At the time of updating this post, it has been almost three years since we started living in a motorhome… our Bessacarr e560 named Barnaby because every adventure vehicle needs a name right?! Since July of 2018, we have learned so much, we’ve adopted digital nomad life, working & travelling throughout the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Austria, Germany & more recently basing ourselves in the beautiful county of Cornwall, England… which, we’ll admit, is not a bad place to wait out the pandemic really.
Thirty-four months on, we have experienced the ups, the downs & everything in-between but here we are, still loving van life.
In this guide you’ll discover everything you need to know about working & living in a motorhome full-time, from commiting to van life to making money on the road, it’s all covered right here.
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Post updated by The Wilder Route on 17th May 2021.
Comitting To Living In A Motorhome
The biggest step is fully comitting to living in a motorhome.
We started our online business The Green Thread back in the spring of 2018 to run alongside our already established blog The Wilder Route (then named Destination Addict). By the summer of that year we were in a position to earn a living entirely online & from there we just threw ourselves into working & living remotely.
We sold most of our possessions, packed the rest of what we owned into Barnaby & haven’t looked back since… because sometimes in life you’ve just got to take that leap.
Many dream of living in a motorhome but the reality of doing means a lot of change & sacrifice – they say that a new life costs you your old one & in many ways this is true. Van life is a completely different way of living but we can assure you if you remain committed to it, always keeping in mind why you started, you will reap the freedom & adventure that full-time van living brings.
Knowing your reasons for starting van life & keeping these in mind when the going gets tough, will help massively. In fact this is just one of the many things to consider before starting van life, this post details more.
Living In A Motorhome UK
As we sit here updating this post, living in the motorhome in the UK so long as you have a British passport / are legally allowed to live in the UK & have vehicle that is fully road legal (we’re talking tax, M.O.T., insurance, etc.) is not deemed as illegal. There are laws protecting private land, meaning that if it is owned by someone, you are required to get permission from them if you plan to park on it. It is worth noting, that right now there is a bill which is currently going through the motions in parliament called the ‘UK Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill’ – the ways in which this could affect us van dwellers in England & Wales (Scotland & Ireland sit under different jurisdiction) as well as a link to a petition opposing this bill can be found in this detailed post by bloggers & van-lifers Van Monkeys.
In all honesty van life in the UK is a little bit trickier than say, in some parts of Europe – things such as finding spots to park & places to top up our water tank, are for example, more difficult. For this reason our time spent in our van in the UK has been varied, we’ve found plenty of amazing spots via the Park4Night app as well as using campsites some of the time. Now, this is due to our personal situation really as we are running a business on the road so sometimes it’s easier to just hop on a campsite for a few nights, plug into mains electricity & get a load of work done.
Motorhome Living In Europe
Much like the UK, living in a motorhome so long as your vehicle is fully road legal is also not deemed illegal, as far as we know in most countries in Europe. Us Brits have the Brexit issue to contend with, meaning that now we have left the EU we can only spend 90 in every 180 days in the Schengen area. In a nutshell, this means leaving the zone of 26 countries after your 90 days is up or looking at visa options. This post from motorhomers The Gap Decaders details more.
Personally, the last time we were in Europe was before Brexit & we found travelling through France, Spain, Italy, Austria & Germany a lot cheaper & easier when compared to van life in the UK. France for example has something called Aire de Service, which are areas that can be found in most towns, cities & villages that motorhomes & campervans can park at overnight & access basic facilities such as water, electricity & waste disposal. Some are free of charge & some have a small fee. The equivalent to the Aire de Service, although maybe not as many of them as in France, can be found in a lot of European countries.
Another big advantage of van travel in Europe is, compared to the UK, reduced monthly outgoings. Things such as fuel & day-to-day spending such as groceries work out to be a lot less. To give you a rough idea we recorded all of our spendings when travelling through France for a month.
Working & Living In A Motorhome Full-Time
Living in our motorhome is one thing but getting used to working & living in a motorhome full-time, from one tiny space, together, now that has been something else. As mentioned above, as well as this, our van life, nature & adventure blog we also own & run our own digital marketing business The Green Thread. Plus since moving into our van full-time we have also launched our very own organic clothing range Nature Threads so yeah, we’ve got quite a bit going on.
