I blame Pinterest for those unrealistic expectations.
My husband and I recently purchased a vintage, 1982 Windsor caravan with big dreams to renovate it ‘Pinterest style’ and then travel the country with the kids. When we first told people our plan, we were met with, “But you guys can’t even hang a picture frame!” (They are not wrong!) and “Oh man, we are so jealous, we have wanted to do that for ages!”
Apparently every 30-something parent with young kids has goals to own a caravan. It’s kind of like when you’re 20 and you dream of sunning yourself in Santorini while someone buys you free drinks, except the 32 year old version comes without the free drinks and Santorini is the Robe Caravan Park.
Ignoring the fact that my husband’s tool kit consists of an unopened packet of screwdrivers and some duct tape, we went ahead with the renovation and three months later we can proudly say that our resume now includes gutting, building, painting, sanding and most importantly decorating a caravan that is not only pretty to look at but is actually roadworthy and doesn’t even leak!
So what did I learn after our little three month challenge? Well, firstly, if I was on The Block I would 100% be cast as the villain. There would be montages of me yelling at Brad, mocking his inability to drill a hole or sometimes even hammer a nail correctly. Secondly, Brad is not handy. At all. I already knew this but I come from a family of three brothers and a dad who are all extremely handy so I have a false perception of men that they can all build barbecues from scratch. Thirdly, we learnt that any task that you think should take one hour will actually take six hours – or three and a half days if you have kids at your feet who insist on “helping”. Oh, and I have also become very reliant on YouTube tutorials. The one titled ‘What does asbestos look like?’ was extremely helpful!
It was hard work and the blood, sweat and tears were very literal but if anyone asks me if it was worth it my answer is a very confident yes. The communal 5:30am wakes ups do sting but for this stage of our life I couldn’t think of anything better than our very own home on wheels. It sure beats trying to settle a six month old on an 11-hour flight anyway!
Caravan DIY Do’s:
Buy within your DIY abilities. If you have the ability to rewire lighting and put in new brakes then by all means buy a complete fixer upper, but if like Brad and I your skill set relies on YouTube tutorials, make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. All the boring yet very integral things that make your van roadworthy can be extremely expensive to outsource.
When buying, check the walls for water damage. Water damage means leaks and leaks means a lot of time, money and silicone!
Check for asbestos. Most vintage caravans will have asbestos in some capacity whether it’s in the brake pads, wall panels or in the old vinyl floor tiles. Get in a professional first thing, it’s not something you want to be blasé about.
Listen to people’s advice but don’t let them completely influence you. If we had listened to everyone our van would be extremely convenient and conventional but we wouldn’t have all the little quirks that we love most about it now.
Don’t overlook the little details. Things like floorboards, cupboard handles and window dressings can make a huge difference to the overall vibe of your van. Practical doesn’t have to mean ugly.
Don’t style it all at once. Collect things along your journey from the places you visit so that your van starts telling a story.
Places we love:
Streaky Bay Foreshore Tourist Park
You can get powered sites right on the beach so you can wake up every morning and have coffee on the sand. It’s really family friendly and the pink sunsets are something everyone has to see.
Bimbi Park, Cape Otway
You have to go inland off the Great Ocean Road for this caravan park but it’s a great change from the beach. You are surrounded by the bushland and we had koalas coming right up to our front door!
If you are game enough to free camp, the Eyre Peninsula has lots of amazing spots including Fisheries Bay and Sheringa Beach. Both have places to camp your van right next to the beach and they are really secluded so you barely see another person while you’re there.