Happy New Year (belated)!!!

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.

Winter is here!

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.

It’s a wild horse!

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.

Current work includes cleaning roofs…
and painting windows. And no, it is not always sunny

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…

These guys are just desperate for some hobos to walk with them

Surviving the heat wave

Living in a van makes one far more aware of the daily weather, and far more appreciative of lovely, settled, 23-degrees-and-sunny days. These kinds of days have been few and far between so far this year, and our latest challenge was a heat wave of more than 35 degrees for pretty much a full week. On Facebook and Instagram, #vanlife groups and forums were full of advise such as “insulation is the key!”, “reflective covers for windows!”, “leave your engine running for air con!”. Our old timer has never heard of air con, insulation also obviously wasn’t such a hot topic when building out campervans in the early 80s and our orange curtains, though super stylish, don’t do much in the way of reflecting sun.

Beautiful spot! Not much shade

The heat wave hit us during a week where we had to make some miles to get from one working project to the next. Therefore, simply parking up in the shade and waiting for it to be over wasn’t an option, otherwise that would be our first suggestion for survival. Shade was crucial though, and that became the MOST IMPORTANT factor in picking a spot to camp. We use the Park4Nite app to find spots and in lots of reviews, stating that a spot had “plenty of sun” was obviously considered to be positive, and we rejected those suggestions with disgust. The view became unimportant, we didn’t care if there were toilets, bins, showers or any normally-looked-for facilities. Our mission to find shade each day was almost as important as getting to Austria for the next job.

Stunning! But no shade

Usually during our traveling or holiday times in our van, one of things we enjoy most is the relaxing mornings, lie ins, and coffee in bed. Not during a heat wave. The hours before midday, before the sun reaches its burning, soul-destroying maximum, are precious indeed, and we tried to get all of our daily driving done in the mornings. The earlier the better, so we could be done by 1 at the latest and be somewhere in the shade (see point above).

Now there’s a little shade

We can store just 10 litres of water in our van and fill up whenever we get the chance. During the heat every drop was needed. If we were able to get water that was properly cold, we would travel with the containers on ours laps, under our t-shirts, for a constant cool compress. On the hottest day of the heat wave, we sat for an afternoon with our feet in a water bucket (a plastic washing bowl that we hadn’t used in our previous year and a half of van life but were oh SO grateful that we had kept it) and a wet towel over our heads. For the whole afternoon. Just waiting for the wonderful time of day that was sun set.

Goodbye horrid ball of fire

The best spot that we found during the heat wave was in the Austrian hills. We parked along side an incredibly chilly, small river, and the breeze coming off of the cold water was spectacular. The river was shaded by trees too, so it was the absolute perfect location to spend a day. During the evening, the breeze from the water was so cooling that we actually had to wear something more than just underwear. Feeling slightly chilly was the most sublime thing we experienced that week.

Glorious, precious, cold, cold water

So, needless to say we survived the heat with no mod cons in our vintage van! We’ve been working at our latest project for a few weeks now, and the next blog will tell a little more about it. Keep updated with our Instagram in the meantime.

Camper behaviour

We are sure that we are not the first campers to enjoy watching the behaviour of other campers. It seems to be a time and place in life where being a nosey neighbour isn’t considered to be rude or annoying, but expected and accepted. And your neighbours constantly change! So there is always something/someone new to see/watch/talk about. Highlights for us so far include the man who literally did not step outside of his motor home for the three days he was parked next to us, a guy with a semi-permanent caravan who scrubbed his few paving stones with something that was not much larger than a toothbrush for an afternoon, and anyone with a friendly dog.Hence, the subject of this post. Here are a few behaviours we’ve noticed that seem common to almost all campers that we’ve observed (watched nosily) on our travels:

  • Satellites finding signals. So far, we continue to be the smallest camper in the campsite/free parking area and most of our neighbours have mobile homes, rather than camper vans. And all of these mobile homes have a satellite dish on top of the vehicle. As soon as the vehicle is parked, the dish starts spinning and the occupants quickly move on to…
  • Leveling. No matter how level we perceive the ground to be where we park, you can be sure that the next motor home that parks in the same area will crack out their little yellow wheel ramps and make sure that they are parking spirit-level flat. When a completely perfect degree of flatness has been achieved, campers can continue on to…
  • Territory marking. This is very important, and the priority as soon as parking adequately has been concluded. It is usually comprised of setting out chairs, a table, often extending some kind of roofing from the side of the vehicle, sometimes laying down a rug or carpet of some sort and then immediately sitting in said chairs and enjoying the view.

