Recently, we have both been lucky enough to spend a bit of time with our families. “Going home” always means Mammies house, and whether its in Mayo or Dublin, Mammies house always means noisy kitchens, lots of great food and hours of chatting, catching up long into the night. Its been a lot of fun showing our family and friends around Dixie (the grand tour takes about 45 seconds) and explaining how everything works, and we find everybody we visit seem to have some variations of the same questions for us once they see how we live now. So, to celebrate our 5 month anniversary living in Dixie, we thought we’d answer the top 5 questions we’ve been consistantly asked about our vanlife. Here goes, in a very particular order:
1. Do you REALLY live in a van? A question usually followed immediately with another, “are you mad?” The answer to both is yes. But there are lots of people doing this in England, from outspoken communities of modern day nomads to savings-savvy stealthers and dedicated van dwellers based fulltime on permanent sites. In the US the #VanLife is also a huge movement to avoid the soaring cost to rent. Maybe it’s much rarer here in Ireland for people who are not ethnic Travellers, but living in a van makes sense to us right now. We sold all of our things, so we don’t own any things anymore, therefore we don’t need to rent a place to put any things. We have no jobs, so we have no particular place to be at any given time, we both want to travel and we are both outdoorsy, we want adventure, we’re interested in tiny homes, we’re both so sick of working most of the daylight hours and having no time to actually look around the world we live in…. it just makes sense to us right now.
2: Another thing we hear all the time is “how can you afford to live in a van?” This might surprise you, but living like this is cheaper than renting an apartment anywhere. We budget €20 a day each to live, that includes EVERYTHING- food, diesel, butane, coffee, laundry, mobile data, tobacco, batteries, icecream…. EVERYTHING. Some weeks we spend half that, most weeks it hovers around €14 each average per day, we save the overage. We have no utility bills to worry about. Preparing all our own meals is the best money saving tip, we picnic all the time in new places for variety instead of expensive restaurants. Because we have so much more time now, we can choose carefully where and when we shop to maximise our money. The slower we move, the cheaper life is, and learning to pace ourselves at the start was really difficult! We didn’t know what to expect going into this, but Dixie herself only cost half what we had budgeted for in the end, and the longer we live in her the cheaper it gets….. so that’s how we can afford to live in a van, by spending our savings on necessities and living thoughtfully and frugally.
3: Lots of people wonder how we (as a couple of humans) can live so closely without constant arguing. Don’t we get on each other’s nerves, bicker and fight all the time, doesn’t being in such close quarters get really annoying really quickly? Actually, you’d be surprised how slowing down like this changes your mood, your general outlook, and by extension, your relationships. Perhaps it is the pensive quietness and isolation we seek out for ourselves rubbing off on us, maybe it’s a natural psychological by-product of our giving up alcohol 14 months ago, or it could be some combination of the two, but we find we have nothing to argue about anymore. Once the stresses of a hectic lifestyle with an uneven work/life balance are eliminated, life in general seems to sail along a lot more smoothly, long may that last! Besides, nobody argues sat in front of a beautiful sunrise or a huge waterfall. We do of course go stir crazy sometimes if we spend too much time inside 😂
4: Two other concerns we hear relate to our heating system and our ‘sanitation facilities’. The weather hasn’t been TOO cold for us yet. We learned to heat the person, not the room, and it is quick and easy when parked up for the night to get warm and cozy. If it ever did get too cold for us to sleep inside, we would go to a hotel or just drive to warm up. About the other thing, we have a bathroom in Dixie, with a port-a-potty style camping toilet we empty regularly. I assure you we are not crapping in carparks folks. We have a shower with hot water, we also have a kitchen tap. Really, the van is a tiny apartment on wheels, there is no need to worry about us freezing to our deaths or going full hippie anytime soon 😊
5: The last question on the list of FAQs we hear is a funny one. How long are we planning on going like this, won’t we get tired of this, and what about the “future”? Well, who really knows the answer to any of that in their own lives? We will travel until we’ve seen enough I suppose, we will live in Dixie until it no longer suits us, we will roam until we want to come home. We would love to buy land and have a base, to build our own off-grid accommodation, to learn how to harness the elements of nature sustainably and responsibly. That’s all far in the future maybe. We’re much more interested right now in tomorrow, the immediate future.
So you see, after we’ve answered the top 5 questions, its not that much different to living in a house after all. We are so grateful to be welcomed warmly by our friends and family when Dixie rolls up to say hello, and to those of you who fed us and kept the cups of tea coming during our visits we thank you! Its been an amazing 5 months. Who knows what comes next for us here inside the backwards van, but whatever we do end up doing, we guarantee it wont be boring 😉 Put the kettle on!