Friend of the Shack Jo and her boyfriend Dani finally have a campervan. This is the story of how van ownership went from pipedream to daily dream, to reality, for the couple.
A love for the great outdoors
Wedging on our walking boots and zipping up our jackets, we wonder what the day will bring.
Perhaps we will while away the hours of a warm summers’ evening at the quaint, rural pub we stumbled across during our afternoon hike in the hills. Or maybe we will find ourselves battling our icecreams with gritted determination as we’re pummeled by the horizontal rain in our pac-a-mac’s. Either way, it’s another adventure, and breathing in the bracing sea air our suspicions are confirmed - there really is nothing quite like a camping trip.
Until now we have always taken some pride in our ability to exclusively ‘tent it’. From leisurely beach breaks to bank holiday weekends in the peaks, we happily camped under fabric for many years. We even (and we are not recommending this) took a two-man tent to Glastonbury. Considering Dani is 6 foot 1 and it chucked it down the entire time, it is safe to say we could have been much more comfortable. But we managed it, loved it even - and merrily skipped away from the site. Another camping trip, another success.
So why buy a campervan?
Addressing the work-life balance
2019 had stubbornly established itself as a chaotic, work-orientated year. July arrived and we were already particularly fatigued. We had been living in a top floor, one bed flat in London for three years. Our working hours were creeping up, as was our commute time. We were also finding it difficult to align our annual leave to get much of a break. A fast-paced urban lifestyle is all very well and good, but we were in desperate need of a counterbalance.
This made the pre-arranged weekend camping trip with friends all the more welcome. We dutifully packed up our tent (upgraded to a four-man, you’ll be pleased to hear) and set off. After an evening of laughs, drinks and chatter around the fire - Saturday morning arrived.
Wedging on our walking boots and zipping up our jackets, we wonder what the day will bring. Rain. And rain it did. All weekend. But that’s OK. Since the last camping trip, more of our group had invested in their own campervans. The rainy weather meant we spent a happy weekend periodically huddling under the awnings of the different campervans. This gave us a unique opportunity for a mini ‘van tour’ of each of them by their proud owners. The collection was an eclectic and varied one. A 1980’s VW campervan, a new VW campervan and a self-build Vauxhall Movano van conversion. Peeping in at each campervan, the question of whether to own our own becomes serious ...
Discovering the joys of a Campervan lifestyle
The first step into a campervan is a step into a unique little home. The outside elements are instantly forgotten as you delicately duck in through the sliding door and tread lightly onto the carpet, the wooden floor - the lino. Each one immediately packs a punch with its own personality and is ready to greet you. This is after you have wiped your feet on the miniature-sized doormat which generously declares ‘‘Welcome’ in a way that seems to mean it more than usual.
Perhaps it is the novelty of a campervan that is so immediately appealing. Ordinary household objects become new found little joys and surprises when you see the radical and inventive ways they have been integrated into the space.
Furniture that is taken for granted becomes the height of luxury and comfort all because it fits into this little, portable home on wheels. You notice there is a new spark and excitement in the eye of the proud owner who enthusiastically welcomes you in.
Unlike camping in a tent, there is more permanence to owning a campervan. For seasoned and new campers alike, the ease and ability to keep all your belongings in one space is unrivalled. No longer will you need to consider packing, unpacking and repacking whilst keeping an eye on the threatening clouds before you move from destination to destination. You can simply flip the bed back into place, chuck your cutlery in the draw and make for the sunset.
The appeal of bespoke Campervan conversions
Then, there is the creativity you can invest in making the campervan yours - another huge appeal to us. The beauty of bespoke, campervan conversions, in particular, is the opportunity to inject your own personality and make it suitable for your needs. Our campervan conversion design is based on holidaying, relaxing and socialising whilst others may be catered towards more activity-based lifestyle or extreme sports. Then there are those fully embracing the ‘vanlife’ and make their campervans their permanent homes.
Our hearts are set on buying a Campervan
One final look round the last campervan, we give our compliments and duck our way back out of the sliding door. Despite the weather, it's been another great camping trip. In addition, the seed of being campervan owners ourselves has well and truly been planted.
Sunday morning. Time to pack up. It is still raining. As we say our goodbyes, we try to muster the energy to pack away our damp tent. The campervan owners of our party meanwhile slide smugly from their rock and roll beds straight into the cab, turn the ignition on and set off into the horizon.
We grit our teeth while stuffing the tent canvas into the bag.
“How did it ever fit in here in the first place?!” we mutter to ourselves.
Driving in the car on the way home, slightly sodden and with grassy washing up slung carelessly in the backseat, our minds were made up.
Travelling at leisure - we become Campervan owners
In the summer of 2019 we took the plunge and bought our very own van for a van conversion - and it really has become the perfect antidote to our busy lifestyles.
For us city dwellers with a desire to travel, a campervan has given us the opportunity to do so at our own leisure without the need to rely on public transport, flights or budget for hotels and Airbnbs.
The nature of so many of our lifestyles at the moment prevents us from making those spur of the moment trips. Having a campervan means we can down tools, check the weather and take off. The additional joy of ‘taking the slow road’ offers up so many opportunities to make new discoveries, experiences and memories along the way.
Similarly, in a world in which we now face the new challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, many of us are experiencing working remotely, or freelancing. The possibility of many of us working this way more frequently means having a campervan could allow working whilst on the move.
Caring for the environment
The final thing to mention is the possibility of reducing our carbon footprints. This sounds ludicrous considering many campervans (including ours) are diesel, however, when you compare diesel usage to jet fuel for a flight, you begin to see the difference. The scales are tipped even further the minute you arrive at your destination. Our campervan is now predominantly powered by solar. We consider our water consumption far more to avoid unnecessary trips to the taps. Once parked up, the van is likely to stay in favour of cycling or walking to the local shops.
A couple of our friends told us about a site next to a secluded canal, and the favoured way of getting to the local pub is by renting a canoe! We must get back to them on where that is…
Generally, we have found the joys of owning a campervan means we are likely to explore what is on our doorstep whilst also encouraging us to live healthier, slower-paced and more considered lifestyles.
Our Campervan travel plans
It goes without saying that any plans for us to travel are currently on hold due to the pandemic and subsequent lockdown. Our priorities have been keeping safe, keeping busy and looking out for family, friends and neighbours.
That hasn’t stopped us from dreaming and planning our campervan adventures, however. Our intention before the pandemic hit was to spend our first trip touring the UK and we still very much hope this will be a reality this year, albeit with a few modifications.
We have an exciting itinerary of historic places and points of cultural interest to visit - both of which the UK has in abundance. We even hope to be able to savour the best local dishes and markets along the way!
So, when next the world allows, we will wedge on our hiking boots and zip up our jackets. We don’t know when this will be, but we needn’t worry. The beauty of our new campervan means we can take off, park up and enjoy whatever is on our little roaming doorstep.
See you on the road!
If you are thinking of taking a trip around the UK or Europe get in touch with us at Jack’s Shack for those little upgrades and changes to your camper, to make your trip as special as it should be.