Now that we are finally meeting and chatting to more people, we’ve also been saying hello to others living in their vans. And after a long lonely stretch of not seeing anyone on the road in France over Winter, we both decided that when we see anyone in a van (especially if they are likely to speak English!) then we have to say hello.
An interesting bonus to meeting these other “van-lifers” is that people usually let you have a peek inside their van! We’ve seen about 6 different vans now – and there’s so much variety! It’s shown us that you can literally spend tens of thousands of pounds on a luxury van conversion or a few hundred.
We met an older couple in Portugal whose van was much smaller than ours, but had a pop up roof and a professional company had converted their van for them. It was super swish – with leather furnishings and laser cut work tops. It had a fridge, an oven, running water, even a wine caddy! But they didn’t have much storage for clothes – just one little cubby hole. They’d also popped a roof box on the top of the van for extra storage.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, we recently met a group of people all living out of one van! There were 3 permanent van-dwellers and then 3 hitch hikers they’d picked up. Two slept inside the van, and the others camped outside of it. They washed up outside and had a little camp fire. Oh and they also had three dogs with them! It must have been a squeeze but they managed it.
These examples show that, also depending on your budget, you can adapt your van to suit your lifestyles! When you commit to life in a van, which is such a small place, you have to prioritise what you want from it. Different people prioritise different things – space, storage, facilities for cooking, comfort, a bathroom, wine!
I’d say that our van is between the two mentioned above: we are semi-feral but not quite luxurious! We have showers outside, sometimes in the wind and rain, with no shower curtains, just praying that no one comes across us naked in the dark. We try to go to the loo outside or in shops as often as possible and we don’t have running water in our van. We do have a fridge though, and a sink and three gas hobs. Plus a decent small double bed that we both just about fit on comfortably (Ross takes up a lot of room). We also have lots of storage – Ross wanted to take his bike, and we also have a fire pit (which I am so excited to use), camping chairs, an awning and a tent.
We also knew we wanted friends to come and visit, so as well as doubling as a seating area and storage space, our sofas pull out to form a little bed for a guest to sleep.
Most other van conversions we’ve seen are like ours, though without the extra sleeping space. They tend to have a decent bed (sometimes a pull out which doubles as sofa seating), fridge, hobs etc. Whatever the van is like though, people get used to dealing with what they have.
When moving into our van last November, it was a big change from living in a lovely house with a toilet and lots of space! Ross settled in to van life straight away but I must admit that it was harder for me.
Ross is very much outdoorsy, whereas I am very much a city kid. When we go on hikes (which I do love), he looks totally at ease while I’m sweating along behind him, tripping over occasionally! It’s been like that in the van. Outside showers, parking in dodgy places, dealing with our portaloo – Ross takes it all in his stride. I’m really grateful for that as it helped me adapt quicker.
Everyone’s experience of living in a van will be different – me and Ross had different experiences adapting and we live in the same van! But I think the common denominator is that if you love travelling, then you will grow to love van life, whatever your van looks like on the inside.