The more we settle into this life of ‘van living, the more I realize that the two years we spent living in Vietnam totally prepared us for the experience. It sounds kind of far-fetched but hear me out…
Driving in Vietnam prepares you for anything
I’ve already written about the lessons I learnt through driving in Vietnam and it definitely helped prepare us for our campervan adventure. While our vehicle may be a hundred times larger now, the experience of hairpin bends and dealing with other (reckless) drivers is second to none. You gain such a different awareness of the road while driving in Vietnam. I think this has helped us with the strange feeling of driving on the other side of the road and the different driving cultures in the countries we’ve passed through so far.
Living with less
One thing that almost every expat experiences when they first arrive in their adopted home is the experience of getting by with less. Less knowledge, less language and, most importantly, less stuff. While eventually you may find everything you had in your former home, at first you learn to deal without things you once deemed necessary. For many, this lesson is learnt and then turned into a lifestyle choice when you realize you really don’t need all that ‘stuff’.
In the ‘van, the more stuff we have, the heavier we are and the more cramped our small space feels. We don’t have much now, but we are already planning to get rid of a lot when we head home in May.
Practicalities like power, gas and drinking water
Unlike our first time in Vietnam – back when we met in 2010, we didn’t have to deal with too many power cuts in Hanoi. But, it did happen more frequently then at home. Now, living in a campervan, if we are not careful, our battery power could run out and leave us without light or heat. It definitely makes you think about what you use.
In a similar vein, we also had to buy gas bottles to cook with and gallons of drinking water for our home in Vietnam. We were already used to having to thinking about these things that you take for granted in a home in the UK and it definitely helps us to consider our consumption and waste.
Taking time to explore smaller destinations
This lesson may have first been learnt while living in Korea, but it was well and truly cemented during our time in Vietnam. Between all the must-see attractions and famous destinations, there is a whole world to explore. Places you’ve never heard of will not only be devoid of other people but also completely blow you away. We’ve experienced this in random small towns, villages and lesser known mountains and national parks across the world and it has made us more aware of the hidden beauty all around us in plain sight.
The joy of living locally
While living in Vietnam we got to experience making a home in two places, Hanoi and Hoi An. In both, we fell in love with the local markets and finding our favourite spots for local dishes.
Now, we kind of get to live the local life everywhere we go. As we are cooking for ourselves, we get to buy local produce in supermarkets. And, because we have Jimi, we get to explore local parks and forests when we need to take him for a walk.
Plus, as we are slowly travelling through Europe, and also bound to where we can park, we are not necessarily itching to tick of tourist attractions. We would rather just soak in the atmosphere of a place by wandering.
And, the joy of the journey…
Nowhere have we felt the joy of the journey itself more than Vietnam. Taking motorbike trips across the country, we enjoyed the drive just as much as the destinations we visited.
On the road in the campervan, we sometimes forget that we can stop and get out of the cab because we are so enamored with simply driving.
At least once a day since the start of this trip, Oli and I turn to each other and smile from ear to ear. This life, on the road in a rolling home, is more perfect for us than we could have ever imagined.