Vanlife extended

After our street theatre adventures we sold the van. And ended up regretting that sale often, especially since we moved down to the Algarve which is probably one of the last places in Europe where beautiful, natural spots to park and sleep are abundant.
The constant waves down here and it's accompanying surfing community has paved the way for holiday makers, hippies, retired adventurers and other loose folk that enjoy the prospect of living a lighter more portable life, and in both summer and winter there is a steady income of van dwellers setting up camp in the local beaches. So since we came down, and especially with Igor falling so in love with surfing, a van was something we longed to have.
In 2012 we had to choose between leaving The Lightroom or finding a rent free (or at least rent cheap) way to live and with the generous help of my parents we bought ourselves a mobile home, a big 7.5 metres auto caravan. Old and slightly damaged from her years on the road, but fully equipped to live in and after storing and getting rid of half our stuff, we set out to live a life on the road.
Iomi was the perfect age, 5 years at the time and still so deeply connected to us that she was thrilled to live in an environment where we would always be close. Our new home was of a model that had an alcove so Iomi got the bed above the drivers seat as her room and she was, when we moved in, the perfect size, still not tall enough to hit her head on the low ceiling but big enough to climb up in her miniature queendom. Igor and I had the bed in the back as ours, and in between there was a small kitchen/living area and a toilet. Remembering our last van experience, this felt like a luxury. Having a small but decent kitchen and a toilet, which was also of the chemical kind and needed attendance every three days or so, that actually had a door made it feel like a real home and the intimacy of living so close to eachother made our family bond even deeper.

Summer in the camper was so sweet. Working hard with both The Lightroom and our retreats means a hectic summer season schedule, so to come home from work in the late evenings was bliss when that home was parked in the beach and slightly claustrophobic when sleeping in the streets of town, but to be able to choose still held a certain excitement that first summer and to do it all with very low living costs enabled us to hold on to our beloved Lightroom for a bit longer.

Life in camper land requires constant work, maintenance and patience. Changing gas bottles, emptying toilet and dirty water, filling up new water, depending on sun for electricity, needing desperately that the stores have the toilet chemicals in stock... A lot of balls to juggle on a daily basis. The place to buy gas being in one place, toilet cleaning facilities and the water filling station in another, all your immediate comfort needs dispersed all over the place with you being dependant on their opening hours.
The lack of sun light in the winter months, making it sometime impossible to charge phone and computer, which was great for our carbon footprint, but pretty bad for being alive in a century where technology and it's thirst for electricity is the only way to keep updated and in touch with the world. Especially when you're living from beach to beach...During the winters we were also more confined to our little house. The tempremental Algarvean winter season, although short, does come with it's fair share of storms, floods and other climatic surprises so there were many days when we had no choice but to hang out all three in our petite kingdom, with nothing else to do but eat, sleep, and get on eachothers nerves. Like I said, not a good idea to choose such minimal living arrangments unless you are very sure of your capacity to love eachother through the trials and tribulations of van practicalities, unless of course, you want to put your relationship to the test.

But the scenery you get as a reward for your efforts is priceless. Waking up by the beach, opening your doors and having your neighbours be a gang of surfers from France, a retired couple from Switzerland, a german truck with a family of six and three dogs, and the local hippie/surf/nature loving crowd is a thing of beauty. Life in a van is so bloody real, so out of context and yet so very proximal to what very much feels like 'real life'. An experience I never thought I would live, and even less so live in my forties. But it's one that has given me so much beauty, taught me so much and both broadened and simplified my view of what is important and worthwhile. I am so happy to have lived it, survived it and to still have a grin on my face when telling you the story. We still have our camper, this summer she will be our country house and as far as those go, I can't think of any better.


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