Camper Van Living

2 months of camper van living has taught me LOTS of lessons that I'd like to pass onto those attempting to do the same type of travel.  Renting a camper van can be a great way to save money in NZ and Australia because you are getting a rental car and a place to sleep all for under $100 a day.  Yes, gas is insanely expensive, but considering we have made every meal and coffee for ourselves in said camper van, I think we have ended up saving a lot of money in the long run.

Organization

Time and time again I think organization is the thing that has kept me sane through 1.5 years of travel.  Our first camper van was a larger model for the 4 of us (Eric's parents came to visit) and then Eric and I moved into the smallest of the options for the rest of our time on the road.  The small camper van is SMALL.  You will be bumping into each other constantly and no position (sitting or sleeping) is ever quite comfortable. 

However, organization can make this process much more enjoyable.  See the list of things below that we purchased to make organization much easier on the road (you could also bring these things with you).  We then have baskets that stay on the counter (on non-stick) that are filled with cooking essentials and other foods.  Think all the spices, rice, oats, fruits, wine, granola, candies, etc. 

Our "pantry"

Our "pantry"

The drawer space is laughable (there is 1 drawer for your food) so these baskets are life savers.  We also then had a bag in the top that had extras (think extra bags of pasta, pasta sauce, tortillas, packaged soups, etc.).  We could then stock up in Tasmania in the bigger and cheaper stores and have a pantry to pull from when we were further off the grid.

There is room for a few things beneath the seats.  We each had a drawer with our clothes.  The other two bins we filled with surplus potatoes, apples, and then our camp chairs and heater. 

Nothing can go on the floor as this is where drawers open, the bed folds out, and where you walk.  So it all must be stored.  Also, everything must be secured before driving or things will roll all around (the fridge also has to be locked for the same reason!). 

Camper Van Parks

Camper van parks are a way of life.  We just found the Wiki Camps app and it's a lifesaver for figuring out where you can park and/or where you can have a shower.  The camper van parks are great to recharge the house battery, charge all electronics, take a shower, and do laundry.  The camper van parks in New Zealand were clean, usually well designed, and sometimes had perks like a hot tub.  Tasmania for some reason all had pretty run down parks that were expensive and didn't offer much.  Each one we stayed in depressed me, they were patches of grass with some sad looking folks in them!  However, Tasmania did have really reasonably priced National Parks and so we usually tried to stay in them.  Wiki Camps is great because you can find free sites or read the reviews to find the costs for the other sites to make sure you are getting the amenities you need.  Traveling off peak season has meant we can always get a spot which is nice!

Favorite, easiest meals

I am a person that makes all food from scratch at home.  However, when you have no counter space, a tiny sink, and you are washing dishes with limited water resources, this is literally not possible.  One pot meals are pretty much the only way to go. 

Breakfast is either eggs with toast, oatmeal, or granola and yogurt.  Fruit goes with all of these, and we also have our own coffee maker to make good coffee.

Lunch is simple sandwiches or leftover of a previous nights meal.  Usually these are quick meals that are easy to prepare and clean up since we are usually on the road for lunch or taking a pause while in a museum to eat our healthy, cheap food.

Dinner is the hardest.  We like to cook and also want our food to taste good so we don't feel too poor all the time!  To accomplish this, at the grocery store, we buy a ready made chicken and I pull it apart, using the meat and storing the rest in tupperware. We also buy a cauliflower, 3 bell peppers (capsicum here), carrots, and other veggies and I prep these ALL at once.  They then go into tupperwares so they can be quickly and easily added to foods throughout the week.  Just because we are on the road we still need to get our veggies!

Chicken soup is a go to.  Also pasta with lots of veggies is great (we boil the veggies before putting the pasta in the pot so they get cooked and then mix them into the sauce). 

What has saved our life and taste buds is the Hansell's line of prepared soups.  They have a range of flavors and we can alternate these to make us feel like we are eating different foods instead of the same thing over and over.  We bulk them up with our own chicken, veggies, and sometimes lentils and beans to make them into a one pot meal.

What we have bought to help with organization

  • Shower caddy (shampoo, conditioner, soap, lotion, razor, and shaving gel)
  • Bucket for general use (dishes or laundry)
  • 2 bins for food storage
  • Non slip
  • Removable hooks to hang towels and damp clothing
  • Tupperwares (1 large, 3 medium sized) to store food

Here are some photos from in the camper van so you can see what it will really look like when the bed is out!

How a Type A person travels

I used to deny being a Type A personality.  Sure I like things a certain way, and I’m more comfortable leading, but the label of Type A seemed too much.  However, as I have grown up and into myself, I’ve come to love the characteristics that a Type A person exudes.  I am proud of my organization skills, my drive, my desire for perfection, and being proactive. 

How does this translate to traveling long term?  It took an adjustment.  But happily I can report that most of my personality traits just needed to be put to use in a traveling environment.  When we are unpacking and repacking everything we own multiple times a week this can be cause for frustration as it’s hard to find things when you need them. 

So, we streamlined the process.  Everything, and I mean every little thing we own, has it’s place. 

We have plastic bags for toiletries, 1 that is filled with stuff to unpack in the shower (razor, shampoo, conditioner) and the other with bathroom designated items (toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, hair brush, lotion, etc.).  That way when we arrive to a new hotel I can immediately unpack all these essentials right to their new home.  There’s another zip lock bag with rarely used items like bug protection, extra bottles of sunscreen (we stock up in less expensive countries!).  This isn’t unpacked unless we need it.

For our clothes, we each have a small stuff sack with our clothes.  These get unpacked and we keep a pile with our clothes on top of the bag in each room.  This way, when it’s time to pack up, everything is right there to be zipped up and put into our duffel bag.  Before having these bags it was a mess of trying to find underwear mixed within everything in my bag, and it always works out that the thing you are looking for is the last thing you find.  Having to unpack multiple times to find one thing drove me insane.  We also have another bag for beach areas – sarongs, swim suits, small beach bag, and some misc. items like eye covers that we don’t need as often.  This can stay in our duffel bag if we are in a city or comes out first if at the beach. 

There’s an electronics bag that holds all the cords for our electronics and external hard drive.  When your phone is at 3% battery, an i-phone charger cable is tiny when it’s mixed within a sloppily packed bag!

The only things that get to float is our cribbage board.

The purse and backpack we carry are equally as organized.  There’s a spot for headphones, eye drops, toilet paper, aleve, waterproof bag cover, and kindle spot.  Each of us can find any one of the small number of things we have because they are always in the same spot. 

It’s hard enough navigating a new city every few days – being able find what you need when you want it is essential.  As mundane as this all sounds, it’s made traveling so much easier – I’m glad my organizational skills were up to the task and that Eric is happy to go along with my insistence of which spot is which!