Hey everyone! Since we made a ‘life changing decision’ to get a van and fulfill some van living life, I thought I’d talk to as many people who are doing the same to get some much-needed insights.
Here’s a chat with Jamie Waddington from The Van Without A Plan (one of my favourite social accounts that I’ve been following from the beginning).
Living the van life has become a popular trend for adventurers who want to live on the open road and be on one BIG permanent adventure. It’s something I’ve really fantasised about – haven’t we all?! I love when dreams come true.
Chelsea: I’ve been following your van antics for a while now so it’s great to have you on here! Can you tell me a bit about yourself, where you’re from, what you do, and why you decided that van life was for you?
V.W.P: I’m Jamie, 26, from Leeds. For me, the idea of “vanlife” came about because I was essentially bored of the life I had. I’d been working really hard after graduating and had a few part time jobs and just felt like I was getting nowhere. I sort of figured I had nothing to lose and it was as good a time as any to make a change. I guess I just figured that the only thing more frightening than taking a leap of faith and doing something totally different was the idea of being in the same place in another few years regretting having not taken that gamble sooner.
Chelsea: I pretty much felt like that before I left the city. Change is good! Talking of, there must have been so many changes to your van was there a specific process you followed?
V.W.P: So for me the idea of a van was to be cheap. I didn’t have much money but wanted to travel a bit, so couldn’t fork out on hotels/flights, but also I knew that the more I put into this experience the more I’d get from it. For this reason, I went cheap. That meant doing all of the work myself, with help from my Dad and a few mates.
I went about a lot of it in what would be considered the “wrong way”. I had a vision of what the finished interior would look like, so rushed to get on with that. This meant putting electrics in at the end (I put it off for a long time as it was something I knew nothing about) which gave me a massive headache and neglected things which were really important, like the cab (driving area) because they weren’t the fun jobs. It’s all come good in the end though so I guess it goes to show there’s no right or wrong way to do things really. But there’s definitely a logical process.
Chelsea: I know all about avoiding the ‘stuff’ that needs to be done. At least if you were to do it again, you have a much better idea of what to do and not to do. So what have you learned that you can pass on to fellow van converters?
V.W.P: Hindsight is a wonderful thing and I suppose in all honesty I should have saved up a little more and forked out on a better base vehicle instead of rushing into it. So that’d be my advice to myself. To other people I would just say that it’s not an instant fix to happiness and stress-free life, so be realistic. Building the van was one of the most stressful times of my life, but it was so so worth it in the end. So just keep going.
Also for anyone thinking of taking the plunge, I think it’s worth saying that sometimes the best thing you can do is just trust that everything will be ok and go for it. My life has changed massively in the last year in a direction that I’d never have guessed. It’s impossible to see into the future, but I’m now pretty confident that something will always turn up and things always get sorted, so I just trust in that.
Chelsea: Good advice. Loving the relaxed life vibe you have – van life must be treating you well. Any random on the road moments that stick out in your mind?
V.W.P: Too many to mention them all! Probably my favourite moment though, if I had to choose, was on the Isle of Skye. Sat watching seals in a bay, eating my tea with the side door open, log burner crackling away, and just having a moment of pure clarity knowing that I was doing exactly what I needed to be doing with myself right now and that I’d made it happen. That was pretty cool.
Chelsea: You had me at seals and log burner. Sounds idyllic. I saw on Instagram you’ve been posting the less glamourous side of van living, what prompted you to do this?
VWP: Yeah I was doing that mainly because it became more and more apparent that my page was actually inspiring people to do the same thing and take the plunge with getting a van, or just getting out into the mountains and wilder places more. This is awesome and I love the fact that people seemed to be really taking charge of their own lives and going against the flow a little. But I guess I also felt a responsibility to let people know the truth; you could break down, you might have to go to the toilet outside, you will definitely get stressed out just like you do in your normal life. It’s easy to cut all of that out in an Instagram photo, slap a filter on it and convince everyone that your life’s perfect. Sure it’s a cool way of life and right now it works for me, but it definitely isn’t for everyone, and there’s definitely lots of sacrifices involved.
Chelsea: Progress over perfection I say. It’s refreshing to see someone not trying to portray perfection 100% it can get tiring for all parties involved. Good on you. Tell us about a few places you’ve visited with your van and what you loved about them?
V.W.P: For me the wilder places are where I want to be. Scotland was incredible, and the time I spent on the Isle of Skye built some of the best memories I have. North Wales was somewhere that I’d never explored before but I actually ended up working in Wales for a few months in the summer and now go back whenever I can. I had great times in the Lake District too.
There are so many hidden gems in the UK that it’s hard to select just a few. I think that now we live in an age where travel to the other side of the planet is so accessible people are forgetting just how awesome the British Isles are. Everyone seems so keen to jet off and see Machu Picchu, or whatever’s in fashion at the moment, that they miss out on all of the great stuff that’s so easy to reach from their doorstep in just a few hours.
Chelsea: OH I know all about those hidden gems – I’m so glad I live in Wales with all there is to do. So my final question for those who want to head into van life, what would you say to someone aspiring to van-life?
V.W.P Probably just that once you’ve bought a van it gets easier! I spent a lot of time deliberating and summing up the pros and cons, stressing about what could and might happen. In the end, after I’d taken that plunge and bought a van it was simple because I couldn’t easily back out and could only go forwards. The design got narrowed down by the size and shape I had to work with, and the rest just flowed from there. The adventures you have are nothing like how you’d imagine them to be, but they’re better in ways you wouldn’t have expected either. It’s one of those things that’ll be far harder than you think, but it’s also much more rewarding than you imagine as well. That’s probably a bit of a cliché, but then van life is full of those too.
Chelsea: I dunno about you, but van life looks pretty liberating, right?
Thanks, Jamie! The Isle of Sky is on my to-adventure list.
Those links again:
Facebook: The Van Without A Plan
Instagram: The Van Without A Plan