The Real Side of Vanlife

Posted on March 25, 2021, in: Blog Tags: , ,

Written by Steffanie Singleton

A trend that has been building for a few years across the globe, which has only gathered pace since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, has aptly been given the title of Vanlife. But what is Vanlife?

To different people it means different things, from a weekend away to a permanent living arrangement, the basic principle is spending time in a house on wheels.

We’ve all seen the dreamy pictures of a natural looking girl lounging on a bed with the doors of the van wide open, gazing out upon beautiful scenery but is Vanlife the nomad fairytale these images  portray, not always no.

I’ve spent the last year living full time in my van, Why? Well lets just say life’s not cheap, and I found myself working all the hours under the sun just to be able to make ends meet, I wasn’t really living I was just existing.

Sure I’ve had to learn and adapt but that comes with any big lifestyle change.

I was already in the beginnings of converting a minibus into a campervan with my Dad. I had a small camper before which I used to sleep in at horse shows, and this was a replacement project.

I remember sitting looking out of the window of my rental cottage and saying to myself “you know what, I’m going to live in that!”

My friends and family thought I was mad, but it was a very easy decision to make. I was already living a very minimalist lifestyle anyway, I had very little furniture (using old caravan cushions stacked on top of each other as a sofa). I couldn’t afford to heat the whole house so was living in one room, and that was only to sleep in, as the rest of the time, I was either working, or at the yard with my horses. The decision was so simple and just came naturally.

With a basic set up of a bed, portable toilet and a gas cooker/fridge, my van life began.

I spent the first few weeks inwardly wondering what the heck I had done. Getting up at 4.30am for work and getting dressed in a ice cold van with no heating, was definitely not what I had had in mind. Lets just say I very quickly invested in a small diesel heater, and since then I have not looked back.

My van build is very basic! I have no running water, I fill bottles from outdoor taps to boil in my kettle for cooking and washing. I have no shower facilities so rely on gyms, friends and family or in the summer time, am impartial to wash under a waterfall, which is definitely a most refreshing experience let me tell you. I have no television, and you know what I don’t miss it, I find I’m much more productive without.

I think the least favourite things I’ve had to adjust to though it the emptying of my portable toilet, trying to pour it into a septic tank and avoiding any splashback is a fine art I’ve learnt the hard way….PUKE!!

You must be thinking why on earth would she actually choose to live this way. My answer is FREEDOM! Whilst I’m not living a totally nomadic lifestyle (unfortunately my horses are a little too large to ride shotgun beside me in the van) I have the luxury of being able to change the view from my window as often as I like. I’m lucky to currently be living by the coast and have several local parkups that I float between, so one morning I may be waking up in a sheltered woodland and the following evening I might be sat beside the beach with a small campfire, watching the sun set across the ocean, all from the comfort of my little home on wheels.

Nights out on the town have been made much easier as while I wave off my friends who are queuing at the nearest taxi rank waiting on a ride home, I walk to the car park and literally hop straight into bed and I don’t need to pack for any trips away because I’m already driving a travelling suitcase.

Moving into the van has also been a great way of helping reduce my carbon footprint, my heater and electrics are powered by a solar panel attached to the roof of the van. The minimal storage space means that I have to be very conscious when buying new items such as clothing or various other things the general population purchase for the sake of buying. So I tend to live with an ‘is it essential’ way of thinking when it comes to shopping.

I’d like to be able to say that I have loads of money stashed away in savings accounts, unfortunately I don’t! But what I do have is the ability to actually enjoy my life more, without the stresses of working myself into the ground, just to get the bills paid.

So is full time vanlife for everyone?……Absolutely not. It takes a special breed of person to be content living in a small space, with minimal possessions. But to anyone who is thinking of making the leap , I’d say give it a bash. There is always the option to move back into bricks and mortar if you find life on wheels isn’t for you. Personally I couldn’t think of a better way to live and look forward to life on the road for many years to come.


Follow Steff’s adventures on Instagram – @that_Van_Girl.
And Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/adventuresofhuckleberrypie

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