Bristol is also home to lots of liveaboards on narrow boats and similar small vessels on the water, which rarely move. The idea has always seemed bizarre - to choose to live in a vehicle which has the capability to move, to explore, to wander, yet choose to stay put, stay still and stagnate. Admittedly, Bristol is not a bad city to be 'stuck' in, over the last month here I have seen that Bristol has a lot to offer; a great music scene, a love of independent shops, really fun and vibrant harbourside, interesting nightlife, streetart galore, a diverse population and variety of areas from safe suburbs, to bustling and trendy student areas and places like Stokes Croft and Gloucester Road which are often referred to Bristols cultural quarter (think Manchester's Northern Quarter, but even better!)
Bristol is also perfectly situated to get to beaches or the countryside easily- 1 hour drive to Devon, 45 minutes to the Forest of Dean, 30 minutes to the Mendips and, if you must know, only 2.5 hours to London.
Nonetheless, I realised that the vanlife may not be a life that some people have chosen, but one of last resort for some. If you scroll through the #vanlife images on Instagram, you are bombarded with photos of the seemingly blissful life of world travellers in campervans, looking beautiful and calm, expensive electric heaters, somehow making a living on the road (more on that in another blog). Clearly, Instagram is not the best source to find real-life-photos, and my first week in the van was a harsh realisation that the days of clean white sheets, ssophisticated storage and bikini days at the beach are a long way off. Regardless, vanlife, is a life I have chosen, but was also a nice compromise.
Like many millennials, I was priced out of not only buying a home, but even renting a room, and the commitment of rent, and the stable job that rent payments expect, would have ruined my dreams of wandering at my own pace and exploring the world. After almost a year of financial success (as a student, believe it!) I had lived alone in a cute, grade 2 listed tiny apartment in Devon and the thought of sharing again worried me-I had become a loner. I had lived on boats, been in house shares, most happy, some miserable, and even slept rough before but was desperate for a safe place to rest my head that wouldn't tie me down. Living in a van was the ultimate dream-not paying rent (although paying for petrol, MOT, tax, insurance and servicing which could quick become just as expensive if not careful, or just unlucky), being able to move freely, not concerning myself with council tax or bin days or career or noisy neighbours.
In an effort to bring some reality to Instagram have posted images of areas in Bristol where vanlifers reside. Over the next few months I hope to interview as many vanlifers as possible to understand their reasoning to living in a van, whether globe wandering or stationary. If you live in your van then get in touch!