Nearly three months have gone by whilst we have been living in our camper, which has happily trundled on for nearly 8,000 miles and is still going. From the UK to the most northerly point in Europe right through the middle and back again (well as far as the Swiss border where I am writing this post!)
I can honestly say I have loved if not enjoyed every minute of it; all the experiences and at times, the challenges that it brings. It has been making me think that I should share what I feel are my top tips. In the world of campervans there are a whole host of different kinds of people, from experienced to novice, from all the gear to those on a shoestring. Some of these might seem simple but here are a few things that I have learnt so far:
By far the best tip I can say is to travel slowly. Whatever road trip, tour or holiday you are planning in the time that you may have, cut down the distance and countries that you are planning to visit. Not only is slower travel cheaper – less fuel used, ferries and tolls – you get to spend more quality time at each destination. I have so far travelled 7,849 miles in 14 countries, and some of it has felt rushed as we were racing the weather to Nord Kapp. The times I have felt most relaxed is when we have spent a few days at a destination or in the same area to explore it in more detail.
After the longest travel day of just shy of 9 hours in Poland, and with Polish driving that felt more like 9 hours of rally cross racing, I can honestly say I was absolutely shattered. The cost for that day sky-rocketed due to the amount of fuel used. Of course, if you have limited time and want to get to a certain destination, quick travel is needed to book end your trip, but if you are just on a tour, travel slowly and always add a couple of hours on to your predicted travel time for those little gems that you will always come across.
The travel community has always been a friendly one from hostels to trains, you are all in the same boat, and with campervans it is no different. Sometimes striking up a conversation with someone in a foreign country can be scary but you would be surprised how many of our European cousins have a great grasp of the English language. Speaking to some Norwegian uni students who were surfing in the Arctic Circle (no that’s not a typo) they learn English by writing essays on politics and history of England. Of course it always helps if you can muster a few words of the language around you but don’t worry if you cant.
By socializing you can find out amazing things about those around you, places to go and things to do that you wouldn’t even have thought about. Such as Nord Kapp not being the most northerly point, that belongs to Knivskjellodden. And you also open yourself to knew experiences and learn the stories of others.
When you go away in your camper for a weekend you can usually live with a little mess, but having two adults (or kids with you) living in a confined space for several months can be a real challenge. Very early on in our trip we realized we had to be logical about how we did things; meaning we each took on our own tasks every morning. From packing the bed away, taking down the curtains and blinds and packing clothes, laptops and the like away so we don’t have a hundred things rattling around the floor.
For your own sanity, or that of your significant other, it helps to make sure that everything has a specific storage place and spending a little time every morning to make sure the camper is put back together. Our routine has come together over time and it has meant that rather than taking 2 hours to get ready in the morning we can be off within 30 minutes camper packed away, breakfast, showered and everything else. I guess it helps that I also find routine cathartic.
In all aspects of life technology has taken over and driving is no different. Almost everyone uses a use sat nav, especially when you are trying to find that little European town that you are heading for whilst driving on ’that’ side of the road. A sat nav means you have one less thing to worry about, you can just follow directions whilst navigating unfamiliar road signs and markings.
Although it is one love affair you can soon regret, everyone has heard of the horror stories of sat nav’s taking you into a field. I know it sounds like a real cliché, but from our own experience we didn’t quite end up in a field but we did get stuck down a dirt road Lithuania, the front passenger wheel was buried halfway down, easily done when you aren’t paying attention.
Not all sat nav’s are equal. Most are only geared for driving in cars and will not take in the length and size of your Campervan. However there is light at the end of the tunnel, there are truck specific one’s which have the programming to re-route you around low bridges, tight turns and thin roads.
This might seem like a strange one, but duct tape has been an absolute must have. From silencing those phantom rattles to taping up the cereal box. It is one of the best bits of kit that you can take with you on any travel for those on the spot repairs you might have to make.