The pikey Transit is performing better than I could have ever hoped. It’s ideally suited to a camper conversion due to it being big and square. The additional head room from being a medium height is invaluable and it’s definitely more stealthy than the big motorhomes, which enables us to park in more urban environments. I’ve crammed a lot of tech and really useful features into the van so it’s really easy to live in. To list the larger items, it has a fridge, 2 burner gas hob, large stainless sink with tap and water pump, large fresh water container, large grey water container, additional lights, battery charger, diesel heater, 240v inverter, and all served by 2 big AGM batteries that are linked to the van starter battery via a split charge relay. The RIB Altair bed is the only bed to get. When coupled with a 3inch memory foam mattress topper it was better than our bed at home. Go for the RIB design as its footprint in the van is smaller than conventional rock n roll beds and it’s so easy to use. If you’re going to spend the money on anything make it the bed. Just before the trip I added loads more storage, and this is still not enough. Storage is key, make as many shelves, storage boxes and drawers as you can.
I could be accused of being a little OCD, and I like to spend my time rearranging things in the van to make them fit better, and enable them to be stored more efficiently. You need to compromise; the van is a dynamic environment where things move about as it has to adapt to new environments and conditions. I’m seeing this as a good experience for me, as if left to my own devices I would tidy myself into mental breakdown.
Life in the van is mostly comfortable, apart from extremes in temperature and a few learning curves, it’s great. We learnt the hard way that you need to close the doors for an hour at dusk to stop mosquitos taking up residence in all the nooks and crannies, only to come out at dawn and eat you alive. I was Verity’s sacrificial anode, in that I was eaten first to preserve her. I was woken up with a whizzing in my ear and found the van to be swarming with the little buggers, all full after a morning’s feast. I quickly became a mosquito ninja, and had honed my skill so much that I could have squished one mid-flight with chopsticks.
To make our life easier we’re planning on getting a solar shower and a bucket. Baby wipes are great but are no real alternative to a good shower. Occasionally we were able to stop in places of such beauty that we could just go for a swim in the Mediterranean Sea instead of showering, but this has only been the case once, and the temperature can be crazy down here. A shower would be a welcome addition.
The next item is the bucket. I’m finding wild wees a doddle, but Verity not so much. I think a bucket, as gross as it sounds, will take the urgency away from driving and will leave us free to park up in more places. We may have to take our relationship to the next level, but once we cross this boundary, we will be more comfortable in our toilet on wheels.
Overall life in the van is great, I’m really enjoying the outside living, and surviving with less. Taking days one at a time and experiencing new things. Waking up to the sound of flowing rivers and Verity snoring, instead of just Verity snoring, and having more time to enjoy the simple things in life – we’ve started to drink more wine.
It’s really easy to cook with a 2-burner hob, and because of this we probably eat too well. We need to be more mindful that we need to budget ourselves as we’re possibly in it for the long haul, and luxury food shouldn’t be the norm. We splash out in the markets and buy fresh fruit and veg for next to nothing and reserve ourselves when we have to make do with a supermarket. Food in France can be amazing, but I need to careful with the pastries as I’m not doing my 6:30am spin classes anymore, and I’m a bit of a dustbin.
I wish more young people would venture out with a camper, as all of our neighbours so far have been late 50s to early 60s with gammy legs. I’m hoping as we get closer to La Rochelle this may change and we will be parked up on the beaches with surfer types, as planned. Saying that my feet have really dried out, wearing in my new flip flops, and have cracked. I’ve been hobbling around trying not to put weight on a sizeable tear in my foot; maybe this is the start of my very own gammy leg.