9 things I’ve learned after living in my van for a month

Another thing that seems to appeal to me about living in a van (apart from the freedom) is the challenge of making it work. There is so much to learn with so many different ways of doing things, which both excites me and scares me.

Here are a few things I’ve learned during my first month of van-living and travelling:


1. You are forced to solve problems

From cooking toast without a toaster to getting free parking. There is usually a way!

Living like this starts to put your brain into full-time ‘creative problem solving mode’. Every day brings new problems and challenges. I am also surprised at how little I have missed every day appliances but maybe that’s just the initial excitement of this whole thing.

101 ways to do toast. Everything can be cooked using a gas ring.


2. More than one guitar is needed

I couldn’t decide between guitar and bass, it bugged me so much that I ended up not taking any. But now I know, I should have taken a guitar. Ross brought his ¾ size classical which he has had since he was 6 years old. The back of it is broken from where his brother smashed it over his head but it still sounds nice.



3. It is easy to forget where you are

The great thing about this van is that you can pull up by the side of the road, close all the curtains and completely forget where you are.

The first night we stayed in a car park (Dover cliff tops, England) we woke up in the morning completely boxed in with cars parked all around the van – oops. First lesson of wild camping learned; move early in the morning if it is any kind of public car park.

Inside the van parked on the side of a busy street – who’d know?
Inside the van parked on the side of a busy street – who’d know?


4. The nights can be cold – especially high up in Spain

The first night in Spain we climbed to over 700m and stayed by a lake in the hills. I didn’t really expect the temperature to drop below zero at night.

This is probably where living in a van feels a bit more like camping but it’s nothing a decent jacket cannot sort out. I have a Rab Microlight jacket, which is probably the best bit of kit I have and could not be without it now. I think I’ll do a separate post about dealing with cold.

de-icing the solar panels
de-icing the solar panels in the morning


5. Wild camping is the best

The thought of staying in a campsite with fenced boundaries and then cooking/eating inside the van doesn’t really appeal to me. However, pulling up by a lake with the side door open, facing an amazing view and cooking/eating in the van is perfect. Wilding may not be the safest or easiest way but it sure is the most fun, cheapest, best.

Its nice to have open space


6. Knowing a few spots is really handy

I downloaded a load of POI (point of interest) data onto my satnav for Europe before setting off. The POIs include things like services, wildcamping spots, LPG stations and even a list of every Lidl in Europe. I got the data from Adam and Sophie’s motorhome blog and converted it to the standard GPX format, which will load onto any GPS device (I use a Garmin Nuvi). I’ve made this converted data available for download in this post.



7. Finding water can be tricky

Water to fill the tank has probably been the most difficult thing to get so far. Hosepipe adaptors are a must for getting water from all types of taps – I ended up getting all 3 female thread sizes from a French DIY store and 5m of hosepipe.

Edit: I’ve recently discovered the free water provided at a few gas stations. It doesn’t say that it is potable but it’s not made anyone Ill yet. Maybe a problem solved?

Filling up with water a moon lit well


8. It’s nice to have a break from the Internet

Pretty much the last 10 years of my life has revolved around the Internet, its nice to have a break.  I’ve been taking more photographs, reading more, listening and playing more music, walking, sleeping very well and cooking/eating better food.

emblase de ullivarri (lake in Spain)


9. It’s not all about the destination

I am already probably the master of getting distracted but I enjoy allowing myself to deviate from the path/journey/plan at any time. If there is an opportunity, then it probably should be taken right now. Its no longer all about getting somewhere in the quickest amount of time with the least amount of mistakes like with the commute to work.

The other day we had to walk back a few miles to the van. On the (wrong) way back we made music on fences and bins, got chased by dogs, slid down a steep embankment with only minor grazes, made friends with some locals in a shop and then went for a stealth-swim in a hotel pool. This was the longer way home but I’m sure it was the best.



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