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I Tried Living In A Van For Five Days And It Was Nothing Like #VanLife

Who knew fresh air and wide open spaces were so good for you!

If you're anything like me, come December 1 you are done with the year. There's a bit too much of everything: work, commuting, drinks, food, and family. It may be sunny outside, but you've got no energy to play.

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Rather than sit on the couch all weekend and mainline season 3 of Outlander, like I usually do when I need to relax, I got the hell out. Out of the city (Sydney), leaving work far far behind. At least for five days.

I decided to fly to South Australia, find a brightly coloured van to hire, and get me some #VanLife. It looks nice on Instagram. So many fashionable, beautiful people lying on beaches. Surely that would rejuvenate the spirit? Take the stress down a notch?

I've never been to South Australia, but it has so many things I love: wine, wide open spaces, beaches, wilderness, a city renowned for fabulous food and art. So I set an itinerary:

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Adelaide to Coorong National Park (183km)

Coorong to Robe (151km)

Robe to Mount Gambier (125km)

Mount Gambier to Mount Lofty (426km)

Mount Lofty to Adelaide (19km)

The weather forecast on the day I departed Adelaide was overcast, with winds... gusting to a lot a of wind. The temperature for the week was forecast to hit a high of 20 degrees with lows between 10-13 degrees. 😬

My goal: to find out if #VanLife is a breeze or a burden. Is it the stress release I've been longing for?

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- I have to drive more than 100km per day.

- I have to sleep in the van each night, and prepare at least one meal in the van per day.

- I have to upload a photo from my trip to Instagram each day.

- I must try to relax.

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Driving

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Look at this sleek beast. Only in the wine country of Langhorne Creek, South Australia is this beauty, elsewhere know as the Jucy Condo, camouflaged.

This van is kitted out to sleep four. At 4.7m long it was probably unnecessary for a solo trip but come bed time I was pretty darn exited about all the leg-spread room.

It's a lot higher then your standard sedan. I typically drive a small hatchback in the city, so the step up is a change but the height and weight of the van makes driving slow justified.

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The van is a diesel automatic and gets along nicely at around 100 kmph. Ideal for cruising along the long, flat country roads of South Australia.

It rents for approximately $AUD210 per day during peak season (summer months, December - January). But if you downsize to a smaller vehicle expect to pay between $AUD110 - $AUD160 a day.

Other companies offer van hire for between $AUD69 per day to $AUD120 per day for a similar sized vehicle to my van.

Sleeping

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The set up of the "double" bed is really easy, the seat simply pulls out and drops down. Blinds keeps it dark-ish at night, and the duvet and sheets provided are comfortable and warm.

If you're a couple and one of you is over six foot prepare to snuggle or sleep strategically. There's a shelf that extends the bottom bed by another half metre so aim your feet at that and hope for the best.

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The best thing about this set up is that you can awake next to the ocean or the bush, lift the back door, and take in the view and fresh air while still in bed.

Trust me when I say it is damn relaxing.

I parked some nights in designated camping spots -- like the Coorong National Park -- and others in camp parks, like the Big 4 in Robe, which is right next to the beach. The good thing about the camp parks (which may charge you $AUD35-45 per night for a powered or unpowered camp spot) is that you can use the SHOWERS! There's nothing like a swim or a hot shower after a day on the road.

Cooking

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By the end of day one I realised simple is best when it comes to food and meals. I opted for a cold breakfast each day (think cereal, fruit, yogurt etc). Plus coffee.

The "kitchen" has two gas hobs, a small fridge, and basic cooking utensils: 1 x frying pan, 1 x pot, 2 x mugs, 2 x glasses, plates, cutlery, and a toaster.

Lunch was my meal out each day (fyi, the Caledonian Inn in Robe serves crayfish ceviche!)

Dinner = one-pot wonders. My recipe for the second night is a keeper.

Boil two potatoes and let cool. Sauté a miscellaneous selection of vegetables -- onion, red pepper, broccolini -- in a little butter. Add potato. Mush together. Add spinach and tinned tuna. Eat.

So in other words, forget about preparing elaborate multi-course meals. You're better to spend more time outside admiring the view anyway. But if you're planning to light a "cosy" fire at your camping spot, think twice. It's fire season in South Australia late November - April, and fire bans are in place.

Struggling

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Look, van life is not always glamorous. Without a hair dryer I let the elements do their thing, and by the third day my hair was a bird's nest. By the fifth it was a solid mass.

Hair troubles aside, there are a few other things to consider before you hit the open road. You need to plan ahead. While the distances aren't great on this trip it pays to keep an eye on the fuel gauge. Fill up the van (approx $AUD65) when you hit a town so you don't get caught out in remote parts of the state.

And make the most of the fridge. If you're keen to camp in the national parks you should take all the food, water and beverages you need. There's not always a cafe on the corner for your morning coffee fix!

(And don't forget to take the rubbish away with you).

Living

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My version of #VanLife was basically glorified camping. Basic food, simple pleasures, lots of wide open spaces, and rolling with what ever the weather threw at me.

I chose places that weren't heavily populated and the isolation was just what I needed. If you're looking for a holiday that includes restaurants, wine bars, and nightlife then head to Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide etc.

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If you're after awe-inspiring landscapes, sitting for hours on a beach, and finding time to read a book, then short-term #VanLife in South Australia is definitely for you. It's relaxing if you make the decision to slow down.

Instagramming

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There were so many stunning landscape scenes on this drive, I was spoilt for choice. But when we talk about Instagramming we're also talking about coverage. Aside from Coorong National Park (where phone coverage was patchy) I had 4G coverage at every location. Instagram your heart out, this part of Australia has the INTERNET!

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Driving this size van took some getting used to but once I got out of the city and onto the country roads it was a breeze.

For me the ideal distance was around 150km per day... anything more started to feel like a chore, rather than a holiday.

Living in the van is totally doable for a short amount of time, but I'd recommend stopping off at a camp park or two. Hot showers are great.

I set out on this trip a little strung out after a long year living and working in the city, and spending far too many hours looking at a computer screen. After a mere five days I felt lighter again. I love the open spaces Australia has to offer, the bush and flat, endless landscape doesn't scare me like it may do for others, it inspires. So if that sounds like you, book a van. Instragram your journey, or don't. Just make sure you slow down and savour the view.

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Travel was provided by Tourism Australia. Camera equipment supported by Canon. BuzzFeed writers do not guarantee coverage.

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