How the f*%k do we make a living?

Since we’ve been living our best #vanlife for 18 months now, we’re plugged in to a few relevant groups on Facebook and follow others with similar nomad tendencies on Instagram. One of the most biggest curiosities regarding our mobile, non-9-5 lifestyle is simply; “how the f*%k do you make a living?” It’s so often wondered about, that we thought we would devote a blog to answering it! We also wanted to share more details of our particular version of vanlife, since it seems to be a little different to others that we’ve seen or follow.The most obvious version of this question that is asked is how to make a living from your van, i.e. how to make enough money online somehow to sustain yourself. There are always some fairly obvious answers in threads responding to these kinds of questions, along the lines of; “you can sell your photos”, “create a blog about your travels”, “host a YouTube channel” etc. We feel like it’s stating the obvious to say that only one in a million people will get a significant income from these avenues, but since it’s suggested so much as a seemingly easy way to sit with your phone and immediately have an income, let us say it more plainly: only one in a million people will get a significant income from these avenues. So, we do keep a blog, we recently uploaded a few photos to Shutterstock and we’re able to slowly and organically keep growing our Instagram account. But there is NO WAY that we’re relying on or even expecting these things to give us any cash to live on. Before we decided to move into our van, we both had jobs that required physical and practical work. They were challenging jobs that meant we both had to keep on learning new skills and be very flexible to switch tasks often. Therefore, between us we have quite a wide and varied skill-set (you can read more about that here), which means we would consider doing almost any job that didn’t need a highly professional level of a specific qualification. We’ve found this to be quite useful. Once you start talking to people, you realise that almost everyone wants a bit of work done to their house/office/garden/business, and we’re able to apply ourselves to a lot of these requested tasks.

Sanding and painting
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That kind of leads into our next tip, which is just ask. We let everyone know what we’re doing and what we can offer, and if we’re in need of work we send out the messengers! Everyone we know contacts people they know and finds out what work is out there. We also check websites like Gumtree regularly, websites that specifically look for help on campsites, and work-for-food sites like Work Away. Usually we have a country in mind that we want to spend some time, so target our searches there. Sometimes though we just have to go where the work is (as we need an income!), so might stay longer in one country or another. We ask for comments/references from projects we complete and keep an online CV of sorts here and hope that with this growing portfolio of work we will eventually have a good reputation as reliable, skilled and efficient workers for any and all needs!Our version of vanlife works pretty well for us. It’s a way that we hope we can keep this lifestyle for the long term, rather than just travel as much as possible for a year or keep a van for weekend and holiday use while working full time in between. This way we’re able to choose our jobs, choose our hours and work together, which was another goal for us. After our first year on the road, we were able to pretty much fully book our second year with work projects. We keep our fingers crossed that the third year works out that way too!


It is hard to believe, but we are nearing the end of our 7th week on our project here in Sweden now, and with just one more to go we thought it was time to write a little bit about what we have actually been doing all this time.

We are living in the giant garden of an old friend from Vienna, a property that sits just a few metres away from a large, beautiful lake surrounded by forest. There are a handful of other houses dotted around it, but so far no other people to be seen! The garden attached to this house is vast, and that’s where the majority of our sweat has been spent. Jobs completed so far are:

1. Cutting the grass – sounds simple enough, but did we mention that the garden is huuuuuuuuuge? And the handy little tractor-mower broke down? As did the handy strimming machine? So it was all done with a hand-pushed mower and also pulled out of the ground with sheer muscle power. It felt like quite an achievement, and we can now add “naked lawn-mowing” to one of our CVs.

2. Creating a picnic spot by the lake – the land here had been almost reclaimed by the forest, so we cracked out every blade we could find and hacked down the baby trees. There was a lot of chainsaw work involved here, and one of us trained the other one in the use of this machine. This enables many chances for horror-movie-scene-recreation and is another skill to add to the CV.

3. A potato field – where once stood a tangled mess of overgrown brambles, stinging nettles, small trees and hidden rocks is now a beautifully farmed potato field. And the potatoes are growing mightily! It was some of the hardest hours of work we’ve spent here so far, and we felt every year of our ages at the end of those days. The most sophisticated tools we used here were clippers and spades, and we are feeling quite pleased with our manual labour efforts so far.

4. A tomato field – we cut away the top layer of grass, built some very fancy growing-frames (using old wood and string, very technical indeed) and have watched the tomatoes grow every day since. We feel we are almost ready to add “professional farmers” to our CVs.

5. Household, shed, cellar and workshop organisation – imagine you bought a fully furnished house, with two sheds full of tools. To that house, you brought all of your furniture from your old house. Then, a family member moves in and brings all of their furniture from their old house. It’s a lot of stuff. A lot. Especially compared to the amount of stuff that fits into a campervan. Well, we feel we can now add “professional home organisers” to our CVs. We just Googled it, and that is actually a profession.

6. The slope – in front of the house, the garden has a steep slope leading down to a path to the cellar, and finally to the road. This slope was also a tangled mess of brambles, stinging nettles, random weeds, rocks and small trees when we arrived. Three weeks of work transformed it a little. It’s best described by pictures, so here’s a photo time-line of our efforts. Landscape gardeners: on the CV.

7. Cow-proof gates – as you know from our previous blog, the neighbouring farmer has a few cows on the land next door. To enable an easy walk through the fences from the house down to the lake, we constructed a couple of gates from left-over forest parts that allow humans, but not cows, to walk through.

For a few more photos from our time here, check out our Instagram page of course! And we always like hearing from you, our readers, so leave us a comment or a guestbook message, why not.

Surviving the winter

There were a few reasons why we chose to head to the UK as our first adventure in the van, and one of them was the weather. Since one of us has been living in the rather hot Bornean jungle for a few years, and since we chose to start living in a van from the beginning of winter, we figured the UK would offer a gentle introduction to the cold season. Residents of the UK often lament the lack of proper wintery weather, instead being stuck with constant grey skies, drizzle and decidedly mild temperatures – minus degrees are a rarity, and this all sounded good to those unaccustomed to the cold.Apart from the minus degrees in Germany during our trip from Austria to England, the UK pretty much delivered what we expected. When people complained about how cold it was when temperatures reached 4-5°C, we giggled as our phones told us it was -15°C or colder back in Austria. Though, as one of our earlier blog posts acknowledged, our heater is still one of our favourite posessions and thermal undies to help cope with 4°C are awesome.

This week, however, served up some pretty wintery weather in the UK and had even the cold-experienced among us agreeing that it was bloody chilly out there. We awoke one morning to find that everything had seemingly been dipped in ice, with thick sheets covering every surface of anything that had been facing the wind. We are lucky enough to be living in a cottage at the moment, and have often been taking our breakfast (coffee and smokes) in our second living room in our van. We were frozen out though this week, with a blanket of ice covering the locks, handles and indeed the whole side of the van. We were a bit worried that the ice would have killed our battery, but our very own Beast from the East started up with no problems, the winter tyres ploughed on through the snow and the lead that we spit out of our exhaust melted snow behind us.

Hobos’ survival essentials

Since the weather had knocked out the electricity (and train lines, roads, flights, supermarket supplies… we were smart enough to get out for the essentials before the worst weather hit), we were a bit stuck for work for a while and with no heating it wasn’t much fun to sit around in the cottage. So, we did what all good British people would do and fired up the bar-be-que. It was the perfect way to welcome in the Spring!Other than snow adventures, work has continued on the playroom with more cut outs created and a storage bench added. We’re still really enjoying our time in Devon and will probably be here for a few more weeks. Check our Instragram feed for more regular updates, and you can always say hi in our Guestbook!