We recently asked if anyone had any questions for us about our experiences of living in our van over on Instagram. We got lots of questions so wanted to answer them in this post. I’ve grouped similar ones together for ease of reading.
What’s your favourite place you have been to?/Favourite spots?
Before we set off we wrote a big list of all the places we wanted to visit, most of which we still haven’t got to! We have found out quite a lot about ourselves and our style of travel over the past year. We like to travel slowly & intuitively. In the early days we would set out with a destination in mind and found so many amazing places on the way we ended up not reaching the destinations! So now we tend to just follow where we feel pulled to go and return often to spots we love. Going to new places all the time can be quite tiring for us, finding parking places does require a fair amount of research. Our favourite spots tend to be nestled in nature away from busy spots. Some of our favourite areas are Somerset, Norfolk, the Wye Valley, the Peak District and of course our beloved Fens.
How do you track/remember the lovely places you’ve seen and memories you make?
The advantage of travelling slowly gives us the opportunity to spend time getting to know a place quite well. Some places even start to feel a little like home and we revisit them, these places are most memorable. One of the reasons for keeping an Instagram account of our travels is as a record and it is nice to look back at often. We also mark each place we have visited onto our Google maps with notes and ratings too.
Any plans to visit Europe?
The thought of Winter sun is extremely tempting, Winter in the van has been challenging at times; our heater has failed and condensation and damp requires daily action. Plus there are so many amazing places in Europe that we’d love to see. Our goal just now though is to find a patch of land for us to be able to grow Wild Fen so our money and energy are geared towards that this year.
New Life versus Old Life
Did you ever think of going back to the ‘old life’
When we read this question, we both looked at each other and gave a clear ‘no’ to this one. There are definitely times when we have fantasised about life being a little easier, warmer or more certain but we haven’t missed the life we left behind, I think we were well and truly ready for something different.
Missing anything about your old life?/What do you miss about a bricks and mortar home?/Anything you miss about having more sq. footage?
We do miss a bath and this is always a lovely treat that we enjoy when we visit family! It is also hard to make roast potatoes in the van although we have mastered amazing potato rostis which are almost as enjoyable. The lack of space hasn’t been too difficult to adjust to personally but it is a challenge when it comes to our work. In the Summer we live and work outdoors as much as indoors so space isn’t much of an issue but packing big orders in the Winter can be chaotic! We manage and it is possible for the time being. The compromise of space gives us the ability to live very frugally and see amazing places but it isn’t our forever plan. We hope to find some land where we’d be able to build a workshop, grow our plants and create more space for ourselves.
Top 3 unexpected surprises – good or bad?
This question got us thinking for ages!
1. Most surprising is probably how tiring we find travelling to new places can be. Lots of research goes into finding parking spots that are quiet, flat, have internet and are within close enough distance to a post office so that we can work. We also need to be aware of where we can top up our water every 7-10 days, do our laundry and recycling wherever we go. We have found staying in familiar places between trips to new areas helps us find more balance with this so that we are not constantly researching.
2. A bad surprise is the amount of rubbish we encounter everywhere we go, we litter pick on a daily basis and have to account for finding places to drop it off.
3. A nice surprise is how cosy and at home we feel inside our van despite being in new or unfamiliar places. To begin with this was tricky and we’d listen out for sounds but this rarely happens now we just enjoy the owls hooting outside!
Practicalities of Van Life
What’s the perfect weather?
Anything below zero is tough as is heavy winds as the van literally rocks! We are dreaming of Spring days where it is mild enough to open our doors and sit in the doorway to work. We suddenly gain so much more space when the Spring comes and things feel much easier. We didn’t find really hot temperatures that much of an issue last Summer. Parking in shady spots help although not for too long as we need solar to top up our battery.
How do you find privacy to wash etc?
We have both had lots of experience with camping and living in remote/basic set ups over the years which helped us adapt well to the conditions of van life! The good thing about designing and building your own space is that you can choose what to prioritise and I’ve seen some van builds with amazing bathroom set ups. Our priority was a full sized bed and good floor and storage space so we chose not to add in a fixed bathroom. We do have a pop up shower tent which we use outdoors in summer and curtains to section off the van plus one of us is always happy to head out for a walk if the other wants space.
Tips on keeping warm and secure
There are different options for heating the van and the upside is that its a small space to heat. Putting lots of effort into insulating our van well was worth it for maintaining a good temperature. We opted for a diesel heater which we use for around 10 minutes at a time so its very cost effective. Rugs, thick quilts and blankets all help as do slippers, cosy jumpers and tea. In terms of security, we haven’t ever felt unsafe but have a dead lock on the van which we use when we leave it for any length of time.
If someone was to embark on this as a unit of more than 2 people, how feasible do you think this is?
Social media is great for connecting with others on similar paths. We have come across lots of people who live in vans with families, new-borns and a whole host of pets! There are more spacious vans available too that may be suited to having more people inside. I think being clear on why you are doing it and what you want from the lifestyle makes it easier to adapt to the compromises that living in a small space requires.
Thank you for all your questions, we hope this has been an interesting read. People choose this way of life for many reasons and these are just our experiences. Whilst travelling and exploring new places is a wonderful part of van life, it was not the sole reason we chose this path. We were strongly motivated by wanting to live closer to nature and have more flexibility and freedom in our days. Having more time to do the things we love which included investing our time into nurturing Wild Fen.
If you have any other questions, or want to add your thoughts to any of the ones above, please feel free to leave us a comment.