10 Things You Should Know Before A Campervan Trip

8 November 2019

1. You may as well have ‘TOURIST’ tattooed on your forehead. Nothing says ‘I’m on my gap year!’ more than a converted minivan in a hideous colour combo (Jucy - full review here - I’m looking at you) and you’ll be longing to blend in with the locals in their lovely plain trucks that aren’t neon with a silly slogan like “do you believe in love at first sight, or should I drive by again?” on the side. The only upside maybe is driving past a fellow backpacker in a Wicked camper that has Scooby Doo smoking a joint painted on it and thinking ‘…thank god we’re not in that'.

2. You know how you used to go to the beach and at the end of the day you’re just dying to get home and have a shower? Well, the beach becomes your shower, whether that’s a dip in the ocean or (if you’re lucky) in one of those free outdoor ones. You’ll remember running water that’s actually hot with fondness, have to sweep a ton of sand out of your bed every night and won’t think twice about whipping out your Gillette Venus to shave your legs in front of strangers. 

3. You don’t have to live off instant noodles. I love an instant noodle pot as much as the next person (really I do, I actually have a proper thing for them!) but you essentially have a mini-kitchen in the back of your car and it’s a real shame not to put it to good use. Not only is it the cheapest option (you can get four gas canisters at Cole’s for $5, then just search online for inexpensive one-pot recipes) but it’s really fun, too - my fondest memories of our east-coast road trip in Australia are cooking a hearty meal and then sharing it together.

4. You kinda have to be okay with creepy crawlies. From a giant huntsman spider making its web on your left wing mirror to a huge monitor lizard roaming around your campsite, you’re likely to see a whole host of wildlife on your trip. When you’re sleeping outside things tend to go bump in the night, whether that’s a possum on your roof or a bush turkey (known by locals as “bin chickens”) ripping apart your rubbish bag. Whilst it’s annoying to have mosquitoes and moths all up in your grill, you do eventually stop jumping at every single rustling noise.

5. Making friends requires a little more effort! When you’re staying in hostels meeting people is a given; it happens constantly and you’re bound to find someone that you click with. On a road trip however it’s just you driving from place to place, so you have to create opportunities for new friendships. We met our newfound mates mostly in social settings (in bars, playing pool etc) and also largely in campsites - never be afraid to say “we’re having a fire later if you fancy coming over for a drink”, as in our experience it always led to a really nice time!

6. Living on wheels means thinking about parking constantly. Obviously when you check into campsites (download WikiCamps ASAP) and are in rural areas or small towns then everything’s gravy, but cities can be a nightmare. Bear in mind that parking laws are likely to be different to your home country, too - we once got slapped with a $112 fine for parking front to curb rather than rear to curb. Totally legal spot in a cute little Aussie town centre, just popped into a shop to buy my dad a birthday card… $112 fine! Double check your parking signs, people.

7. You won’t realise how big a country is until you drive the length of it. Some countries are absolutely gorgeous to drive - take New Zealand for example, every corner you turn looks like a screensaver desktop - and others are a heck of a lot of highways and nothingness. Ways to make driving less tedious and actually really enjoyable include: good music (I’m a big fan of the ‘Songs To Sing In The Car’ playlist on Spotify), good conversation (e.g. travel with someone who you get on ridiculously well with) and good podcasts (my current favourites are Table Manners and Jules & Sarah).

8. You’ll become an expert at packing quickly. Overslept and wanted to be on the road by 8am? No problemo - the fiddly camper van bed-to-car routine that you couldn’t work out on Day 1 is now an absolute doddle, and Yesterday You did Future You a favour by washing up the plates and pans from dinner last night, yay! In the beginning it takes you twenty minutes to get the table and camping chairs out for your morning muesli, and by Day 5 you’re whipping breakfast together and having everything all packed up again before you can say “Scooby Doo smoking a joint”.

9. Quarters are close. If you’re travelling solo then please feel free to skip to #10, but if you’re not - I’m here to warn you that things are about to get intimate. I’m sure the person you’re embarking on this road trip with is someone you know well anyway, but prepare to know them in more depth and detail that you ever thought possible. The phrase ’24/7’ springs to mind and it could be make or break in some situations, so make sure you’re ready for that level of closeness.

10. Sometimes it all gets a little too much. Well done if you recognised that Shawn Mendes lyric there, you’re forgiven if not - sometimes camper van life is just a bit much. The weather can be a big factor: sometimes it’s unforgivably hot and you’re a sweaty mess who’s swatting mosquitoes and praying for cooler weather, then a cold snap arrives and you’re wearing so many layers that you look like Joey in that Friends episode where he wears all of Chandler’s clothes, shivering vigorously and praying for warmer weather. If you get sick of it, there’s no shame in booking an Airbnb for a night or two!

I know that reading this prior to your road trip might make it sound like a bit of a bummer, but remember that these are all of the things that I wish someone had told me and it’s therefore mostly stuff I would’ve avoided. What I can also tell you is that I’m happy for you just typing this, as travelling by camper van is such a flexible, convenient and downright amazing way to see a country and you’re about to have an unforgettable trip of a lifetime - bon voyage!

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