Living and Working in a Van Full Time

This is the 2006 VW LT35 long wheelbase van that is my home and office as I travel around Europe. These are some of my experiences having spent the first 2 months on the road full time. 

Like most people, I love to travel. The nourishing effect of seeing new places and having new experiences is one of the most rewarding things you can do. In fact I love it so much that I bought this van which had already been converted by the previous owner into a camper van, and set off across Europe in a bid to really get under the skin of this incredible continent, hopefully understand it a little better and maybe even come away with a few photographs to boot. 

How am I finding the experience of living out of what is basically a builder's van? Spoiler alert, I love it. The van has been the best way to travel. I get to sleep in my own bed every night, wherever I am in the world. I get to cook food in my own kitchen, shower in my own bathroom. All the things we eventually miss when we're travelling for long periods of time. Wherever I park, I'm home. I get to spend each day exploring new places but if it's getting late and I'm feeling done for the day, I can stop by the side of the road and I'm home. No stress about finding hotels and no bags to carry.

Inside I have a kitchen and bathroom and the sofa folds down into a bed. It's a mini studio flat on wheels basically.

Inside I have a kitchen and bathroom and the sofa folds down into a bed. It's a mini studio flat on wheels basically.

Stealth Parking / Wild Camping

Part of the reason I went for a van like this instead of a more traditional looking camper van or motorhome is so that I can park on the street and not draw too much attention. It doesn't really look like anyone's sleeping in there, so often I can find a quiet street away from nosey neighbours even in crowded cities like Athens. 

I do spend a fair amount of time at campsites too. The sweet, sweet nectar of unlimited wifi and onsite laundry services is nice to take advantage of sometimes. 

for electricity I have a 250W solar panel on the roof that charges a 120ah leisure battery. That lasts me a full day of keeping the roof fan on, running lights, charging cameras, laptop, phone etc.  The hot water and fridge are gas powered and I get my water from a variety of places. Mostly truck stops and motorway service stations, as well as campsites have somewhere you can refill. 

Having power in there means I can edit all my photos in the evening without worrying about the laptop battery dying, and I have a Huawei internet dongle that gives me a wifi signal in the van. It works in most European countries, although I will look at changing it because the signal is very weak. Sometimes it won't pick up a signal at all, but my phone can. 

There are a few basic thing that take marginally more effort than living in a house or flat - like laundry for example. You have to scout out laundrettes that are close by wherever you park up, or hand wash your clothes, and emptying out the chemical toilet takes some getting used too, although id you do it right won't smell at all. But you do have to carry a big plastic box full of, well you can guess what, and empty it into a public toilet. Word to the wise, they are heavy when full, so park as close to the toilets as you can. 

Essentially though this is the small price to pay for a life of unbridled freedom. I get to wake up every morning exactly where I want to be. I can head to anywhere and do anything. That is rare these days. Of course not everyone is lucky enough to have a job that they can do from the road, but if you are in that position, getting a van is a wonderful way of seeing the world and living a life of adventure. 

And even if you can't do this full time, I run travel photography tours so you can come and join me for a week and get some great photos and road stories too.