We still haven’t throttled each other, and in fact we’re really in the swing of things now. But it hasn’t all been cruisy (as they say here), and we’ve learnt some valuable lessons already. Here are a few of them …
- There’s a place for everything in the van and if things are taken out, they must be put back again in exactly the same place they came from when we’ve finished using them. Space isn’t exactly tight, but it’s not in abundance either, and this really is just a simple fact of life on the road. It also makes packing up to move on a lot quicker.
- You can, and indeed it is perfectly acceptable, to eat peanut butter sandwiches for lunch for several days on the trot without getting bored of them or suffering from scurvy or rickets. They travel well on a hike or a bike ride, they don’t suffer from being in a beach bag or a backpack, and if they get a bit squashed they bounce right back. Our current favourite bread and PB combo is sourdough and rye with Mayver’s Crunchy.
- You can over-plan. We have a rough idea of the places we want to see but if someone tells us about a great hike / view / bike ride / ice cream shop, we’re happy to add that to the itinerary. Talking to people we meet on the road, whether they’re locals or other travellers, is an invaluable way of finding out what’s up ahead. Last night we stopped over behind a hotel in a small town. We went in to the bar to tell them where we’d parked and a couple of hours later we were on our way to the local rugby league match in the back of the landlady’s car. We spend an hour or so the evening before we move on looking at where we’ll head the following day and where we think we’ll stay, but nothing’s actually planned until we get there.
- We’re learning to let go (a bit). We’re both used to managing complicated projects and teams of people in our work life, and we know we like to be in control of everything. Now we’re on the road we don’t need to be across everything all of the time. If all the systems on the van are working fine, we don’t need to look for problems where they don’t exist. We can chill and embrace a new, very different, routine.
- Some days will be more exciting than others. We’ve just had a four-day expedition to Carnarvon Gorge where we stayed at a fabulous camp, did a great hike and watched some spectacular sunrises and sunsets. A couple of days before that we spent a day getting the leisure batteries replaced, gas bottled refilled and several lots of laundry done. Sometimes a day ‘at home’ is just what you need.
- It’s ok to eat supper at 5pm and go to bed at 8pm. We’re starting to live our days with the light rather than by the clock. Most nights we don’t close the blind over the skylight in the bedroom so we can a) get some air and b) look at the moon and stars. This means we wake up about 5.30am when the birds start singing and the sun comes up, and take things from there. On a driving day we’re usually on our way by 9.30 and have stopped by 3pm at the latest. In this part of Australia (mid-coast Queensland) at this time of year it gets dark very quickly by about 5.30, so we eat early, read or play Yahtzee for an hour or so, then go to bed.
- Sometimes it’s easier to drive to the next supermarket, or even the next town, if finding a parking space for the van is getting stressful. We’ve done this more than once.
- A loose dress is the easiest thing to put on after a shower in the shower block (for ladies, obv). No soggy bottoms of trouser legs or shorts! The ‘towelling tops’ of childhood beach holidays suddenly look appealing again for the first time in 40 years. Also, a towel turban for wet hair makes the trip back to the van a lot less of a kerfuffle.
- You get what you pay for with a Kindle book that’s free or 99p, unless you know for sure that you’re getting a bargain.
- We’re getting used to living without a lot of stuff. Chris is loving his bodyboard and Karen is very attached to her Kindle, but we do wonder if we’ll ever unpack all the stuff in that storage container back in Devizes!
And this is just the start!