limit their Wi-Fi to 30 minutes.

2. Paying for Wi-Fi
You could recast our entire trip as a quest for a decent internet connection. I don’t mind paying for Wi-Fi when it comes with a free coffee, a comfy chair and central heating but a lot of sites charge £2 per hour or more for a dodgy connection and limited data. I work remotely, contacting my clients online and need to be able to upload files. Not even large files usually, but, you know: files.

3. Paying for laundry
I know, technically someone has to pay for laundry, even if you borrow a friend’s machine. However commercial laundrettes in the UK seem to run about £4-6 for a wash, and the same again for a dry. These machines do a double load though, so the price is about the same as the ordinary washers on site. While this is no doubt forcing me to be greener, it’s also a pain as it means it’s hard to just wash a couple of things separately, like new indigo jeans, and I feel like I’m risking K’s handknit socks every time I wash them.

4. No post
Without a bricks-and-mortar home, there’s no easy way to get post. There are so many things – some of them aren’t yarn – that I’d like to order online but can’t. I’ve had to go to actual shops! The unavoidable post is currently split between three different addresses, with other people stepping in for special deliveries. I’m really grateful to everyone who has received post for us, but I’d like to be mail independent again!

5. Changing the sheets
It’s like wrestling a walrus into a bunkbed, and then getting a duvet cover on it. And our bed isn’t particularly awkward to get to – I dread to think what it would be like changing the sheets on an up-and-over bed in one of the shiny new RVs we see driving around.

OK, those are my top 5 caravan related peeves, at least at the moment! I thought this list would be about a hundred items long by now, but I kind of had to scrape around for the last one. Perhaps I’m seeing things through rose tinted glasses as I’ve just been watching the sun set out the van window…

The rain in Oxfordshire falls mainly on the caravan

The rain in Oxfordshire falls mainly on the caravan

The fringes of the big storm that’s been hitting the southern parts of the UK and northern France, Belgium and the Netherlands rattled through where we are in Oxfordshire over night. Being in the caravan, you hear the weather more, and this was a real blow. K and I both woke several times in the night, as the caravan shook a bit with the most severe gusts. Nothing serious, though. We’re just not used to having actual weather again – we hardly saw a drop of rain all summer.

Dry grass in a field, under white cloud

Otherwise, the autumn weather has been a real mix. Mostly a mix of different kinds of rain, to be fair, but still a mix. I haven’t figured out how to take decent pictures of the rain from inside the van (what? I’m not going out in it, that doesn’t help) so you’ll have to imagine two or three rainy day pictures for each of these sunny ones.

We’re in a good pitch in a good place. There’s no flooding risk here, which makes a change as so many van sites seem to be on low ground near a river. I understand why you’d put short-term, easy-to-tow-away accommodation on a flood plain, but it’s still a little disquieting.

Sheep graze in a field, under a cloudy sky

All the trees around are turning colours, and starting to lose their leaves. The leaves are piling up in drifts and slides and banks. In the morning, it’s crisp and cold – or soggy, wet and cold – but in the middle of the day, it’s sometimes warm enough to go about in a t-shirt.

In our current pitch, when it’s sunny, the sun comes right in through our big back window and fills up the bed. It’s a lovely place to sit and read or work or dream. Mostly though, it’s been raining. I think we’ve had almost every kind of rain England can throw at you in the last week. We’ve had warm, gentle, ‘summer’ rain right through to fat, cold, wet drops that splat down like the sky is spitting at you.

A green field in sun, under a cloudy sky

In the van, when it rains even slightly, you hear it on the roof like a drumbeat. I love hearing the rain on the roof when I’m snug inside. It feels so cosy, and I usually don’t even mind going out in it to go for a shower (with an umbrella, ironically) or take the rubbish out or what have you.

The persistent rain has set a rhythm to my days. What’s the point in going out if you’re just going to get soaked? I wait, when I can, for the rain to ease off before I open the door to go for a wash or nip out to the shops. I’m never surprised that it’s raining, in the van, although I used to be when I lived in a bricks-and-mortar house.

