Before you start reading I’d like to mention that I wrote this piece for people who live in the Netherlands. Many tips that I have are specifically for people who live in this country. However I do believe that a fair amount of advice can be used around the globe. I hope this post can help you on your way towards a living style that suits you.
Years ago I was considering how and where I would like to live. I considered a tiny house on wheels, anti-squat, renting, buying, etc. A tiny house appealed to me the most, but the construction costs, construction time and uncertainty where you could put it next were points that held me back. When I realized one day that campsites actually have everything I was looking for in a living environment, I decided to live in a touring caravan.
By now more than 3.5 years have passed and I still live in my caravan. During that period I traveled through Europe for 10 months with my house, but the rest of the time I “just” lived in the Netherlands. About every six months I move to a different spot. I am looking for a place that meets my requirements and is as close as possible to my employer.
Because I have so much experience with this lifestyle by now and more and more people are interested in it, I thought it would be a good idea to list all my tips. Let me start by saying that living in a caravan is not for everyone. Many people who come to visit experience my living environment as claustrophobic.
Unless you already own a caravan, your first step will be to buy a caravan. Points to consider are; age, brand and layout. The newer the caravan is, the better it is insulated. Everything after 2000 is a lot better than before. The lifespan of the furniture is generally better with the caravans of more expensive brands. My 2002 caravan has been used for years on a seasonal site and I have now lived permanently in the caravan for over 3.5 years. The interior is still in almost the same condition as when I bought it. Except for the tweaks I’ve made to make it more to my liking. You can read what I have done over the years in this blog.
The layout of the caravan naturally depends on your situation and taste. For me, the size of the kitchen (as large as possible) was important and the spaciousness. I am very happy with the decor I found; French bed, toilet and washbasin in the back, which can be closed with a sliding door and blinds. A small four-person sitting area that can be converted into a bed and next to it the kitchen. But what makes the space especially pleasant is the large skylight that lets in a lot of light. If you are not yet familiar with caravans, like I was when I started, I can recommend that you just go and see a number of caravans at a dealer. Find out what really matters to you and then focus on that during your purchasing search.
Once you have purchased the caravan, you of course want to start living in it. I can strongly recommend that you start in the spring or summer. Rain, cold and wind are the most challenging to deal with. I started in June and gave myself all the space to discover if this life really suited me. If I didn’t like it, I would just sell the caravan again and look for another solution. Because the weather changes slowly, you can get used to the lower temperatures. I still find the cold and wet period the most challenging, but I can cope with it mentally and physically.
Find a place
When I start looking for a campsite in a new area, my search starts on google maps. Usually I search for mini campsites or farm campsites. On their website I look at what a stay there costs and what the additional costs are (internet, electricity, shower, hot water). Some campsites have a seasonal rate or a monthly rate. These are often a lot cheaper than campsites where only a daily price is charged. But it doesn’t hurt to ask them if they also have a long stay rate. If you have found something that appeals to you, I can strongly advise you to drop by without notice. Usually I first walk around to see what the atmosphere is like. Sometimes they already see that you are not a guest and they come up to have a chat.
I make sure I look neat and explain that I am looking for a place for a longer period of time. Tell them that I have a job and that their campsite is a good base. I try to make sure that I appear in such a way that I can pay properly and that I behave properly and do not cause any nuisance. Sometimes campsite owners are hesitant because they have had bad experiences before. That’s why I want to ask; Behave, keep to your agreements and leave a good impression. This way this community will not get a bad name. When I really wanted to stay at a specific campsite, but they didn’t want to stay for a long time due to bad experiences, I agreed with them that I would first come for three weeks. If I didn’t like it I would just leave. I ended up staying there for a few months.
To be able to move from place to place, you obviously need a car with a towbar, although I have also seen help being called in to move the caravan. For me it was important that I can do everything alone. When purchasing my caravan, I paid attention to the weight of the caravan and also to the total weight in combination with the car. If this weight falls below 3500 kg, you can drive with only your B driving license.
Another challenge that we as people with an alternative lifestyle have to deal with is registering in a municipality and receiving mail. I was able to solve it by registering with my parents. They own their own home, so it has no influence on allowances. If important mail comes in, I hear it from them, but luckily you get more and more mail digitally these days. The few things I still own are also stored with my parents.
In the winter, living in a caravan can sometimes feel a bit more like survival. In my opinion, having good heating is essential. I have two types of heating that I use depending on the situation at the campsite. I have a gas heater with ring heating (tubing through which the warm air is blown) and an electric mini radiator. At campsites where I have to pay separately for the use of electricity, I use the electric heater as little as possible. I only turn it on at night when it starts to freeze to prevent frost damage. The gas heater is always turned off at night. For safety, but also because otherwise it would get too hot for me. I am now used to sleeping at temperatures around 5 degrees. If the gas heater is continuously on, it can quickly reach 25 degrees during the night, unfortunately there is no thermostat.
When selecting a campsite for the winter it can be useful to pay attention to the mention of heated sanitary facilities. Being naked in low temperatures isn’t for everyone, although you can get used to it too. I also try to pay attention to which spot I choose. Protected from the west wind if possible. But what is more important to me is to have the awning in the sun as much as possible. Even in the middle of winter it can get nice and warm in the awning if the sun is on it. The caravan also benefits from this, so you don’t have to heat as much or not at all during the day.
Finally, I can strongly recommend having an awning attached to the caravan, at least in winter. You can leave wet clothes, shoes and the like there and keep the caravan dry. You also lose the heat from the caravan less quickly when walking in and out. I myself opted for a partial tent. This one is lighter and I can set up better on my own than those big things.
Below I have added a list of all the campsites that are open in winter. The campsites all offer space for campers and/or caravans. I will try to keep this list up to date.
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