Eighteen months ago we had our first camper van adventure and I convinced myself van life was the family holiday life for us. I began the search for a van and we had a couple more rental adventures, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to commit to any of the vans I saw, and if I’m honest it’s because I loved our rental van so much: it felt made for us. It had mood lighting, heated seats and an avengers dining table, I couldn’t find a van that compared.
Then a couple of months ago the owner of the rental mentioned he was thinking of selling it and offered us first refusal. Around the same time someone offered to buy my car, it felt like the Universe was manifesting the van of my dreams: it was now or never.
The naysayer part of my brain that I call Brian said never. He listed the many reasons why it was a bad idea: you’ll never use it, the kids are getting too big, it’s too much money, you like to go abroad, camping was just a novelty. But the great thing I’ve learned over the years about Brian is I don’t have to listen to him; we got the van.
One hell of a Christmas present
The deal went through just before Christmas and we surprised the kids with it on Christmas Day, though I was definitely more excited.
I’m finding one of the best ways to move through this world is without too many expectations, so if I’d built up a mental image of the kids screaming in excitement at the time of the big reveal and what I got was soft smiles and quiet exclamations of, ‘I knew it,’ so what? Life doesn’t happen in my imagination and the important thing was, we committed to the van.
Our first adventure: a day trip
I’ll admit I was itching to use it, if only to prove to naysayer Brian that this wasn’t all one very expensive mistake.
Me and my daughter planned a day trip to a nearby beauty spot with the dog. We were going to fill the van with blankets and cushions and spend the day together.
We woke up to a heavy sky and persistent rain. There’s no point going now, piped up Brian, may as well stay in front of the fire and watch a movie.
That would be the easiest choice wouldn’t it? And it’s the choice I would have made in the past. But I was a van owner now, I wasn’t going to let a little rain put me off.
After packing up the van the next obstacle to overcome was my daughter’s sleep patterns. She’s fallen firmly into the teenager circadian rhythms over the Christmas holidays and rousing her took some time. We didn’t hit the road until 11am, Brian was convinced this was a fail already, we’d wasted half the day! Yet I reminded him we were on the road, not sat in front of the television or still in bed, we were doing it!
A bit of mud never hurt anybody
We visited a national trust property around forty minutes from our house. Even on a grey day, the wide open spaces and the fresh air we’d been missing over our Christmas hibernation were a welcome treat. There was wildlife to watch everywhere: ducks, swans, some mischievous squirrels that one lady told me will take food right out of your hand if you’re patient. We spent two hours walking and talking, met some lovely dog owners, my daughter collected some moss for her artwork and when our bellies were grumbling, we retired to the van.
This was the bit I was dreading: getting us all into the van minus any mud, but with the help of towels, extra clothing and a few wet wipes we managed it, a win! The dog promptly fell asleep on the front seat while we set up our bed with blankets, giant teddy bears, and some mood lighting. Then we snuggled down to eat our lunch and watch a movie on the laptop.
I poured us steaming mugs of hot chocolate from a flask I’d made at home, which sounds idyllic doesn’t it? Until my daughter gasped that her throat was on fire. I was rushing at home when I made it and added too much chilli; I thought I’d fished enough out…oops!
When it was getting dark we fired up the van, put on our heated seats and headed for home, tired but replete.
Why did you get the van, man?
I come from a family of creature comfort lovers, and I’m no different, so why get a van?
I like being outside. I enjoy the outdoor life, but it’s much easier to live an indoor life and being a typical human I’m all for easy. The van is the carrot to encourage me to get out into the world with my family, to have more adventures, to enjoy those small moments of connection and achievement that come when you’re doing something that stretches your comfort zone.
As the guy who sold me the van said; you don’t remember the trips where everything went right, you remember the ones where things didn’t quite go to plan.
I guess this is because the challenges in life, even the small ones, are where we learn and grow.
Thanks for joining me again in a whole new year. Hope everyone had some good times over the festive season, no doubt there will have been some challenging moments too. What’s taken you out of your comfort zone lately and how do you think you’ve grown from the experience?