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Vanlife – My dream – or Maybe not!?

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My dream is to travel the world in a camper van and wake up every morning with a beautiful view. In order not to start the new adventure completely unprepared, I asked other travel bloggers about their vanlife experiences. Today Barbara reports on her first trip in a van.

Written by Barbara Röss

YouTube is to blame!

Yes, honestly.

Over the past few years, YouTube has made me think that I should leave my old, beautiful, sedate life on Mallorca behind and live in a van. The vanlife virus pulled me more and more under its spell.

Well – from the beginning I had doubts whether I would even close my eyes as a woman, but basically I was convinced: Vanlife is my dream. I want to go there. I want to do that.

For months I watched vanlife videos on YouTube.

How do I expand my van? Which model should it be? For months I even dealt with the question of whether I need a toilet and / or shower.

I drew expansion plans, compiled shopping lists. My friends were annoyed because I wasn’t talking about anything else. But then – just hours before I wanted to sign the sales contract for an extremely expensive Sprinter, a thought occurred to me:

What if vanlife isn’t for me ?!

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Vanlife-Testtour-Van-am_Stausee
Vanlife-Testtour

Suddenly I realized: I’ve only been camping once in my entire life – and I found it terrible.

Then I stayed in a trailer again for two nights and that was also terrible. The voice of reason grew loud. Very loud.

My gut feeling told me: “Chica: You have to try Vanlife first!” So I decided to do a test week in a rented van. In northern Spain. In the winter. Alone.

Only one week? Yes, I am someone who notices relatively quickly whether something fits or not. A week should be enough for me. Also, I didn’t want to spend so much money before buying my Sprinter.

Renting the van

I found a very good portal (yescapa.es) for van and camper rental in Spain relatively quickly and immediately after booking I got a whack.

The list of declarations was over 20 pages long and in Spanish. I speak Spanish, but I hadn’t heard any of these words.

It said something about replacing the gas bottle and what to do if the heating stopped running. Slowly a queasy feeling developed in the stomach.

My first time – Northern Spain by van

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Since I don’t let anything or anyone – not even my initial fear – keep me from doing anything, I flew to Barcelona.

After a little odyssey with buses and trains, I arrived at the rental location and was welcomed by Jesus – the nice landlord.

He explained everything to me in super quick Spanish. I tried to remember everything … but there was so much. Filling water here, the chemical in the toilet there – but not too much, gas here, problems with the heating here and there.

My head was smoking. How much I would have liked that another pair of eyes and ears had listened to the landlord. But well – what is not is not.

Since it was already quite late when Jesus left me, I decided to stay at the place for the first night with my little dog Elfie.

There was a parking lot that was signposted for RVs. I found it without any problems, but there was no room for me.

Apparently, even in the hinterland of Barcelona, ​​you can’t just expect to find a parking space late in the evening. I was forced to park on the side of the road in an industrial area and wanted to settle down.

I closed all privacy screens and felt strange because now nobody could see me anymore, but I couldn’t see what was going on around me either.

I locked everything and started unpacking. I ate something. I went for a walk with Elfie – in this not very idyllic area – and lay down.

I got tired – but sleeping was out of the question. I haven’t slept a minute. Not a closed eye. While my dog ​​was snoring with relish from exhaustion, I was totally tired but wide awake.

A thousand thoughts shot through my head. “What if someone saw me park here and now get a hacksaw and cut a hole in the van to rape me ?!”

Sick Thoughts 2.0

Thoughts that normally do not occur to me in life and, viewed from a distance, are probably complete nonsense, circled through my head.

I tried to think of sheep. No chance. The hacksaw and the bad people who gassed and robbed campers kept coming back to my mind.

That night I made a decision: I would ask a friend if he would spontaneously spend the rest of the week with me. This van was too expensive not to enjoy the week.

True friends are a boon at Vanlife

My buddy Reduan was out of work at the time and flew in the next day. I had to pay him the flight. But it was worth it to me.

I picked him up from the airport in the van and was finally able to relax. In fact, we drove exactly 80 km before I had to go to a rest area to sleep.

