This post is brought to you from my new home – on wheels! Having recently lived for three months in a hastily converted Fiat Ducato van, our ‘Swift Challenger’ caravan feels like a veritable mansion. Well, kind of – residents of mansions probably don’t have to walk single-file through their home – but, on the plus side, they also probably can’t make their morning coffee without leaving their bed and without assistance from any remote technology or home-help.
My first observation of caravan life is the hugely inappropriate nature of most caravan names. For a start, we are anything but swift when towing this behemoth, and the biggest challenge it presents is how best to cover up its chintzy interior. Along our row, there’s a ‘Conquest’ and a ‘Gladiator’, yet confrontations amongst the owners are likely to be rare to absent, and would probably revolve around the volume of the neighbour’s radio or similar – hardly bloodthirsty warfare. There’s even one called a ‘Streamline’ – can you imagine anything less streamlined than a caravan?! Anyway, I digress…
So why am I here?
That is a good question, with a number of answers. Firstly, have you noticed how obscenely expensive it is to rent in the UK these days? And have you noticed that, if you’re on a small budget, there’s very little chance of getting somewhere with a decent outdoors area. So, if you’re trying to save money and if you’re someone who feels ten times happier when connected with the natural world, then caravan life is a great solution, especially if you’re already familiar with living in a small space and have already begun the process of downsizing your possessions. It also helps if you like an adventure, have nomadic tendencies and enjoy embracing the randomness of what life can offer!
We’re almost two weeks in and so far so good. It pretty much tipped it down with rain for the entire first week, apart from one glorious day. I consider this a good test, and it didn’t dampen either our spirits or the interior – phew! But now the sun is shining and all our windows are wide open.
When I told one of my sisters my plans, she said she couldn’t get the phrase ‘trailer trash’ out of her head, and kept thinking of Eminen’s mum in 8 Mile. I totally understand this perception, and make sure I’m out of my dressing gown before I open the blinds each morning to avert such associations! But really it’s all very civilised – especially as we can benefit from the huge advances in mobile technology. We have an excellent 4G mobile wifi connection (with the best skype connection I’ve literally ever had!), a wireless printer and great music set-up. We also deliberately bought a decent caravan such that we have a full-sized shower cubicle with hot water and a decent water-flow, a four-hob cooker (three gas rings, one electric) with oven and grill, decent-sized fridge, fixed double bed and separate seating area. We also have, to Chris’s delight, a dedicated drinks cabinet and, to my delight, a huge awning on the side, which I like to call my ‘yoga studio’.
Downsides are the ‘cassette loo’ (not sure why it’s called this – have yet to discover any musical associations beyond me singing to disguise those unavoidable sounds), which needs to be emptied fairly regularly, and the fact we have to refill our water tank every day. Still, Chris is working on a solution to the latter issue, which so far seems to involve a HUGE water butt (I can fit in it – I checked) and a long hose-pipe, so we shall see. It also means we have become much more aware of our water usage, which is great preparation for our long-term plans to try and live more off-grid. For example, we now know it takes around 30 litres for us both to have a decent shower (and this is no mean feat given Chris’s hair credentials).
The benefits are that I live in a field by a gorgeous lake on a farm. My front garden is HUGE and, on this bank holiday weekend, became the scene for a cowboy themed children’s party, such that the farmer was mowing the lawns in his full-on cowboy garb and the air was filled with the whinnies of miniature ponies and their equally miniature riders.
We can go for evening walks round the grounds and spy on the swan patiently sitting on her nest in the woods (until her protective other half chases us away) and watch the bats swoop low to catch the flies over the water. We wake up to the sound of birdsong in the hedge by our heads. Trilling skylarks and laughing woodpeckers fill the air during the day and the scent of the may blossom, just bursting out now, fills my nostrils. When I need a break from report-writing, I can just step outdoors in bare-feet and feel the grass beneath my feet, or sit by the lake and watch trout jump. I am already scoping out suitable flat areas amongst the trees for al fresco yoga when the weather warms up a teensy-bit more. Basically, the outdoors are as indoors as possible for day-to-day life, and I am very happy with that.
Even better, our neighbours are either on holiday or fellow ‘long-termers’ like us. Either way, the mood is very mellow and relaxed, and I have to remind myself that I’m not on holiday every day, especially when the sun shines and I can unzip the walls of the awning and let the outdoors in even more. But then who’s to say I can’t be on holiday whilst also being at work? As long as I get my work done, I can still feel that happy, excited sense of freedom and holiday that caravans give you.
I will bring you more updates on how caravan life goes for us as the summer develops – hopefully the outdoors will increasingly prevail over the indoors… 🙂
My new front garden 🙂