At this point we have now been living in Hector/ England for 3 weeks and the first thing that comes to mind is COLD. Luckily for us, Hector has a “wood burning stove,” aka. fireplace, which has saved our buns, fingers and toes! Drew has done a stellar job at making sure we have a roaring fire to cuddle by each night, though the one time I filmed him, the fire would not cooperate (figures, hah!). Regardless, here is our fun video of #thestruggle:
Tip #1: HEATING. If you are traveling during the chillier months, be sure that your campervan has heating of some/any form. Whether it’s a fireplace, central heating, a butane-powered camping heater or an oven (I wish I could crawl into it some… most mornings), this will be key to your survival.
Tip #2: Tea kettle. It’s only natural, but make sure your #homeonwheels has a tea kettle because you will be drinking A LOT of tea. I knew I liked tea but I had no idea how much more I would appreciate it – morning, afternoon and night! Check out these extremely elaborate high teas in London (WOW) vs. our slightly less elaborate, but just as heart-warming tea time with Hector:
Tip #3: Parking. While there is plenty of parking on public streets, it’s no fun to be swayed to sleep by the “momentum swerve” of passing cars. We opt for quiet neighborhoods with other cars parked on the street + big hedges (the Brits call Vanlifers “Hedge Monkeys” LOL). You can always stay in campgrounds, though many are closed during the off-season, plus they are pricey! Say around 30GBP for 2 people, and anyone additional is 5GBP more (on average). In London, we recommend parking outside the city center, somewhere near the tube – Clapham and Hackney worked well for us.
Funny story: One morning while making “porridge” aka. oatmeal, I thought I heard the water pump making weird grunting noises. I told Drew it sounding like a pig and then I looked out the window and saw this little guy!:
And by “little guy” I really mean HUGE:
He was a curious and friendly fellow, he kept trying to sniff Hector through the fence 🙂
Tip #4: Water. Most Gas stations have free water taps that you can use to refill your water tank – score!
As for drinking water and showers, we use Anytime Fitness, though we won’t have this option once we’re in mainland Europe (sadness)… things are about to get interesting. We have also stopped at a campground or two to refill our water jugs – water jugs are key, we have six of them – we drink a lot of water… and tea.
Tip #5: Cooking. There are grocery stores literally everywhere, Sainsbury, Tesco, Morrison’s, Lidle, ASDA, Food Co-Operative, Iceland and Waitrose, to name more than a few! As a gluten-free traveler I was so excited to find “free from” options – crumpets, pasta, baguettes and more- though the smaller markets don’t always tend to have these. And depending on how much water your campervan holds, you may want to keep #vanlifemeals simple. Many oven dishes are great for clean up and did someone say SOUP?! We make a ton of soup, especially this time of year, but with the plethora of Indian options we’ve also made our fair share of Tikki Masalas 🙂
Tip #6: Driving. Make sure you know how to drive manual. Yes they drive on the left side of the road AND the driver sits on the right side of the car/van but it’s not as hard as you would think, or so Drew says. I haven’t yet tried because learning how to drive manual in Hector is one adventure neither one of us are up for.
It should also be known that more often than you would expect there is one road for two-way traffic… !?! Exactly what we thought. The KEY: Flash your lights on and off to indicate to the other driver that you are allowing them to go, OR if they allow you to go, flash your lights on and off in thanks 🙂 Luckily Quirky Campers gave us the heads up on this tip!
A couple more things: traffic lights turn yellow before turning green, unlike in America where they turn yellow before turning red, and “cat eyes” are road reflectors… we were VERY confused/concerned until we figured that out:
Tip 7: Wifi. If you need to stay connected whilst on the road, most wifi cafes (Caffe Nero and Costa are most similar to Starbucks in the UK) close at 6/7pm. McDonalds, is the only wifi spot we’ve discovered that stays open till midnight. All the more reason to get your own wifi device – tep has been excellent everywhere we’ve been!
Tip #8: Talk to and befriend locals. Our favorite plan is NO PLAN and that generally only works out so well because we LOVE asking locals, and friends who have come before us, where to go. Below is a hand-draw map of Glastonbury, given to us by a new friend we made at a pub in Salisbury, which we were invited to by another new friend we made while visiting the Salisbury Cathedral, which we were told about by our friends in LA who are from England! The world is so good.
We have seen a lot in 3 weeks and have learned a ton about the differences of Vanlife in the UK vs. America, and this is truly only the beginning. This Thursday we say goodbye to Hector and HELLO to our very own van!! Details on how we purchased a campervan abroad + more tips + insights + LOADS OF ADVENTURE (and more sheep) to come.