During the two years since we started writing a blog, but also during those when we didn’t even own a smartphone, we slept in all sorts of places. In the tent, in the open air, in hostels but also in more luxurious hotels, in the car and on the train… but we have always wanted to try what it’s like to travel and sleep in a motorhome. We watched all sorts of videos on YouTube and thought about how these people live there and how they work in such a small space. During our last weeks since returning to Slovakia, it was not so amazing as we imagined, so we decided to “turn off” a bit and try something new and unconventional.
WHAT IS A CAMPERVAN
A campervan is a self-propelled vehicle that provides space for transport and sleeping. Campervans are divided into several types, but in this article I will write only about the built-up van that we used. Such a van differs from a caravan mainly in that it was not originally manufactured for the purpose of accommodation. It is a normal van that is converted into a motor home.
We have been following a community of people for a very long time, who work on various trips, travel and live in them. When we learned that there is couple with this kind of camper van in Hlohovec and it is possible to rent it, we did not hesitate and tried such travel and life in a small space. We borrowed a BeVan for a few days and based on our experience, this article was created.
WHAT YOU CAN FIND IN A CAMPER VAN
Each self-remodeled van is different and you will find a different layout and equipment. It depends mainly on the owners, their lifestyle and what they need for life and is the most comfortable for them. And that’s why each of these cars is unique and we also like them. You can also find more about how to live in such a van life community in the documentary on Youtube – Portrait of an Alternative Lifestyle.
The basis of this style of travel and life is minimalism, ie that you will not overcrowd the car with unnecessary things and focus on what you need as much as possible. A comfortable place to sleep and a full stomach is a priority for most people. Therefore, in the camper van you will find a bed and a place for cooking. In a small kitchen you can cook everything you can do on the stove.
Storage space is also important. Everything must have its place in the motorhome and be properly secured so that things do not fly over the entire van when traveling. You will definitely find drawers, crates, hangers and all sorts of handles in all motorhomes.
A chemical toilet is also included in most residential vans. These toilets usually differ only in location. Some cars have a built-in toilet, others have the opportunity to carry them (you can sit comfortably in the toilet on a meadow or in the woods ?)
On the other hand, you will not find an internal shower (as we have it at home) in campervans, just because of the lack of space. We used an outdoor shower (which was also with a view) where you shower outside in front of / behind the van. Unfortunately, during our trip to Orava region, it was quite cold in the spring and we did not enjoy such a shower very much.
HOW TO FIND A PLACE TO PARK OVERNIGHT
For the first time, we tried sleeping in the car a bit “wildly” in our Octavia and with the seats folded down in Slovenia. You can find more about how camping works in the article Camping in Europe step by step.
The fact that you can stop almost anywhere and immediately go to bed is a great advantage of a camper van. Its disadvantage (compared to a tent or car) is that it is not inconspicuous.
If you are planning a trip to Slovakia or abroad, we wrote down a few of our experiences that could help you plan your trip more easily and make it easier to find a place to camp.
6 apps that will make it easier for you to find a place to sleep
If you don’t want to invest in camps and just want to park your car and sleep, I recommend the Park4night app, in which like-minded people like you add places where they have managed to sleep, stop, or even spend a few days. You will find rest areas, parking lots, forest paths, but also places with great views. And if you find nice places, you can add them there as well and join this community.
The Vanlifelocation application works very similarly to Park4night. It has a more beautiful design, so you can try one that will suit you better. We didn’t use it much, because there were no added places in the area where we were looking for a parking space.
Another application that works similarly is ioverloader, in which you will find more places that are more difficult to access and where you will probably need 4 × 4.
4. Google Maps
Google Maps is the best companion for finding a place and viewing locations before you travel. You can plan your route and see on the map all sorts of side paths that could lead you to a nice place to camp. Planning a route ahead is important, because you can see what the terrain will look like and what to expect.
If you are the type of traveler who likes things planned in advance, you can also find and book campsites on the Booking.com. While searching you can filter the type of accommodation for camps.
