Words by: Helena Werner
Photos by: Jason Shill, Helena Werner
Instagram is filled with lovely pictures of people converting vans and parking next to beautiful views. For me, it started in January 2018 when I left Stockholm and my full time job. I filled my storage to the top and only brought two bikes, two suitcases and moved to live with my partner in The English Lake district. When I left Sweden I got a sabbatical and had no funding, so living in the van on the weekend was the only financial option for us to travel somewhere else but home to ride. It has taken us to the north on Norway, Scotland, Wales, England, Sweden, Holland, Italy, France and Switzerland.
From a metal box to a home.
We lived in a house in UK but our van was our weekend getaway and we spend most of our time off outdoors on our bikes. During mountain bike-races in UK most people live in their vans on a big field and it is an amazing atmosphere.
Our van is of the smaller size and we converted it into a home that fits us and built it off the idea of re-use. We build the base out of bought wood, but other than that most things in our van are scrap wood and stuff that we have got for free or took from our house. It might not be a fancy van or a social media show off, but I absolutely love our van! The whole point with our van is to get out, not to be stuck at home building it. But with that said, we keep changing our van all the time. Moving countries, going to a variation of places and being blessed with a dog requires updates and rebuilds. When life changes – so does the van!
With the risk of having our bikes stolen on a bike rack we keep the bikes inside, and also cause of muddy bikes and bike gear we didn’t want the bikes in bed, so we built a partition wall between our living area and the bikes. It narrows down our living area a bit but it makes us sleep better at night knowing our bikes are safe. In the front there is a living area with a sofa that pulls out to a bed, with storage underneath. Our bikes, tools and gear have its own space in the back. We cook on a camping stove, we don’t have a fridge so the temperature outside usually decides what we bring food wise. We do have a bike rack for longer travels to bike parks, so we can bring up to four bikes.
Keep it clean.
The best thing to me with vanlife is that you get closer to nature. Just like at your permanent home, take care of the place you live in and leave no trace behind. That doesn’t just mean not to litter, but also not to use cleaning products for yourself, your bike or dishes that might damage nature. Dig deep to hide your poop and don’t sit down next to a lake or running water!
Just do it!
Sometimes when I look through social media I get a bit stressed about how fancy and advanced other people vans look like. But don’t let that stop you! Get inspired by others but build your van the way YOU want it. And if you cannot afford your dream van just yet, get started with something and go out. It doesn’t have to have it all before your go for your first adventure, just throw a mattress in there and get out and find out what fits your adventure!
Downsizing in life.
Someone once said that the humans’ biggest flaw are that we can only imagen the same thing we already have, but larger. A bigger house, more wage or a better fitness. Looking back at my life before vanlife I was doing just that. Leaving most of my stuff behind in a storage in Stockholm and not affording to buy anything new or to do anything else but to ride and go out with our van, made me reconsider how I live my life. Having to live on less and use what we got made me (after a while) stress less and be more present.
I am very grateful for what that little metal box has done to my attitude towards consumption and what I actually need to be happy. My happy place is on an adventure in the van, with my man and our dog by my side.
Hope to see you on the road!