We are often asked lots of questions about why we travel and how we do it.
We were approached by CareerBreakKate, a blogger who runs a website dedicated to travel and career break inspiration. Taking a career break to travel the world transformed her life and she wants to inspire you to do the same.
We were honoured and over the moon that she reached out to us after hearing about our story. Kate’s website offers lots of helpful hints and tips about sabbaticals, career breaks, TEFL (teaching English abroad) and volunteering abroad as well as anything else you need to know. She also covers her travels and adds reviews of her experiences.
We decided to take part because a lot of people want to know why we do what we do. What drove us to both quitting jobs we loved and move into a van. Kate asked us questions that a lot of people ask us so it seemed only natural to do the interview with her.
We would love to share that interview with you now and if you are thinking about taking a career break or sabbatical, have a read through her site for some information.
If you have any questions for us please leave them in the comments and we will answer them! Don’t forget you can tweet us @vanlifediaryfacebook or email us firstname.lastname@example.org
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We have been on the road for a month now and wanted to share our personal journey with you. You will have read posts (hopefully!) of places we have been, but we haven’t really spoken about our personal experiences. Here is our post on the first month of full time van life.
The #Vanlife movement is really popular right now. We have been very open about our reasons when people ask us. (Vanlifediary will be doing a post on the questions people ask us soon!) We had planned extensively for our change to van life however nothing can really prepare you until you are living it. No matter how many times you read that you don’t need to pack too much for full time van life, you still will. This is because as far as you are concerned you have already downsized considerably. The truth is we still brought far more than we needed.
During the run up to us leaving I was still working a full time job where I lived on site. I would get home in the evening and be too tired to think about packing. Even though I was excited to change my life I just couldn’t find the motivation to pack for it. I know now that I was too emotionally attached to my ‘stuff’. The act of holding it in my hand and having flashbacks of the memories connected to it and deciding if I throw it, keep it or sell it were too hard. What I wanted was someone to do that for me.
Too Much Stuff for full time van life!
The day we left to start full time van life Louise greeted me in the car park. We had a very emotional send of from our work colleagues. The van packed to bursting point with (and not limited too):
2 Bikes (inside the van as no bike rack at that time). 3 Duvets, 8 pillows, 6 Blankets. 4 Bottles of shampoo (when we don’t have a shower), 6 Toothbrushes, 2 Full size and 4 mini toothpastes, 5 Bottles of sun cream. 4 Massive Tupperware’s full of rice. 15 Pairs of shoes, of which every day so far we have worn walking boots… AND all of our wardrobe – because you never know!
We thinned out more of our stuff over the next week as it was just too cluttered. Why did we bring 5 tool boxes, 4 wash-bags, 3 woolly hats (each), 2 extension leads and a partridge in a pear tree? No matter how much stuff you get rid of, you will still have too much!
Road less travelled
With the van down to a reasonable amount of crap, we could concentrate on our adventures. The first week was living with the STUFF so we didn’t get far. From Evesham, to Illmington Village, to Malvern and Hereford, our first week was so exciting. It was all new and felt like a holiday. We used a few websites such as searchforsites and pitchup.com for free locations where possible but cheep sites when we needed. Reasons like to empty the toilet cassette and have a shower. We try to free camp whenever possible but sometimes you just need a good shower and top up the electric.
Speaking of electric… When we set off we didn’t have an inverter in the van. We realised quite quickly that we had overlooked this in our rush to get going. TJ auto electrics in Evesham booked us in for the following week and we doubled back to ‘home’. We knew Tim and trusted him to fit the gear for us. We made all the mechanics jealous as we sat in the sun and they worked on the van! After all, it’s ‘home’ so couldn’t leave it to collect later! Inverter fitted we set off again and headed to Wales.
“Ones destination is never a place, just a new way of seeing things”
We stopped in Hay-on-Wye on the way. Totally blown away by it’s architecture and little roads filled with antique shops and independent businesses. The castle hid itself to us until we were nearly ready to go. It was covered in tarpaulin having some refurbishment work done. Saying that we did find a small hole in the castle wall and found a beautiful honesty bookshop, 2 massive bookcases piled high along the walls with a wooden shack roof fitted to protect them. Plants were growing on the floor and wound the books.
