When I started this blog I wanted to document the highs and the lows of the adventure. The challenges and the victories.
We’ve recorded the tough bits at the various hosts and the issues along the way. We have the usual family falls outs, thankfully not very often. I guess we simply couldn’t live in such a small space if there was constant squabbling or the need to have more time and space away from each other than our rather limited accomodation affords us. Dragon and Star are very close siblings and probably fall out a lot less than most other brothers and sisters I know (I certainly would not have wanted to share such a tiny space with my little brother when we were children, much as I loved him and get on well with him now) and there is a certain intensity to sharing 24 hours a day with your spouse when you both used to have seperate days from each other Monday to Friday.
In the main though I think the impact on our relationships with each other has been all positive. We have all got to know each other better, both as a group or team or family unit and as four individuals with intermeshed relationships between each of us. There are tears, tantrums, shouting and strops of course, it would be terribly unhealthy if there was not and I think putting feelings out there for discussion, talking stuff through and continually communicating is hugely important – both for the sanity of the four of us today and for learning those skills for the future. I like to think that yet another side effect of this adventure for Dragon and Star will the increased levels of tolerance for others, compassion and empathy, negotiation and conflict resolution skills, knowing when to diffuse a situation and when to air your views with a big shouting session is appropriate. The upshot of this lifestyle is that you simply cannot be selfish, you have to take into account the feelings and needs of others, you must take accountability for the impact of your actions on others. Co-operation, working together and playing to everyone’s strengths is essential.
So while living in this small space with others has it’s challenges the lessons being learnt from them are sufficient to weigh that up as a positive.
Other positives include learning to live with less stuff, live on less money, appreciating the simplicity that is possible and feeling so much more engaged with the world around us. The turning of the seasons having a true impact on our daily lives over and above turnning up the heating or switching off a light. Overall we continue to love every day knowing we are making memories that will last us forever and having an adventure that we will talk of for the rest of our days and will shape what happens to us from here.
But the downsides? There are not many, probably way fewer than most people experience on their normal daily lives with houses and jobs and TVs and sofas. But there are difficulties with this way of life which mean we know it’s not a forever option for us.
For the last two weeks we had a mouse in the van. First evidence was a chewed up carrier bag in one of the cupboards along with some droppings. We assumed it had got in just to that cupboard which has a hole down to the outside so cleaned it out and blocked it up. But the mouse was clearly in the van and started making it’s presence felt in our food cupboards and in the cab of the van, nibbling through some packets and leaving more droppings. And keeping me awake at night with it’s little mousey scuttling and gnawing noises. This was Not Good. We moved all the food into a plastic box, set traps in every palce we could think the mouse could get to, continued to keep everywhere very clean and also strew tumble drier sheets in all sorts of places having googled and found mice in campervans is a pretty common problem and turned up various bits of advice for dealing with them.
After 5 nights of traps with the mouse getting increasingly bolder to the point of clearing all the traps of bait each night at around midnight one night one of the traps went off. Sure enough in the morning we had a dead mouse to dispose of. We left traps set again on subsequent nights to check it was just the single mouse living in the van and it would appear it was, so we’ve blocked up all holes we can, stuffed more tumble drier sheets in places and are keeping fingers firmly crossed that we won’t need to use the traps again. I hated the need to kill it (and infact we had a mix of live capture and killing traps) but sharing Willow with any more bodies, even a tiny one, simply was not a long term option.
Another issue we are still dealing with is damp, condensation and ultimately mould. Willow showed few if any signs of having damp problems when we bought her but then she had not been lived in through the winter. The combination of body heat of four people, cooking and boiling kettles for washing up and drinking and simply breathing in the van as the temperature outside drops means we are constantly wiping down misted up windows. Where possible we are keeping a vent or window open for ventilation but when it’s really windy or rainy (as it often has been up here in the Highlands) that isn’t feasible. So the kids bunk where we store all the sleeping bags and pillows has to be dried out every night and all the bedding aired for half an hour before bedtime, the curtains and sofa have to be constantly monitored and kept away from the windows, the kids soft toys, our clothes, our towels, our bedding all need to be kept an eye on and made sure they are not stuffed up somewhere going mouldy. We have already chucked out a few things which suffered from a lack of vigilance but hopefully we are on top of it now.
The season has definitely changed now and where we were enjoying T shirt weather (albeit a freak heat wave rather than usual early October conditions) we have now seen snow, rain aplenty and had the van rocked by windy nights. But is is cold. And dark. And wet. Cold is not the most serious of these really – we can get warm by putting more clothes on, we have very good sleeping bags and hot water bottles so once we’re cosy in bed we stay warm. Dark is combated with good torches and lanterns but wet is a trickier one. Coming into the van with wet outdoor clothes, even coats is a problem. Where do you put them? Bringing wet things in only serves to exacerbate the condensation issues and when getting through as few clothes as possible is a priority – partially because getting them clean and dry again is expensive and difficult and mostly because you only have a very finite amount of changes of clothing anyway – this is hard.
Finally the miles, the weather and perhaps her age have gotten to Willow again and she is currently residing in the local breakdown recovery yard having spluttered to a halt last Thursday. We had our first need to call on our breakdown cover and were towed to a layby for a couple of nights near to the yard by the very understanding of our situation garage owner before being given a lift to our holiday cottage while Willow is being looked at. As ever the universe (and friends!) seem to have provided in answer to our needs and we had already got a stay with friends lined up in a holiday cottage just 20 miles or so away which we were on our way to when Willow gave up. So while we luxuriate in comfort, heat, light, beds, baths, kitchens and sofas with splendid company Willow will hopefully be sufficiently patched up to get us back down the country again.
We have one last WWOOFing host lined up, which ferry crossings and Willow permitting we’ll be heading to next weekend and then we have decided to head back to Sussex for a few weeks to catch up with family and friends and retire Willow for a while. More on that to follow.