• Sarah Hawkins

Off Grid Living Series: Vanlife - Interview 04 with Emily of Making Trakks

Updated: Jun 15, 2020

Welcome back to my Vanlife series. I absolutely love these, I get to speak with some amazing and creative people. Last time we caught up with Dee and Simon from Wild Van. You can read that post here.

In todays post I would like to introduce you to Emily. Since November 2017, Emily has been living full time in her converted transit van, with her beautiful dog Ru. She was born to new age travellers and raised with one foot in each world (mainstream and alternative), free to find her own way of living.

When did you decide that van life was the lifestyle for you? 

My parents both used to live on the road in converted vehicles during the 80s and early 90s. When I was born they moved onto a canal boat. I was raised around a lot of people who lived alternatively, whether in boats or buses, vans or cabins. Sadly, for a number of reasons, my parents left this lifestyle behind and moved into houses, but I always knew I wanted to return to life on the road. 

How long have you been living this adventure?

I've been living in my van full time since November 2017, which makes it about 2.5 years now. 

What type of van do you have and did you undertake the conversion yourself? If so how long did that take?

I have a High Top LWB Mk7 Ford Transit and I converted it myself, with help from various loved ones. I'm very lucky that my father used to build canal boats for a living, so I was never short of advice.

What type of power do you use? Do you use solar?

My electrics are very basic as I dont need much. I have a single 130Ah leisure battery, with a split charge kit, which allows the leisure battery to be safely charged whilst I drive. I use only lights and a 12v USB port, as my heating is provided by a wood burner. 

Is there anything that you miss from your previous style of living? Did it take a lot of adjusting to a more minimal lifestyle?

I don't have running water in my van, which is perfectly manageable, but I do miss being able to shower/do laundry without having to go out of my way! But other than that, I found it really easy to adjust because I had lived alternatively as a child and travelled a lot in my late teens. When you've spent months living out of a backpack and sleeping on the ground, living in a van feels like a luxury. 

What would you be doing if it weren't for vanlife?

I honestly couldn't tell you what I'd be doing if I wasn't living in my van... Because living in a van has always been my aim. I never really considered anything else. 

What is the most rewarding thing about this lifestyle? The most rewarding thing about this lifestyle is being free to do as I please, without worrying about what the neighbours/housemates/family will think. I like to park up in the countryside where nobody will bother me and spend lots of time outside crafting and flowing with the tunes blasting in summer and lazy days in bed, cuddled up with the dog during the winter, free of the feeling of being watched. 

What are some of the lows?

I wouldn't say there are any lows, just challenges... In winter it's challenging having a large, wet, muddy dog in a small space... But (if you're the right kind of person) you find ways to deal with these things, because the lifestyle is worth it. Most things that could be considered lows of vanlife, are really just logistical challenges. Although I will say, when your home breaks down it feels pretty sh*t. 

Where has been your most beautiful parking spot?

Anyone who lives full time in the road knows the value of keeping their favourite spots quiet, but really anywhere without a building in sight is good for me. (I will make exceptions for buildings of historical interest). 

Can you tell us about any interesting people you have met on your travels?

I have met far too many interesting people to single out anyone in particular. I've met people that live in horsedrawn wagons, people that ride freight trains, people that live on communes deep in the mountains. I've met people that never stopped travelling and people that settled down because they eventually found the perfect place. Some I met before living in a van and some after, but all because of my curiosity and brave (sometimes foolish) attitude. 

How do you support your lifestyle?

Right now I work part time in a village pub and run my Etsy shop on the side. In the not so distant future I hope to grow my etsy business and be able to leave my job and support myself in a way that doesnt keep me so tied to one place. 

What is the craziest adventure you have had in your van?

It might sound stupid, but I love adventures they turn out to be 10x more interesting than you intended them to be. Me and my best friend, who had just bought herself a van, went for an innocent weekend away in the Peak District. This ended up involving getting lost, driving some very, very steep and narrow roads, getting stuck in a parade of tractors (local tradition apparently) for 4 miles, being invited to a drum circle by a very hairy hippie that looked rather like gandalf who appeared out of nowhere and getting caught in the nude, whilst wild swimming in what we thought was a quiet spot, by an older man with a very large camera. Needless to say, we'll never forget that trip. 

Has the Coronavirus lockdown impacted your lifestyle?

Yes, corona virus has impacted my lifestyle in that I can't go anywhere for the time being. Me and my partner have been parked in one of our local spots, less than 10 miles from the addresses our vehicle are registered to. We have been very lucky though, as everyone knows who we are and the locals have showed us nothing but kindness. Although we miss moving around more, we are very grateful that we still get to live the way we want to and have been shown the same respect and courtesy that we show to the people and space around us. 

What tips would you give to vanlife dreamers that are trying to decide if this lifestyle is for them?

Anyone can get themselves a van kitted out and spend the weekends/holidays in it, but it takes a certain type of person to live in a vehicle full time. My advice would be to ask yourself why you want to do it. Is it because it looks cool and you've seen other people doing it? Or is it because deep down you truly believe there is more to life than working to pay bills until you die? In my experience, those who believe in the latter way of thinking, tend to find a way of not just living, but thriving in a van. 

To keep up to date with Emily and to find out more about her business check out her links below:

Instagram: @making.trakks

Etsy: by MakingTrakks

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