Life in a Camper
We always imagined life in a camper somehow as wild-romantic. We were fascinated by the idea of having absolute freedom, being surrounded by nature, and of meeting like-minded people.
In New Zealand, it was finally time to turn our dream into reality. We rented a camper van for three months and were ready to extensively test life in a camper.
You can read more about how we got along with it so far, and what experiences we have had as beginners.
We had decided to rent a JUCY Chaser camper van a few months in advance. As neither of us had ever traveled with a camper before, we wanted to have a shower and toilet on board for ‘just in case’ reasons and therefore choose the slightly more comfortable version. I had already looked at a JUCY in Germany and wanted to try it on the road.
On the 5th of September 2019, it was time! We arrived at the JUCY rental office by taxi and received a super-fast briefing and were handed the keys. We had never been through a rental car process so quickly before. And because everything was so easy, we didn’t even have any questions!!
So, into our camper we went, happy, a little nervous, and full of anticipation of the things to come.
Our way led us first to PAK’nSAVE. We had read that this would be the least expensive supermarket in New Zealand.
We bought pasta, rice, coffee, tortillas, and just about everything you need for a camper’s life.
After proudly bringing our purchases to our camper, we immediately realized how organized one must be in order to live in a small space. Our golf bags were still lying on the floor of the camper van and our backpacks were on the seats.
We hardly had any room to even get in!
Somehow, we managed to store our food halfway, and we drove off to our first stop, Piha, where we were able to reorganize our things, all with sunshine and a view of the sea. We also had our first meal in our camper: muesli!
Learning by doing
The first challenge was to store our things. Even though we don’t have many clothes with us, the golf bags take up a lot of space. We have already changed the organization during the trip a total of four times, and it is still not perfect, but it’s better than the first time. Let’s see if we manage to store everything in such a way that nothing is on the floor of our camper anymore until the end of our journey.
The first night
Our next rehearsal came with our first night. How to make the bed. This went relatively quickly, and we were proud to show how easy it was on Instagram.
But what was going on with the interior lights? We found two switches. One for the light outside the camper door, and one for the bathroom. At the console, where the four main switches are located (light, water, refrigerator, AC), you could turn all the interior lights on and off. But when I had to go to the toilet at night, I woke up James because all the ceiling lights came on. When you sleep and you’re tired, it’s like a bright spotlight that shines right on you. We searched and searched for another light switch but found nothing.
When we were at Cape Reinga, we saw another JUCY in the car park and we asked the couple who were driving it about the interior lights. They said that this is how it is and that there is nothing you can do about the lights.
Silently, I thought to myself, no, there must be a solution. I pressed the lights, but nothing changed. In the end, I was on the right track, because there is a way! There is a small sensor on each of the 3 interior lamps that when pressed, switches the lights on and off.
Cooking in a camper
For the first few days, we ate sandwiches and muesli. I have no idea why, but it took me a little while to get to the gas stove.
We haven’t had any problems here and it is great fun to have everything so compact around us. It’s like a cooking island, just without the island. And you can talk to your partner while you’re cutting and cooking. But since I’m not a great cook, I had to come up with what I can cook in the camper. We only have a mini pot and a small shallow pan. But you can do it all. And even if the base of each dish is made up of pasta or rice, you can spice it up with vegetables and reinvent different dishes.
Because necessity is the mother of invention, hahaha.
The lovely technique
Some people will probably think to themselves, “Oh man, that’s logical!”. But we just didn’t know it yet.
We had bought Pita bread for toasting. Pita bread and hummus. Doesn’t that sound delicious? We were so looking forward to it!
But the toaster didn’t work. “That can’t be true!” Annoyingly, I played with every button on the toaster, but nothing changed.
A few days later we learned that the sockets only work when you are connected to electricity.
Also, one morning we suddenly had no hot water. Oh boy… is something broken on the camper? Have we tweaked the water cables somewhere and that’s the reason? After an ice-cold shower for two consecutive days – we were back at a freedom campground – we contacted JUCY. We must mention at this point how great their service is. We got an email back immediately and had the answer. There is only warm or hot water if you have driven for at least half an hour.
And so, we learned something new again. And had hot water again.
It’s a dirty job but somebody has to do it
You can probably guess what the dirty job is, right?! Emptying the “cassette”. We are a little early in New Zealand and the weather is still rainy, stormy, and sometimes really cold. Last night we even had frost and we were as cold as we have ever been thus far on our journey. Therefore, we prefer to use the toilet in the camper rather than visit a drop toilet or a public toilet, especially in the dark. And the cassette (=toilet) on board must then be emptied every two to three days. Somebody has to do it, but not me, hahaha.
The greywater is disposed of with the help of a hose. The connection for this is at the back of the camper van and closed with a lid.
There is an additional hose also available for freshwater. BTW: Here in New Zealand there is pretty much freshwater everywhere that you can use to fill up your camper van.
Everything has worked very easily.
Tip: We use the app CamperMate, which shows us where we can find dump stations. You can also find freshwater, petrol stations, etc. This app is so helpful and is, in our opinion, an absolute must.
The camper is very easy to drive according to James. Although the camper is big and he has never driven something that large before, he got used to it quickly.
A big plus is the fast reaction of JUCY if we had any questions. Always have we received help immediately which we really appreciated!
We love this kind of life and travel. You have everything with you. For example, we did our laundry in a laundromat while we prepared our coffee in the camper parked in front (we named our camper Lorna). So, we had coffee while we waited for our laundry!
We are free and so wonderfully independent. Of course, we have to see where we can stay with Lorna overnight. And often it also costs something extra.
But the bed is cozy, and the kitchen is big enough. Life in a camper is definitely worth a try!
Some things to mention:
There are no hooks where we can hang up our wet towels. Everything dries more slowly in the wet cold weather.
In the rear area above the tailgate, a net could have been attached. This is a lost storage space that could otherwise be utilized very well.
It would also have been nice to have a deeper pan and a flipper spatula for our fried eggs. But these are just small things.
If we were to give our world globes here as we would do for our hotel reviews, it would actually be 9.5 globes on a tee out of 10!
For us, traveling in a campervan was definitely the right decision!