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.

Cutting trees
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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!

From Slovenia to Austria

It’s been a few weeks since we last wrote anything here, so this entry may read a little bit more like a diary than some of our other blogs. Then, by the end of it, all you interested people will know what we’ve been up to, what we’re currently doing and a little outline of our onward plan!

So, as we said at the end of our last blog, we drove to Slovenia. We found a really lovely spot to park up for a couple of days before we navigated our way to the next work project. We’re getting bettter at finding free parking/camping as we go along, which we’ve decided it a really useful skill to hone since the hobo life is not one full of disposable income. We use a handy app for this most of the time, called Campercontact for anyone that’s interested. After some failed attempts at using this to find parking, here’s our tip for fellow campers/van dwellers that might want to give it a go: check the review sections of any potential parking spot. If there are no reviews from the past year/few months, chances are the place doesn’t exist any more, keep on searching! Likewise, if there’s a contact number offered, it’s always worth trying that, at least to see if the number is still in service.

Anyway! This time the app found us a cracking spot and we enjoyed some relaxation. Then, undertook the journey into the Slovenian wine country (read: extremely small roads, steep hills, hairpin bends and vertical drops along the sides. One of us did not manage to keep her eyes open for the whole drive) to arrive at our hosts’ place. We found this job using Work Away, which specialises in work-for-food arrangements for people travelling around on a budget. Hosts write a description about themselves and the work they can offer, and potential volunteers can search by country and see if there is something appealing. There is every kind of work advertised here, from dog-sitting to construction, so with a bit of time taken you can do some research and find a project to suit.

Not the worst landscape

The work here was physically challenging to say the least. We’re both used to hard work, but the terrain of the vineyards and temperatures above 35 degrees made for tough conditions! With a lot of effort and many litres of sweat lost, we were able to do a huge amount of land-clearing work here that was desperately needed to turn a bit of a waste land back into a useable garden again (well, useable if you enjoy walking around an incredibly steep hill… which the humans didn’t really seem to but there were 6 dogs that appreciated it!). It was a two week effort, after which we bid farewell to the project and decided to return to Austria a little earlier than originally planned. On the journey back, we made what was possibly the best diversion of our trip/lives so far and headed to a tiny village called Thal bei Graz to visit the most important museum in all of Austria – Arnie’s childhood home! It’s impossible to describe how epic this was, so suffice to say that you should all just go there. September is the month we have been waiting for. It is the time of reckoning for our beloved home, as the MOT is due. But with some time to kill before then, we lined up some more work to do! By fortune, after sending out a couple of messages and not really expecting to find a ‘proper project’ that we could sink our teeth into for 2-3 weeks, we managed to land exactly that. An old friend had some rennovation work planned and a contractor that had just cancelled on her, so we were able to step in and take the job!

We were tasked with the re-painting of one room of a huge, old house – all walls, plus indoor and outdoor windows – with a side project of turning a massive old set of doors into a shabby/chic table. We’ve had our own private field in which to park up and turn into our current home and generally feel like we totally landed on our feet after changing plans a bit last minute. Everything worked out pretty perfectly – and we can now add ‘painters and decorators’ to our CVs. And ‘door rennovators’? ‘Table-makers’? ‘Furniture restorers’? Maybe we’ll stick with ‘Jack-of-all-trades’.

We’ve a few more jobs lined up in Austria, plus THE MOT as previously mentioned. Perhaps the next blog will be an update on the state of our van… please keep all your fingers crossed for us and send our old timer all your best thoughts for smooth running, minimal rust and no total breakdowns. And of course, follow our Instagram feed for little updates in the meantime!