We are often asked lots of questions about why we travel and how we do it.
We were approached by CareerBreakKate, a blogger who runs a website dedicated to travel and career break inspiration. Taking a career break to travel the world transformed her life and she wants to inspire you to do the same.
We were honoured and over the moon that she reached out to us after hearing about our story. Kate’s website offers lots of helpful hints and tips about sabbaticals, career breaks, TEFL (teaching English abroad) and volunteering abroad as well as anything else you need to know. She also covers her travels and adds reviews of her experiences.
We decided to take part because a lot of people want to know why we do what we do. What drove us to both quitting jobs we loved and move into a van. Kate asked us questions that a lot of people ask us so it seemed only natural to do the interview with her.
We would love to share that interview with you now and if you are thinking about taking a career break or sabbatical, have a read through her site for some information.
If you have any questions for us please leave them in the comments and we will answer them! Don’t forget you can tweet us @vanlifediaryfacebook or email us email@example.com
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We have been on the road for a month now and wanted to share our personal journey with you. You will have read posts (hopefully!) of places we have been, but we haven’t really spoken about our personal experiences. Here is our post on the first month of full time van life.
The #Vanlife movement is really popular right now. We have been very open about our reasons when people ask us. (Vanlifediary will be doing a post on the questions people ask us soon!) We had planned extensively for our change to van life however nothing can really prepare you until you are living it. No matter how many times you read that you don’t need to pack too much for full time van life, you still will. This is because as far as you are concerned you have already downsized considerably. The truth is we still brought far more than we needed.
During the run up to us leaving I was still working a full time job where I lived on site. I would get home in the evening and be too tired to think about packing. Even though I was excited to change my life I just couldn’t find the motivation to pack for it. I know now that I was too emotionally attached to my ‘stuff’. The act of holding it in my hand and having flashbacks of the memories connected to it and deciding if I throw it, keep it or sell it were too hard. What I wanted was someone to do that for me.
Too Much Stuff for full time van life!
The day we left to start full time van life Louise greeted me in the car park. We had a very emotional send of from our work colleagues. The van packed to bursting point with (and not limited too):
2 Bikes (inside the van as no bike rack at that time). 3 Duvets, 8 pillows, 6 Blankets. 4 Bottles of shampoo (when we don’t have a shower), 6 Toothbrushes, 2 Full size and 4 mini toothpastes, 5 Bottles of sun cream. 4 Massive Tupperware’s full of rice. 15 Pairs of shoes, of which every day so far we have worn walking boots… AND all of our wardrobe – because you never know!
We thinned out more of our stuff over the next week as it was just too cluttered. Why did we bring 5 tool boxes, 4 wash-bags, 3 woolly hats (each), 2 extension leads and a partridge in a pear tree? No matter how much stuff you get rid of, you will still have too much!
Road less travelled
With the van down to a reasonable amount of crap, we could concentrate on our adventures. The first week was living with the STUFF so we didn’t get far. From Evesham, to Illmington Village, to Malvern and Hereford, our first week was so exciting. It was all new and felt like a holiday. We used a few websites such as searchforsites and pitchup.com for free locations where possible but cheep sites when we needed. Reasons like to empty the toilet cassette and have a shower. We try to free camp whenever possible but sometimes you just need a good shower and top up the electric.
Speaking of electric… When we set off we didn’t have an inverter in the van. We realised quite quickly that we had overlooked this in our rush to get going. TJ auto electrics in Evesham booked us in for the following week and we doubled back to ‘home’. We knew Tim and trusted him to fit the gear for us. We made all the mechanics jealous as we sat in the sun and they worked on the van! After all, it’s ‘home’ so couldn’t leave it to collect later! Inverter fitted we set off again and headed to Wales.
“Ones destination is never a place, just a new way of seeing things”
We stopped in Hay-on-Wye on the way. Totally blown away by it’s architecture and little roads filled with antique shops and independent businesses. The castle hid itself to us until we were nearly ready to go. It was covered in tarpaulin having some refurbishment work done. Saying that we did find a small hole in the castle wall and found a beautiful honesty bookshop, 2 massive bookcases piled high along the walls with a wooden shack roof fitted to protect them. Plants were growing on the floor and wound the books.
We have stayed in some amazing places but our next stop, Tallybont-on-Usk, is so far my favourite location. Just being able to fully relax and unwind, an impromptu 5 hour hike and frog mating frenzy made this an incredible location. We finally started to relax and realise that we were not on holiday. This is our life for the foreseeable future.
