(Spoiler alert: The true story you’re about to read contains a lot of poo and pee.)
Once upon a time, there was a married couple who went camping with their three children. On one of the mornings, pretty much like any other morning, the mother grabbed a cover, some wet wipes and a nappy in order to change their baby boy. Since the space in the campervan was limited, she always changed the boy on their bed.
Her experienced nose could already tell that there was some poo in his nappy. Opening the nappy confirmed her suspicion. Not only was there poo inside, there was an unbelievable amount of poo.
“Ooooh, baby!” cried the mother trying to wipe him clean. “What have you done? This is a horrific amount of poo!” Little did she know what horrors were yet to come.
Just as she was opening a clean nappy, more poo started coming out of the tiny human. She watched in shock as the liquidy poo spilled over the cover.
“It was lucky I put this cover down first,” the mother thought. She cleaned the baby again and pulled out the soiled cover from underneath him, so that she could put a clean nappy on.
At that exact moment, the baby started pooing again. This time, there was no cover underneath him, just a white sheet, which was now white no more.
“Nooooo, baby!” screamed the mother. “That’s horrible!”
As she struggled to move the baby to the other side of the bed without getting the rest of the sheet, the baby or herself covered in poo, she felt something warm on her leg. “What is this?” she jumped, surprised.
What it was, was the baby peeing on the sheet, the bed, the mother and on himself.
“Noooo!” the desperate mother screamed again.
She wiped the baby yet again, about to put the clean nappy on, before taking the baby for a shower.
She wasn’t quick enough, though. The baby was going for it again, peeing all over the place, and the mother found herself instinctively and unsuccessfully trying to stop the stream with some wet wipes. It only ended up with pee on her hands.
The mother looked at the baby, depleted. Surrounded by a poopy nappy, poopy cover, poopy wet wipes and a poopy sheet (which also had pee on it now), the baby was lying there, smiling happily, kicking his chubby little legs, glistening with pee.
The mother looked at the mayhem around her, at her own pee-covered legs and hands, and then back at her angel and said: “What the hell, baby? Not cool! Not cool at all.”
But she was sure that the baby thought it was at least a little bit cool.
Molly first made a puppet out of a poo bag and some toilet paper. She named the puppet Milica and proceeded to call herself Raquel.
Then she attempted to make a kite out of a plastic container and some sticks. Unsurprisingly, that didn’t turn out so well.
On a parking lot in Villach we saw a middle aged couple kissing passionately which was very sweet. Then they both drove off in separate family cars. Jay exclaimed in shock: “They be cheatin’!”
Villach brewery has awful waitress who hate the world and walk around with permanently annoyed faces. They received zero tips from Jay.
The beer was good.
Molly was shocked by the explicit depiction of the Passion of Christ. She couldn’t understand why there was blood on Jesus’s knees when there were no nails stuck there. Thankfully that was her only question for now.
I need to read more about how to talk about the Bible with the kids so that I don’t traumatise them too early on.
“You waste so much time on things with zero value,” says Jay after I spent at least an hour (probably more) checking out Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook. I wholeheartedly agree. And I don’t have a problem with it tonight.
We spent the day in the Walderlebnisland. I guess it could be described as some sort of an amusement park.
It includes a wooden walkway 25 meters up in the trees, a wooden labyrinth, a balancing track with wooden obstacles and various other random things made of wood. There’s a lot of wood there.
We saw only one kid screaming with pain while her mum was trying to take a thorn out of her finger with a pair of tweezers. The other two kids were just crying silently.
-I’m angry at Benny because he was laughing at me like this: “Ha, ha! Ha, ha!”
-Why was he laughing at you?
-I don’t know! Maybe he was laughing! I don’t know if he was actually laughing!
Molly likes being angry. Even if means being angry at made up things.
Pirate party at the campsite. Neither of our kids speak enough German to understand what’s going on but they excitedly take part anyway.
I hope that curious and self-confident part of them always stays present.
-Benny, why don’t you stand closer to the park maskote so I can take a proper photo?
-No! It’s always boring standing next to a fox!
How many times did our son stand next to a fox feeling bored? More importantly, where was I on those occasions?!
Rainy days in a campervan are best spent in a bigger town. We’ll be driving to Villach.
It’s supposed to rain the whole day tomorrow. According to a weather app, it will start raining at 8:30. I love how specific that is.
(Now that I wrote this down, I’m not even sure it’s true. I might have made this information about the app up. I’ll let you know at 8:29 tomorrow. I’ll be standing outside under my umbrella, just in case.)
I asked Molly and Benny how they’d spend their holidays if they could do absolutely anything they wanted.
Molly said she’d want to go to a museum where you can “go in a man’s mouth and then walk through his whole body and come out of his bum-bum like kaka”.
Benny said he’d like to go to Lidl.