Working & living in such a tiny space, whilst being on the move takes a lot of juggling.
Finding your own balance, making sure you take time to rest & not trying to cram too much work in at one time are just some of the ways to avoid burning out.
How To Make Money On The Road
Working from anywhere may seemingly be the stuff of dreams but us & countless others are doing it, so there is absolutely no reason that you can’t do it too.
Thinking about the skills you already have, is there anything that you could do remotely? One good thing about the pandemic has been the way that employers now know that they don’t necessarily have to have their team in an office, that remote work is possible.
If you’d like to learn more about how to make money on the road check out our post on becoming a digital nomad.
Being Off∼Grid & Charging Laptops
One of the biggest problems for us is keeping our laptops charged when we are living off-grid & moving from place to place. We have a solar panel fitted on our motorhome which keeps our leisure battery topped up day-to-day & using an inverter will also keep our laptops charged when the sun is out. In the winter though, it’s trickier as there’s not always enough sunshine to keep everything going.
There is the option to get a generator for off-grid living (although we haven’t got one) or to charge electrical devices, such as laptops through an inverter plugged in via the cab (or the motorhome’s main/car) battery (although be careful with this if doing it yourself, as it can put a lot of strain on the cab battery). Another option is to find somewhere local such as a coffee shop to plug in for a few hours.
To give you an idea, we can generally last 4-6 days off-grid before needing to top up our leisure battery, fill up with fresh & get rid of our waste water.
Campsite Vs Off∼Grid
As mentioned before & when in the UK especially, purely due to us running our business on the road & having quite a bit to balance, we do tend to mix our time up between being off-grid & on campsites. It took us a while but we have managed to find a good balance for our nomadic life, making running a business along with travelling work pretty well.
Staying on a campsite for a while does come with its advantages & takes away a lot of things that you need to do when you are off-grid. Things such as having the power to charge laptops, an area to call yours for a short while, or even toilets & shower facilities. Taking away the need to find a place to empty your wastewater or toilet every couple of days, can take a bit of the strain off, giving you more time to chill.
Internet & Digital Tools
One of the questions that we get asked a lot is how we manage for internet whilst we are on the road. Both of us use our mobile phones as a hotspot for our laptops, so effectively connect our laptops to our phones’ available WIFI using this feature. We have done this for almost three years now & it works perfectly, the UK however, is the most hit & miss for a signal, for example, we had more signal in a very remote mountain town in Austrias, Nothern Spain than we have gotten in the Somerset countryside – go figure!
We also use WIFI in coffee shops & other places that it is available, internet overall is never really a problem bar us having to make sure we are in a signal area if we have a Zoom call booked in with a client for example.
There are also an array of digital tools that we use to run our online business, this post details the apps & software that help to boost our online productivity.
What Facilities Do You Need In Your Motorhome?
Something to really think about before buying your first motorhome or campervan is what you need (& want) from it in terms of facilities & space, etc.
Making a list of priorities for your situation as well as a list of pros & cons – perhaps motorhome vs campervan is something we’d highly recommend doing.
You can also check out this post that we wrote over on Housesitting Magazine, which is all about buying your first campervan or motorhome.
Is Motorhome Life Really The Dream?
Search #vanlife on Instagram & you’ll find enough pictures to show that this lifestyle really can be.
Now there’s a lot that goes around saying that these types of images don’t show what it’s really like to live in a motorhome or campervan & as such are giving unrealistic expectations of what van life entails but we beg to differ… because those magical moments do exist. Parked up at a remote mountain spot in the snow or witnessing an insanely pink sunset. These are moments when spending so much time out in nature, that happen.
It’s important to remember though that with these dream moments (like with any lifestyle) come nightmare moments… meaning that van life comes with its ups & downs. Check out our seven truths of living the van life post for more.
Health & Wellbeing On The Road
We’ve learned that taking care of ourselves requires extra effort when living in a van.
Moving around a lot, whilst trying to do & see things, & work at the same time can be exhausting. We have found that it is vital to create your own routine, factoring in time for self-care, otherwise, you’ll just burn out, as we have, time & time again.
