That’s that, we’ve officially made it through our first month of vanlife, traveling through Europe! We thought that this would be the perfect time for a little recap of what we’ve experienced during our first month of living in a van, June (including the last two weeks of may).
We’ve learned quite a lot already, but we’re aware that we still have a long road ahead of us. An exciting and fun one, though!
It had been such a hectic period before we left. Finishing our camper van conversion; having our vehicle audited to get it classified as an official camper; getting our home on wheels properly insured; visiting family; moving out of our student dorm room; and much, much more.
That entire time, one thought kept running through our heads: ‘Once we’ve finished our conversion and hit the road, we’ll have all the time in the world to recuperate and relax’. Boy, were we wrong.
Though living in a camper van has been nothing but fun, it sure hasn’t been a breeze. Most things that you would normally never give a second thought, require a bit more effort and planning. Such as having fresh water in your water tank.
Vanlife is often romanticized and after we mention to random people that we live in our van and travel full-time, they often respond with ‘I wish I could do that!’. Well, I guess there’s a reason why they don’t all do so.
It all started with our final family visit in Germany, where we visited Marijke’s grandparents. From there, we started our slow journey towards the north of Sweden, which we currently still haven’t reached yet. We do still hope to reach it well before winter kicks in, so that we don’t freeze our asses off!
It took a while before it all really dawned on us. That moment when we realized that everything we owned is what’s in your little home on wheels. It felt scary at first, but simultaneously gave us some kind of inner peace.
Owning less has caused us to enjoy more of the simple things in life. Where we used to be happy when we bought a cool new gadget or items of clothing, we now get fulfillment when we simply fill up our water tank and have fresh water for the next five or so days. Or just when we discover the surroundings of our new location.
The costs and the sweat and tears that went into the build of fully off-grid our camper van fully have certainly payed off. It’s just such a surreal feeling that all our electronic devices are charged via solar energy. Wherever we are, we can plug in our laptop and other electronic devices and let the sun do its thing!
The roof of our camper van holds four 100-watt solar panels. Though we are aware of the fact that it has been exceptionally sunny this month, we were surprised that our leisure batteries never fell below 70%. During the day they’re usually at 100%. We’re curious though how the solar panels will do during the winter period. Especially if we were to stay up North, where daylight is limited and there is a potential for the van to be covered in snow!
Besides solar, our camper van also carries a 125 liter fresh water tank. This decision was actually just a random guess, as we had no clue how much water we would use during our travels. But, it turns out to be quite a good guesstimate!
Marijke has developed an efficient dish washing routine and our water tank currently lasts at least 5 days. When we’re eating all of our meals in our van, that is. Whilst exploring Gothenburg, we easily reached 10 days with it!
Having a simple tap and submersible water pump with low water output certainly doesn’t hurt either.
Showering and doing the laundry
Really, thoroughly enjoy every shower! Finding a place to shower takes a very long time and lots of energy. I’d guess that we showered a total of 5 times this month. Ones was at a gym for free, three times at a campsite in return for a small fee, and once more at another campsite without having to pay.
Until now, the owners of campsites have been quite open to us taking a shower without spending the night. They do however always seem to make up a random rate for the use of their showers and washing machine. They’re probably not used to people not spending the night, but it does keep the costs down for us!
Currently, we aim at showering once a week and try to combine it with doing our laundry at a campsite. Initially, we wondered how hygienic it is to shower only once a week. Turns out, it’s not all that bad. Besides a little smell here and there though 😉 Stay tuned for an interesting post this Wednesday!
So far, this has panned out quite nicely. We did however notice that here in the north of Sweden, there aren’t as many campsites with such facilities. We’ll just have to see how we get on in the next few months. Especially when its gets colder and we lose the ability to take a swim in one of the many beautiful lakes up here. And we’re curious about fall and winter, many campsites close their doors during that time of the year!
Looking back at our travels
So, during our first month of vanlife, we’ve been able to visit three countries. But we weren’t really visiting as much as driving through.
At first, Denmark wasn’t at the top of our list of must-visit places, but having had the opportunity to spend a few days in the country has completely changed our minds.
It could slightly be influenced by the fact that it is an amazingly camper-friendly country! Denmark is filled with camper service stations to dump your waste water and get fresh water; all for free! But I guess that’s something you notice after you leave the country. Finding such spaces has been nothing less than a struggle in Sweden. As the song goes: You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.
