Van Life: The First Weeks on the Road
Prep yourselves for instagram photos with captions such “livin’ my best life”, “Monday’s ain’t so bad” and “woke up like dis” because we’re on the fucking road baby!
We are about to spend the next however long, cruising through Europe in our campervan, absolutely livin’ the dream and ticking plenty off our bucket lists. We started our van trip full of emotions, sadness to leave our friends and jobs in London, but also excited for the unknown travel adventure we had lying ahead of us. Tom prepped his favourite Spice Girls playlist and we drove 4 hours to Dover ferry port for our first night of holding our pee and not showering. We free camped on the side of the road… Nothing but the best for these two Aussie bogans.We are about to spend the next however long, cruising through Europe in our campervan, absolutely livin' the dream and ticking plenty off our bucket lists. We started our van trip full of emotions, but also excited for the adventure lying ahead. Click To Tweet
After an early start we made it onto the ferry, one last full English breakfast with the rest of our Great British Pounds, and 1.5 hours later, we rolled Betty’s four wheels onto the asphalt roads of France, the first of many countries she will tick off. Our first stop was Luxembourg which took us a very slow 4 hours from Calais. The van is so full of snacks, booze and SOOOO many of Tom’s clothes (which could actually be mine but whatever) that she is as slow as my mum trying to figure out how to use her new iPhone.
We then headed another 5 hours to the boarder of Switzerland for our second night of no showers and free camping. With a 5am wake up, we spent the whole day driving the stunning, winding roads of the southern ski fields through France. Betty slightly struggled with the hills and her speedo literally stopped working all together, however it’s fine, you just need to bash the top of the dash as hard as you can and it jumps back up for a second and you can check your speed. Another perk of our cheap shit box van, but hey, she’s still going.
Cruising into Nice after 14 hours driving felt bloody unreal. We used the app “park for night” and found a camp spot in a quiet car park literally 2 feet from the water. The uber rich pay so much money for views over looking Nice and we literally roll up, in our cheap, rusty old van and sleep there with the same view for sweet fuck all.
The following morning when we woke up, the view was even better, the crystal clear water, calm but busy with local fisherman trying to snag the perfect catch. We sat there drinking our morning coffee thinking: all the hard work, the hours driving and the things we missed out on because we were saving for this, all became worth it at this exact moment.
A little while later after a baby wipe shower and a shit load of deodorant, we were ready to pretend to try and fit in with the locals in Monaco for the Formula One. Unfortunately once we arrived, we realised to enjoy the Formula One, you actually have to be rich. A one day ticket was a cool €800, so we were forced outside with the rest of the poor people. EW!
We spent the day watching the race on a large screen TV, which for me became very boring very quickly but over all, the city was bustling and full of energy. We then did what anyone does when they go to Monaco, finished our night at the casino, where we were thankfully lucky to come out on top.
The next morning I woke up feeling very woozy, which I assumed was from yesterday’s beers but when I opened my eyes, my face was buried in Tom’s arm pit, which on day 5 without a shower smelt bad enough to make anyone nauseous. Today’s trip was a slightly easier 8.5 hours from Nice to Rapallo in Italy, where once again we outdid ourselves with another stunning view from our free mobile hotel.
After another great night sleep, we left Betty to catch the train into Portofino for the day, where our quest to find the prettiest swim spot paid off.
Later that evening, we drove 3 hours to the little town of Montorosso, the first fishing village of the Cinque Terre to spend the night. We were woken in the morning from very loud knocks on our van from a cranky police officer who gave us and another van next to us, a move along. We moved the van to another part of the car park and got the train into the sleepy fishing village of Riggamore. We spent the afternoon exploring and then finished with the best pesto, basil and cheese pizza with beers in Vernazza, then got the train back to Betty, where as we expected we had our first €45 parking fine.
We decided not to piss off the police anymore, so drove to Tuscany where we found a stunning view point over looking the green, rolling Tuscan hills, where decided to spend the night.
