Our van life adventure started four years ago when we gave up our house and moved into our van full-time, taking on a nomadic way of life.
When we first moved in to our van we had no idea where it would lead, we just knew we wanted something different from the routine nine to five; spending most of our money on bills and rent and only living for the weekend.
We’ve had some of the most amazing experiences and seen so much while living in our van. In 2016 we travelled for nine months across Europe & Morocco, visiting over ten different countries and again earlier this year when we spent six weeks on the road driving across Germany, Czech Republic & Austria.
Some of the things we’ve loved about van life over the last four years…
Volunteering abroad – Whilst travelling in our van through Portugal we quickly noticed the large number of stray dogs living on the streets, sometimes we would see them at night wandering in packs through the car parks we were staying in. It was heart-breaking to see how tired and hungry some of the dogs looked, we wanted to try and do something to help. We found an amazing charity based in Sesimbra called Bianca. Their volunteers work tirelessly to rescue dogs from harmful situations and rehabilitate them back to good health, spending time with each dog to help them feel safe around humans again to the point where they can be re-homed.
Volunteering with Bianca was such a wonderful experience. Not only did we get to groom and walk lots of lovely dogs but we also got to know local people and other international volunteers that we still keep in touch with today. Volunteering abroad is a fantastic way to get closer to a different culture and community, getting to see what people do day-to-day and even be involved with a local project like this gives you a much deeper insight and understanding of the place you’re visiting. It was great to do this in the van as it really opened up our options for where we could volunteer, having our own transport meant we could easily reach more rural places and also be very flexible with the hours we did.
Visiting an alternative community– One of the main things that has surprised us about living in the van is how we now feel more of a sense of community and connection with people than we did living in a house. This is something that we’ve increasingly come to care about as we’ve explored different ways of living, we’ve thought more about what our ideal community would look like.
We decided to seek out alternative communities while travelling abroad and found Beneficio in the south of Spain. Nestled in the valleys of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Andalucia, Beneficio is a rural retreat where you are taken far away from the bustle and materialism of modern life.
You can read our full post on our visit to Beneficio here. Like every community Beneficio has it’s positives and negatives but we loved spending time here and learning about the ways people have created their own alternative society, celebrating nature, creativity and togetherness.
Festivals and van ‘gatherings’ in the UK – Van life isn’t just about being abroad, some of our best most memorable experiences of being in the van have been here in the UK. We’d always enjoyed going to music festivals before moving in to the van but now this is an even bigger part of our lives. Going to a festival in the van is a completely different experience…not only is it awesome having all your home comforts at the festival site with you but you also get to meet so many more people when you’re part of the van community.
In general we’ve found that people who own vans tend to have a lot of appreciation for other vans and are always interested to see different van builds. We’ve gone to festivals where we’ve spent most of the weekend just exchanging van tours with people who were passing by. We love this way of meeting people as you already have the shared interest of van love and seeking an alternative lifestyle.
Not only have we enjoyed being part of this community at music festivals but also gatherings at ancient sites like Avebury Rings and Stonehenge for the solstice and equinox celebrations. Parking up on the ridgeways and droves during these celebrations makes us feel connected to long-standing traditions that belong to travellers and nomads. It’s in these places that we feel we really belong, like we’re truly welcome and can take a break from feeling like we’re on the fringes of society. Parking up here for only one or two nights at a time has definitely been a highlight of the last few years – sharing the changing seasons, sitting around campfires, cooking food together and playing music.
As we reflect on the last four years we’ve also been thinking about the ways in which van life has changed us…
We feel like we’re constantly learning from this lifestyle, not only in practical terms with things like being self-sufficient but also about ourselves and what makes us happy. We get asked so many questions about how we live and why we chose to live this way it has encouraged us to think more about different ways of living and what it is that’s driven us away from the conventional bricks and mortar.
Even though there are certain fundamental needs that we all have when it comes to shelter, privacy, relationships etc…we’ve learnt that there are lots of different ways of fulfilling these needs and this differs from person to person. There are certainly trade-offs when it comes to living in a van, obviously it isn’t as convenient having to keep an eye on how much water you’re using and it’s a bit colder in the van during the winter than it is in a house, but to us these are only small adjustments to make when the upside includes things like waking up in the middle of a forest or a mountain range.
We understand that we’re in the privileged position of having good health and not having any major responsibilities that would make it harder to live in a van, we’re also aware that it might not suit us forever, but for now it still suits us perfectly and we have no plans to change our lifestyle any time soon.
We love being able to share our experiences and help other people to become part of this community by building van conversions. We have a few interesting van builds coming up over the next year and also plans for trips around the UK – we still haven’t made it to Scotland or Ireland in our van!
Thanks so much to everyone who has supported and encouraged us along the way over the last few years, it really means a lot to us.