I think we can make all Benny’s wishes come true.
“Teaching” her brother play UNO, Molly made him pick four cards up and then said: “That’s not good, Benny. You’re losing.”
He wasn’t really into playing anymore after that. The shortest game of UNO ever.
Campsite Breznik on Turnersee: full of Austrian families with the same haircuts, regardless of the gender.
On the lake, I saw an elderly couple having a drink at the cafe. She was drinking an Aperol Spritz, he was having a beer. Between them sat their grandson, about nine years old, with glasses on, reading a proper, thick novel.
The three of them co-existed quietly, enjoying their silent time together.
Molly was helping me do the dishes. I told her I soap up a few plates and glasses first and then I rinse them off. It’s quicker that way.
“That’s OK”, she replied. “I’m not in a rush.”
That’s something to always keep in mind – when not in a proper rush, don’t rush.
“Dogs are not allowed ice-cream so we can maybe mash up some bones and make ice-cream out of bones for Klara?”
Molly’s genius idea – this time next year, we’ll be millionaires.
For a short second, I imagined what drowning in a lake would be like. Benny’s laughter pulled me back up to the surface.
With each meal at this campsite’s restaurant, you get free soup. It’s written in capital letters on the menu as a “Bonus!”. The waitress made sure to inform us of this incredible deal as well.
Since we ordered three meals between the four of us, we got three soups.
“Look at all this grass and flowers everywhere. Such a nice day,” said little grown-up Benny.
He also said “I want to live here” looking at an old and dirty caravan, though. His words probably carry little value.
We’re leaving tomorrow to go to the exciting land of Austria where we plan to hang out with the locals in their tiny villages, go to restaurants for the toilets and wash our dirty children in their cold lakes.
Planning the campervan trip to the smallest detail: check!
Getting mentally prepared to spontaneously change the plan completely: check!
Campervan mode: on!
See you in a couple of weeks, suckers!
We spent about 45 nights in our campervan with the kids so far. That’s a lot of nights in a tiny little space with two energetic children, but we’re getting better at it with practice. Obviously, the older the kids are, the more they enjoy it which makes it more pleasurable for everyone involved. This is a post about how we survive.
Traveling with a baby
Benny was just three months old when we slept in the van for the first time last year. Travelling with a baby is mostly easy since babies just need to:
I co-slept with Benny so he got sleep and cuddles in one. He also got constant cuddles during the day because I always had him attached to me in a baby carrier. The worst part was making bottles in the middle of the night. If you breastfeed, you’re pretty much ready to go right away. If you don’t breastfeed, I have a few suggestions on how to survive the night(s).
a) forget about sterilising.
If it’s your first baby, it’s pretty much impossible to forget about sterilising, I understand. Luckily, Benny’s my second so sterilising wasn’t at all on my mind after the first three months (or maybe sooner – I either forgot or I’m pretending to have forgotten because I’m afraid you’ll judge me). I have no idea how one could even sterilise the bottles in the campervan. If you really needed to do it, you could probably dip the bottles in a pot of boiling water? Or pack 25 already sterilised bottles?
b) use a flask.
I bought a steel vacuum flask in IKEA (mine was Kullar and I was very happy with it but any would do). Before sleep, I’d boil some water and mix it with some cold water so that the temperature in the flask was just slightly hotter than what Benny liked to drink. I’d fill the whole flask up even though I just needed a few ml so that the water didn’t cool down quickly. I’d put however many scoops of formula I needed into a baby formula container (which is, btw, the most useful thing ever) and prepare an empty sterilised bottle on which I marked with a black pen how much water I needed to put in. Then I’d take all those incredibly useful items “upstairs” to bed and go to sleep at 8 pm (on a crazy late evening). When Benny woke up in the middle of the night, I’d turn the low light on my phone on, fill the water from the flask up to the black line, plop in the baby formula, shake the bottle like a polaroid picture and feed the baby. I did the same during the day. Pack the flask, a bottle and some baby formula in the containers and we were ready for the whole day out!
c) I have no more suggestions.
Traveling with a crawling baby
This is the worse. Those crawling babies want to do a lot but they can’t do anything. Ours also couldn’t crawl properly, he just bum-shuffled. Obviously, crawling in the campervan is not a lot of fun so when we travelled with Benny at that stage, he spent a lot of time in the carrier, in the pram or in the car seat. Not ideal, but you need to keep the baby out of the way. There’s barely room for two adults and a (slightly) bigger sister to move around, having to jump over a baby causes a lot of stress. If the weather’s nice and you’re at a campsite, your baby will like you more. If it’s rainy and cold and you’re parked in a city centre, he’ll have to be bribed by food not to complain about being pretty much constantly strapped in. Also, Benny didn’t start walking until he was 17 months old. Luckily for him, we didn’t travel that much in winter.
