FULL-TIME VANLIFE: IS IT SAVE TO TRAVEL TO THE SOUTH AGAIN DESPITE COVID19?
FOR SOME INCONCEIVABLE, FOR OTHERS NO QUESTION AT ALL!
In January 2020, we came back to Germany from our shorter full-time vanlife in Portugal. The topic of Corona was still quite far away at that time. We came back because we had to work in Germany again and Kathy’s time off was over. Until March we were allowed to experience the full harshness of the late winter in our self-built van. Besides a lot of rain, short days, it was especially the cool air combined with the wetness that I experienced as extremely uncomfortable. Even if it was a relatively mild winter, the weather gets to you more in this way of life than in an apartment.
When then on 5 February our Sprinter was out of action for several days and we had to sleep and live with dog in our small Opel Vivaro, we decided for a new direction. I couldn’t imagine having to go to the office every day for an indefinite period of time without being able to shower easily or even dress in an orderly fashion. During our travels this didn’t bother me as much, because you could always find somewhere to shower. Even if you wore the same clothes for a few days or could only freshen up with a cat wash, you didn’t have to sit in an office and attend meetings with the special smell of vanlife. I think there is hardly anything more unpleasant.
THE NEGATIVE FEATURES OF FULL-TIME VANLIFE, ESPECIALLY DURING A PANDEMIC
As long as we traveled in the south of Europe with sun and sea, it was relatively easy to get along with little comfort. In addition, we always found a shower at some beach. If necessary, we looked for a gas station with a decent sanitary facility on the way to the next place. In addition, there were many supermarkets with washing machines for clothes and bed linen.
Back in Germany we had to get a ticket for the city swimming pool very quickly and because of the lack of public shower and washing facilities try to maintain our hygiene standards for work and private well-being.
Only once you have traveled through the Scandinavian countries or the south of Europe, you know how poorly equipped Germany is in terms of campers. Sure, there are one or the other campsite where you could have done all these necessities. Unfortunately, these are largely closed in the winter and if only set up for the individual permanent campers. In many cases showers are closed, the water supply is turned off because of frost and neither the supply nor the disposal is possible.
Nevertheless, we were very lucky and ended up on a gravel site for motorhomes, which is extremely well attended, at least in summer. In winter we were rather among ourselves, with individual exceptions. This place offered us a permanent power supply and that too close to our work. Even if this place is not a visual highlight, it was our salvation in need.
In the course of the first few weeks we had organized ourselves quite well between our pitch with electricity for heating, the indoor pool for showering and the daily work in the office. But as it usually is in the van life, something unexpected comes.
FULL TIME VANLIFE DURING CORONA LOCK-DOWN AND NOTHING WORKS ANYMORE
I don’t think I need to explain to anyone the feeling that arises when the word lock-down is mentioned. But what perhaps not everyone can relate to is the feeling of living in a van and then facing the closure of all vital facilities. The municipal swimming pool was closed and even the showers and toilets at the tennis home next to our temporary home were suddenly inaccessible. Actually, even the court we were standing on was supposed to be closed, however, we were tolerated and the city obviously turned a blind eye.
Fortunately, we had the right timing before the lock-down and decided to buy a motorhome with shower, gas heating and much more comfort after the last workshop visit of our Sprinter. We had taken delivery of the motorhome exactly two weeks before the tightened measures and were now only faced with the crucial question: “When can we move freely again with our vehicles?”
Clearly, everyone was missing the freedom of movement during this time and certainly also the one or other excursion. But when you’re standing in a public place and living in a mobile home, the whole story certainly takes on a different format. Still, even now we hadn’t wasted any thought on whether our decision to live in the van was right or wrong. Despite the fact that everyone around us was suddenly panicking, more and more people were doing home offices, and the fear of the virus was turning our city into a ghost town, we stayed on course and largely relaxed. We continued to go to work remained resolutely in our place and tried to make the best of our situation.
THE POSITIVE ASPECTS OF FULL-TIME VANLIFE DURING THE CORONA LOCK-DOWN
Even though at first everything seemed very cumbersome and restricted, we were able to see the benefits of our way of life quite quickly. While everyone stayed at home, we were practically in the middle of nature. Directly next to our gravel place were fields in which one could go wonderfully with the dog for a walk. Also the daily supply for shopping was only a few hundred meters away from us, so we could get everything we needed by bike.
In the meantime, it was even spring and we were still quite lonely in our spot, but that didn’t make it any worse. Quite the opposite. We sat in front of the camper, grilled and did basically next to our work, what we also did before the lock-down. The dirt roads on our walks, aside from the odd jogger, were mostly as deserted as the city itself. It was a very relaxed time to be honest, and we almost even felt a bit privileged. How privileged we felt when travel became possible again in early summer and our place was populated by other travelers far beyond its actual capacity. The urge of other people to be on the road again seemed so great that we decided quite quickly to look for an alternative.
WHAT THE LOCK-DOWN IS FOR ONE, THE EMERGENCE OF NEW OPPORTUNITIES IS FOR THE OTHER
The lock-down and thus the restrictions on freedom of movement were certainly not on our wish list. But in fact, to this day, the entire pandemic is responsible for the fact that we can live and especially work the way we had always wanted to beforehand. It became apparent during the further spread of home office that structures for location-independent work were suddenly created even in rather less digitized companies. In the process, more and more such trends prevailed that, before the restrictions imposed by Covid19 , had only been dismissed as digital gimmicks on the sidelines. From video meetings to remote access via VPN to company servers, everything suddenly seemed conceivable and possible. A huge field of experimentation was created in which every single company and even every employee was required to find the most efficient way possible to work from home. Of course, this primarily referred to jobs where such an option was fundamentally conceivable and possible. Equally, many professions were denied this option, since of course neither the innkeeper nor the hairdresser could realize a corresponding transformation for his business.
I would claim that at this point I was one of the lucky ones who had already been on the road a year before without a pandemic and had tested this form of work in a kind of “pilot project”. Now the way was paved in the long term to realize an activity from the van and with exactly this idea I approached my boss: “Boss, an Alex has to travel!”
I think he kind of had a hunch, and the more the home office situation tightened up, the more obvious it became that there were no viable objections to this desire.
Unfortunately, Kathy did not have this option with her employer, although it would certainly have been possible without any problems. However, big companies often tick differently and so she decided to quit the job she had been doing for 17 years and start freelancing.
With this more or less courageous decision we started our way to the south during Corona, not knowing how the situation would develop. Even though Kathy had to go back to Germany for a few months after her summer vacation, we can say from today’s perspective that it was probably the most concise and best decision for our full-time vanlife. We should not have chosen any of our steps differently.
In the meantime, we are standing together with our two vans in Southern Europe, observing the developments in Germany and can proudly report that the plan has worked out and we managed to arrive and to be in the south again, at least up to this point.