Quite a few of you have asked what our new home looks like inside, so I thought it was time that I did a blog post with some details for you and some photographs.
Our caravan is an Avondale Dart 525-4. It is about 8 years old but is in really good condition; whoever owned it before us really looked after it. It is quite long – 7 metres – on a single axle. Despite its size, it is fairly lightweight and feels pretty roomy inside; when I sit on our bed, the girls’ beds seem quite a long way away. This is our first experience of having a caravan and we bought it specifically for this trip, so we have been learning lots of things as we go along. So, how are we set up?
We have a fixed bed at the back that Andy and I sleep on and two straight sofas/beds at the front that are for the girls. We particularly liked this configuration because we didn’t want to have to put the beds up and down every night for a year! Most of the time during the day are we outside or in the awning and so don’t need to use the internal seating. This means that all of the beds can stay made up ready to go. The girls just push their sleeping bags and pillows under their beds during the day so that they are out of the way. My only gripe? I have to climb over Andy’s feet to get into and out of bed!
In the very back corner we have a toilet and shower and just outside this is a little sink and storage cupboard. We have never used the shower since it is so small and campsite showers are usually pretty good. We mostly don’t use the toilet either and all tend to prefer to walk to the campsite toilet block, unless it is very cold or raining or we wake up in the night – and on those occasions it is a real luxury to have it. No number twos though – caravan rules!
In the centre of the caravan is the kitchen area where we have a small gas oven with grill, a 3-ring hob, a sink and a decent size fridge. To be honest, we haven’t really used the oven so far and have hardly used the gas hob, preferring to cook our meals outside. At the start of the trip we were using up some old gas canisters with a small camping stove that we had brought with us. And now we have bought ourselves a single electric ring that we use outside or in the awning. Alongside this we use our George Foreman grill, which is also electric and serves as our barbecue for grilling meat or fish. This means that we can cook using the electricity that we have already paid for in our pitch fees rather than consuming gas that is an additional cost. We also have our old electric cool box out in the awning so that when we stop somewhere we can stock up on food and don’t have to shop every day.
Then there are cupboards for saucepans, crockery, cups, glasses etc and a small amount of food. We are only carrying what we need (4 bowls, 4 plates, 4 cups etc) and it is obviously as lightweight as possible so is plastic or melamine rather than pottery. We also have a great lightweight pan set that we have had for years.
In the central section of the caravan we also have a heater for when it is cold. We hope not to have to use it much on this trip, but it is there if we do. In fact, it is now getting quite cool overnight and in the mornings, so we have been using it to take the chill off.
We have two tables with us; a smaller one that stows away in the wardrobe when we’re not using it and another one that lives outside in the awning. We weren’t sure whether to bring both with us but we are glad we did; we often need both tables when we are doing education as one of the girls is with me doing English and the other one with Andy doing Maths. Also, we can use the smaller table inside if the weather is bad and we don’t have the awning up (we occasionally don’t bother with it if we’re just doing a one-night stop) or it serves as a cooking table outside or in the awning. All in all, having the two tables gives us a lot of flexibility.
We are finding that we have plenty of storage. Andy and I use the small wardrobe towards the back of the caravan for our clothes and the girls each have two small cupboards above their beds for theirs. Then we each have one small cupboard for our personal items and there is a central drawer and cupboard for games, toys, colouring books etc. In fact we still have plenty of storage space that is unused – mostly under the beds – but we can’t carry much more than we already have with us because of weight. The caravan axle, our car and the towbar all have a maximum load they can carry!
As I mentioned, we also have an awning. This is a Vango Air 360, which we are very pleased with. It is extremely easy and quick to put up as there are no poles, but instead you simply inflate it with air using a small pump. It is very solid and has proved very flexible for our purposes too. When is is hot, you can open all of the doors and it acts more like a gazebo. When it is cold or wet it has a ‘skirt’ that tucks under the groundsheet that helps keep it warmer and drier. And when it is windy the whole thing flexes and bends and we don’t have to worry about poles breaking. As I sit and write this, the strong, cold Mistral wind is blowing and the zips are rattling, but it is withstanding the gusts with no problems.
Each window/door has a blind that simply zips up or down to give you visibility or privacy (and shade). When zipped down, the fabric just tucks away at the bottom, which we also really like since it means there are no separate curtains or curtain poles to put up and take down like we had on our trailer tent.
Having the awning means that we still have plenty of ‘indoor’ space if the weather is bad. When it is hot it gives us some shade from the sun and in the evenings it gives Andy and I somewhere to sit and read or talk (or write blog posts!) after the girls have gone to bed. Fortunately, once they are asleep we seem to be able to come in and out of the caravan without disturbing them.
We have all had to learn patience – there isn’t enough room for us all to move around the caravan at the same time, so sometimes we have to wait to get to what we want. And when we wake in the mornings we have to be considerate and try not to wake each other up as we’re all effectively sleeping in one room. But these are minor issues and in general we are all very happy with our new home.
Everything we need and nothing that we don’t
On the surface, we may not appear to have much. Our new home is certainly small but it is uncluttered and it is comfortable. And I for one am loving the simplicity and freedom of our life on the road. The simplicity comes from only having things with us that we need and nothing that we don’t. And because we aren’t weighed down by possessions, we have the freedom to travel around, to pitch up for as long as we want to and then move on, with very little work involved in packing and unpacking.
We also have simplicity and freedom in how we spend our time and it is wonderful and life-affirming to be outside all day long. It has made me realise how little time I spent outside at home – either because the weather wasn’t good enough or because there were jobs to be done indoors. These days the only time we are in the caravan for any length of time is when we are asleep, and that is how I like it! As a result we constantly get to experience nature at its most beautiful and humbling. Yes, sometimes we get wet and cold but on most days we get to see the sun rise and set. We see beautiful cloud formations, admire lovely patterns in the bark of the plane trees, feel the sun and wind on our face and observe lizards and all manner of curious insects around us (although I’d be happier if the mosquitoes would go away!) And, for me, it all reminds me how incredible our small planet is and makes me glad to be alive!
I know that all sounds a bit romantic and I wouldn’t want you to give the impression that living in a caravan is all perfect, because it isn’t. Sometimes you argue. Sometimes you are grumpy. Sometimes you get on top of each other and wish you had some personal space, but these days are few and far between. Sometimes it is raining but you still have to go out to wash the dishes and you long for the dishwasher you used to have back when you owned a bricks and mortar house. And sometimes it is cold at night and you really don’t feel like doing that walk to the toilet block in your pyjamas. BUT, so often you are rewarded with an incredible display of stars and as you stand and gaze, you forget that a few moments earlier you hadn’t wanted to step outside and instead are grateful for another chance to marvel at the beauty of the universe and your place in it. It helps keep everything in perspective.
Thank you for reading our blog. We love to receive your comments, so please take a minute to leave us a message below. I know some of you out there are caravanners – what is your ‘van like? Or maybe you are campers – what is it you love about camping? Or maybe you hate camping and prefer the luxury of a hotel? We’d love to hear your perspective. Thank you.