Living in a van makes one far more aware of the daily weather, and far more appreciative of lovely, settled, 23-degrees-and-sunny days. These kinds of days have been few and far between so far this year, and our latest challenge was a heat wave of more than 35 degrees for pretty much a full week. On Facebook and Instagram, #vanlife groups and forums were full of advise such as “insulation is the key!”, “reflective covers for windows!”, “leave your engine running for air con!”. Our old timer has never heard of air con, insulation also obviously wasn’t such a hot topic when building out campervans in the early 80s and our orange curtains, though super stylish, don’t do much in the way of reflecting sun.
The heat wave hit us during a week where we had to make some miles to get from one working project to the next. Therefore, simply parking up in the shade and waiting for it to be over wasn’t an option, otherwise that would be our first suggestion for survival. Shade was crucial though, and that became the MOST IMPORTANT factor in picking a spot to camp. We use the Park4Nite app to find spots and in lots of reviews, stating that a spot had “plenty of sun” was obviously considered to be positive, and we rejected those suggestions with disgust. The view became unimportant, we didn’t care if there were toilets, bins, showers or any normally-looked-for facilities. Our mission to find shade each day was almost as important as getting to Austria for the next job.
Usually during our traveling or holiday times in our van, one of things we enjoy most is the relaxing mornings, lie ins, and coffee in bed. Not during a heat wave. The hours before midday, before the sun reaches its burning, soul-destroying maximum, are precious indeed, and we tried to get all of our daily driving done in the mornings. The earlier the better, so we could be done by 1 at the latest and be somewhere in the shade (see point above).
We can store just 10 litres of water in our van and fill up whenever we get the chance. During the heat every drop was needed. If we were able to get water that was properly cold, we would travel with the containers on ours laps, under our t-shirts, for a constant cool compress. On the hottest day of the heat wave, we sat for an afternoon with our feet in a water bucket (a plastic washing bowl that we hadn’t used in our previous year and a half of van life but were oh SO grateful that we had kept it) and a wet towel over our heads. For the whole afternoon. Just waiting for the wonderful time of day that was sun set.
The best spot that we found during the heat wave was in the Austrian hills. We parked along side an incredibly chilly, small river, and the breeze coming off of the cold water was spectacular. The river was shaded by trees too, so it was the absolute perfect location to spend a day. During the evening, the breeze from the water was so cooling that we actually had to wear something more than just underwear. Feeling slightly chilly was the most sublime thing we experienced that week.
So, needless to say we survived the heat with no mod cons in our vintage van! We’ve been working at our latest project for a few weeks now, and the next blog will tell a little more about it. Keep updated with our Instagram in the meantime.