[Week 4, 2021] – 22nd to 29th January – VanLife Living, Expedition Planning, and our Env

Week 4 – 2021 22nd to 29th January

This week has been full of snow, long dog walks up into the mountains, but mostly, rather boringly, I’ve been sat with my eyes burning at a laptop screen for 10 hours a day. There’a a great deal of work to be done to not only get our expeditions off the ground (reference recent blog where this is discussed), but also the various non-profit initiatives which I’m really pleased we’ve finally got off the ground. Now the hard work begins I suppose.

Please checkout Free Your Footprint for all the info. @freyourfootprint

We also have a really cool adventure grant coming soon, an adventure magazine, and better still the 196 Foundation is relaunching this summer. I’m so fortunate to have so many great people around me – it’s full steam ahead into 2021 and beyond.

Van Life – Day 428

What Is it really like to live in a van?

The short answer – it’s bloody brilliant. We’ve lived in our van now for 14 months and we love it. There are, of course, certainly some ‘vanlife realities’ to talk of though. Got a question about #vanlife just drop us an email.

If you’ve heard of the 10,000 hour rule – then you’ll know that supposedly after 10,000 hours you become a master of whatever passion or craft you’ve been practising for those 10,000 hours. It’s fair to say that I have certainly run for well over 10,000 hours, (I should probably calculate that some point..) and don’t class myself as an expert by any means; but I do without-a-doubt know more than if I hadn’t ran at all. I think the past 828 marathons alone might have helped a little. Thinking about it, the time I’ve spent running is probably eye-wateringly high. I’ll calculate that and let you know an estimate.

Having our home on our back has many frustrations, draw backs, and limitations – but weighing up the pros and cons – I can honestly say I am totally dumbfounded as to why more people don’t do it. All things considered, it is utterly brilliant.

I guess some of the ‘cons’ of living in a van are things like – image, perceptions, and being likened to trailer trash or gypsies. In fact on many occasions, (even by police) we’ve been called homeless. First of all we are far from homeless; in fact we have a home anywhere we want it – plus being actually homeless or sleeping rough – is, I’m sure, utterly horrendous in comparison. Besides I actually quite like the pureness of the travelling community and trailer dwellers. (Maybe I’m missing something I don’t know) There are also the preconceptions that you’re generally more unclean if you live in a van. I understand where that comes from, but living without walls doesn’t directly correlate to the inability to wash. That said, and in all honesty, I think it is very easy to be less clean in a van – probably because we’re without a traditional shower, plus the added mindset change of realising that you don’t actually need to spend an hour in the shower every day.

We have a toilet, although admittedly not what you’d call a toilet. We have hot running water, we have heating, we have a full double bed, we have a full 70 litre fridge and freezer. We have a full sized oven and grill, plus 4 hobbs. We have a kettle, normal cutlery and applicants like a hoover and hairdryer. We even have USB charging ports dotted all over the place, plus four traditional three-pin 240 volt electricity points. The best part is that all our power comes from the sun via two large solar panels with hefty storage batteries to hold the charge. We have black out curtains so it’s totally dark, plus decking on the roof for a Sunday morning breakfast. The extra special window we installed is in the roof; this is our bed time star gazing skylight. Going to sleep with the view of nothing but millions of stars above your head is pretty special; and if we’re by the sea we just open the hatch a little to hear the sound of the waves lapping at the back doors. Our full sized slide-out kitchen table doubles up as a desk and we even have dimming lights to set the mood for a romantic dinner.

There’s a few gadgets we hold dear and use often – first of all our iPad Pro – we can it fix to the wall and use it as a telly or to stream Netflix for example. It doubles as a chessboard, and somewhere to edit and store our photos too. Secondly, our central heating is powered by gas and is very clever. It monitors the temperature and keeps it steady throughout the day and night – plus it’s silent and very affective. A full tank lasts us about 3 weeks and costs about £8. That powers the heating and also the cooker as well as heating the water too. The solar does everything else. Our extra special compartment is in the garage. A full weight baring slide out draw the entire length of the van pulls out once the two back doors are open. This holds all our adventure gear. Sleeping bags, stoves, bed rolls, cutlery, compass, flasks, fire lighting stuff, and of course bags, cleaning materials, lamps, and bits and bobs. Our shower is at the back, and can only be used outdoors. But still, it works a treat and doubles up as a hose to wash down wetsuits, remove sand, rinse the mud (or worse) off of the dog. It being outside might sound mad but it saves room indoors plus water inside isn’t a great idea. Hosing down Poppy outside is the best bet, rather than inside. If we want privacy we just open both doors to 90 degrees and use a shower curtain to shield us – not that we use the curtain that much. And remember showers and toilet facilities are available in gyms, hotels, friends houses, camp sites and more… so we get by without any trouble.

