This post is for all my friends and family who worry for my safety, hygiene, and sanity when they learn I am living in a van while traveling around New Zealand. In typical consultant form, here is a dandy little FAQ sheet for ya’ll!
Where do you shower?
I knew going in that personal hygiene was never going to be sacrificed at the expense of living in a campervan. Luckily, New Zealand is a backpack/campervan friendly country and set up so you can stay clean at minimal expense while traveling. So good news for all my fellow travelers and those I encounter in public places, I still shower every single day. Sometimes twice a day. I think this actually still more than some of my friends at home.
Fully outfitted campervan parks usually include showers as part of the fee, as do hostels and hotels. If I stay in a basic campsite (only a toilet) or freedom camp (usually no facilities), I make sure to plan for a shower stop before or after. Campgrounds, gas stations, public pools, and gym/rec centers all offer the opportunity to use their shower in exchange for a small fee (between $2-$5 NZD). Note that many showers do include a time limit (5 minutes). If you aren’t picky, or traveling through the height of summer, free cold showers can also be found through the country. For the even less sensitive, crystal clear mountain rivers and lakes are also an opportunity to rinse off (not to my taste as I like using vast quantities of soap).
Where do you use the bathroom?
Yay for public domains. New Zealand is full of free public toilets, and of course any gas station, café or large attraction has its own toilets. So far I’ve never had a problem finding one in short order while traveling during the day. During the evening, I use the toilet at the campground, with rare exception every appointed overnight camping spot, even those designated for self-contained vehicles, includes a port-a-potty (known as a long drop or dry toilet here). In emergencies, my car also includes a portable toilet that I can use.
Note- fellow backpackers, please don’t just drop a deuce wherever! While I have never been hesitant to use the great outdoors when mother nature calls, New Zealand has cracked down super hard on this practice as the sheer numbers of campers across new Zealand is dirtying some truly beautiful spots and has led to a ban on overnight camping in many parts of the country. Please only resort to this if there is truly no other choice, and make sure you clean up after yourself.
What do you eat?
Almost every van includes a small portable gas stove along with basic kitchen supplies and a cooler/chilly bin. Breakfast is cereal, pancakes, or eggs on toast (errr something resembling toast since I usually rest my bread near an open gas flame). Lunch is usually on the go (I’m in love with English savory pies and fish/chips) or a spread of cheese, crackers, and jam. Dinner is whatever I can make on a one pot stove! I have a recipe book, but my go-to’s are pasta and soups. New Zealand, being the healthy country it is, actually has a huge selection of refrigerated meals with no preservatives and usually low on sugar, salt, etc. I can dump these into a hot pot to heat up (since no microwave). Wine and chocolate is present during/after every dinner.
Is it safe?
So safe! New Zealand is honestly the safest country I have ever traveled to. Petty crime certainly happens here (you will quickly have a car break-ins if you leave your laptop sitting on the bed), but usually your physical safety is assured. While traveling by myself, I always make sure to arrive at a campsite well before dark and have a back-up plan should the site feel sketchy in anyway. I also never park in an area by myself if it is just me. While traveling with one of my friends, we did tend to stay in the night in more remote places. I also make sure the van is always locked at night while sleeping.
Where do you sleep?
In my van! Almost all campervans you purchase here have some sort of elevated sleeping structure in the back . For some it is as simple as a thin ply board that is laid on top of folding car seats, while other vans (like mine) have ripped out the seats and built a dedicated sleeping platform. Mattress quality is also highly variable. While I can’t say my bed is anything close to a temper pedic mattress, I sleep through the night and feel well rested…. Not like hostel beds are anything to write home about either!
Where do you find all this information?
On the most handy phone app ever, Campermate. This awesome app lists campgrounds, showers, toilets, dump stations, wi-fi, things to do, gas stations and basically anything you would want to look up while traveling. Even better, an offline version is available so you can still search when you don’t have service.
What is your day-to-day like?
For better or worse, no day is the same. After breakfast, I usually pack up my campsite and drive/hike to local attractions before the day gets hot and the trails get crowded. Late afternoon is spent traveling to the next campsite and a chore or two (refilling my water tank, picking up groceries, visit the I-site, etc). Then setting up camp, exploring the site, dinner and bedtime reading/journaling. You would be surprised how quickly a day passes on the road 🙂
What do you do in your spare time?
A ton of reading! Which is honestly pretty similar to home, I am definitely a book worm in every sense of the word. Luckily my Kindle is portable, has long battery life and can be charged in the car. I also journal a bit and have some intensely long phone conversations with friends from home. But somehow, free time is never overwhelming as I feel like I am constantly on the move.
Feel free to ask me any other questions below!