Trading a busy and expensive life in London for living the van life, Jo, Jack, both 32 and their dog Frank left what they knew to pursue their passion for exploring. For the first year of living in their van, the couple worked remotely, Jack worked for a PR agency within the tech industry, and Jo worked for a charity.
However, they soon realised that they had saved up enough money to travel for at least a year with reduced living costs in a van. “So since October, we’ve been travelling full time in our van with our dog Frank, and when we do run out of money, we’ll hopefully pick up some remote working jobs.” The couple showcases their adventures with followers on their Instagram and YouTube channel.
They reminisced that the pandemic outbreak was when the travelling pair re-evaluated their current lifestyle. “Stuck in our flat in London, we began reassessing what made us truly happy. It turned out that living in a flat in London, paying an extortionate amount of money on rent and a mortgage, while commuting to and from work, with only 20 days of holiday a year, was definitely not what we wanted to be doing!”
“What made us happy and fulfilled was travel. Whether it was a weekend trip to a wild spot in the UK in our old campervan, backpacking South East Asia in our early twenties, or the six months we spent backpacking Central and South America on our honeymoon. Travel was the thing that we knew we would never stop doing.”
“We started looking at a way where we could, hopefully, always be travelling, even if we had to work. And that’s when we decided that selling everything, and moving to live and travel in a campervan was the best choice for us. We’ve been living and working from our converted Sprinter van for over a year now. It’s probably been the best decision we’ve ever made!”
Since the beginning of their full-time travelling journey, Jo and Jack have visited many places they adored. Their favourite destination was the Outer Hebrides in Scotland. “We had a full week of incredible sunshine, white sand beaches and the quiet roads were an absolute dream. The nature was also pretty and spectacular. With loads of wildlife including dolphins and eagles.”
The couple is currently exploring Portugal and expressed that its beauty has blown them away. “The beaches here, and the weather in January, is just incredible. It seems like every corner we turn, we arrive at another incredible beach and cliff path.”
Nature is a significant factor for Jo and Jack. They love the opportunity their van gives them to escape to nature from busy cities. They revealed that one of the best things about their method of travel is that they can change their view outside of their front door.
“One day, we can be by a beach, and then the next week, we can take our home up a mountain. […] While we can’t afford five-star hotels or live in a mansion by the sea. We can afford the price of a car park. And we’ve witnessed some pretty incredible views from the comfort of our sofa in picturesque car parks around the world!”
As for planning the trips, they explained that living in a vehicle allows them to plan only a few days in advance, as they do not have a time limit for how long they have to explore a destination. “It’s a brilliant way of exploring places – you just point the finger at a map and go.”
“[We] know the city or region we’re heading to, and then find the top things to do there from recommendations through Instagram, a travel blog or a YouTube video.”
“The thing we tend to plan the most is where we’ll stay for the night. We use Google Maps and an app called Park4Night, where we’ll often read the reviews of the spots to make sure it’s OK for us to stay there and if there are any extra services like water filling up points.”
As for their future plans, there are many destinations and trips on their bucket list that they would love to explore. “We’re currently road-tripping Europe as we speak. We hope to travel to some incredible and varied places like the Lofoten Islands in Norway, the Accursed Mountains in Albania, Plitvice Lakes and island hopping in Croatia, the Alps in Switzerland, and the Dolomites in Italy.”
“We’d love to do a big Overlanding adventure in a 4X4, from the top of North America, all the way down along the Pan-American highway to Patagonia. And we’d love to finally get to New Zealand one day, too.”
Although Jack and Jo have been delighted with their decision to live the van life and become full-time travellers, the move has not been without its difficulties. Jack admitted that the first few weeks of adapting to living in a smaller space were the hardest. On top of house training their new puppy Frank, they were awaiting the consequences of another looming lockdown and faced the possibility of having upcoming trips cancelled.
Van life is not all glamour, with the pair expressing that van admin at first was “annoying and gross”. Tasks like emptying the toilet, filling up water, or doing laundry are tough. Still, they described them as a “necessary annoyance”.
“It took a while for us to find our groove, but once we’d found it, living in a van is a dream. The chores and admin behind ensuring you don’t dehydrate or the van doesn’t fall apart become easier each time.”
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The couple also fears the consequences of accidentally parking somewhere they shouldn’t: “Our biggest fear is getting a knock on the door from the police or an angry resident. […] We like to think we’re pretty respectful about where we park and drive, abiding by a few golden rules (guided by common sense), so thankfully we’ve never had ‘the knock’.”
However, Jo and Jack have learned a valuable lesson throughout their journey that an abundance of possessions and materialistic items is not necessary: “We’ve drastically minimised our possessions, and we don’t miss anything we sold or gave away when we moved into a van. It’s similar to the realisation you get when you’re backpacking – that everything you need to be happy and comfortable can fit into such a small space! Everything else you don’t have with you, you clearly don’t need.”
Finally, as people who have found their path in life as full-time Roadtrippers, their advice to those who wish to take the plunge into living in a van is valuable. “Try it before you make the leap. It’s not for everyone, and it comes with some less than glamorous parts. We owned a smaller campervan for two years before we went full-time, and that helped us work out what we did and didn’t want in a van.”
“We’d also say don’t be put off by the fact you may not have any DIY skills when it comes to a van build. We were very fortunate enough to afford to get our van professionally converted (we used our travel savings and the flat sale to put towards it). But we know so many people who have made these incredible, beautiful homes on wheels themselves. Before that, they’d never used a screwdriver. We’ve even made tweaks ourselves that we didn’t think we’d have the confidence to do.”
“Don’t waste your time spending money on things you don’t need. Save as much money as you can, and look at ways to travel cheaply (a van is a pretty cheap way to travel!).”
This look into this couple’s journey, how they travel and why they came to be in the position they are now, demonstrates that anyone can make the decision to become full-time travellers just as Jo, Jack and little Frank have.