So, #vanlife. It’s all good yeah? Nothing beats a bit of nomadic living every now and then to reinvigorate the soul. As the sun sets over the Indian Ocean and warm summer winds blow upon your sunburnt skin, it’s hard to imagine what home and the shackles of routine are like. You’ve been transported away from domestic life, employment concerns and whatever Donald Trump is tweeting about. It’s all just perrrrrrfect. It is. It really is. Isn’t it?
Well kids, sorry to burst the bubble, but this is #vanlifewithbaby which is altogether less glamorous, less adventurous and a lot less like Instagram makes it out to be.
We’ve just come back from two weeks touring the South West of Western Australia and whilst it was an amazing part of the world and one of my favourite holidays – I feel like there was an underlying truth that no one wants to hear, mention or talk about.
#vanlife has more emotional ups and downs than a teenager on prom night – and a lot more arguments.
After removing Theo from our bedroom at home around the eight week mark, I haven’t slept in the same room as him since and boy did I forget how many random noises babies make when they sleep. It’s like someone leaving a malfunctioning dishwasher on all night, in your bedroom. The reality is; on a campervanning holiday you’ve essentially paid good money (who am I kidding, it was extortionate) to live as a family in a single room for two weeks. Anyone with kids, just think about that for a second.
Alas, it turns out that Theo was actually pretty ill, so it looks like we (and he) got pretty unlucky. Our first few days were challenging and as we drove straight through beautiful scenery and landscapes to find towns with medical centres, you couldn’t help feel that we’d all have preferred to be at home, or if we had to still be on holiday, then in some kind of relaxing hotel, with a built-in doctor and unlimited cocktails for parents (if these places exist please leave a comment below)
Unluckily for Kate though I was able to draw on years and years of camping and family arguments from childhood and actually see the positive side of the situation. The tendency to be annoyingly positive during camping trips is something I’m most proud of and with a little #britishbulldog spirit we pushed on, and on, and on through the remarkable region that is Margaret River.
It take a bit of time to get into a routine with the van but we eventually got used to the following:
Wake up, brekkie, drive to an area/beach of interest, pull over for Theo’s morning nap, road trip to another beach or town, pull up in a scenic spot for Theo to have his lunch nap, Katie swim/snorkel, Dad try to sneak a surf in, drive to winery, drive to another winery, drive to another winery, regret going to third winery as Theo cries all the way home in the back seat due to being too tired, put Theo to bed, play one-on-one board games (the kind that were meant for at least four players), read books, lights out.
And that, ladies & gentlemen, was how the Hill family conquered WA. And it was great.
When everything went well, we felt invincible, and dare I say it even spontaneous – which is a word you basically erase from your vocabulary when you have a baby. When it didn’t go so well, you know what? It was just like any other day that is far from perfect, and God knows there’s a fair few days like that when raising a baby. We’re becoming more and more resilient to them.
One of the reasons for booking the campervan was to see if we would survive as a family and perhaps consider a real adventure sometime in the future. I have raised the idea of driving the length of South America with Katie, she hasn’t said no*, but after this trip we now know it may have to be a few years before our Theo (and us) are ready for that x
*Who am I kidding – she says no all the time, I just refuse to listen.