We have stayed in some amazing places but our next stop, Tallybont-on-Usk, is so far my favourite location. Just being able to fully relax and unwind, an impromptu 5 hour hike and frog mating frenzy made this an incredible location. We finally started to relax and realise that we were not on holiday. This is our life for the foreseeable future.
Dare to live the life you have always wanted!
The best part about being on the road is being able to decided if you want to move, or stay put. I could quite easily have grown roots in Talybont. It’s connection to Tolkein just added so much more and really inspired the imagination.
So far all was going well. As we were near to Louise’s brother we decided to stop with them for a couple of nights. To take advantage of a free hot shower and spend some time with them. We were not sure how long it would be until we were back in that area. Having mentioned to Louise’s brother that the van seemed a little sluggish, he recommended a mechanic near where he worked. We made an appointment and told Lous’s brother we may need to stay a few more days!
Miss Chewy spent the day being tickled by the mechanic. He thought it would be a good idea to change the oil, the fuel filter and the air filter as we were unsure when they had been done last. There wasn’t an air filter in place so all the muck from the road had been sucked into the engine. We poured Redex into her and we thought a good swill around the tank should clear some gunk out and get her healthy again. She hadn’t been used very much in the 3 months we had her. She had been between mechanics and electricians!
We also took advantage of a recommended welder to do a few bits that came up as an advisory on the last mot and got them sorted out. Chewy was being loved! In return we believed that she would look after us! Since then we had further issues with her turbo going and needing repair. This took about a week to fix and some angry tweets to Iveco. #sorrynotsorry. Luckily we could stay with family again but we did camp outside of Iveco in Avonmouth on one occasion! Touch wood she seems to have settled down except for a warning light telling us the warning light isn’t working. £150+ vat diagnostic fee for that one was averted! Oh and the sliding door got jammed so we had to climb over the seats to get in or out.
Somerset Sunsets, sat navs and crabs!
We have travelled through Somerset and met a fantastic bunch of people at Tuckers Grave Inn, many of whom were also on their own personal journey to heal and reconnect with themselves. We have ventured as far as the Norfolk Coast had had Cromer Crab, slept on marsh land with lapwings and marsh harriers surrounding us and now camping in a secluded woods not far from the coast.
The sat nav has been a help and a hindrance. It tried to take us down a rather narrow one way road in Malvern which caused chaos to the traffic behind us. It narrowed quickly and didn’t have much in the way of a pavement, just a tall, probably listed building. In the kerb was a ditch/gutter which changed the tilt on the van to where the top of the van was almost touching the building. Having cars up your rear end wanting you to go faster really isn’t helpful at that moment. Occasionally we have had to take a detour due to her size or the sat nav having a nap at the most inconsiderate moment but largely we are unscathed!
Some have asked if we are over our wonderlust yet – are you kidding? We haven’t even seen the start of it yet! Apart from van repairs most of our money has been in fuel as we have done a fair amount of back and forth to see family. We are hoping now that we can limit the amount of miles we do each day and just casually travel. There is still so much to see! Full time van life is an amazing experience.
We are trying to cook as cheaply as possible but not compromise on healthy fresh food. Today for lunch Louise cooked us a water chestnut and potato curry with a red thai curry mix we brought from Aldi. The whole meal cost approx £2.20 for 2 people, including the 80g of rice each. We are measuring our portions as we don’t want left overs (because we don’t have any spare tupperware – I am a horrible person and made Louise leave it all behind).
For us, choosing the first day of spring to leave for full time van life was a good choice. As we are waking up to our new lives, nature is waking up too. The sky, the buds on the trees, the fragrances and textures, the colours and sounds of nature… all things that we would have taken for granted when we didn’t have the time to look closer.
Not having a TV means we can ditch the soaps, news and propaganda, we listen to the animals and watch our barometer for the weather. This means we don’t fall into a nasty trap of talking politics with people! We did wonder if we would become lonely and not speak to people but actually we have had proper conversations with more people than I can count! Not mundane conversations, but conversations about healing, nature, environments and positivity.
This has been the best month of my life. A freedom to explore not only the land, but ourselves
What will next bring? All we know so far is a touch of cat sitting and a family holiday where we have to be still for a week… eek… that will be strange!
