On the Road with New Zealand
In between the reckless winks of broken sleep and the constant back thought of what we should be responsibly doing instead- the three of us dragged our slugged feet through Christchurch airport to begin a two week adventure we knew nothing about. We knew we had paid for a campervan, we knew the date of our returning flight home and in the forefront of our minds we all silently knew that everyone back home was speedily living their lives almost as if time was running out.
So many around us (including ourselves to be perfectly honest) were suddenly growing up- people we once knew were trading in their creative pursuits for nine to five careers, girls whom I once kissed at parties were now getting married and unexpectedly conversations amongst friends were becoming less about drunken nostalgia and more about the government tax on our wages. It had so appeared- we were now in our mid twenties.
For anyone reading this younger than twenty five- please enjoy your beers and carefreeness now (at least for me) because soon you will be sipping on wine and calling nightfall your curfew. Age is inevitable, as much as we like to believe that everyone is young at heart- a forty year old man behaving like a twenty year old is never a sign of an endearing spirit but more so a case that needs either an intervention or a therapy session to take place. Overtime you will find yourself too tired for weekday plans and fun will slowly become an activity you schedule in. Yet despite the angst of growing up, it is actually okay- just as long as you make the early years memorable and find people along the way that will make it worthwhile.
Be prepared though- because there will be a time where you spontaneously realize you are maturing and suddenly look back and reconsider all the time spent. For me, the epiphany moment of growing up was when I quit smoking- it was not because I was trying to be healthy or anything similar to that extent but rather it was to help save for a mortgage (I may not be that wild anymore). So in amongst planning the next few adult ventures such as applying for what seemed to be a lifetime loan and having relationships over girlfriends I smiled at the memories that lead me here, to one last hurrah across beautiful New Zealand in a campervan with my two best friends- a soon to be memory worth a lifetime of feeling young. We did not know it then but occasions like this- of driving through mountain ranges across a foreign country would soon be a story that would be reminiscent of our better days.
Travelling like no surprise opens a whole new perspective and allows an individual to experience, taste and see things they would never otherwise be exposed too. People older and hopefully wiser will always hand down the same advise to those younger and say “travel while you can” - its no coincidence that they do, so we listened and we did.
Campervan travelling in New Zealand is no new discovery- in almost every country town there are at least three vans parked and the common ground you find with other travellers is almost immediate. If you are not exchanging morning coffee, pleasantries or recommending paths and eateries you surely will wave at every campervan that passes almost as if you are all public bus drivers whom all know each other somehow. New Zealand is in a constant state of natural beauty- leaves are always falling, breath taking mountains are on every side of the road and every pit stop, better yet every look out the passing passenger window is a postcard view. For anyone infatuated with the outdoors or the Lord of the Rings Trilogy- campervan living through New Zealand is a bucket list item.
There were so many mornings we would wake up in a place we could only describe as ‘somewhere’ – after hours of driving the convenience of living in a van was an liberty we took full advantage of. You could park or in our case live anywhere from actual camping grounds, to public car parks to even the side of some roads. For a moment you feel like a nomad- but in a campervan everyday things that you would otherwise overlook back home seem so sweet- trivial moments such as brushing your teeth in the crisp New Zealand air with a mountiain greeting you hello is to simply put it, unforgettable.
Experiencing a country through a mobile home is a quick and affordable fix for anyone looking to experience new things- but as picturesque as Campervan travelling may seem it is not always smooth sailing. Everyday is literally a learning experience- whether that is navigating through open roads, maintaining a mobile home or even surviving daily living - there are many troubles that arise and could be easily solved if known. Here a few that I have solved for you; you are welcome and please travel.
1. Use the bathroom at your own cost.
Anyone living in a Campervan will tell you that they will always choose a working sink over a functioning toilet. Considering you would be old enough to drive it is also hopefully assumable that you will also be old enough to control your bladder. Public bathrooms are everywhere and showering if comfortable enough can be done at the beach, otherwise most gyms and swimming pools will allow you to use their facilities for loose change. But the biggest benefit of not using your bathrooms is not having to clean it, why spend precious time literally cleaning out your own waste when you could explore the surroundings of a new place. Use the bathroom only if needed.
2. GPS- God Please Save
A desperate prayer for directions can disguise itself as a quality GPS. When you are driving for hours on end through a country you are not familiar with- you better know where you are going. Campervans are usually equipped with some sort of GPS service but understanding it beforehand could save so much time- most can do more than just provide directions from one point to another: fellow travellers will leave notes/ tips on the machine, it will help find gas stations, restaurants and water supplies near by and most lucrative of all they will recommend which roads are safest for particular sized vehicles. From someone that has survived and learnt- do not forget to charge that bad boy- a dead GPS on long roads at nights are close to being a death wish.
3. Strap down and go
It is actually amazing how we managed to get our complete bond back. When you are driving off trails or on paths that are not suburban it can be like trying to sleep on a rollercoaster- nothing stays still and you best hope everything is secure. Before setting off for the day always make sure cupboards are locked, all items are packed away properly and nothing is left lying around- this is a lesson we quickly learnt. On our first day driving, ensuring all of above was lost in the excitement to being overseas and as soon we turned the first bumpy corner the unlocked kitchen draws opens and plates and mugs literally flew out their places and shattered to pieces. If you do unfortunately break anything buy cheap replacements before returning the campervan to the rentals and hope for the best. Terrible karma but a returned bond is a returned bond.
4. Park it
Parking a campervan in itself is not always the easiest, especially considering the magnitude of the van is typically much larger than most public parking spaces. Reverse parking and parallel parking is a necessity- somebody in that van better know how to do such things otherwise so much time will be wasted finding an empty spot big enough to rest. Something to keep in mind as well is to be careful where you are parking, just because you can fit does not necessarily mean it is legal- in order to avoid fines and upsetting people- avoid parking in business spaces, in front of peoples home or anywhere that may seem it will inconvenient anyone.
5. Let there be light, let there be water.
Unless hung over or in desperate need for a sleep in- try and start your day early, that way there will less need for lights to be on at night and your car battery will thank you. Operating a campervan takes a lot of energy so finding any shortcuts will make life easier- and the same principle applies for water. Instead of using your water tank for drinking save it for cooking and cleaning, it may not be so environmentally friendly but buying a wholesale pack of plastic water bottles is incredibly beneficial- it will be your drink when inside, transportable when outside and will also act as your emergency water supply. Both energy and water can be quickly used up so it is better off preserving it for necessary needs.
6. Last but not least
Travel while you can.