Coming back to ‘real-life’ is tough-and expensive. Ridiculously Expensive, but the transition time between real-life and van-life is worse. As winter approaches, I’ve started making reasonable decisions regarding where to find suitable shelter for the cold months. Being in the van throughout the ‘Beast from the East’ bitter snowy winter of 2018 was enough to harden me up for a year of peeing in bushes and plastic bottles, but I don’t want to have to wake up frozen in my sleeping bag or with ice on the inside of the van again.
As my expenses in the van were initially very low, I haven’t been needing to earn a lot of money to sustain myself, and whenever I did, I spent it very quickly. When you’re out and about, and travelling around, you can easily spend money as well as save it. This summer my money went mainly on petrol to fuel my various excursions. However, now that I am working more to fund then next stage of my life, I realised that last month I spent £460 in cafes alone!
I’ve been feeling rather pathetic living in the van recently-I mainly stay in one place; it is a beautiful place and my boyfriend lives here. It makes sense to live here, but I can’t really call myself a nomad if most of our excursions happen at the weekend when the boyfriend is available, and I park in the same quiet residential street or free car park every evening. As my writing work is going well, chaotically well, and I’ve been dreaming of owning a long desk to spread my notes along and I feel useless not even being able to sit at a comfortable desk
Many people have written blogs on how they gave up their home comforts to live debt-free in a van, and now I’m going in reverse. The boyfriend and I have bought a brand-new bright red tiny car, the run-around, on finance and also paid a deposit on the tiniest of houses in a small village near his workplace. Even these two huge financial commitments totalled less than my café-addiction, although currently I am paying for both! Technically, I will be saving money by living inside a house for six months, assuming I give up the café culture and work from home when I say I work from ‘home’. I suppose it just feels wrong because my hard-earned money is going on cold old bricks that I can’t drive around with me instead of on hot tea in quirky coffee shops that will warm my icy fingers and hungry belly.
There are certain challenges to returning to civilisation which I have listed below
1. References I have not rented a flat or room or had a ’proper job’ in almost a year and couldn’t provide ant references for my letting agent. Luckily, she read my blog and understood why.
2. Not hiding from ‘them’ I read countless posts online every day from people who love that they are hiding from ‘them’. Not paying or needing rent or council tax, TV licence, broadband connection or mains water and electricity has been a delight but now I will need these things (ok maybe not the TV licence) and because I am an official human being, soon to be with an official real address, there’s no hiding or running away.
3. Debt and Repayment The minimum amount of time you can rent a property is often six months, which essentially means staying in one place for six months (unless you have enough cash to pay for somewhere you don’t use) Similarly, buying a car on finance means you have to be earning enough money for the next few years to pay it off. These are simple principles even a seven-year-old can understand; it’s just hard to come to terms with when my toughest decision since van-dwelling has been whether to pee in a bush, or through a funnel into an empty plastic bottle
4. Decisions Now I must make them and stick to them. I can’t just decide that I don’t like where my home is, crawl into the driver’s seat in my pyjamas and find somewhere new to park in the middle of the night. I can’t go on holiday whenever I want because I’ll probably have to work and I certainly cannot decide to spent nearly £500 in cafes in one month because ‘that’s my office’
5. Entertaining So when will meeting up with friends change from a run around on the beach, or a piss up in the pub to a cocktail party in the house? Is this what growing up feels like? Do I have to stop being silly because I will soon be waking up under a roof and not inside a tin can? I can feel the anxiety building up inside of me. Returning to civilisation is going to give me some wrinkles.
Nonetheless, I do want to live inside for the winter; I do dream of that long desk and bookshelves, of a full-length mirror and a shoe rack, of a private indoor space I can stand up in and of a bed that the boyfriends feet don’t fall off of. It’s an exciting time, even if the formalities of making it happen are all pretty mundane and seem a bit backwards. I lived cheaply and essentially off-grid for almost a year but through choice, not out of desperation or fear. And now, through choice and my own evolution, I choose to live in a tiny home, to drive a tiny car (its economical, but the van stays too!), and to run a tiny heater and pay not-so-tiny bills. There’ll be huge changes happening to the van this month so watch this space, and I’ll be writing a piece on the dull side of vanlife, but for now, I leave for you ten days; we are going on a long trip in the van together as a final farewell to 2018 fulltime van-dwelling. To anyone wintering in a basic van conversion this year, I salute you