A ploughed field with grey clouds overhead

You hear the wind as well, which is why last night’s storm woke us up. It whistles around and gusts shake the van, rattling cupboard doors and clattering the plastic vents. I feel much closer to nature, living in the van. We can’t afford a view like the one we have now, and yet the rent here is cheaper than any bricks-and-mortar place we’ve found. And the bills are included.

I did worry in the night though, when the wind woke me up. We’ve not really had the van that long, and I don’t know what it can take yet – quite a lot, it seems! We just had a couple of the skylights replaced, as one had blown off and the other was rickety, so I had my fingers crossed we wouldn’t lose one of the new ones. We didn’t, and as we’ve got a battery, we don’t even have to fret about power cuts – at least, not for a day or two.

Autumn trees under a cloudy blue sky

These pictures aren’t the view from our site. It was sunny last Friday, pretty much the only day of the week where it looked like the rain would hold off for a few hours. I went for a wander between Woodstock and Wootton. It’s the area around Blenheim Palace, where Churchill was born. I was, in theory, following a walk from a book I got out of the library, but as I only intersected the route about 3 times, I can’t recommend it. I didn’t find any of the locations mentioned apart from the main roads. I used Google Maps on my phone for those. Still, the trail I did find was lovely.

We’re living on a farm, so the view isn’t far off this, but I keep forgetting to take a photo when it’s sunny. Or at least daylight. There are ducks and geese loose in the caravan park part, and they come to check on me regularly in case I’ve changed my mind and decided to feed them. (I haven’t.) (Yet.) I really love having a changing view outside our windows. It’s one of my favourite things about full-timing while not moving. That said, it’s getting chilly in the evenings – time for bed, with extra duvet, I think!

Tourist or Traveller?

Tourist or Traveller?

I’ve been thinking about travelling harder since I read The Beach. I finished the book sitting on the Channel ferry, waiting for the White Cliffs to appear, dirty grey from the rain. It seemed fitting.

The White Cliffs of Dover looking murky grey in low cloud or high fog with two container cranes in the foreground

We travelled some 3,000 km on that trip, but I wouldn’t say we were either tourists or travellers – we didn’t go see any sights, really, just rushed from pillar to post getting things done and trying to see some of our favourite people.

Travelling is complicated – logistically, socially and ethically. Even travelling around in the UK or Switzerland, places where I’ve lived for years, I still find myself having to make crap decisions – you have to make so many decisions each day that it just isn’t possible for them all to be good ones. Travelling means compromising – usually on frugal efforts and environmental efforts. It means eating in McDonald’s because it seems to be the only thing open at 11pm, and then finding out that all the bars offer food. It means, with the caravan, filling up on petrol more than once in a day, rather than less than once a week. It means paying more for a service because you don’t have time to shop around. It means paying more for 2 hours of internet access – directly or in coffee – than you would in a month at home.

There’s an odd dichotomy as well – people clearly want to travel (as I write this, there are over 16,000 goals on goal-tracking website 43things.com related to ‘travel more’, and only 15,000 relating to ‘money’) and yet both tourist and traveller often seem to be used pejoratively. Tourists are frivolous, camera-toting dorks who get in the way of busy people moving around their own city while travellers are gap-year-kids, people with no sense of responsibility treating another culture as though it were a combination of amusement park and bar.

What’s the right way to travel, then?

Blue car and a caravan with a mountain behind

I think this is a pretty good way to travel, with a caravan, and a good way to live, too. It’s not easy though – everything needs a permanent, fixed address. Travelling with a caravan, the tourist/traveller divide takes on a new menace. Tourists with caravans are welcomed but Travellers, as the Roma and other nomadic groups are called in the UK at least, aren’t. Amnesty International has a section on Roma rights, which I seriously recommend you read. If you cross the line, it’s suddenly not just about whether your experience is deeply meaningful, man, or only superficial garbage, it’s serious.