The first night with sleep

In company, I actually managed to fall asleep the next evening. It was bitterly cold outside. Minus 7 degrees! Comfortably warm inside. Thanks to the super gas heating. I was impressed.

What a van like this can do. The only problem: at 2:30 a.m. the night was over. We woke up because it was terribly cold in our van. The heating was off. The light for “The gas bottle is empty” blinked happily.

So in the middle of the night we tried to change the gas bottle. Which we managed with icy fingers and good luck, only to find out that the landlord had left us two empty bottles on board.

The only alternative to avoid freezing to death here on this drafty mountain was to turn on the car. So we decided to let the engine run and at least heat the vehicle a little.

It didn’t really work out. At 6 o’clock we gave up and looked for the nearest gas station.

The little pitfalls of the campervan – not all gas bottles are the same

What a layperson often does not know, you learn the hard way. For example, we didn’t know that there were old and new systems of gas cylinders.

Basically no problem – unless the new gas bottles do not fit into the flap provided and you have to look for a gas station that still sells the old system for four (!) hours.

Of course, that’s a problem that you only have once, because then you know your way around. Still, I was once again happy that I didn’t have to go through this episode alone.

As exciting as many of the tours were – especially because of the size of the van – the surroundings were so beautiful.

The beautiful side of the vanlife test

We found wonderful spots at reservoirs, where we stood all alone in January and could hardly put our camera down in the idyllic setting.

But also exciting because it was never clear: where can we really park ?! Vehicles in the category of our rental van were often prohibited.

Especially on the coast, we were increasingly faced with signs prohibiting us from entering the beach areas. Wild camping was almost impossible on the coast. Much better in the hinterland.

What a layperson often does not know, you learn the hard way. For example, we didn’t know that there were old and new systems of gas cylinders. Basically no problem – unless the new gas bottles do not fit into the flap provided and you have to look for a gas station that still sells the old system for four (!) Hours.

Of course, that’s a problem that you only have once, because then you know your way around. Still, I was once again happy that I didn’t have to go through this episode alone.

The beautiful side of the vanlife test
As exciting as many of the tours were – especially because of the size of the van – the surroundings were so beautiful.

We found wonderful spots at reservoirs, where we stood all alone on the bank in January and could hardly put our camera down in the idyllic setting.

But also exciting because it was never clear: where can we really park ?! Vehicles in the category of our rental van were often prohibited.

Especially on the coast, we were increasingly faced with signs prohibiting us from entering the beach areas. Wild camping was almost impossible on the coast. Much better in the hinterland.

I actually found the camper pitches funnier – if only because you met so many interesting people.

However, such places always came with extra costs that, to be honest, I hadn’t included in my budget. Well – there was something more home-cooked …

However, such places always came with extra costs that, to be honest, I hadn’t included in my budget. Well – there was something more home-cooked …

Conclusion after a week of vanlife

The time was exciting – beautiful – but above all stressful. Finding places where you were allowed to park that were still reasonably nice, devoured so much time that we didn’t really get very far in one week.

Apps like “park4night” were particularly helpful. Without them we would have been lost.

We have seen really beautiful places, but the bottom line is that one thing remains: I could get used to life in the van.

Alone? Probably not.

For two? Definitely!

The small space doesn’t bother me. Neither did the driving. Reverse parking with a van – no problem. But whoever couldn’t cope with life on the street at all was my dog Elfie.

Elfie is not a vanlife dog

I found the little Ratero bitch in the trash on Mallorca a good five years ago. She is a completely relaxed dog at home, but she is almost desperate at every stop.

Her markings were all gone and she didn’t know the smells around our “home”. She cried when we left her alone in the car, for example to go to the bathroom, and was visibly stressed.

She had to break down driving a car (which she normally doesn’t), she had diarrhea every night (not nice in a van!) And cried for almost 15 minutes when she was finally back home on her couch.

Elfie’s antipathy towards campervans went so far that she didn’t even want to enter the van of my friend to view it.

So I came to the conclusion: as long as this dog exists, I’ll stay with my butt at home.

When my little Elfie is no longer there at some point, there is now someone by my side who I can sleep next to. Vanlife has not been written off, but has definitely been postponed for now!

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