Six months living in van

Living in a tiny van, trying not to kill each other.



5/24/20237 min read

We're just taking a good look around and behold, we've been living in a van for half a year, we've been in Zealand for over seven months and outside of Europe for nine months. What is it like to be away for so long and what is it like to actually live in a car?

There's a lot of thinking time when working on orchards, so I was able to sort it all out in my head and break it down into a few sections. When we left for Canada for two months, it felt like a huge and terribly long trip. Not that I'm not used to long stays abroad, but this was a bit different.

But Canada is over and we don't know how and we found ourselves in Zealand. After the first weeks of living and working on a horse farm with a local family not far from Auckand, we adapted a bit to the local English dialect and after we bought a car, we could start the proper life of nomads, as is usual and very popular here.

First, I should probably mention the specifics of our van with the working title Tin / Ball Lightning / Turtle (Ninja) / just a car / etc so you can imagine it. We bought one of the most widespread vans in Zealand. A small Japanese Mitsubishi delica, it's actually exactly the same car as the Mazda bongo and the Nissan Vanette, because they're all made by the same factory, they just put a different brand on them. The engine is not in the nose, but under the passenger's seat, so heating is provided throughout the journey. In the winter, heated seats are desirable, but in the summer, when the sun is shining on you through the glass and the underfloor heating is added to that, you're sweating like a mouse in no time and your ass is bathed in a puddle of sweat. Especially after climbing out, it looks like you didn't make it to the bathroom.

Another gem is the car battery under the driver's seat. Yeah, it's close to the engine, but when you need to give someone a kick start or get it, it's a bit of a pain to get to the ignition and pedals after opening and flipping the seat. In the time we've been here, we've already scored two pitches on us and about six pitches on people around. It was always possible, but maybe at the end of our stay we will be gymnasts who can fit into a small space, as they sometimes show in the circus.

You can fit up to three people on the front seats, but the comrades from Japan somehow didn't calculate that we Europeans are a bit taller and about half as wide, so when Honza drives his head almost touches the ceiling and if his shoulders were just a little more muscular, then he won't even fit on the seat. So it is true that we have a refrigerator on the seat between us, which reduces the space quite significantly, but still. It's a car for midgets. I can write the same about the "residential" rear part, but I'm actually somewhat to blame for that.

When I measured how big we were going to make the kitchen, I forgot to measure the bed and it ended up being much shorter than we wanted. Next time we will probably do it a little differently, but it is not easy to cram everything into a space of 1.6 x 2.5 meters. Especially when two 25 liter water barrels have to fit somewhere. Although we are a respectable 1.4 meters tall, it is still not enough for standing, but the bed is calculated so that even Honza can sit comfortably on it. I managed to measure that. When I compare the romantic notions of rebuilding a car with the reality, it's a bit of a shock.

The bed can be folded into a couch, but in reality it is completely useless and anyway we have the bed unfolded most of the time and we only fold it when we need to take out some non-perishable food (so all the time), which we store behind the laundry drawer, for that you also need access often, or when we need to refill the water in the barrels. After installing the electric water pump, our water consumption increased a little. However, due to the fact that there is another box behind the drawer with clothes, the nice drawer is pushed more into the space, which makes it impossible to take out the water barrels, which I perfectly placed in the middle of the kitchen when designing the interior. The idea was that we will often make a couch, so they will be easily accessible. As I already mentioned, in reality it's the biggest nonsense I could think of. Because every time you refill the water, you need to take four more steps, while the drawer is outside the car and the mattress is "broken" in half and pushed back so that it does not have to be complicatedly shoved under the other. The storage space under the bed seemed sufficient at first.

However, as time progresses and we settle in, we still have more things, so we are slowly looking for a roof box (at the time of publishing the post, we already have it), because skis, ski boots and warm snow boots take up a disproportionate amount of space.

Probably the best piece of furniture we have is the duvet cabinet. Because our entire library, currently numbering about fifteen titles, backpacks, sleeping bags and a lot of other "mess" could be stuffed into it, which is closed with a lid and the top still serves as a shelf. Oh, and I mustn't forget the pockets on the curtains, that's also a great thing, especially for small things.

Even at home, the basis of the kitchen is a large kitchen unit. Thank God, I managed to make ours as big as possible, so the cooker can stand on one half and the ingredients can be cut on the other. Even though I am sometimes afraid that we will start fire from the gas stove, but we're pretty much done with it. We also have an outdoor folding shelf for cooking. The only thing that is really unnecessary in the kitchen and just takes up space is the portable toilet. By law we have to have one, but since 99% of camping sites have toilets, we don't use them and probably never will. The law also states that it must be accessible when the bed is made up. We designed it so that you can get to it, but you can think of it as another training for a box gymnast and find a job with comedians when you get home. I think there is no need to describe the way to it. It's just in the corner and down under the kitchen utensils…

Apart from the small bed and a few things that make it a bit more difficult, but life in a car is not that terrible. That is, if I ignore the fact that a submarine illness comes quite often in such a small space, and in such a case you simply cannot pack up and go to the next room. And actually mostly not even out, because when the hard time does come, it's at a time when we're locked inside due to bad weather. And sitting in the rain just because the other person annoys us is really not the best solution.

Living in a car is probably the best freedom. We stop where we like, we wait for nice weather. Fortunately, individual regions have not yet completely canceled all freedom van campings, so one can enjoy traveling without having to sleep only in huge commercial camps with another hundred people.

I consider the biggest advantage of a house on wheels to be that you have all your things with you at all times. So there cannot be a situation where you go by car for example on vacation and leave your sleeping bags or shoes at home.

In Europe, the concept of public laundromats is a bit on the decline, but here it is rampant and a lot of people don't even have a washing machine at home. We also learned to use them after a while and it's quite nice.

The food here is similar to that in Europe, and we quickly adapted to the local delicacies. Because beef here and at home cannot be compared at all. Not that we eat it every day, but sometimes for 5-7$ we buy meat that we have enough for two meals and it is unbeatable. Otherwise, prices are currently very similar to at home, except that people here earn two to three times as much.

So far we are managing to balance work and travel. The more we stayed for cherry picking, the more we could spend the rest of the summer on the road (articles will be added gradually) and now we are enjoying being in one place and having a certain job. Just like two years ago in Norway, we collect apples for a small family business that makes juices from them. We cleaned up a bit and adjusted the common room. John even built a bed in it out of pallets and we bought a couch, so it's much more cozy there, and in the end it turned out that we live there with another couple almost non-stop. So I sleep in the car, because mice and opossums crawl in the walls at night and you can't sleep there. Otherwise, life is much more peaceful here.

The streets in the cities are wider, the houses are lower and generally nobody is in a hurry here. The fact that there is a much smaller population here probably does a lot. 5 million people (half of the Czech Republic) on an area 4 times larger than our republic. Only 5% is inhabited, the rest is beautiful nature. Sometimes we visit a bigger city, but it cannot be compared to the hustle and bustle of Prague and you get used to it very quickly.

With the visa extension from the government, we can stay here half a year longer than we originally planned. So I wonder what the next 12 months will be like on this island. We have a job at a ski resort for the winter, and thank goodness I managed to find accommodation in a normal house. Well, I can't wait. It will be a nice change after a long time.

What follows is a jumble of memories and photos from the entire journey in the car.

A little more talky post this time. A small photo gallery is at the end.