Sometimes it's just a good week. In reality, I have quite a lot of them, but this one was particularly special because WE GOT OUR CAMPERVAN!😀
I'm going to start at the beginning, remembering some of the reasons why we decided to get a van:
I've been hooked on #vanlife video's on YouTube, and realised they mostly have something in common. Young, good looking people. So it's obvious, if I get a van, that must mean I'll be young and good looking too. I know, it's genius, foolproof, a mystery why I didn't think of this before!
I'm fortunate that I was able to retire in my forties. I don't want to waste these years, and feel a pull to find adventures and make memories. The challenge, I'm not naturally adventurous. So I'm hoping the camper will encourage us to go places, see things, and help us make those adventures and memories.
My original early retirement plan included a round the world trip. It's not gone entirely to plan, but we have done 4 months in Asia/Australia plus another 3 months barely scratching the surface of just three countries in the Americas. From our base in France, a campervan is an ideal way to explore Europe. In the future, perhaps we could ship our campervan to North America to travel through Canada and the USA for a year, although I haven't got Sally on board with this part of the plan yet🤔
And #vanlife is just cool, and I'm hoping just a tiny bit of that might rub off on me too🤦♂️
So that's the why, now to the what. They say a picture speaks a thousand words, so I'm lucky to have some awesome photos thanks to @katiefarrphotography. Look out for her social channels and her website www.katiefarr.photo. Click on the photos to scroll through larger images.
Our van is a Volkswagen Transporter T6.1. Basically, that's a small utility van, 4.90 metres long (193 inches), 1.90 metres wide (75 inches) and a fraction over 2.0 metres high (79 inches). These are the external dimensions, so inside is smaller. Think of a Mercedes Sprinter, Fiat Ducati or Ram Promaster, then substantially shrink it, our VW is much smaller than them. Just as well, as it has to fit in our apartment's underground parking, which it does, just - getting into the parking is much easier than getting out, I'm hoping practice will make perfect and not scratches and dents!
Inside headroom is 1.4 metres (55 inches) which is where the magic of the pop top roof comes in. With the roof raised, I can stand up comfortably. We have seats for four people, two in the front and two in the back, with the front seats on a swivel so they can turn to face the living area. The rear seats convert into a bed, and there's another bed in the pop top roof, although sleeping four in the van would be pretty crowded.
What else is inside? There's a two burner gas hob, a sink with running water (with a 47 litre fresh water tank and a 16 litre grey water tank), fridge with a small freezer compartment, table, as well as cupboards, drawers and various cubby holes. A heater and hot water are also planned, but the parts weren't in stock so will be installed later. The electrical stuff such as the interior lights, fridge, water pump, etc run off a 100Ah lithium ion battery which we can charge from our solar panel, the engine's alternator or by plugging into mains power. An inverter lets us charge our laptops, e-bike battery and other electrical items too. We have some learning to do to figure out how to manage the power, but I'm sure we'll get there.
Not quite inside is the shower. Well, it's inside but we'll be standing outside when we use it. Don't worry, I'll wear shorts! It's just cold water for now until the water heater gets installed.
Under the bonnet (I guess that's the hood if you're reading this in the USA) is an engine, which is somehow connected to a seven speed automatic gearbox and all wheel drive. Presumably there's much more, but that's as technical as I get. My one disappointment is that it's a diesel engine, I'd prefer an electric vehicle for environmental reasons, but couldn't find a realistic way of achieving this right now. I hope it will be possible to convert this van to electric in the future.
My original plan was to self-convert a larger panel van into a camper. The limits of our parking meant that size van wouldn't work, and Sally saying no was the other obstacle. She argued that we didn't have a sensible place to do the work (true) nor the skills (also true, but isn't that how you learn?). Part of me feels that we missed out on the adventure of making the conversion ourselves, but realistically I wouldn't be writing this post today because we'd still be procrastinating, possibly for years, so maybe we made a good decision.
Instead, we found Campervans Mont-Blanc in Chamonix. We looked at other options but, once I'd seen their vans, there wasn't an alternative. I knew I would always be thinking "if only" or "I wish" if we'd chosen something else. We dealt with Julien at Campervans Mont-Blanc who, as well as putting up with my efforts to speak French, has a real passion for what he does which shows in what he and the team produce. The wood in our van isn't a plastic look-alike wood in a van, it's real reclaimed old wood, from barns probably one hundred plus years old. If I have to choose one favourite thing about the van, it's that gorgeous wood, it's like we have a mini alpine chalet on wheels.
So now we have some adventures to make, although we haven't figured out how to do this with the cats. My original idea that they could travel with us now feels wildly optimistic, so we need to find another solution. I guess that is part of the adventure too! Some days, life feels really good, and today is one of those days😀
Thanks again to @katiefarrphotography / www.katiefarr.photo for allowing me to use her photos - people can be so kind!