Last year my husband, two daughters aged 2 and 5 and I embarked on a Northern hemisphere adventure for six months. Half this time was spent traipsing through Europe in a campervan.
When we told friends of our plans the word ‘brave’ often fell out of people’s mouths.
But in that same breath of trepidation and awe, I could see a little wildness in their eyes and a little envy too. Taking to the road with young kids is epic and life-changing and gobsmackingly brilliant.
Here’s why you should do it too.
There’s adventure and then there’s adventure. Campervanlife is full of it.
From running out of gas and driving across France to Germany to refill the cylinders, to waking up at 6am to sirens and a throng of men in red shorts yelling and running during a fire drill in Hamburg while parked outside a park – there are few dull moments especially when you have young children in tow.
The humdrum routine of raising little people with bed times and meal times and nap times and toileting is rather exciting when it’s on foreign ground, eating foreign food, guesstimating foreign food ingredients and buying foreign nappies. Traveling 24/7 in a van for an extended time is a routine stopper and a sure way to see life differently.
Wherever you go, so does the kitchen sink. Hungry – cook. Tired – have a nap. Dirty – shower. Need a wee – stop!
You will pack minimally and you will wear less, probably a third of what you brought. You will eat out of the same bowl, plate and cup three meals a day and you will have one pillow, two sets of sheets and one towel each. A laundromat will look like a temple to you, water will be considered holy and worthy of a baptism, and food will be precious like manna from heaven. It’s a religious experience this campervan life and in this era of living more sustainably – campervan life (bar the petrol) hits the bullseye. And the thing is, all this not having brings you a whole lot of having and it is truly liberating.
A few days after picking up our van in Germany, respectfully named ‘Danke’, we were driving north, no big plans, when I messaged my friend in Holland and asked if she was free that weekend. Long story short we met the following day at a Dutch campground. Just like that, we had crossed borders, languages, cultures, and in a flash, I was standing in front of my friend who I hadn’t seen in 13 years.
You can go any where in a camper van any time. You can cross borders, even cross oceans, avoid airport security measures and one day wake up overlooking a Loch in Scotland. The road is yours for the taking.
Ultimately, the greatest part of traveling in a campervan with your family is being together.
I think back now to all the arguments along the way, the challenges, the highs and lows, the joys and the grief – it was all so very real and unedited. Conversations we wouldn’t have had in front of the girls – we had, tears otherwise shed in privacy – were had. There was a transparency to our interactions and relationship. Our daughters were present to the full gamut of emotions and were able to witness an argument be resolved, a moment of grief be explored and shared, infectious laughter be enjoyed. We went through it all. Together.
Miriam Hechtman is an Australian writer, creative producer and poet. During her career she has worked as a journalist, events manager and documentary producer. She is the founder and host of POETICA, a creative initiative for live poetry and music in Bondi, Sydney. She is mother to two daughters and wife to one man. See: www.movingtrainsproductions.com