What is Vanlife ? Some people have been dreaming of this way of life for a long time, others think that it’s a bit weird and filthy… What is it, really ?
What we call the Vanlife, is usually considered as living in a small (or huge) van while traveling a country. This way of living and of traveling, like any other way won’t be suitable for everyone and at the same time.. Is it really possible, to dislike a backpacker life, to dislike having your home with you wherever you go ? You would have understood, traveling and living in a van, was for us, the best way possible to tour this huge country that is Australia. We fell in love with this way of traveling. Having your small wheeled-home wherever you go is pure delight and gives you a delicious feeling of freedom and of eternity. We keep repeating ourselves, but, what can bring us as much happiness as the one we feel when we wake up every morning in a different location ? What joy is greater than the one we felt when we were eating our breakfast in front of a new landscape every morning ? What privilege is greater than the privilege of watching the infinite stars in another place every night ? It is so hard to not fall in love with this way of living. It is even harder to not feel a huge wave of nostalgia and sadness once this adventure has come to an end.
However, rather than getting lost in all this praise, let’s take a look to the practical sides of this way of traveling. Vanlife is a dream life but you need to be organised and resourceful in order for everything to go well :
▶ Car maintenance : We have already mentioned this but your car is not only your home but also your means of transport to discover the country. That is why it is crucial to take good care of it and to always ensure its proper functioning. It is always a good idea to check and check again the tire condition, the cooling liquid, the oil and the engine. We used to check regularly the state of our van and to reinflate our tires frequently since we drived around a lot. We would also advise you to make sure that you have a spare wheel in your car as well as a small toolbox for fixing the odds and ends of the car.
▶ Where to sleep : It is important to know that even though we have a lot of freedom in our vans, we are not allowed to sleep everywhere in Australia (and this is even more true in New Zealand). Indeed, camping isn’t authorised except in designated areas. In Australia however, we never had a problem to find a place to sleep. A really useful app to find a place to sleep is Wikicamps (or Campermate and Park4night). These apps show you all the camping spots, telling you if these spots are free, not very expensive or pretty expensive. You also have a rating for each camping spot, as well as comments from previous travelers. From experience, we can assure you that most of the time the ratings and comments are accurate. We also slept in non authorised places a few times, by being very cautious and trying to be very quiet and we never had any problems. However, it is at your own risk as if a ranger comes by, he can give you a 200AUD$ fee !
▶ Showering : This is it ! The frightening part of traveling for all of us ! If I travel this way, will I necessarily stink all the time and be followed by flies wherever I go ? We have the pleasure to tell you, that no, you will not be devoid of hygiene even though you live in a car. It is true, that sometimes it would be easier to go an entire week without showering because there are no showers in the area around us, but it’s also quite easy to find a way to maintain a daily hygiene. Once again, apps like Wikicamps and Campermate are your best allies to help you find a shower nearby (free or not). When (real) showers are hard to find, you have several possibilities.
First of all, solar showers are easy to find in shops. We bought a basic 20L solar shower for less than 20 AUD$ at Warehouse for example. This solar shower took a lot of time to heat up under the sun during the colder days, so be aware that you won’t always have a hot shower with this basic kind of solar shower. However, we quickly got used to having a cold shower (yes, even during winter time!), so this wasn’t a problem for us.
Before buying this solar shower, if we needed to shower and couldn’t find a proper shower, we used our jerrycan (20L) by putting it on a tree, on the van’s rooftop or just by asking the other person to hold it during the shower, in short, by being quite inventive. Otherwise, you always have the possibility to shower in a lake nearby or under a waterfall but try not to use any soap in that case for the surrounding ecosystem’s well-being.
To sum it up, if you really want to be clean all the time, there is always a solution, promise !
The daily little things make Vanlife better. That’s why we will also talk about the groceries, cooking, laundry and petrol in our next article “Discovering the vanlife (pt.2)“.