We recently finished up our winter work in Devon and moved out of our lovely little cottage there. The plan was to spend a couple of weeks with the Somerset family, then have some extended holidays in some countries we haven’t explored yet. Italy was definitely on the list, and perhaps Switzerland if we were feeling particularly rich. Then, over the last weeks, one by one all countries in Europe starting closing down, and though for a while it seemed like it might still be possible to drive through and maybe even find remote places to stay for a couple of weeks, the situation changed day by day until the word “lockdown” became the common state of affairs.
So, our current plan is to take each week at a time and enjoy the longer period we’ll now be staying in England for as much as possible. We’re lucky because we both have remote jobs at the moment, which we’ve been working on alongside our winter work, so we can now spend a bit more time on those. One of us writes online content. The other has had a remote job with his old company for the last few months and has also been letting his creative juices flow with a second side project. It’s something he has thought about and wanted to do for a looooooooong time, our #vanlife finally gave him the time and space for it, and #viruslife has allowed even more time! If you don’t know what we’re talking about, there’s a sneaky peek photo below, and see Instagram for the full story.
We also have some more house improvements to carry out in Somerset, scheduled before the world went mad. If we’re not careful, we could soon end up working full-time hours, which was never part of the plan! It does seem like we won’t be moving back into the van though for a while, which is a bummer for sure. But it will be so awesome when we finally can and we’re looking forward to that already.
Having written and deleted a few paragraphs now with further thoughts on this virus and how the world is reacting to it, perhaps it is best to finish up with some more gratitude. We are happy to be more than two years into #vanlife already, which means we live a life where we aren’t dependent on a regular 9-5 job with steady incomes to make a comfortable living. It also means we live a life where we never had more than a few weeks into the future planned out, so not knowing what we are able to do from one month to the next is no real shock to our systems. We have also been used to spending each and every day around each other, and so far we continue to see that as a bonus of our lives! The virus sucks so much, and the way the world has reacted to it only makes things worse for many. We still manage to enjoy every day, and know we are lucky to do so.
It has been a while since we wrote one of these! You may wonder if perhaps this was due to an epic honeymoon, as anyone that follows #vanlife will know that living in a van is all about yoga on the edge of a mountain, perfect beaches and impromptu outdoor-cinema-set-ups with projectors and more cushions than could possibly realistically fit in our tiny van. However, the truth is we had some technical problems for a couple of months so our blog got left behind a bit. After our wedding we finished up our project work on the horse ranch, laid a new wooden floor in our final Austrian project of the year and then saw in the New Year in England once again.
We need to take a moment here to give a shout out to our epic little van. We have written before about how much we like to live in it, but haven’t shared a lot about what it’s like to drive. Here’s the thing; it’s awesome. That tiny engine runs and runs and runs and runs. It’s not too keen on the cold, but still on the third go it roars to life. It’s typical of an old car in that it has its own personal wants and needs that make it unique. It makes us think of Biff in Back to the Future who claims “nobody drives this car but me”. This makes it all the more special, and somehow all the more homely for us.
Our last drive to England was done in record time (which at four days is still pretty slow, we know, but shows how happy this van is to be moving and how reliable it has been for us so far). We didn’t have our hearts set on an old van, it just happened to be the camper that was available at the time we were looking that was just within our budget, but there are no regrets from us! Well, actually one of us would really love it to have power steering, but you can’t have everything.
So far this year we have been back in our, now regular, winter residence in a holiday cottage in Devon. We are hard at work with house renovation here, and one of us has had his first taste at being a digital nomad! #Digitalnomad goes hand in hand with #vanlife for the majority of people that are able to live full time in a van while traveling around and it is fun to be able to give this a try as well as the other work we’re able to find on our travels. Life is always full of possibilities, and we are lucky to be able to grab these when they pop up. Like walking alpacas, which we’ll be doing at the end of the month. Maybe that’s what the next blog will be about…
The following statement may make us traitors to the hashtag-vanlife purists: so far, in 2019 we have not been living in our van. Instead, we have been watching the winter weather from inside a 600 year old thatched cottage, sitting on a huge sofa with a radiator at our backs. We could park our van inside the bedroom, and we have the option of a shower or a bath in the bathroom. It is a temporary home of course, and only living somewhere for a few weeks at a time wouldn’t suit everyone, but for us it is one of the things that makes our van life so enjoyable!We are once again working and living on the holiday cottage farm in Devon, England. We spent a couple of months over winter here last year, and were really pleased when the owners asked us to come back for some more work projects this year. When we were first talking about hitting the road in 2017 and trying to get jobs as we go, we knew that the most important thing for us have a chance at success would be to build a reputation and hope for a bit of word-of-mouth momentum to ensure the next job and keep us afloat. We also knew this would take time to develop, so it was an awesome moment for us to get a repeat booking after just a year on the road. And what a place to be able to return to!
