By the time you read this post I will have spent a total of 8 weeks on the road experiencing van life for the first time in my own van, rather than Eva, my sister’s wonderful van. So I thought that it would be useful to think about how things have gone.
I have been watching another set of videos on YouTube recently, hosted by Wild She Goes, where she interviewed other women living in vans about their experiences as solo travellers. It has been really interesting and made me think about the reality versus my expectations when I wrote my planning post in March.
In terms of the van and its layout I am really happy. I love the fact that I can remove the kitchen, the first couple of weeks were so hot that it was great to have that flexibility. I have used the kitchen as a food prep area but also as a lounge area in the evenings. I store my stitching in one of the compartmentsand have my wine and my tablet on the top.
For the first couple of journeys I took it down and travelled with it flat, which meant unloading all of the kitchen stuff back into the footwell storage boxes. Then I bungee corded it to the sides, there are some metal struts just for that so I used those and part of the boot shelf and it works really well. I now don’t even unload the stuff and everything has survived daily journeys as well.
The chair bed has worked very well for both day and night use. I prop it up against the blue storage box during the day which gives me a backrest. It is long enough for me to stretch out on at night and I have been really cosy. I have just bought a thicker fleece blanket as the last week has been colder at night, so use that in the evenings.
I have also bought a plastic storage unit for toiletries which lives on the front seat. This means I can access everything I need on a day to day basis without going to the tent. I keep clothes and night clothes in the blue box so I can get changed morning and night in the van.
I love having my little reading corner, I pack the books away for travelling and I have recently added a privacy curtain for when I am here reading. It also helps keeps the bugs out!
Other upgrades have been some flower garlands, to pretty up the top of the storage lockers, a dream catcher, my collection of postcards on the ceiling of all of my travels, and my growing collection of magnets. I did also put two layers of interlocking foam tiles from Aldi under the boot carpet as I could still feel the ridges initially. That has helped keep it cosy, along with the window blinds.
I am pleased that I had the little tent, especially in the first two weeks so that I could sleep in it during the really hot period. I have also used it when the pitch I have been given wasn’t suitable for using my sister’s awning, such as in the Lake District where the car was parked away from the pitches, and in Lancashire where the pitch was too small. I will definitely keep that as an option.
I tested out my sister’s awning, a Quecha Base Camp Arpanaz, at last site in the Peak District. I could pitch it by myself but it was a bit of a struggle as it is heavy and it was windy. I saw another awning on that site so have ordered something similar to this one in the second photo. I have got it for a bargain price of £60, when most others have been between £120 and £200. I don’t need as much space as the Quecha has and this one is a lot lighter with smaller poles.
I have only used Caravan and Camping Club sites, partly as they are such good value, about £7 a night on average this summer as they have had a non electric discount. I have just got my over 60s membership so will get discount next year as well. I also love the fact that the sites are so clean and well cared for with unlimited free showers and they all have laundry facilities. I also like the fact that there are friendly and helpful wardens if you need anything. I will definitely be using them as my main sites next year.
In terms of travelling so I have met so many lovely people, as last year I think people are more inclined to talk to you if you are on your own. Lots of people have been interested in the van so that has been lovely. At the last campsite in the Peak District I noticed another Renault Kangoo when I arrived and its owner, Julie, came and said hello. She is travelling full time in Roo, her fully converted van below, having a gap year from teaching. I also met up with one of the women from one of my Facebook van groups, who was in the Lake District and responded to one of my posts.
Driving has been fine so far, I have coped with some scary roads in the Lake District, very narrow lanes and busy cities and motorways. I am very proud of what I have done as a new driver, even if there have been many wrong turns when following the Sat Nav!
There have only been two mishaps so far, the friend’s gate that I mentioned previously and getting the keys locked in the car when it locked itself on me. That was a very nerve wracking hour and a half until a lovely AA man came and sorted it. Needless to say my keys never leave my side now!
I am so amazed that I am finally doing this, after so many years of planning and the setbacks during Covid and beyond. I have my three little embroideries, started during lockdown as a reminder to never give up. I am also working on some other stitching for the van as she still has a few more spaces for pretty things 😉
So to conclude this very long post, it has been amazing, wonderful, better than I ever expected and more than I dreamed of. I have been so, so happy here in little Katy and love van life more than I ever thought I would.
I am so grateful for all the people I have met, the support of my family and friends, my wonderful daughter for storing my camping stuff and especially my sister for looking after Katy when I am away. I will miss my adventures in her so much while I am in Spain. I will leave you with one final picture from one of my favourite summer evenings in Shropshire where I just sat in my van, with the back doors open, reading and watching the most amazing purple sunset.
I hope that you have all enjoyed my adventures as much as I have, until next time have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.