Pip and Dan are traveling in her Oldtimer Ford Transit 1979. Dan could learn so much more by working on the engine himself, as it’s all mechanical rather than electronic.
Quick facts about your vehicle Ford Transit 1979:
car manufacturer: Ford modell: Transit year of construction: 1979 how many seats: 2 in the front, 3 in the back (unbelted) driving license classify: Standard UK driver’s license top speed: We can just make it to 75 mph! motor fuel: Petrol, leaded price: £2000 costs of repair per year: It’s probably near £1000. insurance: Around £400 a year vehicle taxes: Now a classic vehicle, so tax exempt.
So tell us a bit about you and tell us – what made you want to start vanlife?
Dan and I met at school, and have been together for just over a decade. Bizarrely, van life started when I came home from work one day to find an old, damp caravan sitting in our drive.
Dan had been given it for free and thought it was too good an opportunity to miss. Initially, I didn’t agree with him. However, we absolutely loved working on it as a project together, we smartened it up inside and out, and we visited some beautiful places.
We always knew in our hearts that as much as we loved the caravan, it was restrictive in that we had to always pay for campsites, and we had to be anchored down to a base whenever we travelled.
In the space of a month, we decided to sell it and buy a van. Against all the advice we were given, we bought the first one we saw. It was love at first site – despite the fact we broke down on the journey home.
Why did you choose this Ford Transit 1979 as your home on wheels?
Both of us love old cars. There’s a charm and community that surrounds older vehicles that modern ones simply don’t possess.
Strangers point and smile when you drive past, and people often stop and help when you’re broken down on the side of the road. With an old car, Dan could learn so much more by working on the engine himself, as it’s all mechanical rather than electronic.
Our budget was small, so it’s a good job we both like old bangers!
So, if not your Ford Transit 1979, what model would you choose if you could and why?
Any Mercedes camper/motorhome/self-converted van made before the year 2000.
Those things can go on for miles and miles – and they look awesome.
Did you work on your vehicle yourself or did you get a carpenter for the interior?
We are so proud that all the changes made have been completed by us. Dan is a self-employed landscape gardner by trade, so he’s great at working out how to put things together and using the internet to research anything we aren’t sure of.
He installed the log burner, built the over-head cupboards, laid the floor, used scaffold boards for the work top and so much more. I stripped and repainted the cupboards, wallpapered, made many, many lined curtains and was on tea duty a lot of the time.
Luckily, our skills really compliment each other.
Would you change something about your Ford Transit 1979 when it comes to the interior if you could turn back time?
The log burner would be far better by the door – our burner is near the bed, which is above the cab. I know we are in the middle of Winter, but it gets so hot up there!
How long did you work on your Ford Transit 1979 before you started your trip?
We bought Monty in March 2017, and we started going away on little trips straight away. Technically, we are still working on it now! I don’t think the van will ever be truly finished.
But now the changes we make are usually small, cosmetic things or a neat new storage idea we’ve seen online, rather than a huge change.
Saying that, we are talking about replacing the engine…see what I mean?!
What do your friends and family say about your lifestyle?
Surprisingly positive. Although, I didn’t expect so many people to struggle with understanding that I really enjoy living like this.
Dan has always loved being outside and has a keen interest in looking after our natural spaces, and in living the simple life.
But it’s something we are both completely on board with…the cracks would have started to show very quickly if we weren’t both completely committed to this lifestyle.
Which countries did you travel to with your Ford Transit 1979?
Many places in England (our home turf), Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Belgium and France. Last October, we hired a converted Renault Kangoo and travelled around Iceland in that for a few days, as it would have been far too expensive to take our van.
How long are you on the road and – do you life in your Ford Transit 1979 fulltime?
At the moment, we are both working hard to save as much as we can for a big European trip at the end of the year. We are living in the van full-time, and started doing so in November 2018.
It is the perfect home! The biggest issue in the UK is finding a suitable spot to park up in. We are just so grateful to Dan’s parents for allowing us to have the van parked up at there place these past few months.
It’s been an added bonus spending more time with family.
Some people prefer campsites for the night, others love free camping somewhere in the middle of nowhere. What do you prefer and why?
Free camping all the way. The golden rule is to leave no trace and be respectful. We often pick up others’ rubbish to try and keep spots pleasant for everyone.
How do you shower?
We have a shower room in the van. But we did rip out the boiler as it was old, broken and unreliable, so the shower head can only pump cold water.
To tackle that, we use a collapsable bucket filled with hot water to wash with, then blast ourselves with the cold water afterwards. It works really well, and uses less water than a standard shower.
How do you cook?
With ease! We have two hobs and a small oven (plus we can heat up pots and pans on top of the log burner). Our fridge is a reasonable size, and we have lots of hanging string baskets for extra food storage.
It really is no different from cooking in a normal kitchen, just on a smaller scale.
Tell us – what makes travelling and living in a van such a great experience?
The freedom. Even when we have problems with the van, we have the time and space to think with clarity, knowing that it will always work itself out.
The slower pace of life and constant connection with the outdoors are what really draws us to this lifestyle.
How much money do you spend in a month (roughly)?
The van is stationary at the moment, so nothing on petrol. £25 on gas, and roughly £200 on food. We both have big data deals with our smart phones, as we use them as personal hotspots for the laptop; so probably another £40 using those.
It is difficult to say as we are in ‘save mode’ and aren’t currently travelling.
What tipps would you give new vanlifers?
Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do it or that it’s a silly idea. I’m sure Dan and I are supposed to be married with a mortgage a baby on the way.
But we’ve followed our own path and we are so happy we did. Do what is in your heart and run with it. On a practical note, download the app ‘park4night’ and try to avoid finding a place for the night before it gets dark.
Do you sometimes make new friends on the road/meet other vanlifers?
Yes – all the time! Everyone is so friendly, and you often end up sharing some awesome spots too.
What are your future plans when it comes to traveling/living in your van?
Save as much as we can, quit our jobs, go to Europe in the van on a longer-term basis. That is our plan in a nutshell, and we can’t wait.
Oh, and we are going to Romania in April and Canada for three weeks in September…to keep our wandering feet busy before the big trip!