Don’t despair if the first place fails. It’s not always easy and it happens that the place you searched for in the app or found on the map will be completely different in reality. We did not manage to park for 2 hours near the Orava dam, because it is a protected area with rare birds and you cannot drive there by car other than by road. In the end, we found a place, but precisely because we didn’t quarrel and blame ourselves for something that none of us knew before. With vanlife, it is clear that patience is a key. ?
If you don’t like sleeping “in the wild” somewhere in the woods, in a parking lot or on a meadow, camps are a great option. The camps are equipped with sanitary facilities, you can leave your car parked there without any worries for several days. Small and larger camps are scattered throughout Slovakia. You can use Google to search, or you may come across one along the way. Another great option is the camping.info application where you can search for campsites that are closest to your location.
The compass is an invaluable travel companion. I hate winter and love the sun, so we always tried to choose a place to sleep on the east so that we woke up in the morning in the morning and the sun shone on us from the morning. So we could enjoy the morning coffee with the warm rays of the rising sun.
How to sleep safely in a car outside the campsite
Starting a fire
In Slovakia, there is a forests law, which generally states that setting up a fire and camping outside the designated areas is prohibited in the forest. You can not start a fire anywhere from the car if you are not in camps or campgrounds, but we think it is best not to put it on the car at all.
Protected areas and their rules
Do not forget that we also have nature protection zones in Slovakia, which are different. They are often very inconspicuously marked with signs and you may find yourself navigating a dirt road to the forest and just in front of the forest you will find an indication of which zone it is and whether you can stop here or not. Nature protection zones are divided into:
- Zone 1 – the whole territory of Slovakia
- Zone 2 – Protected Landscape Area (PLA)
- 3rd-5th zone – forbidden camping and bivouacs, movement only from sunrise to sunset (for example, in TANAP in the parking lot you should not even sleep in the car – you risk a fine)
- National reservation and monuments – the strictest prohibitions for protection
Invisible and inaudible
The best thing to do is to find a place to sleep during the day, but do not park your car immediately. During the sunset (or just after) you park your car at your night spot and it is very likely that you will not run into anyone there during the night. Remember the invisible and unheard rule. ?
In Slovakia you will find many meadows, fields and pastures, which do not have the designation “private land”, but this does not mean that they do not belong to anyone. What may seem like grass to us can be pastures for sheep, what looks like overgrown weeds can be planted herbs. Therefore, be careful where you move the car – use the paved field roads instead of crossing the field.
The lines, which we usually don’t notice, leads through fields or forest roads, which you will probably look for when sleeping in a car. Be careful not to stop under it.
Trust your instincts
Never park on site if in doubt. Always trust your inner feeling – whether it’s a bad feeling from the place, you feel like someone is watching you, or someone is hanging around you too often. It is better not to risk anything and move elsewhere.
HOME OFFICE or NOMADS IN THE CAMPER VAN
Working every day in a different place and with beautiful views sounds like a dream. We tried it for only a few days, but we managed an interview in a van, for example, or even write this article. If you only need a computer for your work, you will usually find a table and chairs in your campervan, or you can work straight from the bed.
The van we borrowed also had a solar panel that produced electricity, so we didn’t have to worry about our laptop running out of power unexpectedly. It was enough to park in a sunny place and we had energy for the whole day.
WHAT WE LIKED IN THE CAMPER VAN
We always wanted to try how we could handle such a trip and whether we could fit there. As everything is high for me and everything is small for my boyfriend. Such travel is a great experience, because now we know that if we started to make such a car, what would we do differently and what we need.
We really liked that we can look at the beautiful views or the sunrise from the bed. After hiking, we just went to the parking lot and we could immediately relax with fresh tea or cook food. This way we also managed to save money on food in restaurants, because we could cook “at home”. This also suits me very well because for food intolerances I can’t eat everything and I don’t have to bother with preparing food for the whole day.
If you are attracted to the reconstruction of a car or such a nomadic life, we definitely recommend trying it for a few days, maybe just like us with BeVan. Marek and Veronika (owners of this van) are really nice and helpful. And you will see if you are ready for it and you will experience a new adventure. ?
If you are interested in anything, or have more questions about how it works in such a campervan, let us know, we will be happy to add it here.
Tina & Matej
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