• Sarah Hawkins

Off Grid Living Series: Vanlife - Interview 02

Welcome back to my vanlife series, in the last interview I caught up with Liam the Terrible who lives in a van full time. You can read that post here

In today's post I catch up with Emma and Rupert who are from Hampshire. Emma is originally from Devon and is a freelance marketing consultant, Rupert is Hampshire born and bred and until very recently was a Corporate Lawyer (he quit his job for traveling). I think I need to take a leaf out of Rupert's book.

They both have a love for adventure, travel and food and once the pandemic is over and lockdown has been removed they plan to travel for 18 months in their converted Sprinter Van.

What type of van do you have? How did you decide this would be the best van to convert?

This one is all on Rupert, he'd wanted to do it for years and would occasionally drop it into conversation that he'd "quite like to do it one day...". Next thing I know - we're looking at vans! We both have really stressful jobs and felt like now would be the best time to start a project like this and take some time to ourselves, explore more of the world and indulge more in what makes us happy, rather than making money.

It took us a while from the decision - to the build - because we couldn't find the right van. We plan to live in the van for 18 months and then figure out our next adventure.

Had you ever had experience in van conversions before? What challenges have you overcome so far during your conversion? What has been the most difficult part?

Can we say all of it?!

This is our first van conversion and first ever attempt at any form of DIY. Without YouTube, the Facebook van groups and the van life community it would have taken us much longer than it has. Everything is challenge - we always say "I wonder if today is the day that nothing goes wrong" - then an hour later we're both pulling our hair out trying to work out how the hinges work. Our next stumbling block is the electrics, it's honestly a nightmare!

Your van is called Minnie - where did that come from?

So we had been thinking about a name for her for a few days (it was really frustrating Emma!), we went to Devon over Christmas to visit her family and took Minnie out on her first long drive - on our way back we started talking about names again and Minnie popped up. We don't know who said it - but straight away we were like "yep!" and Rupert even sang her her own theme tune "Hey Mickey, you're so fine" - but with Minnie. We also love it because she's anything but "mini"! 

What's your favourite feature of your van?

Have you seen her? She's lush! All of her is fab. I think because we're building her ourselves from scratch, even the difficult bits are our favourite. We're about two thirds of the way through so once we've added finishing touchings we will really be able to see it all in place (I have a feeling the kitchen taps I've got my eye on will be my favourite feature!). Rupert said he loves the upper cabinets, he made them himself and they look perfect. 

What is the most rewarding thing about this lifestyle?

There are so many things! The freedom to go where you want (post-Corona) is obviously the main one for us. We're looking forward to having some headspace and not having to "show up" every day. I think that another pull is the simplicity of life, it will be interesting to see how much time we save when we don't have loads of clothes to wash, or things to tidy away. 

What things will you have in your van that you couldn't live without?

Toilet and fridge. Emma is a big foodie (if you follow us on Instagram you'll see all the things she cooks on a daily basis!) so having a big fridge was a deal-breaker for her. The toilet - well - for obvious reasons! Also, we have no AC so the fan and the roof window are going to come in pretty handy! 

What advice would you give to people who are considering taking the plunge into vanlife?

Consider it and do your research. It's amazing and we've loved it (for the most part!) but it's HARD WORK. Conversion wise, don't do it over Winter, trust us, it's an absolute nightmare! Also, plan out your layout and what materials you will need - think about whether you may need any extra pairs of hands. Allow much more time than you think to convert the van, we worked out it will take us 9 months to do Minnie. Mostly, don't fall into the Instagram vs Reality trap of thinking it's going to be all peachy - the reality is that you're living in a tiny space, with no fixed water or electrics, no shower and a bucket for a toilet!  

You have plans after the conversion to travel around Europe, where will be your first destination and how long do intend to travel for?

Because of Corona our plans have shifted slightly. Our current plan is to explore the UK; visit Devon, Cornwall, Wales, Scotland, Lake District - all the places that are beautiful that we forget to enjoy. Then, once we feel safe enough, we will head over to France and start the next leg of the adventure. It's hard to have plans right now, so we're just trying to keep as flexible as possible.

Will it be a long adventure and will you be working on the road? If so what will you be doing?

We plan for 18 months first, then who knows. Emma will be working pretty much full time on the road, she has two businesses that she wants to keep going. Rupert is hoping the next 18 months will give him a chance to learn some new skills and then decide whether he gets stuck back into law or changes track completely!  

I look forward to seeing the finished conversion and hearing about Emma and Rupert adventures in Minnie.

To keep up to date with Minnies conversion you can follow Emma and Rupert on the following links:

Instagram: @Minnie_the_van and YouTube

Youtube channel: Minne the Van

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