Hands up who’s ever thought of jacking it all in for a life on the open road? You’re not alone.
A global interest in camper vanning skyrocketed during the Covid pandemic – and it shows no signs of slowing down.
Since 2018, searches for ‘van life’ have increased by a huge 216%, according to research from MoneyBarn.
The trend is all over social media, with over 11million Instagram posts and over five billion searches for #VanLife on TikTok.
While living the simple life may be a dream for many of us, the reality of life on the road can be quite different from the fantasy.
Just ask Billy and Leanne, a couple who after being stranded in Thailand during the first lockdown, began travelling around the UK, first in a smaller van that could only fit a bed and cool box in, followed by a bigger van – their beloved van, Big Bez.
Billy and Leanne wouldn’t change van life for the world – but do admit it’s not always as glamorous as it sounds.
To which Billy adds: ‘I know a lot of people who couldn’t do it, who have tried it and said that it’s too small, it’s too cramped, it’s too much, it’s too hectic moving all the time. You get used to the size though.
‘Everyone thinks it’s just open the back doors to the sunset and it’s like that every day, but it’s not. Like now, for instance, we’re just in a car park.’
The couple went on to discuss the everyday struggles they face when it comes to life on the road.
‘Through Europe, it’s easier, as they’re so set up for motor homes – it’s easy to do your laundry,’ Billy says.
Leanne adds: ‘But in the UK it’s a struggle. You get into a pattern. Once a week we just get out a huge bag of laundry that we’ve been moving around the van and get it done at the laundrette, then you’re good to go.’
The couple also explained how they like to make things homely in Big Bez, but the finishing touches to their interiors need to be neatly stowed away every time they move – which can be daily.
‘We’ve got a cupboard where we keep all our nice little things like vases, but that has to come off every time we move, so it doesn’t fly about,’ Leanne explains.
Does living in such close quarters mean more arguments? Apparently not, according to Billy and Leanne.
‘If you were coming from a big house with lots of space, living together with your partner 24/7 would be a good test to see if you get on well!’ Billy says.
Leanne adds: ‘If we’re having a bicker I go and sit in the front and he sits on the bed – that’s as far as we can get away from each other. We’ll sit there in silence for a bit, but then dinner’s got to be done, hasn’t it?
‘You kind of have to force yourself to get on with each other,’ Billy adds, with Leanne replying: ‘It naturally ends up being that way – you can’t storm off really.’
The couple does offer a word of warning to anyone thinking about campervanning in the UK when it comes to the winter months.
‘In the UK especially, you need your heater and all that kind of stuff,’ Leanne says. ‘Last winter we went to Scotland and were stuck in minus 15 and our windows were frozen shut – it was crazy! But it was also really good to experience, as we didn’t feel cold at all, we had the heating on! We love it.’
One of the potential concerns the couple haven’t had to worry about is feeling lonely, saying there’s plenty of opportunity to find community on the open road.
‘One of the main things about living in a van that is so amazing is everywhere you go when you pull up to a spot there might be five or six other vans doing the same thing,’ Leanne says.
‘So you end up just talking. We’ve made so many friends on the road.’