The university of van life

Rosie bought her van for £1000 and converted it for about £2,500.

She is from the Isle of Wight, which is very closer to where I am. Here is what the Isle of Wight looks like from the south coast of the island on which I live:

Rosie goes to university on the mainland, and she used her study loan – which she apparently got as some kind of bulk payment, or with a larger payment at the start of the academic year – to buy her van and kit it out.

It saves her a ton of money on rent and she loves living in a van so much that she does not see herself ever living in a house again.

She used Ecotherm against the roof and floor and Isover on the sides of the van, for insulation. She also applied a vapour barrier, but did not mention a specific type of foil.

Meet Sandra

A few days ago, I watched Sandra give us a tour of her van, and I loved it! The comments tell me that I am not the only one who really likes how she’s set up her van.

She built her van all by herself, in 30 days! They were 12-to-14-hour days, but still.

(Click on the image to go to Amazon.)

I really like the chair she hangs up at the back of the van. I used to have a friend in Amsterdam who had a chair suspended from the ceiling, but it was much heavier, and rather pricey. Rattan, I think.

Sandra’s, well you can easily take it around with you, whether you’re living in a van or not.

You can use it have your breakfast and watch the sun rise and you can take it to your balcony in the evening to relax in and sip some wine. If you’re lucky, your place already has a few suitable ceiling or balcony hooks.

In Sandra’s video, I also saw a kind of mobile – or wind chime – that my middle sister used to have. I think I had one too. I hadn’t seen a mobile like that in ages.

I’ve tracked it all down for you. See below.

But first, enjoy the video.

The wind chimes. Mobiles, actually, because they move very easily and produce a sweet tinkling sound. Man, nice ones were unexpectedly hard to find! They were so popular once.

Some seem to be made of capiz shells. If that is true, then the little disk-like shapes come from a particular area in the Philippines. Others are a more general mother of pearl. I think it’s simply mother of pearl in most cases.

Here is a pretty turquoise one on the left. But the sweet one on the right is my favourite.


(Click on the images to go get yours.)


Now the chair… The hammock chair. Don’t you love this red one on the left?

Pam the Van

Pam the Van is quite popular.

While lots of people still think that the woman in these videos is called Pam, her name is Marina. Pam is the name of the van. Or, was the van, I should say.

Marina was student in the UK at the time and she began living in a van because of her dog Odie. When Odie passed away, Marina discovered that she was no longer enjoying van life much.

She’s Italian.

A little bit later, she bought a motorcycle and started travelling all over Europe.

Here is her first video:

You can also find her on Etsy, where she sells jewelry.

Into beans?

Lots of vanlifers are vegans. Lots of vanlifers eat lots of beans.

Are you into beans too?

Get a pressure cooker!

And, speaking of legumes and veganism, if you don’t know yet what aquafaba is, you should. Check it out:

Mayo, meringues, marshmallows, macaroons, all without using eggs.

Here is another link:

There is lots more information out there but these two links should get you going.

Oh, and here is a link to a great pressure cooker. If you’re like me, and mostly use the microwave to cook, you really need a pressure cooker. For beans and stuff.

Man and van and pets (US, not UK)

Don’t freak out. By 1 minute and 14 seconds, he’s already spent:

  • $ 21,000 on the van;
  • $ 17,000 to get it to its current state, “waaaaaay more than I expected”. Which was about 10k.

But he’s just paid off his credit card debt so it’s all good. And living in the van in his friend’s backyard in kinda Indianapolis (Indiana) is saving him a ton of money, he says.

O-kay then.

(Maybe this is the point at which I should fess up that I’m not that much into buying stuff and, by contrast, love repurposing stuff. We throw so much junk out, people! Junk that isn’t junk at all, like the glass trivets someone wanted to get rid of that are now super useful on my desk and make it look kinda cool and classy, too. But, yeah, there are limits to what you can repurpose.)

I like the dark wood, the repurposed stuff he has around the bathroom. What I don’t like is that he has three or four different types of wood that don’t seem to match in any way. Other than that, it’s a really neat and quite complete build, even if I say so myself.

The shoe company? That’s skate shoes, I think, and “anmly” stands for “animally.”

Looks good:

And here… is a little list he made with links to various items in his van build. (Yes, these are his links.)

“Our van got lost at sea”

Relax! Not quite.

Yes, I know what they mean.

When I shipped my stuff to the US, it first sat in a European port for 6 weeks or so. Turned out that “takes 2 weeks” did not include the time before my stuff would be loaded onto the ship! Not fair! That it would take 300 or 400 dollar or whatever it was to get my stuff out of the port in the US was the second surprise.

After that, I had to rent a truck to go pick up my stuff from a warehouse in a nearby city, but by then, my sisters had arrived for a short holiday (not expecting to find me still living in an empty apartment). Their helping hands were welcome.

I picked them up from the airport, expecting them to have to go through customs and having to wait a while. But as the plane had made a quick stop in between, they’d already been through customs there. Surprise!

Carpe el tomato

More and more people are reaching the conclusion that working non-stop to pay bills and put money into the pockets of their banks or landlords is not really how they want to spend their lives.

Others have trouble finding a new place to live after their lease ends and the landlord wants the place back or when they move to a different location for school or work.

Enter van life. It can be the perfect solution, although it isn’t for everyone. Lots of people now enjoy living in a van full-time.

There is a zen story about falling down a cliff, being stopped by a branch, looking around you, finding a hungry tiger waiting below and then spotting a juicy strawberry for which you need to let go of the branch to reach out toward it.

Okay, let’s make it a tomato because I have tomato plants. 

That is van life.

The housing situation (the fear of losing your concrete or brick-and-mortar box) is the tiger, the branch is the thing that keeps you stuck (the idea that you have to live in large brick or concrete box) and the strawberry is joys that van life brings, allowing you to live life to the full, and for example waking up to a gorgeous view on some mornings.

When you grab the strawberry, the tiger disappears.

Van life is often a form of jazz.

Not everyone who lives in a van is on the road all the time. Some people keep it in the same town because they are attending university there. And others simply like living in a van for a short while on vacation.

And not everyone who lives in a van is poor. Some vanlifers are clearly loaded.

I first had the idea of living in a van back in 2012, but I had a geriatric pet who had very little vision in her eyes left, so it wasn’t a good idea for me at the time.

I have since been watching lots and lots of van life videos and I often end up with a really cosy snuggly feeling, a comfortable sheltered sense that living in a brick or concrete box rarely offers – though tiny houses and other alternative homes can.

Most of the videos, however, are geared toward the US and Canada. So I decided to set up a site aimed at the UK that many others will find useful and enjoyable too. It covers van life and a few other alternative lifestyles from all over the world.

Have fun!