It’s not just the Roma who get stick for being mobile or semi-mobile. A knitting designer I follow lives in an artist’s commune that seems to be regularly threatened with closure by the local authorities. Under her designing name, Woolly Wormhead, she sometimes writes about what’s going on and has an interesting post about being a New Traveller.

Italian road runs straight into the distance on flat land under a huge sky with scattered clouds

I don’t have any connection to previous generations of travellers as Travellers and New Travellers seem to. I’m happy wandering around a foreign city with only K to talk to, perhaps trying out my few phrases on hapless shop staff, so I haven’t developed a community of friends of the road.

For me, at the moment, the road is open – and well travelled. I’m not looking for an island untouched by human hand, like in The Beach – on the contrary, I’d like mine with Wi-Fi and plumbing, if you don’t mind, and if I’m only here for a day or two, I’d be grateful if someone’s already made a list of the best yarn shops and top ice cream places. Last year K and I visited 10 countries (a good proportion of them were tiny city states, but still) and this year we might well do it again. It’s getting to the point where travelling isn’t something we save up and wait for, it’s something we just go and do.

And that is absolutely incredible. In both senses of the word.

Is it greener living in a caravan?

Is it greener living in a caravan?

To be clear, I’m not talking about holidaying in a caravan – I’m talking about living in a caravan full-time, either on one site (as we did in Cambridge) or touring (as we are now). And I’m comparing our caravan life to our previous life – one car, commuting by bike or public transport, etc – not some mythical ‘typical’ life or the national average. I haven’t got an internet connection right now, so I can’t do the research to find that out anyway.

Where we started from
K and I are not super-green, but we try to make environmentally sound choices. All else being equal, we pick the greener option – but all else is rarely equal, so the environment has to face off against fair trade, convenient, cheaper, tastier and the rest of the ‘all else’.

Water – we use less now
In the house we had a dishwasher, showers every day, water on tap (literally) to wash up. Now, every drop of water we use in the van has to be carried to the van by us. And although refilling the water tank is not a big chore, it’s still a chore and we’d rather play Transport Tycoon or read a book or blog. So we’re careful when we wash up and are adept at washing up in a small amount of water.

We also shower less (sorry, strangers on the train) as there’s a choice between paying 50p for a shower in the shower block or hauling water for a wash in the van, so if we’re going to the pool or gym, for example, we’ll wait and shower there, rather than showering twice in one day.

Electricity - we use less now
We’ve gotten rid of most of our appliances – no TV, microwave, vacuum cleaner, washing machine, tumble drier. We still have the laptop – as evidenced by this post! – and a few other gadgets, like phones and our electric toothbrush. We haven’t switched the hot water heater on yet, and the water pump only uses a tiny amount. And as we’ve only got one room, we usually only need one light on at a time – having two on seems decadent!

The first site we stayed at was metered, so we had to buy top up cards, which made us very aware of how many pennies worth of electricity we used. We spent £15 in six weeks, and had to be frugal for the last few days as we were down to our last pound on the meter.

Gas – about the same, maybe more
It’s summer so we weren’t heating the house and we’re not heating the van. We still cook with gas, but as we only have two pans we can’t make terribly elaborate meals, so we’re probably using a little less on that front too. However, we’re no longer sharing our cooking with 3 other people, so per person we may be using the same or slightly more for cooking.

Petrol – we’re using more
Towing the van takes more petrol than not towing the van, obviously, but even while we were static we were using more petrol. We parked up at a lovely site where K could cycle to the station to go to work, but there wasn’t much else nearby. We drove to visit friends, to get groceries, to get to the library – all things we usually did by bike before.

Other travel – probably less
We’re taking public transport less, obviously, than when I was commuting to London, and we don’t expect to fly anywhere on holiday or to visit family in the next few months, but we’re still using buses and trains to get around the local area.

Waste – more per person
We’ve gone from living in a shared house, buying in bulk, cooking in bulk, to living in a van with limited storage space and only two people to cook for so we’ve got more packaging per person to throw away.

Household chemicals - about the same
While we’ve got less to clean, we no longer have access to mainline clean water and sewage pipes, so we’ve got more chemicals to deal with keeping things sanitary.

