Last week I had the opportunity to make one of my dreams a reality. To celebrate my 33rd birthday, my boyfriend (yes I am dating again and found myself a keeper!) rented a Volkswagen Westfalia ("westy") from Maine Campers in Eliot Maine. I have always been fascinated by the #vanlife. I follow numerous Instagram accounts, read books and listen to podcasts about this way of living and what attracts me most to this lifestyle is the simplicity and adventure.
In today's society we over-complicate everything. Our homes are full of objects that may (or may not) be used regularly, our closets are full of clothes so we don't wear the same outfit twice a week and we can't go more than 5 minutes without an advertisement (billboards, radio/TV commercials) to buy something we don't need. While some of today's modern day technologies are nice to have (iPhone) if we strip them all away we don't need much to survive and we are surrounded by a beautiful world that provides an amazing playground should we take the time to explore it.
Speaking of explore ... that's exactly what Matt and I did. For 7 days we explored the coast of Maine (Schoodic Point to Freeport) out of a Westy! As you can imagine, there is NOT much room in a van so you are forced to bring only items that are useful and must-haves. That includes everything from clothes to food to supplies. Each item we packed, from a toothbrush to a sweatshirt had a specific purpose and spot within our home on wheels. While I am going to let Matt provide you with the details about our trip in a separate post (where we stayed, places to eat, things to see/do. etc.) there were a few items that we brought/bought along the way that were useful and at times bailed us out of what could have been tough situations. If you are planning to rent or buy a VW below are a few tips/tricks we learned along the way that may be helpful:
- Single Bottle-Top Propane Tank
- Our first morning we ran out of propane mid breakfast/coffee making. Although we were able to find sticks, make a fire and finish breakfast/coffee over the fire pit, on our way to the next campground we purchased a single bottle-top propane tank. This came in handy multiple times throughout the week when we didn't feel like cooking in the van or burning through the 2.5 gallons of propane that are onboard a Westy.
- Believe it or not we only slept in the van one night throughout the week rental - ha! Fortunately for us, the weather cooperated all week and we stayed multiple nights at the same place so we popped our newly bought tent (highly recommend it!) and broke it in! While it takes some work to set up a tent, rainfly and equip the inside with a blowup mattress and sheets, we found the extra space to be beneficial. This allowed us to have two very separate and distinct sections of our campsite; 1 for sleeping and the other for working/cooking. It may not seem like much but it made a difference so we didn't have to continuously set-up/breakdown the van into sleep/day mode.
- WiFi on this trip was a must have for both of us as this was not a vacation. We both had busy work schedules and while the iPhone "personal hotspots" came in handy, many campgrounds offer free WiFi. Each campground we stayed at had Wifi which allowed us to stay connected (at no extra charge!) to our careers (and family/friends).
- Firewood and Paper
- While most campgrounds sell firewood, I highly recommend buying wood prior to arriving at camp. Not only will you find better prices but typically you will get "more bang for your buck". Each night, we went through ~ 1 bundle of wood while we shared stories, caught up on the day and had a beer/nip (so classy but a necessity while camping!). For the paper, we took extra copies of weekly ads that are available at the grocery store. Best part ... they are FREE! So if you are on a budget or don't have any more cardboard/paper to burn you can always get resourceful at a local market.
I hope you find these tips/tricks helpful! As you can see from the above list, if you use existing resources and invest in necessary/space efficient items you don't need much. These items allowed us to make the same delicious pour over coffee, open faced breakfast sandwiches and nutrient rich dinners that we have at our homes on a typical week ( Side note ... I want to create a camping cookbook because we eat VERY well on the road - thats a post for another day!).
If you ever have the desire to find your "inner hippie" I highly recommend renting a van from Jim at Maine Campers. It was an exceptional experience and a week I will never forget. Thank you to Jim for providing the transportation/sleeping accommodations and my boyfriend Matt for bringing a dream to life , creating an exceptional itinerary (including waterfront campgrounds) and sharing a week worth of memories that will last a life time.
Although this was my first #vanlife experience it will not be my last.