As Denmark was so lovely whilst driving through, we decided to spend a few days exploring one of its hidden gems, the island Fur. Though the island is but small, there’s quite a lot to see and explore. We’ve even written a whole blog post on this destination, you can click here to read it! We’ll certainly visit Denmark in the future to thoroughly explore it.
After our days on Fur, it was time to hop on a ferry to Sweden. Especially since we want to reach the North before temperatures start dropping! At the end of June we were able to reach Uppsala whilst also doing some sightseeing along the way and visit both Gothenburg and Stockholm. Besides driving, working, and some small trips in between such as visiting the owner of Raw for Paw in Stockholm and the RÖJK Superwear team, we managed to do the following things in a little over a month’s time:
- Chilled on the beach in Wassersleben for two days (Germany)
- Explored everything there is to see on the small Island Fur in three days(Denmark)
- Spent one day hiking through Rold Skov National Park (Denmark)
- Ate our way through Gothenburg’s finest vegan restaurants (Sweden)
- …and enjoyed their wonderful city centre and it’s relaxing green area (Sweden)
- Hiking through Tiveden National Park for three days (Sweden)
- Checked out one of Stockholm’s sleeping cities, Strängnäs (Sweden)
- Spent three days hiking through Tyresta National Park (Sweden)
- Explored all that the small (former) island Gålö had in store (Sweden)
- Followed up on a tip to spend some time within the nature in Roslagen and visit the town of Norrtälje (Sweden)
Looking back at everything, it’s quite a lot more than we intially thought we did. It has still been such a busy period. But we’ve certainly enjoyed everything we’ve seen and done along the way.
Looking back on our zero waste journey
This was the first ever month in which we tried to exclude plastic packaging from our grocery shopping. And we must say, it went quite well! We’ve had close to zero waste other than green waste! Except for some metal tins and glass jars, and plastic packages we still had from before we left our former home.
Our main obstacle on the road has been finding package free leafy greens. Those had always taken up quite a large part of our diet, especially since we don’t consume meat and barely eat dairy and eggs. After two weeks without finding any unpackaged greens, we decided to buy a bag of frozen spinach. We thought that this would deliver the most value for one plastic bag, rather than fresh spinach. And spinach is great for vegetarians, of course, as it’s incredibly high in iron as well as multiple vitamins and minerals!
Besides leafy greens, we’ve also noticed that our diet has become a little less diverse that it used to be. Back in Wageningen we used to go to the farmers’ market about two times a week. We could find all kinds of fruit and veg, and most produce came package free!
On the road this has proven to be a bit more challenging. Especially because we mainly like to spend our time in nature, which makes it difficult to visit markets. Before we visit a new town, we do not know if, and when there’ll be a farmers market. I guess we’ll have to put some more effort in finding out details like these!
Besides produce, we’ve also had to buy toilet paper in packaging, and coconut fibre for our composting toilet, which needs a carbon source. Luckily though, the packaging for the toilet paper mainly consists of sugar cane!
Lastly, we finally bought new hiking shoes as our old shoes have lost the battle against time. It was a difficult decision to make, though. Should we opt for vegan shoes, and buy plastic ones that produce micro-plastics on our hikes? Or do we go for a natural alternative, meaning shoes that are made of animal material? In the end, we opted for organic leather hiking boots with compostable soles. We would rather see a future world in which animals are treated humanely and have a good life whilst still being put to good use, than live in a world in which plastic is used in everything.
Looking back at our blog
One of the most important steps we’ve taken is to change our domain from mojoandfriends.blog to mojoandfriends.com! We’re so stoked about about this! The dot com domain was owned by somebody else who had simply put it up for sale for a price that we couldn’t afford. This year, it expired, and may we now call it our own!
During previous months, our most visited post has always been dog related ones, but in June it was one of our camper van conversion posts! Specifically: How to build a sofa bed. And we must say, we’re really happy with how our convertible sofa bed idea has turned out! We’ve now been using it for over a month, and it works just splendidly! It’s so easy to convert our sofa into a bed and vice versa.
Our most-liked instagram photo was of course one that included our dog Mojo! Who would’ve thought differently
During the coming month we mainly hope to find some work here in Sweden. Our current plan still is to drive up further north to explore the Scandinavian mountains and drive from there on slowly back South. We hope to meet more inspiring people over the next few months, and learn a lot from them. Perhaps we can meet up with some other vanlifers, or try out couchsurfing for a while!
Considering our blog, we’ve already launched our series ‘The wero waste adventures of…’ on the first of July to promote Plastic Free July. Soon, we hope to launch a second series of blog posts titled ‘Campfire stories’. Be sure to check our homepage to see when it goes live!