Updated: Aug 4, 2021
WHY WE CHOSE VANLIFE
Hi-we’re Toby and Abbie! To set the scene, we’re 22, we met nearly 3 years ago when we were in estate agency and car sales. Jobs we were good at, but didn’t see them as a long term careers. Working 50+ hour weeks started to take its toll. We didn’t want to be another statistic where years would go by in the blink of an eye, and you look back and wish you would have done something about it sooner.
We found ourselves spending more time daydreaming about travel, Vanlife and what the future might hold. We had never wanted to do the traditional ‘norm’ and had longed for a lifestyle that meant we could be in a new place everyday, allow us financial independence and give us freedom. We realised we wanted more from life!
Something had to change, and it was this time last year when we decided to do something about it - lets spend a year in Australia! We’ll buy a campervan, get a job and find money as and when we can and most importantly travel.
With the world at our feet we felt motivated enough to leave our jobs in March 2020, with a 12-month travel visa in our hands - and as I’m sure you’ve guessed…we became just another plan cancelled by the coronavirus.
After feeling a little deflated, we realised there’s nothing we can do but get on with it - it’s out of our hands and we were forced to go with the flow! We asked ourselves, why not buy a van here in the UK?
For us, Vanlife is more than living in a van. It’s about being able to choose your daily surroundings, have a different view from the window every morning, take risks and focus on what is really important. It's adventure, being with each other and creating unforgettable memories. We're aware some days will be harder than others, they'll be sacrifices, tests along the way, but ultimately that’s a challenge we are willing to accept and a journey into appreciating life in a whole new perspective.
ENOUGH ABOUT US. LET’S TALK ALL THINGS BETTY
She is a 1984 Freight Rover Sherpa, ex work van turned camper, with lots of rust *cough cough* character! Only 68,000 miles and running a trusty 2.0 litre petrol engine she has a great thirst for adventure, but unfortunately an even bigger thirst for the fuel pump. We still laugh about how the 4 hour journey to Southampton consisted of us chatting about how we will not commit to anything, we’re only going to look! As soon as we saw her exiting off the ramp we might as well have already paid right there and then! We were completely smitten, in love with the van and the idea of what we could create.
We planned our first trip to Scotland a few weeks after, to continue and finish the build. It was roughly 5 hours into the journey, travelling up the A74, when we noticed smoke and a strange smell coming from old Betty. Looking down at the off the scale, temperature gauge we knew something wasn't right. We were halfway up the country, head gasket blown and no breakdown cover. It seemed the worst possible outcome had become a reality.
After quite literally the weekend from hell, it is safe to say we survived our first and biggest test of Vanlife so far. These are the sort of situations and challenges we knew we had to prepare for however didn’t expect nor were we prepared for on our first adventure. It was a tough pill to swallow.
Something we found incredible was the amount of help and attention we got from Facebook groups and social media during the incident. People were willing to help from all over the country which really opened our eyes as to how vast and friendly the Vanlife community is. So to those people - thank you!
BETTY LIVES ON!
Having watched van conversion videos for the past couple of years we had a good idea where to start. “It can’t be that hard can it” was definitely said a few times, very modest I know!
The interior was old and a little tired so we decided we would rip it out and start with a clean slate. After getting down to the original steel floor we could see patches around the wheel arches which needed welding. Luckily we had a friend who could weld, so we got straight to it and welded up the worst bits. A day of rust busting and a generous lick of Hammerite rust paint later and we were ready to get started with the big build.
Start at the floor and work our way up was our plan. Easy enough right? We started by building a suitable framework for the floor. The gaps were then filled with boards of insulation then covered with a layer of 18mm plywood. Next came the walls which we filled with loft insulation and layered a 4mm sheet of ply on top after cutting out suitable window holes. *Tip of the day - cut the window hole the right size or it won’t fit…and you’ll have to do it again and again and again.
One thing led to another from here on. The wall that sectioned off the cab to the living area fitted in perfectly, followed by the tiling and the vinyl flooring. Carpeting the cab was especially fun as we had never done anything like this before, and that along with our idea to use rope to cover our slips of the Stanley knife, has turned out to be one of our favourite finishing touches.
And that brings us to now! We have an incredible electrical system going in next week, which consists of 300w solar, a split charge system and a 240v hookup. Our 12cm foam mattress has been ordered along with a set of curtains, our aim is to learn how to sew this week and create a fully functioning 4 part mattress.
See below for a cost breakdown -
Betty has already taught us a number of things. The most important for us being to take risks, appreciate new opportunities and to grab those opportunities with both hands. See where they take you, because for us, it’s been the best decision we’ve ever made-and we’re only getting started!
What we were daydreaming about in an office job this time last year is now our reality.
If you're interested in seeing Betty's transformation, our full journey is on Instagram @betty_the_sherpa and we'd be really grateful for your support.
Toby and Abbie.