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Early retirement - a new project


Campervan sunset

Last week, Sally asked me what I want to do? I don't think she meant it as a serious or deep question but I did have a real answer: I don't want to be boring.

To me, not being boring means doing things that aren't just the ordinary, not simply sitting on my backside watching other people do stuff. It sounds something like "I don't want to coast, I don't want to look back in the years to come and say, those things I imagined, I should have given them a go, I could have done more".

In some recent posts I've mentioned a project that I have in mind. It's actually not brand new, I've mentioned the idea before, but maybe it's time to start committing to it rather than just talking about it.

Plus, like many people at the moment, I'm stuck at home with our Covid-19 lockdown so it feels good to be thinking of something different than Coronavirus for a while. That may make me sound insensitive, but I do believe it's important that we keep other things in our lives and don't let Covid-19 be all consuming.

Anyway, let's have a look at what's behind my either brilliant or pretty stupid idea. The idea to buy a van and convert it into a camper.


Why do I want to get a van?

Now that's a good question, although whether I have a good answer is more questionable. Here goes:

  • Have you seen how cool the #vanlife pictures look on Instagram? All those young, active, good looking people - who wouldn't want to be like them? I'm pretty sure that if I build a campervan then I'll look as young, good looking and cool as they do😎...in case you want to call me delusional, no need, Sally does than enough for everyone!

  • My original round the world trip plan (which hasn't entirely gone to plan) included travelling through North America in a campervan. We haven't done it, but I'm not ready to let go of that idea just yet.

  • Buying a cargo van to convert into a camper will be a big project. Nothing like we've ever tried before but something we can do together, and I think the conversion is something that Sally will really enjoy.

  • I'm hoping that having a camper will make us go places, see new things, do new things too. Arguably we can do that without a camper, but I don't think we will, at least not nearly as much. I suspect it's quite easy to fall into a life of laziness/doing little and I'm determined not to let that happen.

  • Re-inheriting the family cats makes travelling difficult. It might not be conventional or easy, but my idea is that the cats can come with us in the camper.

  • One of the things that Sally doesn't like about travelling is the frequent packing and unpacking. A camper solves that (kind of), your temporary home on wheels, with your stuff inside, moves with you - no unpacking and re-packing required!

  • I can use my "if I had a van" Spotify playlist that I've already made.


Is now the right time?

No but yes but no but yes...there are always reasons to delay things.

  • No, because we can't actually do it at the moment. We can look at vans for sale on the internet, but we can't see them for real, and we aren't buying something that we haven't seen first hand.

  • I don't think we can build the camper at our apartment in France and, of course, during the current Covid-19 lockdown, we're not allowed to leave.

Yes, because:

  • While we can't get on with the purchase or the physical build right now, we can use this time when we're stuck at home to plan and to try to learn about the hundreds of things that we don't know anything about. Electrics, solar, plumbing, joinery, cabinetry, insulation, actually everything about converting a van into a camper. We, OK I, can also use this time to be excited about the plan.

  • Why do something tomorrow that you can do today? That might not work in every situation, but it's not the worst adage to follow.

Is this really a good idea?

Could this be me?
  • Well, this is a bit awkward! Hmm, to be honest, I'm not one hundred percent sure that it's one of my smarter ideas. If you're going to push me, maybe it's 40% a good idea, definitely more than 20%, perhaps 30%. I guess I'm not really selling this idea am I?

  • So if the "is it a good idea" rates somewhere in the 30% to 40% range, why do it?

  • Because I don't want to be boring...and I feel that this isn't boring

  • Because I don't want to look back in the years to come and say, if only...

  • Because I'd rather make a mistake trying something than not trying it at all

  • Because I think we can have some fantastic adventures. I suspect neither the build nor the travels will all be easy but then, most things worth doing aren't easy

  • Because I just want to do it. I'm working on the basis that not everything in life has to make sense!


What's the build plan?

This is where things get even more shaky - at present, there isn't much of a plan. What I've got so far is:

  • Do internet and YouTube research on van layouts, builds, electrical stuff, plumbing stuff, in fact loads of different stuff. We can do this now.

  • Draw up our plans with old fashioned paper and pencil.

  • Finalise what type of van we want to buy. There are various pros and cons, but I already have a good idea about this.

