7 months on…

Its been 7 months that Babu and I, have been living full time in our VW camper van!
It actually feels a lot longer than that, not in a bad way, but because I feel so comfortable living this lifestyle. Not once have I missed my old apartment, nor do I regret my decision to give up #houselife.

I could never of imagined how easy the transition to full-timing in a camper van would be. It really isn’t that much different to living in a small apartment or bedsit, albeit with a few little inconveniences.
The obvious inconvenience is not having a toilet or shower onboard my vessel. I try to find parking spots where I know I have those facilities close by, especially toilets incase I get a sudden urge! At night I use a piss bottle instead of venturing outside in the cold, and in the mornings I empty the bottle into a public toilet. Swimming or showering on the beach when its cold and windy sucks, but it wakes me up in the mornings and I feel clean and revitalised!
Preparing and cooking food in a small space, is another small inconvenience. I must sit on the end of my bed either crossed legged directly in front of the cooker worktop, or sit with my feet on the floor and my upper body twisted left facing the cooker. Neither position is practical for long (Im getting old!), but fortunately my dinners are quick and simple to prepare. Washing dirty kitchenware puts my body into these awkward positions too, which is a slow process of boiling water, scrubbing kitchenware with soap, and rinsing with clean water, all done carefully in a tiny sink so I dont splash everywhere.
I could opt to cook outside on a small gas stove, or even wash dishes in a bucket? But I manage fine inside the camper and I paid a premium to have a fitted kitchen, so Im gonna use it.

The sad truth is, the only thing I miss most about #houselife, is wifi. Yes, I am an internet junkie! During my 7 months off-grid, Ive gone from 3, to 5, and now 8GB’s of internet per month on my iPhone, and its still not enough. But at 29 euros a month, its the only bill I have to pay and staying online keeps me sane. (A special thanks to Kim’s bar for letting me charge my laptop and use their wifi, whilst I eat the best English breakfasts in town!).image

An interesting self-discovery from my short time living outside, is my lack of care concerning what other people may think of my vandwelling. I quite happily lounge around inside the van with the sliding door open or the back door raised, even though people walk past looking in.
Its very normal in Gran Canaria, to see the locals with vans or motorhomes, setting up camps, cooking and eating outside, lounging around half naked in their swimwear all day. They are very comfortable with themselves and I envy that coming from a country of prudes.
At night, Im completely aware that with my interior lights on, passersby (or voyeurs!) can see quite clearly through my thin curtains. It does not bother me at all and I do not feel overexposed, although why anyone would want to watch me pick my nose…?

Van life and living outside has definitely made me less self conscious, (as worrying about what others think is hardwired into my British DNA). Im much more relaxed now, stoked with my lifestyle choice, and Im not embarrassed by my washing hanging out to dry in public (although I do find secluded areas, always with the best views).image

But just because I personally feel more liberated by my lifestyle choices, does not mean I will forget my manners, disturb my neighbours with loud music, or go out looking scruffy or smelly (at least I hope Im not stinking?).

I will continue to be the polite young man that my parents molded, respect the people around me, and keep my campsites clean. I might be less self-conscious, but I still have a good conscience, and that pays dividends.

DIY: Starter troubleshooting

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Body origami !!

So today I got my man-mode on and decided to have a go at mechanics.
Ive had consistent problems starting my camper since a few months now. I would get the ignition click sounds once turning the key, but the engine would not start? It would usually take 5 or 6 attempts of turning the ignition off and on again before the engine kicked in.
Being as Ive already spent over 1500€ on maintenance (I had a new distribution kit and cam-belt installed, new brake pads, new leisure battery, oil change and new filter), I was determined to try fixing the problem myself, to learn about van mechanics and save money.
After a couple of months monitoring the problem and reading possible fixes on various websites, I finally got my act together and got my hands dirty!

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The old starter switch on the left, the new switch, and the precision screwdriver.

First up was checking the cables and wires from the battery terminals. I found no loose connections, nor rust, so skipped to the next cheapest solution: the starter switch.
I have read heaps of stories of guys trying to replace the starter switch and although it would appear a simple fix, its actually a titan job worthy of an award if you succeed!
Basically, there is one tiny little screw behind the ignition barrel that is so freakin hard to get to, that you have to contort your whole body underneath the steering column and then have the nimblest of fingers to use the tinniest of screwdrivers to get that ‘Devil Screw’ out!
Luckily I have a set of precision screwdrivers (god knows why??), that just fit into the recess and into the screw. Obviously the owner before me has tried having a go at it too, as the thread was slightly worn so it wouldn’t budge. So after 20 minutes trying, I hammered at the screw, and it loosened enough for me to get it out!
So I popped in the new starter switch that I bought from the VW shop for 40 euros, put all the wiring back together, turned the key in the ignition and…..nothing?!?