Most of the drawbacks can be confined to 3 headings. 1 – parking, 2 – safety, and 3 – storage. We have very little clothes or belongings other than the usual laptops and cameras. We also need to be mindful of where we park not just for height restrictions and ticketing, but safety too. We found that out the hard way in Italy. My only real stress about the van on a day to day basis is safety. The minor things are cleaning constantly and remembering to wash and clean as you go.

The feel of freedom and realisation that we can go anywhere is just marvellous. And yes anywhere – we can ship to the US for under £3000, and we can catch a ferry to Scandinavia if we wanted or even to Aus. It’s simple and affordable. Fuel is our biggest expense, followed by parking, then gas. The normal food bill doesn’t change, if anything we eat in a little more because we love the cosy feel.

A few of my favourite bits about our home and life on the road.

Our bedtime views.

Going to sleep in a full sized double bed spanning the rear of the van is a luxury for van life. No making the bed or folding tables down before we can sleep. It’s permanently there and our mattresses is to die for too. With all the running it’s my favourite place in our tiny home on wheels.

Our views of an evening are either out the backdoors or up through our massive skylight to watch the stars. On a windless night, opening the doors right back is like bringing a mattress to the beach or mountains. With a view of the ocean and waves crashing just a few meters away or the mountains looming over us – it’s a special feeling that we’ve become rather used to, and one we could easily take for granted. Our skylight above the bed give us crystal clear views of the night sky to watch the stars twinkle as we fall asleep. On a stormy night we simple watch the rain drops dance on the glass. Better still, the skylight opens fully to 90 degrees and is big enough for us to both fit out of at the same time. This means we can stand on the bed with a cuppa and watch the sunset; half in and half out. The decking on the roof means we can also shimmy up through and out to lay in the sun.

Our views of an evening are either out the backdoors or up through our massive skylight to watch the stars. On a windless night, opening the doors right back is like bringing a mattress to the beach or mountains. With a view of the ocean and waves crashing just a few meters away or the mountains looming over us – it’s a special feeling that we’ve become rather used to, and one we could easily take for granted. Our skylight above the bed give us crystal clear views of the night sky to watch the stars twinkle as we fall asleep. On a stormy night we simple watch the rain drops dance on the glass. Better still, the skylight opens fully to 90 degrees and is big enough for us to both fit out of at the same time. This means we can stand on the bed with a cuppa and watch the sunset; half in and half out. The decking on the roof means we can also shimmy up through and out to lay in the sun.

Engine Off.

The sound of the van engine turning off after a long drive is something I hold dear. It’s as if the engine subsiding and coming to a stop represents us coming home. Our two seats in the front naturally face forward, with a spot for Poppy between us. Because we are focusing on the road and our destination we forget that our home is literally right behind us. We often sit there for a moment and take in whatever view we’ve driven to. (Most of the time we are driving to either a supermarket, petrol station, or amazing view) Once the engine is off, we move to our living room, slide the curtain across the front, dim the lights to a warm orange and pop the kettle on for a cup of camomile tea before bed. (Often mission tea actually) It’s amazing how snug and homely it is in the back of a Mercedes sprinter that was once used for delivering medical supplies to hospitals. Home really is where your heart is. Poppy, Nikki and the freedom of the world – what more can I ask for?

Early Mornings.

Mornings with the back doors open to the ocean, the rest of the world sleeping, and nothing but the sound of nature as I get out of bed to make a brew and change into my running clothes. Bliss. Still, and cosy; the heater on warming my toes as I change, and the light of the day slowly rising. Poppy and Nikki still sound asleep while I potter around as the kettle comes to the boil with a high pitched squeal.

If you fancy a little tour of our place, or even come to stay we’ll be around soon – and even better, with the help from Tentbox, we have an extension. We are installing a second bedroom on the roof. Watch this space. I’m excited to go from a one bed to a two bed. I can assure you it really doesn’t feel like living in a van.

Even if you’re not living in a van – how about making 2021 about using our freedoms – even in these current times we can still enjoy the outdoors. Just open the window maybe. We as humans spend 90% of our life indoors (real FACT), let’s try and change that.

To get involved in any projects please email management@nickbutter.com

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