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Born Free

There was a new concept D and I were introduced to when we arrived in New Zealand - freedom camping.

I'm not sure why they're so technical about it because essentially it's just free camping but perhaps people are trying to be very clever about being cheap - 'It's not about the money. It's about the freedom. You know, being free from the constraints of an expensive campervan park."

Another buzz word was our 'self contained' vehicle. Self contained meaning everything you need is contained, inside, your van. Fridge. Shower. Toilet. Bed. Shelves. Microwave. And that means, you can just park anywhere.

Anywhere? I asked the hostel guy. 'Ya dude (as many hostel guys talk) you can totally just pull up anywhere in New Zealand and just park and just like..be..ya know.'

This was great! The cost of the daily rental of the van was cheaper than a nights accomodation and we'd be saving money on food because we could cook every night. It seemed like the perfect solution.

There is of course the cost of the diesel to run the car. And the gas to run the stove. And the heater. Which I can tell you, in September in New Zealand, you WILL need.

And there is of course yet another term we discovered, plugging in.

Plugging in is something you can only do in campervan parks, which you play the privilege to sleep amongst other campervans, making it feel less like the wild and more like a parking lot.

Nevertheless, plugging in had it benefits. It meant you could use their toilets, which you will soon learn that HAVING the toilet in the van is a great convenience. DUMPING it is another thing altogether.

You also have access to their showers, meaning you can always have a hot shower. This lesson I learned the hard way - the water is heated from the engine so you have hot water after you've been running the engine. Showering in the morning only produces cold water. Would have been useful to know BEFORE I lathered my hair with shampoo.

More importantly, you are able to use things that are PLUGGED IN. Such as the microwave. The kettle. The heater.

That's not to say there wasn't heat when we were 'freedom camping'. There was a gas heater, that you could run, at your expense due to the gas usage, for about 2 hours at a time maximum.

Some nights, I may have as well have been in a tent. On an air mattress. Without the condensation.

But none of this, of course, put us off the whole adventure. It was more just a learning experience, one which involved a new 'discovery' about the campervan every day.

Like you really should fill up the water every day. Cause even if you're not showering, you'll use it all up in one day. Thank god we stayed by a lake the first night.

And you really need to use the water hose provided at the dump stations. As appealing as it is to simping dump your waste throw the case back in the van, you really need to ensure it's EMPTIED. ENTIRELY EMPTIED. If not, you're van will begin to smell like a fart convention...or a teenage boys room.

And there are actually some places you can't park a van, like on soft ground. Cause all those glorious things inside the van that make it feel so homey weigh a gazillion pounds, which is enough to get you stuck. Thank god for friendly Kiwis and Aussies otherwise, I'm sure I'd still be stuck by the sea.

Although they were the coldest and sometimes scariest sleeps, the best ones were in the 'freedom camping' sites. Where you couldn't hear a sound. Except your breathing. Maybe the water crashing. And occasionally the psycho killer that was coming along the gravel to kill you. Or at least, that's what it sounded like at 3am.

But I missed the desolateness. The absolute quiet. And I began to loathe the sound of the campervan parks, with their plugging in perks and hot showers. It became a place I slept solidly but without the adventure. And with a lot more screaming children at 7 in the morning.

I'm happy to be back in a city, back with the buzz and hustle of people, back to the place I feel most comfortable, amongst people but still alone.

But I'm so glad I had the freedom experience. Although not at free as we had expected, it was way more economical than staying hostels and touring around on buses with adventure seeking 20 year olds who would have only made me feel like an old woman.

And when I'm grumbling about the state of a toilets in China or wondering where I'm going to eat, I will remember that at least I don't have to dump my own waste and that there's no need to jump up from my plate to get the dishes done before all the hot water is gone.

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