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My genius early retirement idea, or my wife's idea of hell?

My genius early retirement idea, or my wife's idea of hell?
Genius idea, or Sally's idea of hell?

Four weeks ago I wrote about my latest mid-life crisis a van and convert it into a camper. A couple of weeks later, I was writing is being a couple the hardest thing about early retirement? Hmm, could there possibly be a connection?

Reaching financial independence has been great - probably no surprise there. The one downside is that it sometimes highlights where Sally and I have different ideas about what we want to do.

To me, the camper idea makes sense. We can travel to see new places and experience new things without having to constantly unpack and repack, something that irks Sally about travelling. Plus we can do this despite unexpectedly re-inheriting the cats, they can travel with us. And perhaps most importantly, YouTube shows that #vanlife will return me to my twenties and, for the first time in my life, make me insanely good looking. What's not to like?

But despite these obvious and overwhelming plus points, could it be that Sally isn't as excited by the van idea as I am? Maybe today is when I find out, because this post is from Sally.

Before she starts, in case you were wondering, we do talk to each other too, not all of our conversations are carried out by blog post...but maybe it's not a bad idea, there's no doubting or subsequent disagreement as to what was said!😜

Anyway, over to Sally to see what she has to say about my sensationally brilliant van conversion idea...

So I’m going on a bear hunt…

Ok, being a Primary School Teacher I think of everything quite simply. I once read a book to a foundation (reception) class called We're going on a bear hunt. I remember thinking, why would anyone decide to do that, and what makes them think they know how to do it if they’ve never done it before?

So, what's my bear hunt? Well, who out there knows how to build a van…? I know how to go on a bear hunt, kind of, because I’ve read the book. But do I know how to build a van? This is where a laughy emoji would be appropriate!! (David here...🤣).

David's been looking at adverts for vans that have a high roof, he's tall so that seems to be a must. Probably a Fiat Ducato (or equivalent), Mercedes Sprinter or Ford Transit. For now, I’m watching YouTube videos to see what we might encounter during the conversion adventure.

Meanwhile, another ‘bear hunt’ I’m on is learning to use Zoom for online tutoring. With Covid-19 causing a spike in home schooling, I've started giving Zoom lessons for a friend's tutoring company. I’ve been thinking about teaching/tutoring options since leaving Dubai in July 2018 and the current situation has got me back into it.

The Van idea is something that both David and I will be working on so I would prioritise that, but online teaching is something that will keep me busy while letting me remain flexible.

I think of this book ‘We're going on a bear hunt’ every time I feel like I don’t know what’s going on, so as you can imagine, I've thought of it a lot lately!

It's David again. Thanks for that Sally - I like the idea of the bear hunt, your knowledge could come in handy if my idea of travelling through North America by camper comes off...there are lots of bears there!

From Sally's post it seems her mindset is that we're going to build this van but I couldn't tell if this is because she wants to do it or is just agreeing because it's on my wish list. Maybe she'll let me ask a few follow up questions to try to find out:

David: So Sally, are you excited by the van project - not at all, a little, a medium amount, or a lot?

Sally: It's difficult to be excited about something if you're not sure how to actually do it. I think if it's your own idea then it's different. I'll plumb for it falls in the category of things that become more exciting when you actually see that you are achieving something.

David: Is the build/conversion process something you'd enjoy?

Sally: I don't see why not, I like DIY, decorating things, creating things. Some parts fill me with dread, and the YouTube videos tend to scoot over them, like the electrics and plumbing, which are pretty important!

David: Will you enjoy taking trips in the camper? Maybe a month at a time to visit friends and family, or to explore continental Europe. How does that grab you?

Sally: Erm... I'm not sure really as David has a different idea of holidays/travel to me. If we are going away for months at a time and I'm constantly reminded that it's not a holiday, it's 'travelling', then all I can say is, where's my holiday?

David: And what about my idea of North America in a camper. That would be a longer trip. Obviously I know it's genius, but what do you think...out of the question or maybe some interest?

Sally: I'm not sure about North America at the moment, I think the idea of being around Europe with the cats appeals to me more. Ask again in a few years.

David: What about the cats travelling with us - not a perfect solution, but do you think it could work?

Sally: Yes, although it's not ideal as they won't have as much outside freedom as they do now, even though they have GPS trackers. Then there's things like finding space for the litter tray, figuring where they go while we're's do-able though.

David: So I guess this is the litmus test question, are you just agreeing to the camper idea to shut me up, or do you think it really does have some merit?

Sally: Not to shut you up, completely. I figure you've had it in your head long enough to realise that it's not a fleeting idea, so why not just get it done. You can go on about it for another 2 years and then complain that we still haven't done it, or we can bite the bullet... I know which one I'd prefer!

It seems that Sally is keeping her enthusiasm under control with her answers. Safe to say that she's not in the "it's a genius idea" camp but at least the idea appears to score higher than her idea of hell.

So should we go ahead with the camper conversion idea? I don't want to live with regrets, to risk looking back and saying we should have given it a go. In that case, my vote is to go for it. Sally, while less sure, doesn't seem to want to veto the idea. What to do? I guess this is where Sally says that I'll do what I want anyway, and for sure the fence is no place to sit, so unless Sally says no, I say go for it...on with the planning.


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Hi Jay, thanks for getting in touch, I've got your blog open and I'm looking forward to reading more about your adventures and experiences. So far I've read your home and about us pages and it's whetted my appetite to read more.

It's interesting to read the tips in your comment on things like the bed and the table. I've drawn up various rough plans, some with fixed beds and some without. Until recently, I've had my heard set on a fixed bed (over a "garage" storage area), but latterly I've been thinking of a seat/table bed conversion layout to get a more open feeling and more daytime living space. Your comment suggests that my mental gymnastics aren't yet over…


Hi David, it's Jay here (I blog with my wife Julie at We've spent about 5 years on and off touring Europe and North Africa in 3 off-the-shelf vans. Your self build sounds like a great project, best of luck with it mate. The only advice I'd give is to do your research on payload and layout. A design which works for a short (less than 2 or 3 weeks) trip can drive folks mad on longer tours. The bed and table are specific things to get right: IMHO, ideally both will be fixed and ready for use at any time without having to be made up from seats etc. Our current van has an over-cab drop down bed…


Hey Peter, you're spot on with the idea that I see the camper serving two purposes. One being the project of building it (which will be a massive challenge for us, which I don't necessarily see as a bad thing as challenges can be healthy) and the second part is the using the camper when finished. Although I do have my dream of the big North American tour, my nearer term thinking is for shorter trips, perhaps between a week and say five weeks either to explore Europe or to visit family and friends. Now that we have the cats back with us, it's one of the few ways that I think we could make such trips (they would come…


Hi Dave, been following your blog for a while now and always interested to see your plans. It seems to me that this van idea serves you two purposes, a project to fill your time and a means of going travelling around Europe and further afield for long periods of time. Convincing Sally that building it will be a good idea and using it extensively for travel are two different issues. Based on your blogging posts so far, to me, it seems unlikely that Sally is going to want to spend 3 months travelling in a van but clearly this might change. Also with the best will in the world a van conversion is unlikely to be as comfortable as…


I think I'm more on board with the plan than Sally, but she seems to be kind of up for it. I think she'll thoroughly enjoy the build process as she loves DIY stuff. I agree with you a hundred percent on travelling with cats, but I don't want to just stay home because of them.

By the way, I read about your home schooling frustrations during the Coronavirus and wonder how this might affect your thoughts of travelling with RB40 Jnr? If you do go ahead with it some time in the future, maybe Sally could provide some online lessons via Zoom for him now that she's getting into that?

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