Van Life

The Trials and Tribulations of Living in a Van

By on December 16, 2012

It’s always amusing to us the reactions we get when we tell people where we live. More times than not, there are glazed eyes, goofy grins and ‘I’m so jealous!’ comments when they imagine our romantic* existence.

People fail to think beyond their imagination, of the reality. Total freedom of movement, check. Seeing sites that would otherwise be impossible, check. Meeting people merely because of our Bohemian (ahem, sorry Moravian) lifestyle, check.

There are some very practical downsides. I’ve mentioned previously toilets here: or lack thereof. A daily challenge. Showers are lovely little nuggets of goodness to be stolen and cherished moments.

Daily travails include: filling the water tank; packing up/packing in a timely and organized fashion when we need to move (still working on that); ‘silly things,’ like WiFi or finding an electrical plug; doing laundry; cleaning.

Something that never enters peoples minds when they hear about us? The ever-fluctuating price of gas/petrol, depending on the place. The possible* maintenance problems that might* (read: do) arise on an occasion.

Lesson in point, our last few days in Istanbul, planning on leaving, as a simple example.  We decided to leave, but couldn’t due to a very dead battery.

As in completely un-rechargeable, no way in heck we could zombie it. A friend at the Grand Hotel set us up with WiFi and a new battery, which coincided with our collective amount of Turkish lira.

The next day, after a brilliant ‘Last Istanbul Night’ at Shellie’s (a huge spaghetti and eggplant extraordinaire via Shellie and Armando), we were all packed up and itching to go.

Small hitch? We couldn’t. Apparently, VWs suffer from the cold, as in if you’re a responsible driver like Armando, and use the emergency break for parking- it freezes. According to both Niki (our immaculate and lovely Bulgarian mechanical guru) and a VW Westfalia site, this is a normal problem.

Multiply our problem by having a too-large lug-nut wrench. It was a cold, wintry Istanbul day that gave us nothing from the mechanics, nor the shops, nor most of the locals. But two locals had spotted our dilemma, came by with a toolkit and within 20 minutes we were on our merry way.

I swear I saw haloes beaming majestically from the father-son team that took off the tire, worked the brake free, and worked the tire smoothly back on.

I doubt I’ve ever been so happy to brazen the complicated streets of Istanbul, regardless how white my knuckles were, in our departure.

So we arrived in Greece (more on that next post), we had a sunny day and decided to take advantage of the local delta.

Armando shot footage, I shot photos, and we could hear some hunters in the background shooting (albeit in a much different way). I believe I made some careless comment like ‘Frelling hunters…’

The road we were on was more than a bit muddy, more than a bit dodgy in spots but we were adamant that we’d catch the delta view at sunset. Up until we got mired. Maybe 500 meters in front of afore-mentioned hunters.
Armando went to ask for help, I waited outside in the chill (we both had the problem, which meant I don’t hide in the warm van), and I plotted. How could we use some of the local wood-flora to brace the tires in the muck for grip-?

Within minutes, one of the Greek hunters (Actaeon, with a 4-wheel drive and cigarette dangling) pulled us out. He also very clearly suggested, as he spoke no English, for us to stay on the main road.
You see? It’s not as seamless as it looks externally. It is, however, a great- our great- adventure.

When we think about what we’ve done or been through recently thrice, without such open kindness, we don’t shiver. We shudder, with many thanks.

As a final goodbye Istanbul and hello Greece, we’d like to thank the following: Nina and Mehmet, without you we would have been lost the first day; the crew of Chillout, Erdem, the Syrians, Emily, Ellis, Wasim, Tolga and Scott- you were and are all considered friends.

Attila, for the inspiration and friendship; Mihriban at the Grand Star Hotel; Shellie, for the wonderful conversations and advice; Malvina, for the gorgeous visit; Kamila, for bookshop tips; Niki, always for being there bemused at our van antics; our Cihangir neighborhood and of course, Jam the cat.

In Greece: Costantine, for letting us know what Alexandroupolis has to offer. Mud and all.

We appreciate not only meeting you all, but that we were lucky enough to.



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