  • Figure out where it's best to do the build, the UK or France (my original idea was Canada, but that probably isn't practical, and too big a leap for Sally). We also need to figure out a specific location, do we need to rent a lock-up, or are there other options?

  • Realistically, it may be that the current lockdown situation will continue and this summer will be a bust. With building in the winter not being ideal, it may be spring/summer 2021 for the build.


What's the travel plan?

We tried a week in van last year as a test
  • The UK and Ireland seem to be a good place to start. Although I'm from the UK, I've spent the majority of my adult life living and working abroad and I haven't really explored the land where I'm from.

  • After that, continental Europe is the obvious choice, close and also not previously explored by us.

  • And I still have travelling through North America in a campervan from my original round the world trip plan.

Before hitting the publish post button, maybe I should check in again on the reasons why buying a van and converting it into a camper might not be a good idea. Like that we don't know how to do it, that 60% to 70% of me says it may not be the right thing for us, like can we really travel with the cats? And that's before we even get to talk about the toilet/bathroom situation in a camper!😮 Against this, there's "but I just want to do it". If it turns out to be a mistake then so be it - it won't be ideal to spend all the time and money in vain, but it won't break us, and I won't worry that I'll look back and say "I wonder..?".

So back to being positive, it seems like a foolproof plan to me. Like I said, the Instagram and YouTube vanlifers are predominantly young and good looking, surely just a little of that can rub off on me?🤣 Now to see what Sally thinks😬


One last thing: I've had to update my blog to a new version and the comment section is different. It's great to receive comments so please take a moment to go through the new process - sorry if it's a bit of a nuisance the first time round. Sadly, all the old comments on previous posts couldn't carried across.

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Hi Andrew, Yeah, a significant part of writing a post about the camper idea was to commit to it and perhaps to be held to account. The mechanic is an interesting idea, or perhaps a farmer with space in a barn. I'll have to keep my eyes open for space and maybe have a conversation, once we can get out of course.


We're coming to the end of week 5 of our lockdown, another 3 to go until 11 May, the current end date. Hopefully by then, no further extensions are required. We're doing OK in ourselves and are fortunate that we are financially OK too.

Mi piace

Cool idea David ! And also to put it out there so all your readers will hold you to it. I read about someone who did this and had an arrangement with a local mechanic with a big workshop where he could park his project and borrow tools and ask questions.


Hope you and Sally are coping ok - here in Australia we have been lucky not to get too badly hit, but the effect of the lockdowns are enormous. Some are just being lifted now so we are hopeful...

Mi piace

Hi Paul, I must confess that I haven't recently thought of a trailer, probably mostly for silly reasons, such as the trendy Instagram #vanlife has loads of photos of vans. When I was briefly fascinated by similar ideas, probably over 7 or 8 years ago, I would have leaned towards a towable based on being able to park it up and then have easy access to places, excursions, towns etc in a regular vehicle.

One of the things that make me err towards a van, if we are able to keep it looking mostly like a normal van, is to have the potential to stay overnight in it where there aren't campsites or if we don't want to use a…

Mi piace

gouldee
gouldee
18 apr 2020

Hi David, have you considered a camper trailer vs a van. Lots of pros cons for each. Also depends if you already own a suitable tow vehicle. we like having the flexibility of a 4wd tow vehicle and a camper trailer. At home the camper lives in the shed out of the weather while our 4wd wagon is our only car.

When we travel the camper is very easy to tow (1.1 metric ton loaded), is 4wd capable so we can get to some of those harder to reach secluded camps here in Australia. We often set up base camp for a few days. So with separate camper we can leave that set up and go exploring for the day.…

Mi piace

Hi Irene

I'll definitely check out travelwithkevinandruth.com so thanks for that recommendation. Funny that you say you don't have the skills to build out a van, guess what, neither do I...I'm hoping that makes the idea challenging and rewarding, but there is a risk that it makes it foolhardy🤣. Also, Sally is fairly handy so that will help, but it's still way different from anything we've done before.

We spent 5 weeks in Australia in 2018 (part of our 4 months of travels to Asia and Australia) and we loved it. We stayed in hostels mostly (though with a private room) and we were just saying the other day that we'd like to go back.

You'll have to come back…


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