It’s been 2 months since Dixie and her 3 giddy passengers first boarded the 2am ferry from Dublin Port to Holyhead, Wales. What was originally supposed to be a quick round trip to York and back, to A) drop the offspring to university, B) test out the engine, and C) test the adquecy of our new living quarters before a longer trip to continental Europe in the New Year, has turned into an 8 week (so far) leisurely ramble through the English countryside instead, with Dixie languidly following our vaguely dreamed-up routes, the repeated making, changing and spontaneous rerouting of plans, cursing at the Sat Nav lady, improvising wherever necessary and adapting to van life as W.E. (William and Elizabeth) live it, one place at a time.
W.E. have learned enough about living mobile to fill a book, it has some daily challenges you just dont get in a house; how much water is left, or electricty? Are the vents open, the grey water tank? In reality though, there is not much else to concern ourselves with. Life is quite different when there are no jobs to worry about, it is so much more placid, and all the hours of the day become ours to use. One of us is learning to play the ukelele, the other is working on his harmonica, and each day can be as fast or as slow as W.E. want it to be. One of us needs to write more! There is no need to spend money every day, fresh food can be acquired for drastically reduced prices late at night, there are plenty of things to see and do for free and every day that W.E. don’t spend keeps us on the road a day longer. (If you don’t like the £25 admission fee that the magnificent castle charges, pack a big picnic and go for a long walk around the castle walls instead, there is always a public path, you get to talk about all the terribly boring things most likely inside the walls and its free!) W.E. spend our time looking, learning and laughing, walking and talking. W.E. cook all our meals in Dixie, timed perfectly when the heat from the gas stove is most appreciated, this tin can heats up quickly. W.E. sleep in silent forrests under leafy canopy, or by the side of the road in the English rain or facing the sand and sea, bracing against the wind.
For silence, you cant beat a cemetery. For noisy nocturnal bird song all night, try staying in a nature reserve, there is usually one within 20 miles of wherever. Every night brings its own new noises, a new game of guess what is going on outside, trains, cows, owls, waves, traffic on some far away motorway. Some nights W.E. don’t sleep at all but stay up to watch the sunrise and then laze around while the rest of the country starts their day.
Every morning brings its own new view too. W.E. have made some spots our “base” for a few days when exploring an area, picking bags of litter, getting to know where to park for the best view possible, and W.E. feel genuine sadness leaving the place, always on the promise that W.E. will be back. But deciding what to do each day, even if it means leaving somewhere idyllic, is the best kind of freedom imaginable, W.E. are under no obligation to anyone but ourselves, the choice is ours, nothing is limiting us and although no two days have been the same in any way and change is a constant, these have still been by far the quietest 2 months of both of our lives.
People have asked us how W.E. manage to live in such close quarters without argument, with zero privacy and with each others constant company. The answer is always be talking. One of us can’t go to the bathroom without climbing over the other, so constant communication is definitely essential. In another way though, it’s easy, W.E both want the same thing, and wanting something good is half the battle. W.E. both crave peace, quiet, to travel, to have freedom and at the same time not to have everything handed to us at a price. W.E. have the same tastes, and little to argue about anyway. W.E. both want to be in charge of our own time and our own money, all the time. Love helps too, luckily, because doing any chores together such as cooking or putting the dishes away in such a small space quickly turns into a couples van-yoga session! Dixie is little but W.E. have all the space W.E. need. In fact…
W.E. realised W.E. STILL have too much stuff in our lives, it has no use, it is just not required. Among the contents of the bag of unnecessaries W.E. filled this week to ditch in Dublin are the smaller fridge (a complete waste of space for non-milk drinking vegetarians), books and notebooks (heavy, and W.E. have no bookshelf YET) and so many clothes, our “one arse, one chair” theory comes into play again.
The spacecraft airlock vaccuum created whenever Dixies sliding door is opened brings in a constant stream of crispy little leaves to sweep up. Autumn is really lovely, but remember to bring a sweeping brush. Having pondered for a while over this blog and reflecting on the past 60 days and nights, W.E. agree that the key to lifes fulfilment, whatever your situation, might lie in flexibility. Trust your instincts, your senses and be alert and ready to bend your expectations positively…. which reminds us of a story W.E. heard of a fellow fulltime van-dweller…
He was regularly availing of the free water at the petrol stations he paid for diesel in. Online forums will advise that you NEVER fill your fresh water tank from this source, as the water is mixed with screen wash and you will be poisoned! Pure scaremongering he thought, why would the petrol station do that when they sell screen wash separately, he even looked and saw for himself that the taps came straight from the ground with no inflow for any additives. Hundreds of free tanks of fresh water, up and down the country he enjoyed. Well, one evening he filled up as per usual in an unfamiliar station, and off he drove. Later, he went to fill the filter and boil the water for a cup of tea…the water appeared tinged blueish. His eyesight informed him first, then his nose noticed the chemical smell, and, if he had been stupid enough to drink it even after those hints from his other senses, his taste buds would have told him quickly enough it was NOT refreshing. What did he do, well what could he do? He made the tea using one of the 2 litres of bottled water he buys for 17p each and keeps an army of for this type of reason, he replaced the water filter with a new one and he went to bed. In the morning, he drained half the screenwash into the grey water tank through both taps, and went for a long drive. He drained both tanks and flushed them out thoroughly the next opportunity he had, but not before a few long warm soapy showers. The screen wash cleaned out both tanks and the kitchen sink, saved him buying the usual drain cleaner and the van smelled fresh for days…..
Yes, that happened, and yes obviously that fellow fulltime van-dweller invented above was US. It does explain why W.E. are so smudge-free, non streaky and squeaky clean, but it is also a story with a moral:
Sometimes life gives you what you want, and sometimes it’s going to be screen wash. Be prepared and make it work for you either way.