Van Life: The beautiful and honest truth
Some of you may not know, but for a few segments of my life I have lived out of my van. This was not just to travel and explore.
The van started its life with me as a blank canvas, other than a couple of fitted side panel windows. All I knew at this point was that I wanted to travel ASAP before starting full time work and wasn’t prepared to waste any time doing it up.
I searched online for ‘blackout blinds’ and stuck them on… these are not as fancy as they sound… it is essentially black fabric with suction cups, primarily used for babies’ bedroom windows. The next thing high on my priorities was something to sleep on. I found a fold up sponge futon for sale, it was great, it was so light and easy to move around in my van and it actually fitted width ways perfectly. At this point I figured I was pretty much sorted and ready to go. I set off south, down the west coast of France. I travelled up and down the coast surfing for a month or so before heading back to the UK. It was pretty epic. Albeit a little bit lonely at times.
Following this fun adventure, I realised that I could have done with a few more comforts in the van, a fridge being one. While I was away I used a cigarette lighter fridge…. Just don’t!
Anyhow… I returned to Wales, ready to start a new job. While I was working and commuting 3 hours a day, I saved up to kit out this beauty with what I had learnt was practical and necessary in my opinion. I began with; split charger and leisure battery, rock and roll bed, captain swivel seats, sockets, lights, curtains and a fridge. It was amazing!! … okay, so I didn’t really hold back, but what was even better is that I did not have to do my commute anymore!
I lived in my van for 2 months until that winter arrived, while I carried out a fulltime job in the hospital, then went back to van life the following summer. I built up quite a routine. I showered at the beach or in the crossfit gym, ensuring I woke up at daybreak for a surf, SUP, run or gym session to justify showering outside at the beach, or being allowed into the gym facilities. In all fairness, this felt amazing! I went to work every day feeling rejuvenated, however by 4pm I was ready for a power nap!
I would mainly eat cold food, so salads or sandwiches whatever was in the fridge… mainly due to laziness, I did in fact have a portable stove. I soon learnt however that washing up in a van can be quite a chore. I used the local laundrette, the public toilets (and the natural ones) and I spent a fortune on coffee, mainly for a little company. I couldn’t ride my mountain bike as it was too impractical to wash it and guarantee a shower afterwards, and it wasn’t safe to leave on a rack. I would park down by one of the beaches, walking distance from town in the hope that people I knew would walk past, and I knew I wouldn't get moved on from. Evening surfs were difficult as cold showers wouldn't help shake the cold chill that lingered, investing in a #dryrobe to snuggle up in however definitely helped!
I continued this juggle between van life season, staying at friends and commuting for a while, which helped me to save up for a deposit on a house. Finally I had a real home. Even once settled into my home, I would miss the cosiness and comfort of my van, my little den. After a few years here, that yearning to be in my van #travelling, #surfing and #exploring returned!
Last year, after a few more upgrades to the van ( a necessary solar panel, a novelty pop top roof, and an extremely not so necessary palm tree ceiling) I left my job, let out the house, and disappeared off, just me and my van. We travelled from Scotland to France, north to south and east to west, all over. It was great. I was available and able to reconnect with old friends, surf in contests, go to see the places I wanted to, and do the things I love.
The time has come now where I am having to think about selling this little warrior, and it has got me reminiscing on van life. How it is portrayed in the media and what it truly is like. From me; this life is amazing for those who love to explore, see beautiful places, meet incredible people, and enjoy the simple life. It does get lonely, and can be tiring and it is defiantly not as glamorous as instagram portrays; but it gave me drive and confidence to get out there, be active and mingle. I wouldn't change a thing!