Whether you are planning a weekend road trip or longer term travel adventure, finances are always on our minds. One of the questions often asked to seasoned travellers is how to make it easier on the wallet. What can I do to get costs down? Where can I buy cheap fuel? How can I save money travelling?
Here at VanLifeDiary we have put together a few ideas to help you reduce the cost of your travel.
Whilst we all know about fuel prices, are we really doing our homework before filling up? Some supermarkets will run initiatives to get you to buy fuel from them. While that is great news if you are doing a large shop, make sure you don’t buy unnecessary items to reach the total spend requirements. You could find you have spent out more than you saved at the end of the day!
Service stations and ‘last stop shops’ can get away with selling fuel at higher rates. Make sure you fill up when in towns were there is a bit more competition. Apps and websites like petrolprices.com are worth a look at too. They can tell you the prices of local stations before you set off. Keep an eye on prices as you travel and if you spot a good fuel bargain grab it. Pennies add up!
It’s handy to remember that not all petrol pumps are the same length too! When in Newquay I drove to a petrol station and there was a queue for cars on one side. Trying to be clever I attempted to fill up by dragging the fuel hose around to the other side of the van. I have done this in countless petrol stations before but this time it backfired and wouldn’t reach. Rather embarrassed I left that garage and ended up paying an extra 5p per litre!
Make sure that you look after your motor. Ensuring that you have checked your vehicle over before setting off on long journeys will hopefully stop the car from breaking down on the motorway. Nobody has time for that and it can ruin a really good holiday. If you don’t have breakdown cover you could be charged a hefty amount to get towed off of the motorway.
Current Government legislation advises that you could be charged anywhere from £150 for a vehicle up to 3.5 tonnes MAM upright and not substantially damaged up to £300 if its not upright and has sustained heavy damage. For larger vehicles this cost rises quickly into the thousands. Another option would be to ring a breakdown company at the roadside and enter into a contract with them. This will usually incur fees for an immediate removal of your vehicle.
Ensuring your tyres are correctly inflated can help save money travelling. The more surface area that is coming into contact with tarmac, the more effort it takes to move. Fueleconomy.gov can explain how much you could save. Remember that your tyres will also wear out quicker if not properly inflated. Mythbusters and other popular mechanics did debunk the myth that you could save even more by over inflating the tyres. Before you get any clever ideas there is a very high likelihood that this could blow your tyres out. This will cost you more money (or cause an accident). You would end up shelling out for new tyres and a few hundred quid to get towed off the motorway!
Don’t forget to check the other essentials such as oil, water, windscreen wash and windscreen condition for chips. Also check your lights and a have a tool kit containing a warning triangle and hi-viz jacket as well as spare bulbs and fuses. This can really help save money travelling long term rather than instant saving.
Unexpected stops in a pay and display can quickly eat away at your spare change. Paying the equivalent of your mortgage or first born child’s college fund is never fun so here are a few ideas to ‘curb’ your outlay.
Use an app such as justpark or yourparkingspace and pay less to park on peoples driveways. Initiatives like these are popping up all over the place, and while a good way to save some money there are also a few stories out there where people have arrived to find they can not use the spaces they have booked. We have not used this service ourselves so can not give a personal recommendation but it is always worth doing your own research and not taking my word for anything!
Parkopedia is another parking app that tells you about prices and location in order to get the best price for a car park – it might mean an extra 5 minute walk but if saves a few quid each time it can have a huge impact on your budget. If you are driving a van like me, you also need to be mindful of height restrictions – google can sometimes help with this but you can always call the bigger car park companies to find out before you drive there.
If you know where you are travelling to in advance, why not join the local facebook page and ask the locals for areas to park for free, they will know the layout and may have some preferred back roads where you can park freely and without time restrictions. It can be harder in a town but not impossible. If you are up for a bit of exercise why not park a bit further out of town and cycle in. its a good way to keep fit, reduce your carbon footprint and see the sights a little slower.
We hope that this information will help you save money. Feel free to send it towards our cheese and cider fund.
Part of our #Vanlife Guides Series. Click here for more helpful information.
Full time #VanLife travellers sharing tips and adventures