Personal consumption - less!
As we’ve got less space, we’re shopping less and we’re more likely to wear things out, repair things and use them up to the full as we won’t necessarily be able to replace them immediately and don’t have any spares.

Out-sourced consumption - lots more!
When we lived in the house, we had our own WiFi, used our own shower and toilet most of the time, our own landline phone. We had friends on-site so didn’t have to drive to meet them, and had people over rather than eating out at a restaurant.

Now, as our space and resources are limited (and with the upheaval of the move) we’ve been eating out more, showering at the gym or pool, using the WiFi at coffee shops and friend’s houses.

Borrowing or buying these extra resources makes it hard to figure out how much we’re using – we’ve refilled the 40L water tank twice, so used less than 120L of water at the van in 6 weeks, but that doesn’t count flushing the toilet in the toilet block, showers at the gym, or even drinking water, as we fill that up separately. Sometimes we even wash up at the site taps, so the 120L is a really woolly and useless number – if it doesn’t seem like much, it’s because it’s missing a lot of things.

Set-up costs – much less
The cost to the environment of building a caravan is much less than building a house. Of course, we were living in a hundred-year-old house and bought a fifteen-year-old caravan, but the point still stands. Sort of.

Greener over all
On balance, I think we’re having a lower impact on the environment – particularly when you factor in the alternative travel costs. Last week we visited Belgium and Luxembourg for the first time, and next week we’re going to to Lichtenstein and Italy – all without a single flight. We’d struggle to do that – and enjoy it – by train or with just a tent. For a one thing, K’s car is only little so once you’ve put the tent and sleeping bags in the boot, there really isn’t much room for yarn!

Is it simpler living in a caravan?

Is it simpler living in a caravan?

In general, paring down makes things simpler. A library of eight books is much simpler to manage than a library holding over 11 million items. But at some point, as you strip away the excess, you start to strip away features – which is why, whatever you want to learn about, I suggest you visit the Bodleian’s book collection, not ours.

Our van is a stripped down, simple, version of a house. It wasn’t really designed for long-term occupation, so while some things are simpler, others are rather more complex as we have to find new ways to do them.

Cookingsimpler but limited
K – who is the better cook – might not agree, but having only two pans, no gadgets and llimited storage space makes cooking less intimidating for me. I know what everything does and I know what everything in the cupboard is, and where everything goes. As we’re shopping more often, we’re eating more fresh food, which is lovely too.

However, the downside is that we’re missing a few mod cons – like a microwave and more than a pint of freezer space – and a lot of specialist equipment, so a lot of things take longer or just aren’t the same. We can’t make muffins or Yorkshire puddings or freeze anything for later.

Washing - much less simple
Washing – dishes, clothes, yourself – is simpler in a house. In our last house, say, I could get up, wander to the shower in a towel, use as much water as I liked, stroll back (still in a towel) to brush my teeth, then (dressed) go downstairs, throw a load of laundry in the machine, switch the dishwasher on and forget all about both devices for a couple hours.

Now, washing up is done by hand, either in the van (limited water, carried by hand) or at the site sink (lots of water, sometimes falling from the sky as well as the taps), showers, ditto (plus you may need exact change or have to queue or have to share, depending on the site).

Laundry is even more faff: you need exact change, the options are limited and not necessarily trustworthy (don’t risk your delicates!), there are sometimes queues and you can’t go far for the whole time you’ve got washing on the go – at least a couple hours for a typical wash and dry. If we’re lucky, we can borrow a friend’s machine and do the whole thing in comfort, ideally with the use of their WiFi. Bliss.

Movingmuch simpler
We’ve lived in half a dozen flats in the last five years, which is one of the perils of renting. And moving is so much easier in the van, whether it’s popping away for a weekend or an international move – or both at the same time.

Cleaningmuch simpler
There’s so much less to clean that we hardly need to do more than spot clean things as they get dirty. But we do need to clean more things – like the water system – and we’re quite slow at these new chores.