Dare to live the life you have always wanted!
The best part about being on the road is being able to decided if you want to move, or stay put. I could quite easily have grown roots in Talybont. It’s connection to Tolkein just added so much more and really inspired the imagination.
So far all was going well. As we were near to Louise’s brother we decided to stop with them for a couple of nights. To take advantage of a free hot shower and spend some time with them. We were not sure how long it would be until we were back in that area. Having mentioned to Louise’s brother that the van seemed a little sluggish, he recommended a mechanic near where he worked. We made an appointment and told Lous’s brother we may need to stay a few more days!
Miss Chewy spent the day being tickled by the mechanic. He thought it would be a good idea to change the oil, the fuel filter and the air filter as we were unsure when they had been done last. There wasn’t an air filter in place so all the muck from the road had been sucked into the engine. We poured Redex into her and we thought a good swill around the tank should clear some gunk out and get her healthy again. She hadn’t been used very much in the 3 months we had her. She had been between mechanics and electricians!
We also took advantage of a recommended welder to do a few bits that came up as an advisory on the last mot and got them sorted out. Chewy was being loved! In return we believed that she would look after us! Since then we had further issues with her turbo going and needing repair. This took about a week to fix and some angry tweets to Iveco. #sorrynotsorry. Luckily we could stay with family again but we did camp outside of Iveco in Avonmouth on one occasion! Touch wood she seems to have settled down except for a warning light telling us the warning light isn’t working. £150+ vat diagnostic fee for that one was averted! Oh and the sliding door got jammed so we had to climb over the seats to get in or out.
Somerset Sunsets, sat navs and crabs!
We have travelled through Somerset and met a fantastic bunch of people at Tuckers Grave Inn, many of whom were also on their own personal journey to heal and reconnect with themselves. We have ventured as far as the Norfolk Coast had had Cromer Crab, slept on marsh land with lapwings and marsh harriers surrounding us and now camping in a secluded woods not far from the coast.
The sat nav has been a help and a hindrance. It tried to take us down a rather narrow one way road in Malvern which caused chaos to the traffic behind us. It narrowed quickly and didn’t have much in the way of a pavement, just a tall, probably listed building. In the kerb was a ditch/gutter which changed the tilt on the van to where the top of the van was almost touching the building. Having cars up your rear end wanting you to go faster really isn’t helpful at that moment. Occasionally we have had to take a detour due to her size or the sat nav having a nap at the most inconsiderate moment but largely we are unscathed!
Some have asked if we are over our wonderlust yet – are you kidding? We haven’t even seen the start of it yet! Apart from van repairs most of our money has been in fuel as we have done a fair amount of back and forth to see family. We are hoping now that we can limit the amount of miles we do each day and just casually travel. There is still so much to see! Full time van life is an amazing experience.
We are trying to cook as cheaply as possible but not compromise on healthy fresh food. Today for lunch Louise cooked us a water chestnut and potato curry with a red thai curry mix we brought from Aldi. The whole meal cost approx £2.20 for 2 people, including the 80g of rice each. We are measuring our portions as we don’t want left overs (because we don’t have any spare tupperware – I am a horrible person and made Louise leave it all behind).
For us, choosing the first day of spring to leave for full time van life was a good choice. As we are waking up to our new lives, nature is waking up too. The sky, the buds on the trees, the fragrances and textures, the colours and sounds of nature… all things that we would have taken for granted when we didn’t have the time to look closer.
Not having a TV means we can ditch the soaps, news and propaganda, we listen to the animals and watch our barometer for the weather. This means we don’t fall into a nasty trap of talking politics with people! We did wonder if we would become lonely and not speak to people but actually we have had proper conversations with more people than I can count! Not mundane conversations, but conversations about healing, nature, environments and positivity.
This has been the best month of my life. A freedom to explore not only the land, but ourselves
What will next bring? All we know so far is a touch of cat sitting and a family holiday where we have to be still for a week… eek… that will be strange!
Make your dream a reality. It is something many of us put off. I was just like most of you. Living in a house, working and paying into a pension and I liked cosy evenings on the sofa under a duvet. I had debts a few years prior but managed to get back on my feet. My hobbies include music, walking and hanging out with my friends.
My generation were raised on this notion that we all need to watch the news, have a 9-5 job, pop out a few kids, work some more and then retire.