After not showering for 6 days, we decided that once it was dark and we were 10 beers down, we boiled the kettle, stripped naked and literally threw soapy water all over ourselves in the middle of a paddock. Not exactly the best shower, but hey it would do. We were both partially frozen but my god it felt so nice to be clean and fresh for the first time in nearly a week!
The following day, all clean and not smelling like homeless people we cruised around Tuscan wineries, taste testing their local wines and loading the van up even more with booze. After a lovely day we were full of pasta and wine, we spent the night in our first camp site at Area Sosta Camper L’Alveare dei Pinzi in the small town of Saturina, Italy. We tried so hard to find some where to free camp but they’ve literally blocked off every spare bit of land with some form of barrier so you can’t free camp anywhere, so we didn’t really have a choice but honestly it was the best €10 we spent, since we got a hot shower and got to wash some undies.
We decided we would wake up for sunrise to be at the thermal baths before anyone else and even though it was hard we sure were happy we did it. We got the place to ourselves for hours. It was incredibly relaxing and so beautiful to watch the sunrise over the pastel blue waters of the hot springs. These springs are a must do if you’re around the south of Tuscany as they’re free and open 24 hours.
We headed back to the camp ground, where we took advantage of one last hot shower then we were on the road again, heading for Abruzzo National Park in the middle of Italy. The drive was gorgeous, the windy road and massive mountains which were still covered in snow made the 3 hour drive fly. We spent the afternoon relaxing and cooking with the stunning view of the lake, with deer running around below us. We very quickly moved our dinner party inside once the sun went down as it was freezing and after we found out that there are wolves and a type of brown bears that wander around the park at night.
On our 11th day we had a slow morning, waiting for the sun to warm the van before we got to up to make breakfast. Then we set off for Puglia, where after 7 hours, we found ourselves just outside Brindisi. This was the first place where it was warm enough for us to actually swim and relax at the beach, although the locals were saying we were nuts swimming, as they were all wearing coats and jeans, saying it was freezing at 23 degrees. We must have spent too long living in London!
The town was dead quiet all day, no one around but the beach where we parked up was breath taking. We splashed out and went to a bar for a few cocktails, where it was just us then all of a sudden people were all dressed up and dribbling into the streets from every angle. Within an hour the whole place was pumping with music and there was a massive beach party/sunday session, where everyone was getting lit AF! We spent the night partying with the locals, who didn’t speak a word of English, then all of a sudden they all disappeared as quickly as they had arrived and we were left alone for night at the beach in our van.
We woke up feeling a little seedy with the heat beating down on the tin of the car, which forced us out onto the beach for breakfast a little earlier than we would have liked. We were the only ones around all day, with a private beach, we spent the day reading, swimming and sunbaking once again. When it got a little later, we made use of the beach shower where I washed my hair and then we drove to Brindisi ferry port to board our over night ferry to Igoumenitsa in Greece.
We decided to sneak into the back of the van and sleep in there instead of going upstairs in the boat, as we knew we would just be sleeping on the hard floor. It was incredibly hot and stuffy in the van and having no access to a toilet, I unfortunately, much to Tom’s disgust couldn’t hold my pee any longer so had to make use of our emergency potty.
We arrived in Greece at 5.30am and headed straight to the first open Gyros shop. One more ferry and our next stop is Zakithanos Island. Let’s see what living another 2 months in Greece brings this time….
We’ve been living in our girl, Betty for over 12 days now and we already love the freedom, adventure and breakfast beers that van life brings to our day to day lives now. Van life brings all kinds of fun but also a lot of things that might be hard to get used to. I’ve realised I have to be totally fine with a reduced amount of personal hygiene, such as not showering for days on end and even something as simple as brushing your teeth becomes a mission as we don’t have running water. I have to get used to public peeing, there’s not aways a toilet around so unfortunately peeing behind the van has become a regular occurrence, this is obviously much easier for Tom than myself and lastly my most hated part: public pooing, which I know lots of people hate but there’s no holding it until I’m home anymore, so I have to get used to that, as this is my life now.
These are all things that are totally minor compared to the extraordinary adventure we are undergoing right now, let’s see what the next few months brings…
Until our next adventure…