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The tinniest little screw in the most awkward of places!

My last hope of sorting out the starter issue (before resorting to changing the very expensive starter motor!), was change the starter battery. Fortunately I bought an extra battery a month ago with the intention of doubling up my solar power storage, which was still sitting idly in the boot of my van (I need more tools for that job and Im waiting on a friend for help, look out Kurt!).

The new battery is a little bit more potent than the existing 2 year old starter battery, so after checking online if that was OK, in it went and….my van started in nano seconds, repeatedly!!!

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New battery installed.

Its not over yet though. Now I have to keep an eye on the battery performance, incase theres a wiring problem somewhere that may be draining juice?
I have a leisure battery that is charged by the running motor AND the solar panel, with a regulator thats supposed to stop juice being sucked out from the starter battery (in theory). The leisure battery powers the fridge, my iGadgets and interior LED lights, but maybe somewhere there is a wiring fault thats screwing things up? Time will tell?

Anyways, this was my first venture getting into the mechanics of my van (my only other experiences were changing tires on past motors!).
Im really hoping this is the fix I needed, as I have far more important things to do, like chilling on the beach!

Babu time!


Its time Babu, my furbaby, got an update about his life living in a van!
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So far I believe he is happy? Its been 6 months since we started living inside the van, and he has adapted brilliantly. He never wanders away from the van, knows not to run into the roads, whimpers on the odd occasion at night when he wants to go out to pee, and knows his bed is the swivel front passenger chair (although he mostly snuggles up to me all night, my doggy body warmer).
He is also aware of giving us space, usually seeking his own spot on the far corner of the sofa bed. Im quite happy having him close by, which has surprised me as I thought maybe spending 24 hours together might be too much? But he is my little boy, and Im so used to always having him around that its odd if he’s not with me. That is maybe the only drawback to living the van life with a dog, as I cannot leave him alone in the vehicle, especially here with our year long sunshine. I have left him a couple of times, parked in the shade with the windows open and a bowl of water whilst Ive gone to the toilet, shop or doctors. As leaving him alone longer than that is not an option, I will have to think about a job where Babu can come with me, or…we can work together (but more about that in a later post).

One thing for sure is that Babu does not enjoy traveling in the van as much as he did on the motorbike, which is a shame.
Before, Babu would get really excited the moment he knew we were going for a trip on the motorbike. I would get out the rucksack that he would travel in, and he would get out his pink lipstick, lol! He knew the correct way to get into the rucksack, pop his head out of the top and sit quietly. He would enjoy the rides with the wind blowing into his face and the people pointing.
Now we only drive the van. He seems fine with it, knows to sit in his chair, but I thought he would love sticking his head out of the window like all dogs? He does get excited however, after Ive spoken on the phone to someone and start prepping the van to leave, as he knows we are going to see friends!

Its been just over one year that I adopted Babu. Quite a lot has changed in his personality, and likewise Ive changed too.
When I first took this little stranger on, he was a quiet dog. He immediately accepted me as his pack leader and followed me everywhere (literally everywhere, even to the toilet!).
He has always been comfortable sitting with me, but grumbled a little if I got my face close to his, and snapped at me if I tried to take his toy or go near him whilst he ate. He was already 2 years old when I adopted him, so I have no idea of his previous living situation or treatment? What was obvious though, was that I had to teach him some discipline before he ripped my face off!
Unfortunately one night in a bar (probably 3 months after adopting him), a female friend was dog-sitting Babu, and he snapped at a guys face who ended up having six stitches on his chin! Luckily I know the guy, who said he wasn’t in Babu’s face(?), so I paid half of his medical bill.
Today, Babu is still not 100% trustworthy, but he has won over everyones hearts (even the chin guy rubs his head, albeit at a distance). Babu still grumbles at times, but only when people go to touch him. Im guessing he just doesn’t want people handling him, which is fair play. But let him off his lead to wander around and he’s as good as gold.
Some friends originally suggested I take Babu to dog school, to tame his grumbles. But I see it as a perfectly natural instinct for any animal who is approached by someone, friend or foe, to give a little grumble warning to leave them be? I just warn people beforehand that he’s grumbly and keep my eye on him.
Now with me, he’s totally different than before. Now I can rub my face into his neck when we play or cuddle, take his toys, or go to his food bowl whilst he eats without him snapping at me. Infact, hes totally submissive with me, although being a mix breed Terrier, he still likes to try his luck and occasionally attempts to do his own thing.