For many years I had just accepted this model was the one we all had to live by. I understood my place in the world was to work and pay tax, food shop on a Saturday and do laundry on a Sunday. Gap years were something I heard of but didn’t get the chance to do. I grew up hearing the stories of strangers who went abroad and gained valuable life experience.
In my 20’s a friend of mine decided to travel to Australia for a year (or two as it turned out) and this was the first person I had a connection to that jumped ship. My BFF Becky decided that in a year she wants to emigrate to New Zealand. I suddenly felt as though it might be possible. Real people that I knew, that were like me, were doing something adventurous. Maybe I could do this too?
Work / life balance
My job was hard work and I found it to be both challenging and rewarding. I worked for an animal charity for 13 years and I have a great sense of achievement and pride for the job that I did. Starting at the bottom I worked my way up through some really hard grafting and I got promoted to assistant manager. As a result I was provided on site accommodation. That sounded really appealing! An extra half hour in bed, no commute, it had a garden.
In reality living on site is a ball ache! I got called out at 2am because the alarms are going off. I couldn’t leave site in the evenings 3-4 days a week or walk my dog except around the grounds.
What is your dream?
In 2014 we purchased a VW panel van and converted it into a campervan, this would mean that we were able to go on cheaper holidays and more often as we could camp – getting me off site more and keeping costs down.
It took a little while to get the van how we wanted it. With added units, insulation, carpeted walls and a really comfortable futon that we pulled out to sleep on, she was fit for use. After several trips in the van we really got into the swing of it. We started to take less and less with us and only brought essentials. As space was limited we began to cut out the bulk of clothes, shoes and ‘luxury items’ as we just were not using them.
As soon as we were pitched up I could feel my shoulders drop a few inches. There is nothing like being able to wake up and hear the birds, smell the earth and be surrounded by nature. I quickly realised this is what I NEED to be doing more of. For my own health and wellbeing I needed to get back to a simpler life. We wasted money on ‘things’ that we didn’t need, and when I looked around my house I just saw pointless clutter. I can’t take any of this with me when I die, decorations serve no purpose and it’s just collecting dust. In the van I only had what I needed, it’s simple.
The problem I encountered was that I wanted it more and more. My dream to live full time in a van only got stronger. I spoke to my friends who said “make your dream a reality”.
And we did.
You can make your dream a reality too, whether it’s buying a house, a big wedding or buying a van. It can take hard work but you can do it. Put simple steps in place to start saving money (you can save money travelling too!). Find a way to break it down into achievable steps and make a start today.
For us, travelling in a van means that we can wake up every day with a different view. Although we have only travelled in the UK so far, I have never been happier. I have a dream where I get to travel around the world. Thinking about our future it is clear to me that, unlike our elder generations, we will not have the opportunity to travel when we retire.
Why not? For the most part, people my age can expect to hit retirement age at 65+ and then it is likely that we will need to continue working as the price of living increases quicker than pay is rising. I will possibly be looking at working until I am 70-80. There is no way that I will be able to get into a van and travel the world then!!! This way we can explore the world while young enough to still get a job if we decide to settle down and pay back into our pensions.
The way I see it I only have one choice, do it now, while I am young. The technological revolution means that we are now able to reassess our working lives and can do things a different way around.
With the boom in working from ‘home’ and digital nomad enterprises increasing all the time it has never been a better time to travel and work. Setting up several online blogs or businesses can afford you the freedom to travel and still earn money. As long as you have an internet connection you can work on the road. Most towns have a coffee shop with free wifi or a library to log into. Many companies are also selling devices that enable you to take the internet with you. Mobile phone companies are making it easier to access the web from a phone or tablet too. This makes it easier when making your dream a reality!
How did we do it?
Our plan was a 2 year plan. Save money like crazy, Sell some of our clutter, build our web presence and start earning income. With 6 months to go, sell the VW and buy a bigger van, convert it, take a deep breath, leap.
In reality a lot of unexpected things happened. I split up with Ami and started a new relationship with Louise. Louise was working which brought in another wage and once I had introduced her to camping she fell in love with it. She wanted to help make our dream a reality! We actually moved the leaving date forward a year as there was a second income.
Now, Make your dream a reality.
You could do it too. If you have the feeling that you have been trying to fit into a mould that doesn’t fit, let me ask you this. What is it that YOU want to do? What is stopping YOU? Lastly, what would have to happen for you to make that change? Making your dream a reality is very possible.
Full time #VanLife travellers sharing tips and adventures