Yard work – outsourced!
We’ve had a lovely view, a smooth lawn cut twice a week and plenty of space at the site in Cambridge – and done none of the work. Definitely simpler for us.

Home maintenance - totally different
Instead of hassling a rental agency to fix something or check something – or possibly leave us alone and stop bugging us about something – we’re in total charge of making sure our home is safe and clean. I can honestly say I’ve never had to clean pigeon poo off the roof of any house we’ve lived in, but we need to do that for the van soon.

Fewer mod cons, more time
Over all, the time we’ve saved by not doing things (like yard work and cleaning) is eaten up by things which take rather longer, like washing. I’m not saying that any of these things are hard or bad or wrong or even a particularly difficult way of doing said task (it’s not like I’m paying £2 to use a mangle and bucket) but they are less simple than the way we did them in the house.

So far, living in the caravan has been easy because we’ve got time to do laundry at lunchtime on a Tuesday and go to the shops three times a week. It would be much harder with lots of family responsibilities or a long commute like I used to have. It’s simpler like washing by hand is simpler – fewer chemicals, more elbow grease!

In the Caravan – the first month

In the Caravan – the first month

It’s been a whole month since we picked up the van. We’re settled in, but it hasn’t really been a normal month – we had a bricks and mortar house for half of it, and got rid of half our stuff. I’m even writing this from Switzerland – and the van is still in the UK. Still, I think it’s a good moment to take stock and see how the honeymoon is going, what we’ve learned.

Outdoors is great
Walking back from the loo at night, the stars are spread out like spilled glitter and I can understand how the Milky Way got its name. At dawn, the wood pigeons wake up and coo (and practice high jump on the roof of our van). In the afternoon, I sit outside and am visited by our local robin, a parcel of blackbirds and a squirrel.

Twywell caravan in green field with sunshade extended

I love spending time outside, just being, and now I not only can – many British flats don’t have any outdoor access – but I kind of have to, so I’m not so picky about the weather. And I can dive back inside when it rains.

Weather is important
Luckily, the weather has been good, especially for a wet British summer, so we’ve spent lots of time outside. But we’ve already learned that the weather is important – we’re outside every day, and rain makes little things less pleasant, like walking to the loos, and keeps us trapped in what is, for modern Britain, quite a small space. And when it’s hot – again, British hot – the van traps the heat like a car, which isn’t ideal either.

Emotional weather is important, too
The only time the van has felt too small so far is the day when I was in an absolutely foul mood. Luckily it wasn’t raining as poor K might have wound up reading his book in the car while I banged pots around making dinner.

Same same but different
There are so many things which we just can’t do the same way as in a house – like cooking. The counter space is the space on top of the stove and sink, so you have to clear everything off, open everything up and then start chopping and cooking in a small space. We also don’t have space to store much in the fridge, the pantry shelves or the utensils drawer.

Cooking area with gas hob, small sink and draining board, all of which are covered by flip down countertop surface when not in use

The plus side is that I’m buying fresh and cooking on the day, mostly, which means we can eat what we feel like eating and have lovely fresh things, too.

We also don’t have internet access at the van – we’ve got a dongle, but the signal strength is so poor it’s not worth it – and I really miss being able to surf, chat, answer emails, update the blog, all without leaving the house.

By hand
We have to do more things by hand – like hauling water – which is making us more mindful of what we use. Which is probably a good thing, but the novelty may eventually wear off.

Less privacy
Privacy is a social construct, and it’s even more obvious in the caravan than in a flat that it’s partly an illusion, people simply choosing not to hear – or not to mention they heard. But life is also more public on the caravan site so we have to be more aware that we’re in view and make sure we’re decent – by which I mean both dressed and behaving appropriately!

A place for everything
We really don’t have space to leave things out – if this doesn’t teach us to be tidy, nothing will. So far, it’s fun but eventually it’s probably going to be really annoying before it becomes a habit. But right now I love having everything tidy.

Caravan seating area, two sofa-benches face each other (left and right) with small table and large windows at back (top)

I call this tidy!