Which brings me to walk time. Babu is fantastic on or off lead. On lead, he walks by my side and never pulls. Off lead, he generally saunters 3 meters behind me, sniffing and peeing on everything! I call him to catch up, and he slowly at his own pace, joins me. This is when the Terrier kicks in, as he hears me, but he will never rush to join my side, so on goes the dog lead and game over for Babu.
At night, we break the law, coz thats how we roll! Its forbidden to have dogs on most of the beaches here, but so many people ignore this and take their furballs out at night for some exercise. This is the only time that Babu runs, and boy he is fast! For such a lazy dog, its a joy to see him sprint along the beach, jumping over rocks, going wild! By day you would think he was an old dog, but at night he’s like a young pup, acting his real age.
He is still not interested in swimming in the sea or getting wet though. Half of me is gutted because I would love to swim with Babu and teach him to surf, although the other part of me is happy to keep our van dry and clean of sand.

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One of the things I am most proud of is Babu sitting on the wall next to the beach, whilst I go for my daily morning swim/bath in the sea. I will dump my bag with my clothes for him to guard, tell him to sit and stay, and I get 5 to 10 minutes of swim time. He always sits patiently on the wall looking out at me in the sea, whilst passing tourists snap his photo (Ive thought about putting a little hat next to him for doggy donations!). Babu knows that he gets breakfast after my swim, so he gets his prize for staying on the wall.

Babu still hasnt made any firm doggie friends yet, although Im not giving up. My best friend Miki, has 2 dogs, one large bitch and a small dog about Babu’s size. They know each other well enough now, but they are quite excitable when we go visit and Babu is the exact opposite, wanting to chill out, so he snaps at them to bugger off! After bottom sniffing and grumblings, they all relax around our feet whilst we drink fizzy pop!
I have thought about getting another dog so that Babu has a playmate, but its not really practical. I can carry Babu in one hand and shopping in the other, take him onboard flights if need be, find last minute dog sitters, there is only one passenger seat in the front of the van, and Im not working so the extra vet costs would add up. A few of my friends also think Babu may not take to having a sibling, as he is very much my dog and may be jealous to the point of being unfriendly? Anyways, I already have my partner in crime and plus one for going out, so why complicate matters?

Babu continues to bring new joy to my life and he has made living in a van more fun. Having him around keeps me company, and he has proved to be a good alarm dog, barking at strange noises in the night (if he can be bothered!).
I look forward to years of hanging out and traveling with my little buddy.

Again like always, I thank Louise Baker from PetpalsGC, for bringing Babu and me together. He is the best thing thats happened to me in a long time.

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2016, it happened ten days ago!?!

imageHola! Its time I published a written post. The last few weeks I have only posted photos, but it was the silly season, so I was busy baking cakes, buying presents for loved ones, and decorating my van, not!
I dont really celebrate Christmas, but I do enjoy the festive lunches with friends, and look forward to my present from me to myself (this year I got a brand new iPhone 5S Plus, yay me!).
Some may be sad to hear that I did not decorate the van, but I decided that that money was better spent on festive boozing with my buddies instead of shiny tinsel.

On the night of Christmas Eve, keeping within the Spanish tradition of eating with family and friends, a bunch of us boys made a BBQ feast in our parking spot. Along with way too much meat, we had roasted peppers and potatoes, all washed down with plenty of booze and guitar playing.

Christmas day, I drove two buddies to a fantastic Chinese restaurant, where we pigged out on good food on the outside terrace in the sun. The rest of the day was spent visiting friends in various bars, and drinking copious amounts of the fun stuff!

Boxing day, I Skype’d my parents back in the UK. My brother and my two young nieces were over for lunch, so I got a quick view of them before they ran off to play with their new toys. I was using the wifi from a bar close to where we always park, so gave the folks a live view of our beach and our sunny “winter” weather.

After a few days of no booze and healthy eating, New Years Eve arrived, which I celebrated at a friends house. A Spanish tradition to score good luck for the coming year, is to eat one grape for every 12 gongs of the bell preceding midnight (the luck comes from not choking on a gob full of fruit!). I ate all 12 grapes like a seasoned pro.

