• Sarah Hawkins

Off Grid Living Series: Vanlife - Interview 03 with Wild Van

Welcome back to my vanlife series, in the last interview I caught up with Rupert and Emma who are in the process of converting their van to enable them to live in it full time. You can read that post here.

In todays post I catch up with Dee and Simon from Wild Van. Dee and Simon are a couple from the UK that have been van dwellers for almost 5 years. They are the owners of Wild Van and create hand built camper van conversions.

Can you tell me a bit about yourselves and how you made the decision to start living in a van?

We were living together in a rented house when we first made the decision to buy a van. It took us quite a while to get there…Simon had been thinking about living in a van as a way to save money since he was at uni - he’s definitely someone who likes to take his time, think it through and do all the research before jumping into things! And I’d always wanted to travel but felt unsure of how practical it would be to live in a van full-time. We were working regular office jobs and weren’t feeling very satisfied with our lives, so we found ourselves spending more and more time browsing blogs and watching YouTube videos of people who were living in vans and making it work as an alternative to renting and paying mortgages. We decided we needed to go for it while we were in a good position to and felt that we’d only regret it later down the line if we didn’t at least give it a try!

What was the first van that you lived in and how long did it take you to convert?

Our first van is the one still live in full-time today. It’s a Fiat Ducato Maxi LWB, we bought it second hand from a carpet fitting company who had taken pretty good care of it – we’ve only broken down a couple of times over the years we’ve spent living in it and travelling across Europe and Morocco. It took us around 18 months to convert as we were only working on it during the evenings and at weekends. We had quite a specific idea of how we wanted the van to look and wanted to make sure it was built to last. We also didn’t want to have to make too many sacrifices so fitted all the components we’d need to still live comfortably and have some modern conveniences like running hot water.

How was that first year of van life, what challenges did you overcome and what were your best memories?

We moved into the van in October 2015 when we were still only part way through the conversion. We were both still working full-time so had to be presentable for our jobs during the week but hadn’t yet fitted our bathroom so relied on the local leisure centre for showering, this change in routine took a little while to get used to. It was also a few months before we eventually got around to fitting our heater so winter was quite a challenge. We regularly woke up to frost on the inside of our windows which could make getting out of bed quite punishing! Despite it being hard at times we were still much happier being in the van than we had been in our house, it felt so good to be living more freely and after six months of living like this we’d managed to save up enough money to be able to quit our jobs and go travelling abroad. Our best memories from this time are of parking up out in the countryside around Salisbury where we were working. We didn’t want to outstay our welcome anywhere so had a few different spots that we rotated around throughout the week – we discovered so many beautiful places doing this and when spring finally came around cooking outside the van with our slide door open was the most amazing feeling! 

What's the hardest and best parts of living in a van?

We’ve been living like this for so long now that none of it really feels hard anymore…Moving into the van opened our eyes to how adaptable we can be…there are some things that we used to think we couldn’t do without but now just seem insignificant. Running out of things like gas and water can be a pain, especially if you’re right in the middle of cooking! But it’s just made us a lot more accepting of when things don’t go to plan and better able to find solutions to problems. This is also one of the best things about it – it’s helped us to be more carefree and relaxed in general. But the most amazing thing about living in a van is getting to choose where you live each day –  we don’t think the novelty of waking up overlooking the beach or in the middle of a mountain range will ever wear off!

Have you ever had any safety issues?

We’ve been very lucky to have never experienced any safety issues while living in our van. There have been a couple of times when people have bumped into the back of the van while we were sleeping which was quite a startling way to wake up but fortunately no damage was done to us or the van!

What type of presumptions have you come across when people find out that you live in a van?

Some people struggle to understand why anyone would want to live like this and a few times people have been quite rude in the way they express that. We understand though, it’s unusual and lots of people haven’t come across it before so they’re curious and sometimes baffled…it’s interesting when dealing with public services like GPs or the library, we’ve found they can sometimes be a bit patronising and assume that because we live in a van we wouldn’t have things like a mobile phone or an email address.

What types of places do you park in when living/touring around the UK?

There’s an ancient trackway that runs along the field where Stonehenge sits that has attracted van dwellers for years, this is one of our favourite places to park in the UK. It periodically gets closed down as they’ve been developing plans for a tunnel but when it’s open there are vans parked up there all year round. It always makes us feel like we’re part of a community when we visit. We also love being out in the countryside and being able to go for walks in nature from the van, so usually find laybys or car parks out on the edge of fields and woodland.

You have turned your passion into an awesome business, can you tell me a bit about Wild Van

Thank you that’s very kind  We still feel amazed that we get to do this as a job! We started our business when we returned from travelling and converted a VW T5 in a similar style to our van…we managed to sell that quite quickly and from there started to receive commissions for bespoke conversions. Simon studied design and worked as an engineer so is great at figuring out how to build in new and interesting ideas and help customers to bring their dreams of their perfect camper to life!

What advice would you give to people that dream of living the van life but fear stops them taking that leap of faith?

If you feel inspired by seeing other people do it and really want to experience it for yourself then just do it! Like we  said before, we surprised ourselves by how quickly we adapted to living in such a different way to what we were used to and have never regretted our decision, even when things go wrong and you feel like all you want to do is curl up on a big sofa or have a bath, we still know deep down that living this way makes us much happier people day to day. In our opinion the best parts of living in a van are a million times better than the best parts of living in a house or apartment! Also if you have a go and decide it isn’t for you, the old way of living will always be there to go back to, so why not try it and see?

To keep up to date with Dee and Simons adventures and to find out more about their business Wild Van their links are below:

Website is www.wildvan.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WildVanLtd

Intsagram: https://www.instagram.com/wild_van_travels/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLvi4b7r-Zh7L6Ct22mb2Iw/

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