The work for us here this year is mostly rennovation. There are 7 holiday cottages here, all needing a fair amount of upkeep and attention, so we arrived to quite a long list of projects and the list keeps growing. We have been re-painting houses, refurbishing doors and windows, upgrading chicken enclosures, beautifying sheds, chatting with guests, walking dogs and more.
We have a few more weeks here and will make the most of the treats that living in a house allow. Here are a few that we still don’t take for granted:
Having an indoor toilet that we can quickly walk to for a midnight pee. Perhaps we should one day film the clumsy, disastrous debacle that one of us goes through to climb out of the van door to squat outside for a midnight pee. Honestly, having a toilet just around the corner is great.
When we are wet from rain or filty dirty from work, having plenty of appropriate places to put clothes without worrying about what else is getting wet or dirty.
Having a machine wash our dishes. It feels like putting a robot-servant to work every time.
Having an oven – baking cakes, roasting potatoes, pizzas, cheesey bakes… mmmmm.
Having pets. This is something that we have seen a lot of vanlife folks enjoying on the road too, but our van is just a bit too small to comfortably accommodate extra companions. Here, we often have a resident cat, and a couple of awesome dogs. We love that.
The simple pleasure of sitting on the sofa watching TV.The rest of the year is looking pretty busy at the moment. We will keep you posted with our next plans when we hit the road again! For now, follow our Instagram and we will share more photos of course.
A rather remarkable thing is happening as we write… the jungle-acclimatised half of us is sitting outside, in the sun, in a t-shirt and feeling warm for the first time since we embarked on our van life! We’ve also finished up Job #2 in Devon and have a few days of relaxation before hitting the road once again. Well, actually every day has been pretty relaxing since we left Vienna, but we have a few spare days now before the next adventure begins.
So of course, it’s time to reflect on the last few weeks, and things we’ve learned and observed during our time in the lovely South West of England:
The only thing the English need to don a pair of shorts is a glimmer of sunshine. Never mind that temperatures are hovering around freezing – when the calendar says Spring, that means it’s shorts and sandals time regardless
There are some hard-core Old Timer fans to be found everywhere! In tiny Devon villages, be prepared to pose for a photo if you’re in a vehicle that’s as awesome as our almighty van
Trip to the beach = ice cream. Similar to the shorts, weather be damned. Even when bracing an umbrella against gale force winds throwing sideways rain, there is still a hand free for an ice cream
Skype/Facetime/any kind of video call from one country to another still mostly consists of both parties saying “can you see/hear me? Oh wait you’re frozen… I can hear you ok… Hello?”
Spring is beautiful!
Ducks are bullies
Throwing a ball for an excited dog never gets boring
For the last 9 weeks, our version of van life hasn’t involved much living in our van since we were lucky enough to be able to move into one of the holiday cottages on the site, so we’re pretty excited to get back in our tiny house and do some more miles. The job in Devon has been great, just what we were hoping for really. Who knows, our van might bring us back there again in the future…
So, Sweden here we come! Our next blog will be an update on the (hopefully completely uneventful) journey from here to there, which we still haven’t totally decided on yet, so watch this space! Watch us on Instagram too obviously, and leave us a comment if you want to say hi.
After the ice rain, snow drifts and minus temperatures of an early British March, we’re believing the emerging flowers and brave bugs that Spring is now here! Since one of us has been living in the season-less rainforest for 10 years, the changing of the seasons is a novelty being very much enjoyed.
We’ve now spent about 7 weeks on Job Number 2 at the holiday cottages in the South West of England, and we’ve got into a really enjoyably ‘normal’ routine. Our work is great – it keeps us busy but doesn’t give us any stress and is easily put away at the end of the day and at weekends (which is a novelty for both of us). Our spare time is awesome – the farm is lovely, as is the surrounding countryside here, and we’re pretty close to our English half of the family for a change so we’re making the most of that.
The best thing though has been settling properly into our life together. Since the start of last year, there has always been a countdown running in our heads – time until we could meet each other (FINALLY), time until the end of our holiday, time until we were apart again, then together again, finishing work, and eventually of course the final countdown until we left Vienna. In the last month, it’s dawned on us that there are no more countdowns! As long as our next couple of weeks are organised, we have gas for Gaston and we have somewhere to park everything is a-ok. As for our next couple of weeks, we’ll be finishing up our work here and climbing back on board our almighty van. He is always eager to hit the road, and so are we; Sweden is calling! We’re not sure how to get there yet, and the final destination is so remote that there aren’t any GoogleMap co-ordinates for it, but when you travel in your house there’s no real stress in getting lost.We’re updating Instagram much more regularly than our blog at the moment, so make sure you follow us there and you can check out our Guestbook if you want to leave a message! We love hearing from you all.
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.
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!