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A little festive road trip to a hidden dog friendly beach, and Germains catch of the day, freshly harpooned squid.

Did I make any new years resolutions? No, not really, as I always repeat the same ones each year…keep fit, eat healthy, read books, explore the island, be happy, and dont talk to strangers unless they have sweets!

Goals? To get more ink, sing whilst playing guitar, make money without working full time, get healthier.

Trips? UK to visit family and friends, Australia for a besties wedding (my health permitting?), and Boom festival in Portugal, to dance and realign my soul.

I have a feeling that this year will be just as awesome as last year, albeit without the ill health I suffered in 2015 with that nasty meningitis (although I did not let that experience ruin my year. Infact it woke me up to follow my dreams).
This year, like every other, is about meeting new people, making new friends, and grabbing opportunities to explore and hopefully find some work in different environments, (little comes to those who stick to their pack or stay in their comfort zones).

Apart from that, Im super happy with my life right now, as I pretty much have everything I have always wanted (my van, my dog, my lifestyle choice, my friends, the islands fantastic weather), but theres always space for new tech gadgets, lol!

So from Babu and myself, we hope all of our friends and followers of this blog, have a super awesome 2016, with heaps of good health, happiness, outdoor adventures, and booze (as everyone knows all good stories started with an alcoholic beverage!).

 

Van buddy!

Meet Germain, my new van buddy and neighbour. His home is an 1994 VW T4 which he has kitted out with a bed, curtains, and a camping gas cooker. He is originally from mainland Spain, and arrived in Gran Canaria 3 weeks ago to look for employment.

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Germain is brilliant at playing Spanish guitar, and having him around has prompted me to pick up my guitar more often. We spend most nights jamming, eating good food and drinking red wine.

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Its great having a van buddy around, as we can both look out for each other and our vehicles (although its very safe here). Basecamp is in a quiet carpark in San Agustin, which is next to a beautiful beach with showers and toilets, yay!

Babu seems to like Germain too, every morning he takes a whizz on his van wheels. Owned!

Update: German’s girlfriend is arriving beginning of April, so they are both going to live in an apartment together. Thats my van neighbour gone, but now I have the opportunity to score hot showers and washing, lol!

 

 

Passed vehicle inspection!

imageJust a quick post to say that my VW California passed its vehicle  inspection today, so Im good to drive on the roads for another year, phew!

Having problems starting the van as of two weeks. Not sure if its me draining the battery charging my gadgets, or its the starter motor? Vans going into service next week to find the problem (and charge me a small fortune in the process!). But its my home on wheels, so gotta be done and Im OK with that.

Dinner time! Peace

Babu is 3 years old today!

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Happy birthday Babu!

One year ago today, I collected a small black furball that had been rescued from the dog pound by PetpalsGC. From a bunch of photos I had seen on facebook, I chose to foster this little guy in the hope that he was the right dog for me. Turns out he is everything I could of asked for and more, so I promptly adopted him.

Becoming a dog-dad is one of the best life changes I have ever made. Theres nothing like being greeted by a happy fur face in the mornings, or running around together on the beach at nights, or cuddling up on the bed feeling his little heart beating.
Hes my boy, my companion, and my plus-one when I go out to bars or restaurants. He is a good listener, never interrupts me, knows when to give me space, and watches my bag when I swim every morning in the sea.

Babu rocks my world, and Im so lucky to have him!

However, if it was not for the hard work and caring heart of Louise Baker from PetpalGC, I would not have today my best buddy, Babu.
Please consider as a birthday/xmas gift for Babu, a donation to PetpalsGC, so that they can continue to rescue other dogs that were once owned and loved, but later neglected, or beaten, or used for sport and then dumped like garbage in the middle of nowhere.
The dogs who make it to the local pound only have 2 weeks to find a home, otherwise they are put to sleep. By making a donation, PetpalsGC can rescue some dogs from death row and find them foster or forever homes here in Gran Canaria, or even abroad!
Donations are also needed to help treat or medicate broken dogs that have been injured or are suffering illness.
Every penny helps, and you could save a dog or cat that needs a home!

Donate Paypal: petpalsgc@gmail.com
La Caixa, Spanish account: 2100 6003 00 0200131820
UK bank: Nationwide 070116 40349444

Thank you, woof!