    Other nosey neighbours
  • Sitting within the constructed outdoor living room. Obviously, the point of camping is getting into the wonderful outdoors, so it’s not the sitting outside that we find quirky here. It’s the fact that it only takes place right next to the campervan or motor home. The parking spot can be next to a lake, on the coast, by a forest or anywhere else beautiful, but you can guarantee that the chairs get unpacked and set up next to the camper, never carried to a different spot. We like to do this too! Our van is our home, and it’s always nice to sit at home.
    No neighbours here!

    Something that so far has been very particular to our daily routine that we are sure other campers have enjoyed observing is switching our van from living room to bedroom, and then back again in the morning. We haven’t seen anyone else with this arrangement in their mobile homes, no doubt because no one else seems to be living in something as small as we are. Pretty much all the vans we see on Instagram too have a permanent bed set up inside. Is anyone else building up a bed each night?

Also, our territory marking behaviour is seriously lacking. All we have to claim space outside is a doormat. Which we do enjoy laying down on the ground outside our front door as soon as we arrive somewhere. We have lately conceded that the idea of chairs might be worth pursuing, so perhaps we can join in with the more established territory marking that we commonly see very soon. Stay tuned with us on Instagram to see if this day happens soon!

First time doing that!

After a few months and a few completed projects in England, we are on the road again! In the last week we have touched ground in England, France, Belgium and Luxemburg, and it is in the last location that we have put down our very temporary roots for a holiday.

Goodbye England!

It is our first proper holiday in our van! We have had many lovely traveling days since starting our #vanlife and sometimes taken more than a week to get to our various work projects. But to just take off with no immediate work booked and no fixed plans for the next few weeks is a novelty, and an exciting one. Our days are filled with tough decisions like where to go for a walk and what to have for dinner. Like any holiday should be!

Road trip!

It is our first time really using the newly installed solar panels! As we suspected they would be, these have really been a game changer for us. We literally have a never-ending electricity supply in our home, and still find it a bit unbelievable each time we plug a phone in. We can also switch on our lights in the back/living room/kitchen/bedroom at any time. It is the best upgrade we have made so far.

Nice view from our bedroom in Belgium

It was our first time spending more than one night at a free spot with no amenities! This was possible mostly thanks to the solar panels mentioned above, and also because we were next to a lake so could refill our water. We know there are many people out there who think camping should be all about the off-grid experience, not worrying if gadgets run out of battery life and learning to enjoy just being. However, we’re not on a camping holiday, this is our normal life. And we like having a phone with internet, and a laptop for entertainment. Call us spoiled if you will…

Lovely free spot in Luxemburg

It was our first time watching a movie on an iPhone! We always assumed it would be a bit painful watching a whole movie on such a small screen, but with a decent speaker it was surprisingly ok. Whilst in bed, we rigged up a little system to mount the iPhone on our ceiling. Involving clips, and magnets attached to screws, a photo probably provides a better description. Wonder if we should patent that?


It was one of our’s first time having a proper toilet-in-the-woods experience! Enough said about that.

As always, you can check out more photos of our travels on our Instagram account, and stay posted here for more blogs! Apparently there are some rainy days coming up, so we might write something a bit sooner than usual.

Minimalism – how to fit all your stuff in a van

Apparently, #minimalism is another trend sweeping the Western world. Or, at least, doing the rounds on social media. There are books, videos, and even workshops now teaching people to assess their belongings, get rid of unnecessary baggage and organize what remains in certain rigid ways that promote some kind of conscious appreciation of what you have.

