The joy of caravan travel has driven its way into William Maera’s heart, and how! This Irish adventure traveller has been to 81 countries so far, many of which were explored on his ‘home on wheels’. With countless stories packed in his bag and many tricks accumulated over the years, this camper-van enthusiast reveals more about this form of slow travelling. By Bayar Jain
1. Caravan travel is an upcoming trend in India. How would you describe it to people who don’t know about it?
Caravan travel gives you all the comforts of having a home with everything you need as you explore the world. You don’t need to constantly change accommodations, or unpack and repack over and over again. You get the convenience of changing where you live every single day. Don’t like your neighbours? No worries; start the ignition! Don’t like the view? Hit the mountains or the coast. As long as you have a way to work remotely and keep the money coming in, you can live cheaply, freely and explore the world every day.
2. What are the various things one needs to keep in mind while planning a caravan trip?
The most important thing to consider is location. You want to make sure you can stay somewhere that allows you to do basic things like showering and having access to clean water. You’d want to keep you and your vehicle safe. While this differs in various parts of the world, in India—where caravan camping isn’t as established—I’d definitely recommend doing your homework beforehand and marking out a route. When setting up Caravan Chronicles in 2018 with fellow travel bloggers, Ankita Kumar and Rohith Subramanian, a lot of the sites we camped at didn’t have any caravans pull up or were new glamping businesses eager to work with us to get the word out.
Another thing to keep in mind is your content list. It’s nice to have some comforts of home, but not bring the entire home with you. It’s about living a more minimalistic lifestyle, keeping to the fundamentals, and allowing yourself to create more space for living. This also helps lower the weight of your vehicle to save on fuel costs.
3. As a caravan traveller yourself, what would you say are the biggest advantages and disadvantages of vacationing this way?
Once you have your caravan built, the biggest savings is the accommodation. You can stay in some of the most beautiful places where hotels are usually expensive without having to pay anything. You can also stay in absolutely stunning places far from the reaches of humanity, and camp hundreds of kilometres away from a living soul. The next advantage is the social side of it. Many times, you could have a friend join you on a trip for a few days or you’ll be able to bring new comrades you meet on the road. It’s a great way to get to know someone.
The main disadvantage is that you need to put in a little bit of hard work in cooking your own food, constructing your bed, ensuring your vehicle is taken care of and planning out your journeys in a manner that you don’t run out of food, water and other essential supplies. It’s crucial to keep your caravan clean and organised.
4. Being on the road for hours, especially alone, can be mentally draining. How do you deal with this?
I find comfort in isolation. Besides, I always meet people, especially when travelling in a caravan. People are fascinated about it as a style of life and always approach me to figure out how I did it, what were the costs, and what they need to do to get started. The hardest part is actually parting ways with people that I make very deep connections with. I made friends around the world that I know I may not meet again, and that’s the hard part. You just have to learn to keep moving forward.
5. Which has been your favourite caravan trip?
Without a doubt, my first. I’ll never forget it! I learnt all the right things to do and all the things to avoid at all costs. I’ve been fascinated by India for years and getting to explore it once more but in a caravan was amazing. It was also amazing to witness how people got fascinated to see me travel this way. The trip gave me the opportunity to meet some hugely interesting people whom I would have not met otherwise, such as nature conservationists, academicians and massive influencers. This allowed me to create a series of content around the fascinating characters I met along the way. Having the freedom to explore the remotest parts of India gave me a unique insight into the country’s diverse cultures.
6. While exploring India, did you discover any hidden gems?
We stayed at a place called Hingaara- The Nature Stay, which you must visit! The level of knowledge the owner had on biodiversity was astounding. We learnt about local religions, witch doctors, species of insects, traditional dances, and linguistics and education unique to the area (Guddekeri, Karnataka). I nearly cried while leaving! The place stole my heart. They treated me like family, and I would love to return one day to spend more time with my Indian family.
7. The longest road trip you’ve ever embarked on?
The magic of caravanning is that–the longest road journey I undertook wasn’t actually that long! When travelling in a caravan, you don’t need to drive for huge distances. You can park wherever you want, take your time, and live your life at a slower pace. My greatest memories on the road are usually when things go wrong and I am forced to come up with creative solutions. In India, my giant orange 1980’s Matador school bus-converted caravan often attracted the cops. They wanted to cause us issues. However, I’ve always been fond of a little negotiation from time to time. I think, for the most part, they just wanted to pop in for a little ride along the way, and they often did too!
8. A must-visit route for travellers, according to you?
It has to be Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, a coastal road that runs along the whole west coast. It has enormous cliffs, small country towns, and small festivals. You are met with culture, great food, beautiful beaches and warm smiles everywhere you go. The rolling green fields, rounded blooming mountains, and windy roads make you feel like you are travelling through the set of The Lord of the Rings. It’s so damn romantic! However, I recommend this only for summer months as winter in Ireland is dreary. If Ireland is too far away, explore the tea plantations near Wayanad. When in Wayanad, it doesn’t matter where you are going since every corner is filled with beauty right around the bend.
9. What steps do you take to be more sustainable while on-the-go?
Leave all the plastic at home. Avoid straws and packaging, and consider buying everything loose when shopping. This way you are keeping your camp clean wherever you go. It broke my heart to see so much plastic waste everywhere in India. Having said that, it really makes me smile seeing the younger generation looking at ways to reduce, reuse and recycle materials.
Another thing you can do is opt for a vehicle that is low on emissions and is efficient on fuel consumption. This keeps your carbon footprint low.
10. Your next caravan adventure?
I recently managed to get my hands on a giant ambulance that I am planning to convert into my biggest ‘home on wheels’ yet. The walls are already insulated, it has a lot of electrical wiring, and because it was designed to accommodate standing emergency medical staff, I will be able to stand up inside it while I cook. This will also give me additional storage space. I will begin building and styling this vehicle from March, and people will be able to follow the progress through my Instagram page. Once completed, it will be able to sleep up to four people and will come complete with a shower, toilet, kitchen and external racks to support bikes and surfboards. The crowning feature will be a rooftop deck where I will be able to have BBQs, DJ decks, and host outdoor parties for friends.