As a beauty editor, I’ve been utterly spoilt when it comes to travel perks. Until I had this job, I never knew airport lounges existed, let alone turned left on a plane.
If you Google the best hotels in London, I could give you an in-depth rating of their choice of bedding and you’d be hard-pressed to find a country estate within 50 miles of London that I haven’t visited.
Despite all this luxury in what I like to call my ‘fake life’, my happiest place for a weekend getaway will forever and always involve bundling my friends into my Fiat 500 and heading straight down the A22 towards Eastbourne with Bon Jovi’s Always blaring out the speakers.
We’re not headed for a private member’s club or a wellness retreat, we’re going straight to our happy place, aka my parent’s caravan at Norman’s Bay.
It wasn’t always this way, however. When my mum and dad first bought their static van, I remember feeling embarrassed. I’d never been on a caravan holiday as a child. I was terrified by the idea of communal showers. Why couldn’t they buy a holiday home in Europe instead of Eastbourne?
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The first time my friends and I made the drive down was mainly because we wanted some privacy. We all still lived at home at the time and were reliant on a 'free house' if we wanted to spend the weekend together.
That was years ago and despite the fact we all have our own homes now, our caravan getaways have continued to be the highlight of my summer.
The first thing we do when we get down there is head to the big Asda to stock up on food that Gwyneth Paltrow would most definitely not approve of. Then we head to the caravan car park, fill a trolley with our shopping and drag it over the pebbles and across the dewy grass until we reach our plot.
As soon as I open that door and see the terracotta seating and yellow-tinged walls, I feel at home. For me, the caravan gives me the same feeling of comfort that I can only imagine travelling back to the ‘90s would. Oh, and it does have its own shower (you just can’t bend down in it).
Wifi doesn’t exist there, along with 5 or even 4G. The small scale of everything makes life seem simpler. Over the years we’ve packed less and less and I always come away from the weekend wondering why I own so much stuff.
Rather than scrolling on our phones, sharing TikTok videos with the group, we play games. It started off with Scrabble but over the years more have been added.
A moody tower of wooden ‘Jenga’ blocks, Dream Phone – a genuine ‘90s relic that I rebought on eBay – Uno and of course, our favourite card game: Monopoly Deal.
When else would you feel zero guilt at doing nothing but attempting to collect three sets of properties for four hours straight? That’s the beauty of the caravan, time just moves differently there.
Of course, we do also leave the paper-thin walls, pack up the cool box and the Finding Nemo bodyboards and walk the five-minute trail to the pebble-stone beach.
Even in a heatwave, it’s never busy. There’s just enough going on to give you conversation topics. Whether that’s the elderly lady throwing her walking stick on the pebbles as she heads for an afternoon dip or the novice paddle boarder who Chumbawamba would be proud of.
I could (and do) sit and stare at that horizon for hours. Waiting for the one solitary seal to make his appearance or just daydreaming with my newly quieted mind that can no longer feel guilt over the many WhatsApps I’m now physically unable to reply to, thanks to the lack of internet.
When the wind picks up and our towels start to make their way around our shoulders, we walk back. While at home we’d most likely order a takeaway, at the caravan we cook together. Taking it in turns to set the table and do the washing up. Tasks that seem less tiresome when there is nothing else to distract you.
We’ve been coming here for so long that it’s now where my friends who are summer babies choose to spend their birthdays. The running joke now is that it’s probably where we’ll spend our 40ths.
It’s not just us who love it either. My niece and nephew who are three and six are just as obsessed. I think to them it must feel like the ultimate playhouse. My niece Lyra even takes it in turns to bring her soft toys because "they’ve never been to the caravan before."
So, while I’ll never not be grateful for all the perks that my ‘fake life’ brings, the caravan will always be the place I choose to unwind.