LIFE ON THE ROAD
written by Lottie Lewis
You don’t realise how little you need until you travel in a van, and even less when you’re hitch hiking. Life on the road is all about experiencing the little wonders of life. The way the sunrise gently filters through the back windows and the crashing sound of newly arrived swell draws you to the shore. The smell of fresh coffee boiling on the camping stove and long drives south at sunset, in search of secret spots and new horizons.
Life on the road is also about learning to live with the not-so-lovely things too. Constant sand in your sheets, your wet dog winding amongst bare legs in little space and smelly wetsuits in buckets stashed in the footwells in the front.
Life on the road is what you make it, and paradise is where you make it. You don’t have to fly off to the warm water waves of Indonesia or snow capped mountains of Canada to find your little slice of heaven. Freedom is often found at the bottom of your board bag whilst waiting at the service station for your next ride. Happiness in a tin of beans after a long day and the smile of a stranger when you’re travelling alone.
A hunger for new horizons and a search for the road less travelled is ingrained within many of us. Routine isn’t top of our list when it comes to life plans, and it’s true that birds of a feather flock together. You’re sure to meet likeminded, minimal-living, van-lifers in every car park you pull into and break that you paddle out at. Often found with dogs in tow, snowboards stashed under the bed for later seasons and a mocha pot swinging above the stove, life on the road doesn’t appeal to all, but it’s certainly won over many.
Chasing changing seasons is easy in a van. From the warm shores surfed in Portugal and the scorching streets skated in Spanish summers, to the snowy mountain towns lined with twinkling lights and busy bars with peaks waiting to be hiked in winter - van life has made all four seasons accessible. European travellers of all nationalities are found reading, writing and napping, in the backs of the vans, waiting for the swell to pick up or the snow to fall. A newly popular culture with a universal patience with the elements.
Packing your belongings into a van or rucksack takes times. It takes hours to whittle down your belongings to the bare necessities. A steady cycle of packing and unpacking, piles of clothes and stacks of books and boxes of trinkets slowly shrink with every sort through, until your left with not everything you want, but just solely what you need. The same favourite jumper to be worn on early morning dog walks, post-surf hikes back up the cliffs and late night beer drinking around the fire. The one perfect swimsuit for swimming and surfing and sunbathing and dish washing. Those joggers you’ve worn so many times without washing they could walk away by themselves. Your trusty beanie thats cosy and warm and wearing out. Life on the road strips you back to quality, not quantity.
And when it’s not about the people you meet or searching for waves or waiting for snow or the things you take, it’s about the experience. The countless sunrises and sunsets, the changing of the scenery from rolling hills to long highways to towering mountains to expanses of ocean, the hot summer sunshine and the cooling rain and the lemons and oranges on the trees as you journey further south. It’s the moment when you realise that unfamiliar roads are slowly becoming local to you. That home is wherever you decide to rest your head. And that freedom is only a tank of fuel away.
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