We Love : Parking On The Wildside
What was your journey into pursuing van life? I know a lot of people who would love to lead a similar life but don't know where to start.
We decided to live on the road 4 years ago when we were on really low salaries, chasing our dream jobs as artists in big cities but it just wasn’t working out, we were exhausted and overwhelmed and getting nowhere. There came a point where we just thought ‘screw it, let's just run away from it all and live in the mountains, we’ll grow our own food to eat so that we don’t have to earn any money!’ We soon realised that we couldn’t afford a cabin in the mountains so we settled for a little van which we converted into a cabin on wheels. We drove it straight to the Alps where we had dreamed of starting a new life and totally fell in love with the freedom and beauty of living freely in nature. Our advice for anyone wanting to do the same would be to not wait for “the right time” because it may never come. If you feel the call, and you know that your current lifestyle just doesn’t feel right, just go for it! Worst case scenario you can always sell the van and return to what you were doing before.
How did you go about converting your van to fit your aesthetic? There are so many beautiful details! Did you have any prior DIY experience?
We honestly had no idea what we were doing! We didn’t know the difference between a screw and a nail, but we learnt everything on YouTube as we went along. It was a learning curve but it is totally do-able for people without building experience. We personally wanted the van to feel like a tiny enchanted cabin built by hippies in the late 60s- our very own magical mystery bus. To bring this idea to life we included little retro cabinets inside, painted the outside orange and added lots of whimsical details like the vine archway, houseplants and fairy lights. All the modern elements like plugs and wires are hidden away so that we feel we are stepping back in time. Our conversion cost us £1300 as we used almost entirely up-cycled materials.
How much does van life cost you monthly?
For us van life is super cheap, it’s the reason we started living this way- to avoid rent and bills. We spend around £550 a month for the two of us and our dog Lufie. That includes our food and diesel as well as hot showers, laundry, phone bills etc. The best way to keep van life affordable is to camp for free for example by wild camping in nature. Campsites are where van life can become as expensive as renting, so we rarely use them. Yes, we live without certain conveniences, but for us, it’s worth it for the freedom, adventure and tranquillity that comes with camping deep in nature.
What are your favourite things to do to pass the time out on the road?
Every day we head out on an adventure, exploring the area where we’re parked that day, whether it's hiking up mountains or swimming in lakes, playing on the beach or wandering through meadows. We love to forage along the way, learning about edible plants that we haven’t tried before. Nature is always at the core of our lifestyle, as well as creativity. Aaron is a singer/songwriter and I’m an artist; often we’ll bring our sketchbooks out to the woods and Aaron will play guitar whilst I draw the flowers around and dream up designs for tapestries.
What would you say are your favourite things about van life and experiencing parking on the wild side?
For us it's all about the freedom to spend our days however we like and the stillness of waking up surrounded by nature. It was strange at first opening our doors to a different scene each day but we have come to feel totally at home living nomadically. Each day brings wonder; a ‘wooooaahh’ moment. Whether that’s a juicy sunset, a breathtaking sky full of shooting stars or a humbling encounter with wildlife. It is almost impossible to get bored, and we don’t think we could ever tire of the ever-changing views outside our windows.
It must be so hard to choose but do you have 5 favourite camping locations you have visited and why?
Oh for us the best spots are in the European Alps where wildflowers cover the hills and the lakes are turquoise blue! It’s also a really safe area if you struggle with anxiety like we both do. But we also adore camping in the Lake District during summer, The Scottish Highlands during Autumn, and Catalunya in early winter. Some day we would love to road trip all around Norway, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Greece… oh and South America!
What are the practical essentials that you would never go on the road without?
Honestly, we are ridiculously impractical people, we are total romantics so we love all the silly beautiful things. We chose not to have a toilet or fridge in our van because we wanted more storage space for our eccentric clothes and our headscarf collection. We carry an inflatable kayak with us that’s stored under our bed for whenever we park up by a lake, it takes up so much room but creates amazing memories. There's also loads of musical instruments, art equipment and hundreds of spices and condiments. It’s our way of romanticising life, wearing your most precious outfits on a casual day, throwing all the flavours into every meal. As long as we have our passports, camera and our little Lufie we’re, happy campers!
Are there any challenging things about van life people may not think of?
Totally, it’s basically normal life but you swap most of the conveniences and comforts for freedom and adventure. We won’t go into details but you can imagine how not having a shower or toilet can make your day kind of complicated. Little things that are so easy in a house, like emptying the bins or boiling a kettle are complicated in a van because you have to drive to a recycling centre or fill up your water tanks every few days. The simple parts of living- cooking, eating, washing, cleaning, finding somewhere to sleep, these things take up much more time. But by living off the grid in this way you save loooads of money and get to see the world in the process.
Do you see yourself doing van life forever or do you feel you may look to have a permanent residence in the future?
Our dream is still the same as is it was 4 years ago- to live in a cabin in the mountains and grow our own food. To be self-sufficient, live slowly with the seasons and put creativity and joy at the centre of our lives. Vanlife is helping us to save up enough to buy that land in the mountains and someday we will build ourselves a home! It’s also nice to explore around looking for somewhere that we could see ourselves settling. As much as we love living nomadically atm, we do long for a garden and more space to have our own music and art studios (and a bathroom lol). For now, though we are happy on the road.
Follow Laura and Aaron On their Travels!