It’s the two-week countdown to when I leave this place for mountains, the sea and hopefully a more fulfilling career life so thought I’d give an update of what’s been happening so far with the van.
The van passed it’s MOT, it only had the side light (which I forgot to change) and a tyre replaced, so that was a plus. I’ve gone around the vehicle and identified points to be aware of in the future (beginnings of rust etc), but it all looks pretty sound for now. Just need to get a second set of keys cut. I still haven’t figured out how to store an additional key on the vehicle in case I lock myself outside (this would only happen if I exit via the side door and both front doors are locked, as the side door does not open from the outside once shut due to a broken lock). Will ponder on that.
Deciding and organising what is needed, especially with limited space, has been challenging but I think I’m getting there. I know I will need all my outdoor gear and have been given a rough idea of what Outdoor Activities teachers wear (skirts and blouses just won’t do in a kayak) so more clothes have been purchased… (boo!) I just hope no more surprises are sent my way.
I have been pondering food provision within the van. Obviously, anything with a short shelf life/perishables can’t stay in there for long due to the van’s warmth (it’s so toasty!). I don’t intend to use the hob much, except for boiling water for noodles and tea (going completely with that student lifestyle here…), and I will have a spare stove as back up. I am pondering keeping some carb tinned food, like rice pudding, just in case there are times I need a snack and am parked away from shops or they’re closed. What I want to do is reduce any spills/crumbs within the vehicle to avoid attracting rats/mice/ants so will keep unpackaged food to a minimum. When the weather begins to turn cold and start snowing then I will stockpile tins in case I am snowed in and shops are closed (which, assuming North Wales, will happen at some point). This area will be a lot of trial and error moments, especially to begin with. Still undecided on how much cutlery etc to take but I can always buy more if needed.
I have opted to remove the water containers for the sink and use this space as extra storage and make more room for the outdoor gear! I think a couple of 2-litre bottles will suffice and take up less room- they can always be refilled. I don’t see me using the sink much anyway because of access to sinks at university/residentials/schools for washing cups etc. For rubbish, it’ll just be getting it to the nearest rubbish bin as soon as possible to keep the van clean and free from smells. Still, need to purchase that small wastebasket…
Clothing wise, I am thinking two weeks worth of clothing will suffice as I can go to the laundrette on a fortnightly basis. I have yet to organise my clothing but think the van will accommodate this proposed amount comfortably. I can easily switch from a winter set to a spring to a summer set when the seasons change, so that will reduce the amount I need to take. I now have shelving in which to store the clothes as well! Yippee!
I do still have the issue of drying wet clothing within the van. Now the fan is ‘fixed’ I can have hot flowing air and do have an oil heater for warmth as well as dehumidifiers – I just don’t want to run the risk of the van becoming mouldy or developing that lingering wet smell within the material. I’m not so much worried about wetsuits etc, just waterproof jackets and shoes drying for the next day. I think have to think on this one – if the school/residential has a drying room/tumble dryer then it won’t be much of an issue.
Toiletting – everyone is curious about this. I don’t have and can’t fit a portable toilet. I’m no stranger to peeing in bushes and as for emergencies number twos – I’ve watched a few interesting tips videos online and have decided to a) learn to hold it in as much as possible until a toilet is found and b) have a map of all public toilets and pubs in the area including opening times. I will just have to avoid eating any curries or spicy food for the next year and keep a supply of toilet paper with me (plus the emergency shovel for emergency hole digging).
Showering – schools and residential setting will have staff showers and public gyms have them. I have budgeted for paying for showers weekly and numerous wet wipes and dry shampoo sprays. I like to think I’m not a smelly person but this is probably because I’m paranoid about leaving the house without using deodorants and perfume so lavish them on daily. Again, this will be a trial and error area but, hopefully, by making other uni/teacher friends they might be generous enough to let me use their showers once in a while!
My van is able to charge several electronics and run the lights from the solar panel and cigarette charger comfortably after a bit of issue with inverters. I’ve managed to upgrade my mobile tariff so now I have 8GB of data each month for cheap, which combined with free wifi, I believe will be sufficient. I do have a smartphone, however, it does not have Google maps app but I can share the internet to my iPad so can source locations when needed (I have insured the van to cover these personal belongings although I imagine I will have access to a locker in my placements to store). When connected to free wifi I can download films and shows via Netflix and music via Spotify – I also have an app that lets me stream Virgin Media channels – I feel that I might be spending quite a bit of time sitting outside MacDonalds borrowing their free wifi…
I do have a lot of resource books with me. I suppose I could download them but I can’t read off a screen, it gives me eye strain and I lose concentration, so the books will have to stay. Hopefully, I can offload these somewhere when not needed.
I’m not sure if I’ve covered all the bases that I need to cover. The vital parts are keeping warm, dry, comfortable, fed and watered. Working to a budget that includes sensible eating and diesel will be very interesting – gone will be the takeouts I so often enjoy (as I won’t be able to afford them) but on the plus side as well, I’ll be buying fewer crap items via the internet as I’ll have nowhere to post them to! I might even erase some bad lazy habits I’ve picked up.
I have readjusted my bills etc and cancelled subscriptions I no longer need – the only thing I can’t bring myself to cancel right now is my magazine subscription app, Readly (referral link), as it’s £7.99 a month for lots of big named magazines (I subscribe to nearly 30, both UK and US magazines). I love reading and magazines are my guilty pleasure – at one point I was spending approx £40ish a month of them so this app is a saving grace for me… so, someone might have to pry this app from my dead hands before I give it up.
This whole endeavour has really been scarily eye-opening for me but it’s been really interesting and exciting; I’m glad I purchased it last year as it’s given me a lot of time to make any adjustments, try it out, get used to the van’s quirks and seek help and advice. I’ve watched a lot of videos on youtube and blog sites about van lifers and how they manage. It’s astounding how little one actually needs to live and the tricks they can do to manage without, though I don’t think I’m going to go to the extreme of the ‘all-natural-let-your-body-clean-itself‘ attitude of some van-lifers I saw…
- Car – donated (£800)
- Solar panel kit- donated (£150)
- Oil heater – gift card (£20)
- Led lights – £40
- Fire extinguisher – £8
- Invertor – donated (£130)
- Carbon monoxide alarm – donated (£25)
- Leisure battery – donated (£105)
- Dehumidifier – £13
- Shelving – £30
- Mot – £40
- New tyre – £50
- Road Tax – £140
Total spent (of own money): £321 Donated: £1,230
I recently received documentation from the university offering me student accommodation for the first five weeks whilst studying there – £20 per night… £700 in total for 5 weeks! The van costs just a little bit more than that and hopefully will last the 10 months I’m away (and more!)… I am forgoing a lot of comfort for cost saving but, due to repaying a loan (really, I wanted to give this a go), I can’t afford a lot.
None of this would have been possible without donations (thanks to Rob M for the leisure battery and parents for the van and solar panel donation) and the support of others to help fix parts of the van (Shawnee and Chris for the shelving and Terry for the solar panel installation and discovering the trick to getting my fan to work; Stewart for telling me how to sort out my seat belt when it sticks). For all this, I am enterally grateful and hope I will adapt to the changes of a semi-freeloading life for nearly a year.
🚐🚐 Exciting times. 🚐🚐