In October 2010, photographer Natalie Mayer, her partner David and their 2 year old son Fred hopped into their converted VW T5 bound for Morocco, Spain and Portugal for a seven week road trip. She documented the trip on her camera, here is her photo-story.
“I’m Natalie, photographer, and mum to Fred, born May 2008. My partner is David, papa to Fred, English language teacher and casual adventurer!
In October 2010, we hopped into our very basically converted VW T5, bound for Morocco, Spain and Portugal, for a 7 week trip.
The van conversion consisted of a bed, some good quality 4 inch foam for a mattress to ensure our good night sleeps, beautifully carpeted walls and plenty of storage under the bed for clothes, food, and surfboards. No space for kitchen type stuff (cooking would have to be outdoors on a single stove).
For the most part we wanted to camp in the van, not rent rooms. This was perfect for Spain and Portugal. We felt a bit more wary in Morocco, and so rented a little house whilst we were there. Road side camping just did not seem as safe in Morocco.
Our son Fred was 2.5 at the time, the perfect age for being easily entertainable with only 2 toys to hand (a balance bike and a truck!). Imagine his excitement when other kids showed up with new toys!
Each night we would put Fred to sleep in the van, then we’d light the gas lamp, settle into our camp chairs, drink beers and chat to the other carpark dwellers. We didn’t feel the need to stay in any proper campsites – there is a lovely community of people touring the beach car parks of Spain and Portugal. Where there is surf there will be campers, is a pretty good rule.
Amazing food in the markets of Morocco. This whole meal probably cost no more than a couple of quids.
Who needs to spend £££ on hotels with views, when you can wake up to this from you own vehicle? There is no better feeling than opening the door of the van and letting the fresh morning air and sunlight rush in.
Fred watching Papa in the surf. Hopefully one day he’ll want to try it himself. I like to think we’ve given him a nice introduction to how much fun surfing is, and how much loveliness the pursuit of a sport can bring to your life.
I think Balance Bikes are the best thing ever. Because he’d already been playing on a balance bike since he was 2, Fred could ride a big boys bike without stabilisers with confidence at 3. They can also take the balance bikes to skateparks and play on the ramps… that is, if you can find a friendly skatepark that lets fearless 2 year olds run riot, with no regard for the big boys. Lucky kids get out of bed way earlier than big boys, so there is always the early morning sessions…
We were away for 7 weeks in total. In Morocco we got as far South as Asilah (not very far south). We had bad weather conditions and found that empty beaches and untouched waves were not all they are cracked up to be – I am a sissy and apparently actually prefer surfing with people around. We took the Ferry from Morocco into Spain, exploring the Spanish south coast en route to Portugal. Southern Spain was friendly, the surf was good but super small, and we had no problem finding places to camp. Portugal was our favourite place – a beautiful coastline, clean and rugged. There was a lovely community of people camping and touring in their vans, including plenty of people in vans with kids. Most of them had a bit more of a fancy set up than us, but for our relatively short trip we found we had everything we needed. There was only one time when it was raining so much we couldn’t cook outside. That was in Galicia in northern Spain. We drove around a bit and then magically found a disused shed, so we set up our kitchen in there for the night, with the van parked alongside. It was like having a home extension. It’s small stuff, but when you are living the simple life, lucky finds like that bring great joy!
I know there can be infinite amounts of things holding people back from taking long trips like this… if you have the time perhaps you don’t have the money… or perhaps the other way round. We are lucky to both work for ourselves and we have both always looked at planning our lives and our budgets to allow time for long trips abroad. We made it work financially by renting our place out whilst we were away (with all our stuff still in it, so at cheaper than the going rate, to someone we’d met online) and by bustin a gut working super hard through our busy summer season, with the aim of taking it easy in the winter.
We had no schedule, only that we wanted to reach Morocco, find nice waves to surf, and hopefully meet some nice new friends.
We travelled to Brazil the winter after this, renting a small fisherman’s cottage by the sea for 2 months. It was great, but nothing has come close to this awesome little road trip, just the 3 of us and the van, meeting lovely people, making the most of nature and living simple.”
See more of Natalie’s photography at nataliemayer.com