After working and saving all the money she could in her home country, Australia, Hayley and her partner packed their bags, flew to the United Kingdom and bought a camper van. For the next year, they are driving through Europe – exploring paths that are often not seen by travelers or tourists alike. Hayley, has a passion for photography that enables her to capture places in a dream-like fashion. Without a clear end in sight, Hayley and her partner continue their intrepid drive through the European countryside, stopping where their hearts, and necessities desire.
Hello! My name's Hayley (also known as Haylsa). Currently I am writing this from a small village in Scotland, whilst spending some time with family before I hit the road again. I travelled over to the UK from my home country, Australia, almost a year ago, and have visited over 10 countries thus far. What interests me most about travel is the unknown. The unknown of who you could meet and where you might end up on a new day. It’s the biggest learning curve and I cannot find anything more exciting or exhilarating.
How does photography influence the way you travel and see the world around you?
Everything I look at, I see with a photographer's eye. What time of day offers the best light? From where should we stand for a different viewpoint? It drives me to find spots that are off the beaten track and away from the crowds. It also has me up for a lot of sunrises and in carefully chosen spots for sunsets - both times that make any location look more inviting. This way you also beat the crowds, and usually leaves you with the whole place to yourself.
What sparked your interest to travel to throughout Europe in the back of a camper van? Are you traveling by yourself or with others?
I always knew I wanted to travel Europe, but doing it in a camper van only crossed my mind when our close friends, Naomi and Jared, started traveling this way. The idea of traveling on my own time and on my own path just seemed so much more unique and interesting than the usual public transport way of travel. For most of my travels, it’s just been my boyfriend Kyle and I. We travelled with Naomi and Jared for a few months also, which was awesome because we were one big convoy, driving through Morocco.
How did you prepare and plan for your trip? Did you have you a specific route?
It’s kind of funny now that I look back on it. We hardly prepared. I mean we did the hard work, saved, and applied for a 2-year UK working visa; but apart from that we literally just winged it. Thankfully we had most of Kyle’s family to stay with in Scotland when we first arrived. They helped us out heaps in purchasing the van and getting prepared for hitting the road. We had a basic route plan but nothing set in stone. We wanted to take it as it goes, at our own pace. It sure has taken us on some spontaneous routes!
How have your travel experiences together so far impacted your relationship? Any particularly memorable moments?
Travel is the best way to test your relationship, trust me! You know what they say, “it either makes or breaks you". There have definitely been times where it has been close to breaking, but those moments end up making your relationship stronger. I mean we must be made for each other if we can spend every waking moment together in a small space of a van and navigate our way through Europe in one piece, together!
There have also been several memorable moments! My favourite moments in the van have to be driving through Morocco in search of the Sahara. It’s definitely another world out there! That experience was extremely unique and authentic for us. We met a man along the way who showed us immense generosity and trust. After knowing us for only a couple of minutes, he invited us into his home, that was covered head to toe with the most beautiful, bright handmade rugs all made carefully by the women in his family. They had no electricity and only lived off the basic necessities. He offered us food and showered us with traditional gifts. I was literally brought to tears of joy and humbleness; it was a moment that I will never forget.
Travel has a tendency to look very glamourous, though that is not always the case. What types of challenges have you had during your life on the road as a long-term traveller and how did you overcome them?
Oh boy did I quickly learn that it wasn’t the case. Especially when you are free camping in a campervan on the side of a road. It is quiet the opposite of glamorous - trust me! Some nights can be quiet stressful as we would end up driving around for hours looking for a safe spot to park up the night. There has been too many times where we have parked on the side of a busy street only to have cars driving past every minute keeping us awake. One night we had a group of drunken guys try open our van, which instantly woke me up in a major fright. We both just lay there hoping they would go away. They ended up rocking the van back and forth, obviously trying to scare us, and had a drunken laugh amongst themselves. After they got bored and left, we quickly packed up and did the same. You could say we are now much more careful and decisive as to where we park and sleep.
What are three of the most important items you carry with you on the road?
- A camera of course! I wouldn’t be writing this here if it wasn’t for my camera and the photos it has allowed me to take.
- Definitely my phone. How could I share my photos over Instagram without it? These two things are my most vital. It may sound a bit lame but I wouldn’t be getting the same opportunities without them.
- The last is probably my Birkenstocks. I never really wear anything but! They are the most comfortable and practical travel shoes no doubt! If you don’t already have a pair, get onto it!
Of all the images you captured throughout your travels, which would you say is your favorite? Why?
I thought I would share the story behind this photo (see image above) because it didn’t come quiet as easy as it may look. Usually to get to this cave you have to take a tour by boat with a group of other tourists. Being someone who loves taking unique images, sharing my photo with 20 other travelers was just not good enough! We asked about and were told there was no other way there and to swim out wasn’t allowed. So we thought the only way around this is to come back early morning, when no one was around and before any of the boat tours started, and swim out. Luckily I had a waterproof case for my camera, which we had perched up on a small bogey board whilst we swam. The water was freezing and it was too early for any kind of light to brighten up the water. It was all worthwhile in the end! We got some amazing images and had the whole cave to ourselves.
What has surprised you most about your experience?
The price of petrol! What really surprised me though was traveling through Italy. The country is so run down! The roads were the worst we have ever driven on and also the most littered! I’m sure for most people who fly into Italy probably don’t get to see the parts of the country that we would see driving through it. We must have seen about 50 hookers on the side of the road outside Venice, all with a van with a bed ready to go as soon as anybody would pull up. It was not a pretty site!
What recommendations can you share for future travelers interested in exploring areas in Europe that are not jam-packed with other tourists?
- Calanques National Park is my absolute favourite! Be prepared to get your hiking shoes on though if you want to see some of the most spectacular beaches. It’s also a great place to cliff jump and snorkel.
- Plitvice and Krka National Parks are amazing. Make sure you stick around for late afternoon when most the crowds have disappeared.
- Lake Braies in the Dolomites of Italy. It is up there with my favourite spot in Europe. I would go back in a heartbeat.
- Durdle Door in Dorset on the Jurassic Coast, in the south of England. This place surprised me more than anything. Such a beautiful and peaceful landscape.
- I’ve just recently travelled to Greece and absolutely loved every single part of it. It had the best beaches and water I’ve ever swum in! It is unbelievable!
- Bengail beach in the Algarve, where the famous sea cave is.
- Cathedrals beach in the North of Spain – although I think we got lucky at low tide time. It ended up being right at sundown when most families had left with their kids, so it was quiet.
- D’en Vau beach in Calanques National Park
What advice do you have for individuals that travel in a similar way, but don’t know how to start?
Do your research! If I had done more I would have saved myself a lot of stress. Take a read at my ‘ultimate guide to traveling in a campervan’ blog post to gather some good advice if you plan on traveling Europe in a campervan. Also, work and save hard - because money will start to rapidly leave your bank account. The more money the further you can get!
What's next for you?
We have big plans ahead! In 2 weeks we hit the road again for 4 months starting with Amsterdam. We plan on spending 3 weeks in Norway hiking and photographing the Fjords. After Norway we make our way through eastern Europe ending up in Croatia for sail Croatia. This time round we have more of a plan though and have managed to book a few exciting things. After sail Croatia we head up to Munich for Oktoberfest. We are not sure when we will be coming back to the UK, hopefully around November.
To see more of Hayley's photography and stories, be sure to follow her @haylsa on Instagram, and check out her blog here.
Images Courtesy of Hayley Andersen
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