This is one thing we wish we would have looked into more before we started van life & now, having learned so much, we have written a post on health & wellbeing on the road so be sure to check it out.
The Practical Side Of Full-Time Motorhome Life
We’ve been asked questions such as… what do you do about an address? where do you do your laundry? how do you keep warm?
All of these practicalities when living in a motorhome are things that need to be thought about & sorted.
We’ve answered all of these questions & a ton more in our post full-time van living – all of your questions answered.
The Small Things That Make Van Living Great
Our motorhome although being a small space inside has opened up our way of living & has drawn our attention to things that we somehow had overlooked before, some of them being…
Getting rid of about 80% of our belongings before we began a more nomadic way of life has been, in a lot of ways, very cleansing for our minds. With each of us being used to an array of clothes & accumulated ‘stuff’ that we just didn’t use, it feels so good to have gotten rid of that material attachment. Everything we have in our motorhome we use & we love that our lives are now this way.
Getting rid of all your stuff is one of the most liberating feelings.
A book we’d recommend is ‘Stuffocation’ which outlines living more with less, & touches on other issues in the world today.
Appreciating The Basics
Stripping back even just some necessities such as having constant running water, electricity all the time & not having to deal with your waste every few days has made us appreciate the small things a lot more. We’ve realised how privileged most of us are & how we often take everyday necessities for granted.
Living in a motorhome means being much more self-sufficient, when you have to put the work in & do more things for yourself, it naturally makes you a lot more grateful.
Less Food Waste
Having a small space to store food makes you think about what you are buying & what you are eating for the next week or so. It’s made us more resourceful when it comes to using food up, in fact since living in our van we have cooked up all sorts of concoctions.
To help with food waste & to keep yourself eating well we’d recommend meal planning, as knowing what you are going to eat & when can help with both of these things.
One of our favourite things about living in our van is the morning time. Sitting with a cup of coffee, listening to the ocean or the birds chirping away while the sun shines through the window is bliss. It is so lovely as we don’t have to rush to commute to work, we can chat & just chill.
It’s not just morning coffee though, it’s everything about van life that invites us to slow down & what we’d say, if you are starting van life yourself… remember to soak up those moments where you can just be.
Noticing more & being truly grateful for the little things is just one of many lessons that we have learned so far, check out our van life story so far to learn more.
Embracing The Outdoor Lifestyle
One of the reasons for us starting van life in the first place was to be closer to nature.
Van life goes hand in hand with an outdoor lifestyle & that’s why we love it so much. With anything from BBQs outside to going for a hike, watching the sunset (or rise), star gazing, or just chilling under a tree – van life has helped us to connect more deeply with the natural world.
We’re pretty sure if you are looking to start or have just started full-time van living, you’ll feel the benefit of spending more time outdoors too.
Our video below highlights our time along the West Coast of France & in Northerm Spain.
What About Friends & Family?
Some will get it, some won’t – the most important thing to remember is that if people don’t get your alternative lifestyle, that’s on them, not you.
Make the effort to keep in touch, organising group video calls, or setting up group WhatsApp chats can help if there are too many people to keep up with. With social media also being a fantastic way to let other people know where you are at & what you are doing, etc.
We’re not gonna lie though, van life can be pretty lonely when those closest to you don’t understand, especially if they keep pestering you to return to your old life. Our post on living life on your own terms will help you navigate those external pressures.
Meeting other people with whom you can form meaningful connections & have a deep conversation within 5-minutes of laying eyes on them, is priceless.
There are a variety of ways that you can connect with others whilst travelling, from online to live events. This post details more on how to find community when you are on the road.
Living In A Motorhome = A Life Of Adventure
For us living in a motorhome full time has made adventure, big or small, part of our every day.
We have kept a vision in mind, of the way we want our lives to be & have molded things to fit that vision, creating our own life, that we live with purpose, on our own terms.
Waking up to different views, climbing mountains or going for long beach walks, meeting & learning from new people but most of all the simplicity, that’s what we love about this lifestyle.
We’ll admit, it’s an alternative lifestyle that’s not for everybody but for us it works, albeit not perfectly but hey, we do tend to take The Wilder Route.
If you’re after more tips & inspiration check out our van life page
Happy adventuring fellow wild soul,
Kelly & Adam x
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