When deciding to move into a van, one is somewhat forced into downsizing possessions. This stage is both liberating and stressful in equal measure. Our process of doing so did not involve self-help-type YouTube tutorials or advice from Marie Kondo on the best way store our crap in the tiny space that is our van. It started with the realisation that pretty much EVERYTHING from our flat needed to go, and ended in a car park, packing the van ready to leave with one of us angrily throwing beloved items onto an ever growing pile that “we’ll just have to f*cking dump now because NOTHING FITS IN THIS VAN”.After our year’s anniversary of van life, we went through all of the things we had with us in the van and found we were able to throw quite a few bits away that we simply had not touched through the year. The first, kind of obvious, rule of minimalism is thus: if you do not need it, do not own it. Being brutal with this rule however leaves no room for sentimentality, so there will always be a few things that aren’t necessarily needed, but will still remain in our van. And a few more that we will keep stored with our nearest and dearest.

We bought our van already in its camper version. This meant we were saved a lot of hard design decisions, and knew straight away what storage space we had to work with. We basically live according to four boxes, which is how the benches in the van are arranged:

Coffee is an obvious essential, and we don’t use the sink so it’s great extra storage
  • Box 1: Clothes – his and hers storage spaces are allocated within the box, and that’s all there is. If we get new clothes, we have to sort out our area and get rid of something in its place. One pair of jeans will have to do, one pair of work trousers, one good winter coat etc. Shoes have a separate area, and there is one pair of boots, one pair of trainers, one pair of sandals and one pair of wellies per person.
  • Box 2: Kitchen stuff – pots and pans, cutlery, bowls and cooking utensils are here. So is some of our dry food. Who needs plates for eating? We serve straight from the saucepan and each grab a spoon. With just two gas hobs to cook on and no oven, we don’t need a great deal else. And who wants to wash up a load of cooking utensils, plates and cutlery when you live in a van?
  • Box 3: Tools – we are slowly but surely carving out life as mobile handymen (handypeople? handymen/women?), which means we need to have a few bits with us to be able to work. Since our van is more than 40 years old, we also want to keep the basics on hand to be able to knock him back into shape when he needs it. Tools may not be an essential for all van lifers, but they sure are for us.
  • Box 4: Miscellaneous – this is the random area for a few books, handcrafty and hobby things, towels and blankets.

We have a very useful cupboard that houses our gas bottle, a wonderful fridge that can run off the gas or electricity supply, and a cute arrangement of small shelves which is where essentials like coffee cups live. Added extras crammed into random spaces are a few cleaning supplies, a hammock and an air sofa. We did plan and want to fit a chair or two into our lives, but they were discarded in the carpark fury mentioned above and actually it turns out that they are not so needed.

It is true of course that when people have space, they tend to fill it up. We are not so enlightened to claim that should we return to a stationary home somewhere that it would not end up full to the brim with stuff we don’t use. But for now, we really love the fact that everything that we own and need is stored and carried with us in our tiny little home. It is a different way to live of course; at the moment we definitely wouldn’t change it.

One year and counting!

As you may have seen on our social media, this week we celebrated surviving a whole year of living on the road in our lovely old van. In some ways it feels like it was longer ago when we spent the last night in Vienna, sleeping on the floor of the empty flat. Before we left, we hadn’t managed to spend even a test night in the van due to some crazy shenanigans involving the MOT, so we were full of butterflies and really excited to get going. On that first journey, we learned about the importance of heating, the suspicion of German police and the thrill of overtaking since we only managed it once on a 5 day drive.

Since setting off, we were surprised to discover that #vanlife was actually a thing. However, contrary to what #vanlife shows on Instagram, we further discovered that living in a van for us did not really involve practising yoga on our hand-knitted carpets surrounded by fairy lights. With our first stop being on a British farm in January, it was more about sitting in front of the heater, trying not to lean against anything with our muddy clothes and learning to skip really quickly from the van to the room with the shower in underwear avoiding invisible puddles. We certainly did have some idyllic Instagram moments too though – a private lake in Sweden being one of the best of them.

