I can’t believe we are saying this, but we’ve been on the road for over a month! Totally crazy to even contemplate. It seems like only yesterday we were racing around the farm doing the final clean up. But there you go, time flies when you’re having fun!
Now that we’re total vanlife pros and all, we thought we’d make a list of the lessons that we’ve leaned whilst surviving our first month on the road. I hope this can be of some help to another family preparing to depart, or considering a big lap of Aus, and can set some level of expectation as to what caravanning with kids mighty realistically look like.
So here goes….
9 Lessons Learned After 1 Month On The Road
1. You’ll wake up later and go to bed later. Don’t fight it, just roll with it. Our whole life has shifted back about 1.5 hours. We now get up about 8.30am (normally 7am at home) and the kids are being put to bed at around 9pm (usually 7.30pm at home). After speaking to many other travelling families, we found that this is the norm! We figure the kids are still getting the same amount of sleep, so whats the issue!?
2. You’ll live by water, and shower much less than at home. Yep, we’ve become dirty hippies. Water is such a scarce resource here in Australia and nothing will make you appreciate water more, than farming, and caravanning with kids! We can hold 180L in the caravan and an additional 60L in the ute. We plan our travels around clean water supply and know that we can last around 6 days without filling up if we are SUPER careful. This means limiting dish washing (only once per day) and limiting showers (we all get around 2 per week, otherwise its the face washer!). Because we tend to live by the sun, our kids swim constantly. So beach, river and waterfall bathing it is! We also keep a close eye on any free showers at beachside locations and swimming pools. Sounds stressful but don’t worry, you’ll get used to it!
3. The kids won’t miss their ‘screen time’. I invested a lot of wasted time in the planning stage of our travels to researching what devices might be useful (or simply warranted) including iPads, iPods, laptops, DVD players in bunks and DVD players in the ute. Honestly, the kids don’t really use any technology at all! Im so glad that we chose not to have DVD players in their bunks or the ute as they may not have developed the social skills to make new friends anywhere near as quickly as they have this past month. The only technology that we have taken along for the kids is a laptop each for their schooling. I picked up a cheap touch screen notebook for $330 each from The Good Guys and they use them maybe once per fortnight. The rest of the time they’re outside!!!!
4. Your skin will be dry and your feet will be dirty. I have never had such dirty feet in all my life! Living in thongs will do this to you. There’s nothing worse than going into bed with grotty feet, so I now keep a small tub in the van stocked with a pumice stone, scrubbing brush and foot soak cause I just couldn’t handle it any longer. Even though we’re drinking more water than ever before, our skin is super dry from living outside. Think old, crusty goanna dry. So we’ve also started making our own all natural moisturiser by the bucket load with supplies from Biome Eco Store (separate post to come!). This has been a saviour! Biome offers FREE shipping when you spend over $75 too!
5. You’ll need an extra battery for your camera. If you’re anything like me, it will be nothing to somehow acquire about 300-500 photos per day whilst out exploring. Because we tend to free camp for the vast majority, that means no power supply other than the inverter in the car. It’s far easier to have a spare battery fully charged and ready to swap out, than to remember to charge your battery every time you get in the car to drive somewhere. We Mums have enough to remember, just buy the second battery!
6. You don’t need to stress over school work, the kids naturally learn so much as they travel. Oh my gosh did I stress over the kids schooling prior to departure. I researched, planned, made lists, bought supplies. In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t wasted my time! We are super lucky that in SA we can apply for a 12 month exemption, so we did. Our kids have a ‘get-out-of-jail-free-card’ for the next year of their lives. How great is that!? Over the space of the last month we have visited approximately 15 heritage/cultural sites or museums. Have a think about that in terms of actual school days in a month (20). That’s a hell of a lot of learning going on! And that doesn’t include the natural sites, social opportunities, travel journals, assistance with budgets, discussions around fuel prices and campsite fees, sourcing local food, post cards being sent home…. the list goes on! Apply for whatever exemptions you can get your hands on and take your time to work out the rest as you settle into vanlife. We have made the decision to traditionally homeschool our kids from 2020 onwards. More to come on this later…
7. Decent, large, travel towels are a necessity. We purchased some smaller, chamois like towels from a camping superstore before we left. They were compact and quick dry, so ticked the necessary boxes. One box they didn’t tick was comfort. Yep, I know, its just a towel right!? Wrong. We are living on the road full time, we want to feel like we’re not paupers. Invest in decent towels, invest in luxuriously large travel towels. Invest in Tesalate Towels! The difference between these towels and our original towels is both thickness and size. The Tesalate Towels are literally double the size! Meaning, I can actually walk around with a towel around me, not a chamois half covering me. You deserve nice towels if you’re only showering 2-3 times per week!
8. Half the clothes that you packed will be totally unnecessary, and you’ll most likely replace them with travel specific brands, and for good reason! I could never justify the price of brand name travel specific clothing. Now I can! I am totally attune to the Kathmandu sales, the North Face online promos, and scout op-shops for Helly Hansen, Columbia and Gondwana brand clothing. This stuff is made for 4 seasons in one day. It’s made for wind, rain and sun protection. And when you live outdoors 90% of the time, trekking to scenic points, hiking to waterfalls, visiting coastal regions across the countryside, you just need practical stuff! The best thing I’ve purchased in the past month has been my Kathmandu Mamora Women’s Hiking Pants. These pants are the bomb!
9. You’ll unpack, repack and re-shuffle your cupboards at least once per week for the first month. Its chaos really. Until you start to get it right. You’ll continue to drop stuff off at op-shops as your travel, things that you thought you couldn’t live without. It was the books, the school/art supplies, the board games (I’m preparing a post on board games so stay tuned!) and the technology cupboards that really did my head in. We now keep the vast majority of all charging cord in the ute canopy as thats where the inverter for charging is located. I’ve culled a great deal of school/educational supplies, and the boardgames have been condensed. But thats all likely to change over the course of the next 6-12 months and I’m fine with that.
Choosing vanlife wasn’t easy, but it’s one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. Would I go back to living in a house anytime soon? Not on your life! Happy travels 🙂