You’ll be amazed by the work this couple did on their self-build campervan whilst on the road in Andalucia, Spain

We traveled southern Spain with Jay & Renée who are in the middle of converting their Portuguese registered 1993 Nissan Trade van.

Perfect camping spot near the Hundidero Cave.

Our approach to building a motorhome and taking it travelling was very much slow and cautious. We took our time getting everything about the build perfect and saving up a target amount of money before even thinking about setting off on our adventure. So when we met Jay and Renée who had bought their van whilst traveling in Portugal and were converting it on the road, our eyes were opened to an entirely different way of living out the dream.

Jay and Renée have already done their fair share of travelling, funding their adventures by doing things like working in hostels, bars and campsites, busking and even selling handmade soap! They seized the opportunity when they found a van for sale in Portugal that was in budget and despite a few visits to the garage for electrical related issues, they’re well on their way to making it a comfy home on wheels.


We first met near Silves whilst having a day cooling off in one of the lakes (see our post on Portugal’s barragems for more) and got chatting about vans. When we met they’d lined their van with tung and groove, laid OSB to the shape of the floor and had started gathering materials for building a kitchen, cupboards and a bed. It’s amazing how much they’d been able to salvage from people they’d met and places they’d stayed!


We ended up travelling and working on their van together for just under three weeks, in which time we built bed boxes with hinged lids for storage and the frame for their kitchen with a worktop and windowsill.


We stayed in quiet spots up in the mountains near Montejaque and Ronda where there also happened to be a free music festival going on.


We have a pretty big toolkit on-board as we want to be able to fix anything that could go wrong with our conversion from anywhere in Europe, so between our two vans we had plenty of tools to work with. It was particularly useful having our mini workmate which we keep stored in one of our bed boxes.


We really enjoyed the opportunity to do some more wood-working and DIY, particularly with hand tools, as our build was mostly done with the luxury of power tools. There was something very satisfying about seeing the build come together with all the work being done hand.

Doesn’t get much wilder than this camping spot near Istan

It was really good fun working together out in the sun, swapping ideas and trying out different techniques and solutions to what we’d used in our build. It was quite a departure from the cold dark workshop where we did our conversion in the UK!


Our time together wasn’t all work and no play. At one of our camping spots we were in walking distance from the idyllic Lake Concepcion near Istan, where we went swimming.



At another spot we found the Cueva del Hundidero, part of the incredible Gato-Hundidero System where prehistoric artifacts and paintings have been found.

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Dee and Jay also spent some time recording guitar on Cubase and he taught her loads about sound editing. Thanks Jay! 🙂


We can’t write this post without talking about Mimi. Mimi is Jay and Renée’s gorgeous little dog who we totally fell in love with.


They found Mimi homeless on the streets in Portugal, covered in ticks and fleas. After a trip to the vets and lots of love and care Mimi is now healthy and happy living with Jay and Renée. The vet said Mimi is probably around ten years old but to look at her you’d think she’s a puppy. We couldn’t get over how relaxed she is about travelling and how loyal she is to Jay and Renée despite only having been with them a short time. Spending time with Mimi has definitely been a highlight of travelling so far.


We said goodbye to Jay, Renée & Mimi in Orgiva where we’d been together to visit the Beneficio community (post to come soon…). They headed West to Portugal where they’d arranged to do some work on a couples house and we went East to Barcelona for Club Primavera festival. We’re sure we’ll see each other again somewhere along the road.

Parked up at the entrance to Beneficio

Meeting Jay and Renée made us realise that you don’t necessarily have to spend a long time planning and preparing to make your dreams happen. It’s so easy to put off doing something big and life changing and make excuses for why now isn’t the right time but really the most important thing is just doing it. They’re living proof that it’s possible.

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