Trying to launch a landscape photography career with a new born baby may sound pretty exciting, but it can be quite tricky. When you've not slept much all night, trying to get up for a dawn shoot is futile. When she needs to be fed & changed every three hours, there's a lot of car-bound nappy changes, and breast-feeding in car parks! We weren't really getting off to such a flying start, so we finally decided to get the camper van we've been wanting for years in the hope that it would make adventures and photography a bit more likely!
One advantage of being up all night feeding a baby is the hours of research you can put in to something without sitting at your desk all day. The sleep deprivation can play funny tricks on you though, when you realise you must've booked flights during the night for you, your husband and your baby to go collect a Mazda Bongo from Newcastle, England next week!
Getting up at 4am for the flight wasn't too much of a problem, as we weren't getting too much sleep anyway, and Esme was just fine on the plane (apparently if you feed them, they don't get sore ears!) Alex from Minicampers North East picked us up at the airport, and took us out for a spin in our potential new camper. It was great, with a full side conversion, and room for 4 to sleep and drive, so we decided to take the plunge. Just as well really since we'd no flight booked to get home, just a ferry from the other side of the country!
It has proved really great so far in trying to juggle baby and photography - Aaron spills out of the camper at dawn, we join him if we've slept, but stay put if it's been a sleepless night. It has tinted windows, so there's privacy for feeding. It's pretty roomy in the back, the passenger seat turns around, and there is a table and lots of counter space, so changing nappies isn't as cramped as the car. And when the weather is too bad to have the baby out, we can still have a nice picnic lunch in some nice scenery, without feeling like we're stuck in the car. The roof lifts, which allows you to get all the baby paraphernalia out of the way when you are stopped, and we got an Eberspacher space heater fitted, so it's nice and warm for her, even when it's frosty outside.
We have her sleeping in a pop-up bassinet on the counter beside us, which works out well, every one has plenty of room. We had been worried that the 93cm bed wouldn't be wide enough for the two of us, but it's actually fine. Before we got the heater, Esme was in between us as it was too cold to have her in the bassinet. That was pretty challenging, space-wise, especially as she flailed her arms around most of the night, punching us in the face! When she is too big for the bassinet, there should be room for a travel cot on the front passenger seat, as it folds back to fully horizontal.
There's plenty of storage for water, food, nappies, sleeping bags, changes of clothes, outdoor gear and camera equipment in the various cupboards which keeps things much more organised than everything being thrown into the boot of the car. It means that at night, you can enjoy a nice cooked meal at a table, a game of scrabble and a movie, feeling like you are in a very small apartment, as opposed to a car drowning in all your stuff. We can now do long drives (to Connemara, or Scotland) without having her in the car for too long at a time, or having to pay out a fortune in accommodation.
We'll still be in our tent wild camping in the summer, but this allows us to go camping with a baby in the winter, and should make the summers go a bit smoother too, allowing us to get her feed and changed in relative comfort on the road, and giving a bit more shelter from the Irish weather which can take a turn for the worse, even in July!
So, if you're considering getting a mini-camper to keep up the adventuring now that kids have come along - I would very much recommend it!