10 Things you should know before living in a Campervan
Campervan Life - Lessons Learned
If you want to travel by your own schedule and really get to know a place, then there are few better ways than traveling by campervan. We journeyed for almost 3 months in our campervan and covered over 15,000kms of Australia.
However, the campervan life takes some adjustment, but ultimately you’ll be rewarded with the journey of a lifetime. Check out more Australia roadtrip articles here.
Say goodbye to personal space
Okay, so you’ve decided to live in a campervan with your partner or travel buddy, that’s awesome! Prepare to share everything with them, from your beauty regime to those ‘damn, last night’s dinner didn’t quite agree with me’ moments.
There are ways to manage this, such as always having a small army of wet-wipes so you can freshen up on the go or get yourself a foam mattress topper from the supermarket so you don’t wake your partner when you climb over them to get out of bed in the middle of the night to visit the bathroom!
Our campervan was 14ft x 8ft and, like most campervans available to hire, that includes space needed for a fridge, sink, some kitchen storage and of course, the bed. What remains in limited in terms of actual floor space and storage.
We got creative by making use of the space that remained to make it into a liveable space, such as magnetic clothes pegs to hang on the interior walls to dry our laundry, non-slip mats to prevent our stuff from flying off the worktops while driving. We even found a way to tape our fishing rod to the ceiling so we could grab it when found a nice fishing spot! Having hard travel cases are a nightmare in campervans because they’re so difficult to store. We’d recommend backpacks or duffel bags, ideal for folding away.
So yes, that does mean leaving the foldable Kayak at home!
It takes some planning
We decided to embark on our road-trip only 2 weeks before we actually did it and learned some valuable lessons along the way. For example, even with the best cell service in the world, if you’re in Outback Australia, it’s likely that you won't have internet to research your next stop.
So it’s always a good idea to have an idea of what you’d like to see/do in each place before you get there. Particularly given the nature of road-trippin, things can change in a heartbeat so it’s great to be prepared. We learned this the hard way when a Cyclone hit Australia during our trip, resulting in us changing our entire route.
‘Roughing it’ or campsites
Most powered campervans will require plugging in to recharge the battery that powers the fridge and outlets (so you can charge your devices). As budget travelers we found ways to cut the costs of our ‘life on the road’ by reducing the amount of nights we’d go to campsites. The average cost of powered site in Australia was 50AUD per night, across a 3 month period would have cost thousands!
So, instead, we opted to stay on a powered site once or twice a week to charge the battery and the remainder we would park up and sleep in the wilderness. Of course, this comes with a caveat, where sometimes we’d have nights where we’d get moved along or not stay in the prettiest places and most of these places wouldn’t have bathroom facilities… but that’s all part of the fun!
Some places you can face a fine for parking overnight if found by a Ranger, particularly in the more built up areas, but those areas are usually signposted.
The most spectacular views
There is nothing quite like getting out of the campervan in the middle of the night and looking up at the night sky. Imagine this, being the only people for miles, listening to the sounds of the dingoes howling or owls calling and looking up as the milky way glistens down at you.
Whether you want to wake up watching the sun rising over the ocean or setting over Uluru, life on the road allows you that freedom to feel truly nomadic.
There’s a lot of driving, get used to it!
When we set out on our roadtrip around Australia, we imagined that having almost 3 months to do it would be plenty of time. We were wrong! The country is so vast and has so much to offer, we found ourselves spending longer in places that we didn’t anticipate. Coupled with the poor condition of the roads, particularly in outback Queensland, we found ourselves occasionally driving for 10+ hours a day to get to our next destination in time.
Obviously if you’re doing this for a few days, it’s exhausting. So it helps to have a travel buddy who can keep you entertained with a good playlist, Podcasts, games or DM’s (deep-and-meaningfuls). We would also carry plenty of extra water, snacks and a can of gas, as sometimes you could drive up to 350km (200+ miles) without seeing a gas station.
You’ll begin to see how much you waste
Before we embarked on our journey, I would read other travel bloggers who would talk about how conscious they became of their waste habits while living on the road. It’s true, when you live in a quantifiable, limited space with someone else - how much food you don’t consume, water you use or how much trash you create becomes blindingly obvious.
We became more efficient in how we would use and reuse the water in our tank, for example when we brushed our teeth or washed the dishes. Unless we were staying in a campsite every night (which we weren’t) the places to refill our water tank was limited. As this water was not potable, we’d instead opt to use the water hoses at gas stations to fill up the tank for free.
Living on the road is wild and exciting, but you won’t have the luxury of maid service. It’s inevitable that you’re going to tread dirt and dust into the campervan, and when you’re walking around in that before you climb into bed, you’re likely to find dusty feet marks in your bedding (lovely!). Or if you’re in the cabin on a drive, you’re also likely to find crumbs from all your snacks in the cab too.
We bought a pack of disinfectant wipes and would regularly clean the van. We also bought a dustpan and brush (ditched the dustpan because it was awkward to store) and would use the brush to sweep the floor and our shoes. In addition to that, we bought a cheap floor mat, cut it down to size and stuck it onto the step that we use to get into the campervan.
It’s easier to control your spending
Whether you buy or hire your campervan there is a significant cost upfront, when you also take into account the cost of insurance and gas, you may already be looking for ways to save. We discovered that life once you’re on the road can be easier to budget. Campervans are designed to function as a compact home on wheels, so many of the things you’d normally have to pay for while travelling (transport, hotels) are a thing of the past!
Similarly, if you were going camping, you’d expect to cook your own meals. Your campervan is equipped with some of the basic cooking utensils and appliances that you would have in your kitchen at home. So the leftovers of that enormous pasta you cooked up in the van on Monday can go in the fridge and be eaten another day.
Of course, the fridges in these campervans are tiny and we found that our drinks alone were hogging up valuable fridge-real-estate. Thus, we bought a cheap cooler, filled it with ice and stored it under the bed for when we craved a cold drink.
It’s a true test of any relationship!
As a new couple traveling together we had heard all kinds of horror stories about couples who had hit the road together and struggled with the lack of privacy, being in such close confines with their partner 24/7 and the toll that traveling in this way can take on two people.
Whether you’re traveling with a friend or your partner, it’s reasonable to expect that you’ll have times where you’re arguing, that you need time alone or wish you weren’t stuck in the middle of nowhere with this maniac! However, once you’ve had a little time to adjust to this way of living, you’ll share experiences like nothing you’ve imagined.We learned to adapt quickly to our changing environments, always keeping moving and discovering the momentous beauty in the wildest parts of Australia.
Whether you’re travelling for 3 months or 3 days, life on the road is amazing and a truly unique way to travel. While we found it crucial to have basic route planned out, life on the road inherently allows more flexibility than any other method of travel. This allowed us to adapt our direction when we saw something cool enroute or got an interesting tip from a local. We saw so much more of Australia than we would have done had we travelled in any other way, and we even learned a few things about each other along the way.
For more tips on roadtripping life, check out the Tips for Campervan & RV Travel article.