We also aren’t one of those van couples who saved piles of money over years, sold a house and are enjoying infinite holiday travels until the money runs out. We work as we go, and after a year we’re pretty chuffed to discover that it’s turning out to be financially possible. This included some pretty major work being done to the van for the 2nd MOT too. We still have all fingers crossed for the coming year, which is starting well as we’ve got a few months of work confirmed already, inclucing a couple of repeat bookings from projects we worked on in our first year. Hopefully we can find some additional jobs in some new countries as we go!

In our first year we had 8 different jobs. The shortest time we stayed somewhere was 2 weeks, the longest 11 weeks. We painted rooms, refurbished windows, redesigned gardens, planted vegetables, fed animals, cleaned up shit, designed and constructed kids’ play areas, repaired fences, cut grass, built sheds, blow-torched roofs, laid floors, worked online and a few more things. Each project has been awesome, people have been wonderful and each location has been something special.

We are now back in England for festive times with the English family. We have a job in the new year which we’ll tell you all about in the next blog but will surely offer sneak peaks on our Instagram account, so be sure to follow us there of course! After that, we are plan-less at the moment. As long as we know where we are for the next month, we are happy to plod along and see what happens. Thanks for keeping up with our adventures, and Merry Christmas everyone!

We took this when we had just picked up the van!

THE MOT and the next job

The good news is we have been happily living in our lovely little home on wheels for the last five weeks, which means our van made it through its 40th MOT! It was not plain sailing though, but perhaps it never will be for a vintage beauty such as we own. Our biggest problem is rust, and rust hiding rust, and rust in really hard to reach places that require a lot of digging around and welding to uncover and to fix. So it all took a bit longer and cost a bit more than our most perfect plans, but we have a van that is once again fit and ready for a year of being both our transport and our house. Worth every penny. Fixing up our rusty old machine meant that we were a bit later arriving to our next job than we intended. We have been living in der schönen grünen Steiermark on a horse ranch, parked up less than a metre from the nearest horse. They make for really awesome neighbours, but we discovered that some do snore pretty loudly. We were kept busy with plenty of work on the ranch. We built up sheds, repaired and relaced rotten foundations, built up feeding areas for the horses, fixed enclosures, repaired walls, built gates, cleaned out gutters, mended nets, sledge-hammered in more than 100 huge wooden posts and put up countless metres of electric fencing. One of us also managed to squeeze in their first ever horse riding lesson on the slowest, laziest horse that the ranch had.

The plan was to work here for a month, and we extended by a week to make sure we could finish every job that had been put on our to-do list. Over that time we unpacked our extra cozy winter blanket and our heater from storage, though we didn’t always need them (let’s take this moment to give a little shout-out to all those van-lifers that are actually living in their vans as winter approaches. We’ve noticed so many on Instagram packing away their vans now the holiday season is over. To all the winter vanners, hope you’ve all got great blankets and some kind of heating!!). Autumn has been kind to us so far, and as long as we can plug our van in we have the perfect warm house. The only thing we are missing is proper lights in there, which we noticed more and more since the clocks changed last month.So, we have bought ourselves a little upgrade… solar panels! Through these, we will be able to keep our second spare car battery charged, and from that run power to use interior lights in the van. The lights came with the van, but connected to the main battery, so we’ve never wanted to use them for fear of sucking too much power and then not being able to start the van in the morning. Our new electrics will pose no threat to our start-up power, and as long as there’s day light we should be charging! It’s all a work in progress at the moment, so keep an eye on our Instagram for photos of the finished product (hopefully soon!).

We bid a fond farewell to the ranch last week, and have been booked for work there again next year, which we are looking forward to already! The people there are wonderful and welcoming, and being around the horses was great fun. For now though, we are preparing for the next road trip from Austria to England once again. Plans are also shaping up nicely for the next year, and it seems like this working-driving-vanliving thing could be quite sustainable… we’ll keep you all posted, and try to be a bit more regular with our blogs going forwards! For now though, it’s cheerio to Austria, until next year.

