Here we are on the road again with our own Volkswagen van. After a two week trial with Sunny, a T3 model from 1990, we have decided to let driving comfort lead our choice, and have chosen for a newer model with a stronger engine instead of the cute and very roomy interior of the T3. And we have no regrets, especially now that we are in Portugal, two thousand kilometers further.
This bus, which looks very much like a work van, is, for now, our perfect travel companion. Small enough to pass through the narrow and bendy streets in hilly villages in Portugal, low enough to be left alone in parking garages in town, and to be considered as a car when paying for toll roads, and fast enough to be used for the long and more boring hauls, such as through the interior of Spain.
And even though this little bus is not as cute, it seems to attract sufficient attention for us to meet other people. Often older people, most travelling in larger vans, slowly moving to the south, like the “snowbirds” in the United States, those drivers of the massive RVs, escaping the winter months in the north. Most know very well how it is to travel and live together in a tiny space, for a longer period of time. And it’s especially now, at the start of our journey, that they often have useful tips for us, newcomers to this type of life.
First there’s the exchange of practical advice: where to go, places to visit, where to stay overnight, where to purchase gas for cooking, and how to register for paying the toll roads in Portugal. Then there are the tips for camping wild, on how to make your battery last, find out whether camping is allowed, or find the right spot. Or the advice, to once so often take a day, to clean and air the bus. All relevant for us, new to traveling with our own transport and a home on wheels.
And occasionally, when there’s a click and time for a longer chat, there is the sharing of the experiences of how it is to live together in a tiny house on wheels. And it’s comforting to hear similar stories from couples who can get irritated after being together 24/7, sometimes longing to speak with someone else, or to be on their own.
We met an Australian couple, for example, married for more than forty years, and who in their younger years had travelled for about a year through Europe in a similar size of van. They introduced us to the idea that we should plan for regular sanity days: days in which you both take time to do your own thing and maybe even travel separately.
And no matter how much I love spending time with Jim, which is essential for the way we live, the idea immediately did sound good. And since I’m very much in favor of putting good ideas into practice and think that’s also the best way to find out how and whether it works, both of us will probably soon take a brief sanity break, some time on our own and give our little van the rest she deserves.
By the end of the year, maybe we’ll have sufficient experience to master the basics of happily living and working 24/7 in our tiny house on wheels, before we plunge more seriously into the second part of our adventure: working as volunteers on ecological farms.