Any of you that follow me on Pinterest will know that I’ve been doing some serious vanlife pinning of late. I’m well and truly hooked, if I ever do return to the UK (which is open to debate at the moment) I’d love to buy a van, convert it myself into a comfy and chic hideaway, and head off to explore Europe with just a dog and my kindle for company to live the vanlife. And I’m not the only one who’s fallen in love with the idea of this nomadic way of life. It seems that almost everyday a new vanlife themed account opens on Instagram. Search #vanlife, or check out my Pinterest board below and see for yourself. I defy you not to be inspired to hit the open road, even if only for a holiday.
Living in vans is definitely not a new thing, but it certainly feels like it’s become way more mainstream than it ever was. To try and get an insight into why this lifestyle has gained popularity, I spoke to India Jane & Alpine Joe from the beautiful Mon Petite Cafe blog about their experience of vanlife.
What attracted you to the van life?
We were bored with the traditional notion that you have to exist within bricks and mortar. Or that they afford you financial security. We have always loved to travel and thought about alternate ways of living such as on a narrowboat. But this shifted all the limitations of a traditional house and just moved them onto the water. Ultimately, a van provides a greater opportunity to see and experience more places and meet so many interesting people.
Has van life been as you expected? If not, in what way is it different to how you imagined?
Yes. The reality is that it’s no different to a house except it’s a lot smaller. Imagine an Ikea flat; it has everything you need, just in a smaller space. The bonus is you’re completely mobile. You appreciate that you may not always have access to mains electricity but we’ve found that amazingly rewarding. We’re so much more guarded in our use of resources (water, electricity, gas). We’ve learned to not rely on sites or dedicated areas for vans. Having wild camped (boondocked) for all but 3 days in the last 11 months. We tried to draw up a list of pros and cons. But failed because we couldn’t populate a cons list.
Where have you travelled to in your van?
We’ve done some 11,000 miles having criss-crossed mainland UK. Driven the entire coast of Wales and around the Isle of Anglesey and the whole of East Anglia, Devon, Cornwall, Dorset, Somerset, Shropshire to name but a few. However, there’s still so much more to see, discover and explore. We’ve not needed to stray into mainland Europe yet.
What has been the most difficult aspect of van life? How have you overcome it?
Possibly, what do you do when (because there will be a time) your home has to go into the garage. This is where you live. You tend to be more careful about how you drive it, where you park it and how you look after it. It’s a mechanical object so is subject to all the wear and tear, potential breakdowns and other aspects that can and will affect any vehicle. We’ve been incredibly lucky in as much that on the TWO occasions our home has had to go into the garage, we’ve been offered a place to stay. However, on both occasions serendipitously, things have happened which have allowed us to experience new places and adventures, and we’ve not needed to take up the offer of somewhere to stay. Try and get yourselves a good support network. People who are willing and able to help if you need it.
What do you love the most about living in a van?
The list is endless. The opportunities you get presented with. We’ve been given classic yachts to use as our own home. And Al can’t even sail yet! How does that happen? Meeting amazing people and hearing about and learning from their experiences. Recovering enormous amounts of time which we would have squandered on stupid things like TV or worrying about what time to leave in order to miss the traffic only to be thinking about the return journey within an hour of arriving on your precious day out. Seeing new places as and when we want. If we like a place we stay, if we don’t we find somewhere else. Being far more receptive to opportunities.
How have you coped with the cold weather?
We started in the midst of winter with the gas for the fire running out the very first night. Talk about a steep learning curve. The van is amazingly cosy. It’s well insulated and the living space has double glazing. We have segregated it into 3 distinct temperature zones. The cab is the coldest and can be at -4 or -5 Celsius. Whilst the galley area will be at +8 Celsius and the sleeping area can simultaneously be at +25 – +30 Celsius. The gas fire quickly warms the living area up and a 15 Tog Duvet will keep you warm whilst you sleep. If you really feel the cold, just head south.
Do you have any words of wisdom for anyone considering the van life?
Be open to change. Life is the journey. People will constantly surprise and amaze you in the best possible way. Most of the stuff you regard as essential, you will soon find, isn’t. Don’t worry about what other people think about you and your choice of abode. You are not travellers, you travel. Don’t be intimidated into conforming, and don’t let people dissuade you if van life is something you really want to try. Give it a go. What are you waiting for?