Devon and Dartmoor…
We did it! Before committing whole-hearted to this crazy idea of mine, I wanted to get a little taste of van life with a toddler. We gave camping a go at Wilderness Festival (see my blog post: 5 things I learned festivalling with a toddler), but now it was time to get on the road. I borrowed my mum’s VW campervan ‘Roly Poly’ again, and set off for the South Devon coast and Dartmoor.
The verdict? I would be lying if I said it was easy. But, overall, I loved it. I loved 48 hours of Mummy and Ava bonding time, being outside 24 hours a day, the beautiful views for dinner and sunset (something I lack in a ground floor flat!), and the scenery in Dartmoor was just breathtaking. I enjoyed the ritual of van life: early nights and lazy mornings brewing coffee on the stove, staring at the view wile we tuck into breakfast, everything having a place and it all needing to be just so before you set off (lest it fly through the van when you brake suddenly!). There is no chucking everything in the sink and dashing out the door. Van life forces you to slow down.
I also had some time to reflect on the future, and the past. All too often I am guilty of pushing my grief away rather than addressing it, and one of the things I hope to do on our trip is to process what has happened to us. I definitely found that happening this weekend.
The trip was harder than I anticipated, but the difficulties I endured were the same daily struggles any parent with a toddler has: mood swings, discipline, fussy eating etc. At home these are more manageable – there is always distraction in the form of toys or TV, and there is a routine to frame your day. On holiday, the normal rules are thrown out the window. Naps are erratic, bedtime is late, there isn’t a fridge full of alternative food if your toddler refuses your first attempt at dinner.. There is a lot more improvisation, patience and flexibility required when travelling.
In addition, our trip was time constrained. We had a limited number of days in the van, a lot of ground to cover and places to see. This added pressure that hopefully we wouldn’t have on a longer trip. If Ava has an off day then we can write it off and continue our plans the next day. Over-planning is something I’m going to have to learn to let go of…!
Also, we broke down!! A lesson learned.. what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?!
For more on the ups and downs of our trip, have a watch of our video diary.. and let me know what you think!