I am heading back to England, back home, for the first time in 367 days. A year and 2 days of living the van life. Overall, I have called South Africa home for 2 ½ years so this is the longest I haven’t been home for since moving overseas to Toronto 5 years ago. You might say I am a little excited 🙂
What a year it has been!
When I flew back to South Africa last year, I arrived in Durban with the very specific idea not to have a plan. And that is exactly what we have done; not planned (hard to believe for those who know me well!) We started our journey in the north east corner of South Africa and I have just flown out of Cape Town, way down in the western cape and southern tip of the country. We have traveled 2/3 of the coastline, living the van life as we went. (Don’t worry, I am going back to do the rest, I don’t like to leave things incomplete!)
Van life started off with a month in the Midlands, staying with the boy’s parents. We hung out with his friends and family, explored waterfalls and dams, ate our way round the weekly farmer’s market and did some work on the caravan. When I arrived back from England, excited and enthusiastic about living in the caravan, I had no idea just how challenging it would actually be. Yes, it’s a nomadic, clutter free, and even romantic, life. However, there are only so many times you can hit your head or not be able to have space between you and someone else when it matters!
Over the course of our journey down to Cape Town, I realized just what van life is really about. To say it was a huge adjustment is a huge understatement!
Our journey has taken us through the picture perfect town of Clarens, the Big Hole in Kimberley, and the north east corner where the mining industry has desolated the small coastal towns. The Landy has taken us through vast, sparse plains stretching as far as the eye can see. We have wound up and down green lush mountain passes, along rocky coastlines, past vineyards and through the Namaqualand Flowers.
In the last year I have embraced the minimalist life (in my eyes, maybe not so much in the boy’s). I have learned to survive on basics without all of the luxuries I am so used to just having. We have lived out of the caravan while it has stuck in sand dunes on the west coast. In the middle of nowhere and with little fuel to drive back and forth to town every day, we rationed what we had; fresh water, fuel for the generator, food and toilet paper! I harvested, cooked and cleaned fresh mussels for dinner; washed dishes (and cooked) with sea water and learned which bushes make better cover for a ‘bush toilet’ than others…
We lost a team member in Honderklipbaai.
The boy has fixed several blown tyres, on both the caravan and the Landy. We have been immersed in Afrikaans culture as well as in coloured communities. The three of us have hung out in top vineyards in the western cape, partied to rock bands in small towns and celebrated NYE at a town party where we knew no one. (For the record, Girl Dog partied harder than either of us).
When we first arrived in the Western Cape, we needed somewhere to base ourselves for a while and refocus. We found what we needed in Pringle Bay, (totally my favourite part of the country). We were accepted as part of the community, made friends, put down shallow roots and regrouped. Then, as you know, we have spent the last few months on a community farm. However, the caravan is still in Pringle; giving us a tie to somewhere that feels like home and making the nomadic van life easy to pick up again when we want it.
Something I have realized is that living a nomadic van life is a mindset. It’s something that is engrained in people whether at surface level or somewhere deeper down where it has to be uncovered. Whether we are living in the caravan, on the farm or backpacking in Vietnam, the nomadic lifestyle is an attitude. It’s the ability, and desire, to pack up and head off somewhere new when you feel like it or when an opportunity presents itself. It’s a lifestyle in which you’re constantly striving to see and experience more, to have consistency but to also not have ties.
The boy, the dogs and I have seen more of this beautiful, vast country than many South Africans have been lucky enough to see. I have seen more of it than I have my own country. I have explored tiny, rural villages, national parks, coastlines and cities alike.
We have had days where we are so frustrated with each other that we cant speak. We have had days we have laughed non stop.
As well as learning different life skills, getting to know myself better, and exploring new areas, I have launched this blog as well as a online business. I have temporarily shifted my focus from my lifelong passion in order to meet my current situational and personal needs. I have cried, laughed, discovered, partied hard, done nothing, built relationships and learned about myself. I have also drunk a considerable amount of wine – purely for regional research purposes of course 🙂
I know I am very lucky to have had the opportunity to embrace this lifestyle. One I never would have considered but that I now can’t imagine not living. I am not sure how much people on the outside really understand what I am doing. I am going home to questions, explanations, confusion, envy of the ‘easy’ life I appear to be living, labels of not having a proper job as well as, hopefully, excitement at the things I have achieved this year. And that’s ok. I also know I am going home to my friends, family, celebrations, love and support.
So, there it is, a year of living the van life in a nutshell. I would love to hear about your experiences of living life on the road; flat tyres, no fuel, banged heads, amazing sunsets, isolated beaches?
From (A) Saint Lucia, in the north east corner, we headed straight west visa the following stops:
B. Howick (Midlands, KwaZulu-Natal)
C. Golden Gate National Park (KwaZulu-Natal)
D. Clarens (Free State)
E. Bloemfontein (Free State)
F. Kimberley (Northern Cape)
G. Kakamas (Northern Cape)
H. Keimoes (Northern Cape)
I. Port Nolloth (Northern Cape)
J. Kleinsee (Northern Cape)
Heading south from (A) Port Nolloth, we stopped in:
B. Kleinsee (Northern Cape)
C. Hondeklipbaai (Northern Cape)
D. Muizenberg (Cape Town, Western Cape)
E. Pringle Bay (Western Cape)
F. Durbanville (Western Cape)
This travel blog is my way of taking you on this journey with me so to start from the beginning and find out what the adventure is all about, click here
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