First Impressions: Life On The Road

I was nervous to book a camper van for 32 days. Where would I shower? Where will I pee? Will it be cramped? Where will we park for the night?... But today is day 5 and it’s been fabulous so far!

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New Zealand allows “freedom camping” which means there are certain areas (mostly parking lots adjacent to parks/beaches with public toilets and running water) that you may park overnight. The freedom camping lots are pretty damn basic, but they’re free and most often come with a beautiful view. You have the option to stay at DOC sites (department of conservation) but they range from $6 – $25 per person. We only checked out one DOC site, and it ended up being a dumpy, dirty trailer park charging $50/night…

We opted to camp next to the beach for free, instead! The two photos below give you a taste of where freedom camping sites are. The first shot is from the Island View Reserve, where we camped in Whangamata. The second photo is the sunset over the Tauranga peninsula, where we camped in a beautiful park last night.

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Inside the van we have a sink, gas-burner stove top, mini fridge, queen size bed, cabinets and all kitchen utensils, pots, pans etc. that you may need. There are two overhead storage areas, as well as under the bed. It’s tall enough for me to stand up straight no problem, and just a couple inches shy for Shaun to stand. It’s very, very cozy! We’ve named our comfy home-on-the-road “The One!” Mostly because of the half O’Neill sticker we put on the back, but it also sounds right 🙂

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Everywhere we’ve parked for the night has had a decent public restroom… the only potential downfall of the van life is utilizing public showers. Most are out in the open so I have to shower in a bikini. They are intended to be used for a quick rinse after an ocean dip, so I expect strange stares each time I pull out my shampoo and conditioner. The water is so brisk and I’m nervous people think I’m homeless and/or crazy so I’ve been having the quickest showers of my life. 5 minutes tops. Once we finally decide to pay for a DOC site, most of them include hot showers. Highly anticipated!

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Otherwise, life on the road has been golden. We get to come and go as we please. Instead of being locked down with a reservation of X amount of days per town, we get to scope it out and decide after the fact. Also, living out of a backpack and packing/unpacking/repacking every time you check in or out of an Airbnb is a huge hassle. To have everything unpacked and folded and stored logically in the van with easy access has been a dream! The camper van vacation gets a 10/10 so far. Stay tuned if I feel the same way after 32 days, though!

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