A few countries, a few campsites, a few cows

There has been quite some action since our last blog post! Our excuse is that we have been without WiFi for the last four weeks, and just a few days ago we stepped back into the modern world when a router appeared on the property that is our current home. So here we are, with an update for you all. The last four weeks, in brief:We traveled all the way across England! From West to East once again, with a night on a lovely campsite that we had all to ourselves. Basically, we parked in an empty field. It was awesome. Then…

We took a boat and drove across a little bit of France! Then…

We drove across Belgium! Then…

We drove through the Netherlands! We extended our route there to stay for a couple of extra days, as the roads were fantastic and we enjoyed it a lot. It’s rather flat, and there are lovely windmills, just to confirm a couple of stereotypes there. There too, we also had a campsite to ourselves – we thoroughly recommend traveling around outside of peak season times, although one of the reasons we like these empty sites so much is because we’ve now got used to being around no more than  five people at a time. So huge fields with no people is where we are at home. Then…

We drove across Germany! We were ready for a police stop as soon as we crossed the border, but were disappointed. No German police found our almighty van suspicious this time! Then…

We took another boat! Then…

We drove across the south coast of Sweden! We were prepared for a beautiful country and so far Sweden is totally fulfilling our expectations. We stopped at a random campsite and parked about three metres away from edge of the coast, facing the direction of the setting sun. We planned to stay for one night. Then we extended. Then we extended again. Then…We drove to our work project and parked up in what has now become our new temporary home. We are a hundred metres away from a gorgeous lake and haven’t seen another person around it yet (suits us perfectly, see above). Holiday time is over for now though, and we’re working pretty hard here and getting our teeth stuck into some great projects. We’ll write more details in our next blog, and there are sneak peaks on our Instagram account of course. Oh, and we have a group of ten cows as very nosey neighbours here. While watching a horror movie in the car one night, we heard a really weird noise which we thought came from the movie. We rewound it (do we still say rewound, or is that from the days of VHS tapes?), and rewound it again and couldn’t hear it. For a moment, we thought we were having a supernaturel moment of our own, until we turned around and looked out the back window. We saw all ten cows, not moving, staring directly at us. Mooing.

Cows are awesome.

End of Job #2

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.

Final job – swing!

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…

Testing out the final job

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.

From Coast to Coast

We’re set up now in job number two of the Epic Hobo Working Road Trip and we’re living a life of luxury – we have a house! A dishwasher! A washing machine! Central heating! Separate rooms for sleeping and cooking! We can’t quite believe it. In our awesome van we sit up in bed and can reach the cooker and all things required to make coffee. Here, it’s a short walk from one side of the cooker to the other.

After landing in Dover on the east, we trundled across England to the South West for Christmas. Then, made the looooooong journey all the way back across as east as you can go for the Norfolk adventure. Now, we have bounced back across the country once again to land back in the sunny (so far anyway) West Country! We could be accused of bad planning, but we always intended to follow the jobs that sounded awesome, and our van loves being on the road (well, he had a minor protest when we left Norfolk, so we enjoyed the side of the road for a couple of hours) so it’s all working out pretty well so far.Here in Devon we’re working with a couple that own some holiday cottages. They’re preparing the site for the 2018 season, and we applied for general cleaning work with them. After reading through our CVs though they offered us different jobs – creating an entertaining and theatrical play area for kids, and assisting with all the social media, marketing and admin work, interspersed with the ocassional animal-feeding requirement. It’s all a perfect fit for us, and we get to live in one of the cottages on site! There are lovely dogs around, lambs, two awesome goats, rabbits, ducks, a cat and some chickens, which is great as we miss working around the chickens every day. One of the dogs is really interested in power tools, and insists on popping her head into the middle of the action whenever she can.

We’ll keep you posted on the progress of our projects – spread the word that the hobos on wheels are always available for hire, and as always you can check out extra pictures on Instagram and say hi here or in our Guestbook!