on traveling in a 1968 vw camper van, in scotland, in september, with a 3-month-old
A couple of months ago, we went on our very first family holiday with the Wrenster. For some reason, we thought it would be a good idea to take a 3-month-old baby in a 1968 VW camper van, in Scotland, in September, for an entire week. The foolhardiness of new parents and their eagerness to retain a shred of their old life is endearing, you must admit. How hard could it be, right?
The answer is… challenging. But not as challenging as you might think.
The van was, as you can see, the epitome of cool but not entirely functional — the fuel tank gauge changed whenever we turned the headlights on, which were more like two candlesticks in the wind, so we were never quite certain whether we had a quarter tank of gas or three-quarters of a tank. And the heater didn’t work, which meant that we spent the entire week with throws on our thighs and hats on our heads. But Wren was such a trooper. Even with the drafts coming in through the cracks in the back windows in the night, even though it rained 90 percent of the time, even with the violent thunderstorm that threatened to send our van bobbing down the lake and out to sea (or perhaps it felt particularly tempestuous because we were sleeping in a tin box), even though she was going through a major growth spurt, even though she had to drink her weight in milk to stay warm. I suppose it is these very characteristics – curiosity and tenacity – that got her through the week that will also get her through life.
Here is a little video of our trip and some of the things I learned, should you
be crazy enough fancy doing the same:
- Babies are tougher than you think. If you are a new parent, don’t wait too long to go on an adventure. You’ll realise it’s not as big or scary a thing as you make it out to be in your head.
- Don’t book a seat in the quiet carriage on the train if you have a baby.
- There’s only so far and fast you can go in a VW van.
- Don’t park the van on a football field unless you want to wake up to a few kids peering through your windows in the morning.
- Islay is a small island that feels big when you’re running it (according to my husband, who ran a marathon on the first weekend).
- Black pudding doesn’t taste good, no matter where you go in the world.
- Bagpipes are cool. Bagpipes are even cooler at the finish line of the world’s smallest (in attendance) marathon.
- You can camp almost anywhere in Scotland. Often for free.
- Lest you want to shit your pants, do not try to overtake in a VW van, even if the annoying person in front of you has been driving 30 miles per hour for the past hour.
- Open the air vents at night, otherwise you will have to mop up buckets of condensation in the morning.
- “It’s a different kind of camping, Joe” said the owner of the van hire company. And he was right.
- Vans may be made for rocking but certainly not for sleeping. We finally figured out that top and tailing was the way forward on the fourth night of our journey.
- Don’t over-pack i.e. leave the big-ass tripod at home (we never used it).
- Extra blankets, however, are a good thing to have in Scotland in September.
- People who ride sea-doos on a peaceful lake at dusk are not cool, they’re idiots. Go to Poole you fool and let the rest of us enjoy nature.
- Don’t expect to listen to music or chat over the ruckus of a VW engine.
- Wear a back brace if you’re over 30 – the suspension is about as good as a roller coaster ride.
- Bring your own coffee if you’re a coffee snob. The Scottish countryside isn’t particularly renowned for its excellent coffee.
- It feels like you are part of a clan when you’re traveling in a bitchin’ VW van. And it looks awesome on your Instagram feed.
- Make sure your battery is charged if you decide to go hiking and the only map of the area is on your phone and you have a baby strapped to your chest and you haven’t brought any food or water because you were only planning to go for a little walk. Before you know it, you’ll be hiking through a field with ferns up to your armpits and a husband saying “I’m fairly certain I saw a path somewhere in this vicinity right before my phone died.” Which means you may end up retracing your steps in awkward silence. And in those moments, there’s nothing like a baby who suddenly bursts out laughing for no apparent reason for the second time in her very short life to make everything alright with the world again.
- A sense of humour goes a long way — when traveling or parenting or in life in general.