Travelling with toddlers
This is the most fun. Sure, it’s exhausting, but having kids generally is, so I’ll skip the part in which I whine. Travelling with toddlers is fun because they’re easy to entertain and they can entertain themselves more easily. We have a few rules we always follow to keep things simple:
a) don’t expect the kids to walk a lot.
When we travel, we want to see a lot which means we have to walk a lot. We also have a dog which means we have to walk a lot. Also, we like walking. Molly likes walking but she gets too easily distracted. Benny likes walking but he’s not very good at it. Last year we had Benny in a pram and Molly on a step attached to it and we pushed them both around. It wasn’t ideal because Molly, understandably, got tired of standing. We also had a bike trailer with two seats which we used when on our bikes. This year we finally realised we could actually use the bike trailer as a pushchair. We kind of knew it already, but we stupidly never thought of doing it until about two weeks ago. This was a perfect solution. The kids were happy in the trailer, holding hands, chatting, singing, pulling each other’s hair and poking each other’s eyes out. And when we pulled the rain cover down, we could barely hear their screams.
b) always plan at least one activity for the kids.
Molly enjoys everything more if she knows what we’ll be doing and where we’re going in advance, so we always research about the town we’re going to beforehand to come up with an activity that’s fun for the kids. That way we wake up already knowing how we’re going to spend at least a part of the day. Of course, sometimes we’re creative and spontaneous so we change the plans depending on the mood, but some days we’re really exhausted and have no mental energy for proactive thinking. On some days we just go to a playground, on other days we go swimming, we visit a zoo, a museum or whatever else the town has to offer. The kids seem to enjoy all those things with pretty much same enthusiasm. The rest of the day we spend walking or cycling, eating (mostly ice-cream) and rushing back to the van for Benny nap.
c) pack clever toys.
I learned from experience only to pack toys that the kids can be creative with. This time we only had a box of Lego, a lot of paper and crayons, a pair of scissors and some glue, as well as a bag with about 10 “characters” (either Lego figures or small plastic figures we got at different places). All of the characters were animals and both kids loved creating stories with them. Whenever we sat down in a restaurant, I took out the bag of characters, they divided them between themselves (on good days) and played independently for ages (meaning about 10 minutes for Benny and up to half an hour for Molly). No one wanted to play with a small wooden elephant we got in the Augsburg Zoo. Just a warning. Don’t pack that guy again.
We also had tablets and books with us for some “quiet” time. I packed a few sticker books because Molly used to love those, but neither kids were interested. Fine. More fun for mama.
d) pack some washing powder.
Our kids get incredibly dirty incredibly quickly. I packed a lot of clothes and we went through all of them in a week. Using a launderette can be a lot of fun for the kids as well and while the clothes are washing/drying you can grab some breakfast and hang out with the locals. I guess I should say: pack light, but if your kids are like our kids, don’t pack light because you’ll be washing clothes every three days.
e) stick with the sleeping routine.
Or the kids will destroy you when you get back home. I’m in the process of learning that the hard way.
For those jealous of our holiday, I’m just going to leave this photo here.
These types of hysterical situations are very common, we just don’t photograph them because we a) need to calm things down while they’re happening (six time a day at least), b) want to forget and pretend like they never happened.
We’ve been on the road with our campervan for 9 days now. We started off without a plan and we’re still driving around without a plan. This plan-less wandering has taken us to some very nice and some less nice places about which I might or might not write some other time.
At this exact moment the kids are asleep and I’m sitting outside the van with my feet in my husband’s lap and a cold Pale Ale in my hand and I felt like writing for a bit. So here we go.
We’re in Neumannshof. Check the map, it’s in the middle of nowhere. To get here from Bayreuth we drove through tiny villages, down really narrow roads and through gorgeous landscapes.
We chose this campsite because it’s on a lake so we assumed we could swim and cycle around it. We did neither. It’s impossible to cycle anywhere unless you’re into mountain biking and going uphill forever. We’re not. Also, even though the campsite’s on the lake, there’s no beach and you can’t really walk around it either. So there’s that.
We pretty much spent two days just playing in front of the campervan, destroying the already run-down playground and drinking beer in the evenings. Our baby phone has quite a reach so yesterday we had a beer on the restaurant terrace. The evening was lovely, the beer not so much.
All in all, unless you’re in the neighbourhood or have absolutely no expectations except sitting in front of the van and sleeping, this campsite’s not really worth the drive. That being said, we’ll remember it fondly because the kids were full of energy but really well behaved and I slept until 10 am so I was reasonably well behaved as well. I guess those are the most important things anyway.
Driving in the campervan with kids would be amazing if our destination was exactly three minutes drive away.
Three minutes is how long Molly can wait before she starts asking if we’re there yet and then screaming because we’re obviously not. On repeat.