Karavan’s 1st impressions

I’ve been living in my caravan for a couple of weeks now. Are you curious about how I find it?

As I’m writing, I am looking out over a green and empty Christchurch campground. Dinner is cooking in the oven and I can hear birds.

There have been ups and downs. When it’s raining and I’ve run out of water in my fresh water tank. When there’s no internet and I feel very isolated. But overall it’s feeling like an adventure!

My first ‘home’ was a campsite close to the caravan dealer – just incase I needed help. I told reception that I had literally just bought the caravan and could I get an easy spot. All I needed to do was drive in – no reversing. Unfortunately this spot was right by the kids playground, and they were loud! It was also right next to the Nelson airport where the planes were noisy going overhead. The plus was we were in the 4G wifi area, there was a great evening walk as we were right next to the beach and being close to good shops to start buying items for my caravan. I visited Kmart, Mitre 10 and Burnso (camping store) many times over the first few days. My latest purchase has been a tin for the oven, a car mirror extender to see who’s behind me and two camping chairs for future guests! Slowly stocking up with all the necessary items.

What I’m loving

  • I’ve so far stayed at places with great walks from the campsite. After dinner, I’ve been exploring the surrounding area.
  • I currently have the freedom to move to a new ‘home’ when I’ve see all there is of an area. I’ll always be feeling excited to see what’s around the corner.
  • After seeing new places, I can go home and sleep in my own bed and know where all the cutlery is.
  • It’s now $20 a night for a place on my own with a bathroom and kitchen.
  • I can pull over at a beautiful spot and sit on my couch for a rest while viewing sealions or stunning nature through the window. I can make lunch and relax right there.
  • A comfy couch with the perfect setup for reading a book or working on my laptop.
  • If I have a loud neighbour, I can move further away.
  • Feeling closer to nature but with all the convenience. I look at the scruffy guy in the van next to me and think I couldn’t handle that permanently.
  • The idea that I can lock’n’leave and don’t need to pay rent or a mortgage
  • Peoples surprise when they realise it’s just me, the giant car and the caravan!

What I’m struggling with

Internet

I started this trip struggling to upload my first road trip video. I’ve since learnt not to try until I’m in a 4G area. I’ve switched from 2 degrees to Vodafone for better 4G coverage and selected the phone plan with the most data and made my phone a hotspot. I learnt it’s not worth getting a dongle or portable Wi-Fi zone, as it costs more for data! But I’m still racing through my monthly 15G of data. I’ve heard that NZMCA (New Zealand Motor Caravan Association) has a great wifi option which I will be looking into! Then I’ll feel more like I’m living in my house rather than being a traveller.

Fresh Water

At the start, the water from the taps smelt like plastic. I asked the dealer and was told best not to drink it as it’s going through a lot of plastic pipes to get to the tap. It’s improved with time, and I think it’s fine for brushing my teeth with. Not quite 3rd world country level!

Gas

The first night I stayed at a place with no electricity, I switched to gas. This means that the fridge still works and I can cook. I awoke in the middle of the night with the fridge light flashing and convinced I was being gassed! Eventually I went outside and turn the gas off at the bottle. I’ve since learnt that the fridge flashing light means the gas hasn’t ignited and the safety should have stopped any gas coming out. I’ve looked into getting a gas detector, but will cost $120 and I’ll need it professionally installed. Another thing on my to-do list!

Carpet

The carpet gets dirty very quickly. It’s about the size of someones foyer, so understandable that it shows more dirt as I walk in and out. The carpet is designed so you can take it outside like a rug. I’ve tried brushing it. Eventually I’ll buy a tiny vacuums cleaner, but for now I’ll be using friends vacuum cleaners as I travel along.

Waste & Dirty Work

I’m still getting use to the timing of emptying the grey water tank and toilet cassette. After writing this, I need to wheel the full grey water tank to the disposal area, which is quite a distance from my caravan. And when I leave tomorrow I need to do it all over again! With maintaining the caravan, once in a while I need to go underneath to empty the kitchen catch – a little place for catching the food that goes down the pipe. Emptying the toilet isn’t as painful as I’d feared and there’s no desire to have a shower afterwards! But they are going to be my least favourite jobs.

Off power

Still learning how to work everything when I’m not plugged into the power. When I tried, half the lights didn’t work and I couldn’t use the power plugs. I’m sure I just need to read the manual. One day I want to add solar power panels to the roof to be able to stay longer at free camping spots.

Awning

I was given an awning as part of the purchase. It’s very heavy and needs to stay in my car for distribution of the weight while driving the caravan. It’s taking up my whole back seat and I haven’t used it once. Apparently you need two people to set-up and only worth the hassle if you are staying somewhere for a while. It’s also very dated looking… not really what I‘m after. The plan is to sell it on Trademe and get a cheaper and smaller awning in time for winter.

Reversing

Sometimes I’m great and sometimes I’m not. I imagine I’ll become more confident with more practice. At this new campsite, I had plenty of room to try. I lined up straight, so in theory I just needed to reverse straight… The caravan decided to move off to the side. I got there in the end and quietly patted myself on the back.

Taps

The taps spirt out water irregularly when first turned on. I think it’s waiting for the water pump to start doing it’s job? Reminds me that I’m in a caravan, not a house.

Shower

Originally, the shower door would rattle when I moved in bed. I was thinking this could get annoying fast. I realised if I shift the door handle, it stops the rattle. The water also sits in the bottom after using the shower. It’s a hassle involving wiping it down afterwards and encourages me to using the campsites showers instead. Plus I’m aware that all the water I use ends up in a tank that I need to empty!

Towing

Driving with the caravan was scary at first, but I’m relaxing the more I drive and realise the caravan just follows behind me. I’ve even survived some tricky corners and steep hills.

What’s Next?

I’m giving myself the time to enjoy and learn about the caravan for now. Planning to drive around the South Island of New Zealand and see the sights. Next stop – Lake Tekapo!

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