I didn’t expect the Van to get through its MOT this year, not a chance because of its age and usage but I didn’t expect to be thinking of implementing plan B at this stage…
There is structural damage and axle damage which, according to the MOT centre will need welding; however, they don’t do such a thing, so I’ve had to book it into a repairs centre to see what they can do. They need to examine, see it if it a weld job or a write off job or “whatever”. “Whatever” does not bode well, but I’m more worried about the vehicle being written off, so my “plan B” may have to come into force at the end of the month.
Plan B is a van park up permanently to provide protection at night, with removal/scrappage at the end of placement, which would be early June, to move into a car/campsite(s) for last two weeks at uni. I, fortunately, have access to another car (as it was recently offered to me) so transporting myself around won’t be an issue.
It would be a shame to lose the vehicle at this stage as we have so many more plans for it. It has flown through 15 years of MOTs without structural issues, nor any advisories relating to it, so to happen now and to such an extent has been worrisome. Yes, its had heavier use since uni started but has not exceeded 10,000 miles since I’ve purchased it over a year ago… it’s just about hitting that (it was on 118,000miles when I purchased it, 127,000 now)… surely the damage would have been picked up sooner?
Whatever the outcome I’ve planned ahead. It’s a rough plan, it’ll do for now. There’s only seven full teaching weeks left, ten overall inc holidays. I just didn’t need this added stress, but these things happen – always have a “plan B” somewhere (I also have a plan C, D and Z!). Roll on the 23rd (or maybe sooner if a family friend can help out) when I will fully know where I (and the van) stands.
I’m just saddened at the thought of the possibility of not having it for much longer as I’ve grown attached to it but grateful I’ve had the opportunity to experience the van life; I will just miss the adventures with it, so hoping everything will work out ok once it’s been looked over again.
That’s often the first question people ask when they find I’m dwelling in my van, 160+miles away from family and friends, and to be honest, the answer is always “sometimes”. Everyone gets lonely at some point, but I don’t feel as if I any get lonelier than others? I keep myself busy. I’ve just been hearing this question a lot more recently as visiting members of school staff are informed that there is someone staying in a van on site. Many are fascinated by the thought of it but are then confused when they expect to see some Instagram worthy beaut and see my little monster instead. Haha.
Speaking of monsters, my van has been a pain recently with the heating cable. It has decided that the cable must be in the most awkward and delicate position before it will spew out any heat via the fan. A challenge I was willing to undertake at first but no matter how I try to fix the cabling it slowly decides to shift itself and I’m left with having to pull up along the roadside to ‘fix’ it again. When my patience gets better I will take a serious look at it.
I’m still getting out and about it in and stopping at some wonderful places. The weather is getting warmer so I’ve been able to sleep within additional clothing and front window condensation has been dramatically reduced. Summer is coming!
I’ve been very humbled these past few weeks by the generosity of others in providing me with shelter, food, conversation and warmth – the lower level of my hierarchy of needs are being supported by their good will and I am grateful for this. My higher needs are being steadily fulfilled within the placement. I’ve done so much and at the end of the week, I am tired but happy tired. It has been interesting so far, especially experiencing the longer activities during the day and the energy young children seem to possess (more so after they’ve eaten their body weight in food!).
So I’ve been mining, gorge walking, a mini via-ferrata, hill walking, on low/high ropes, orienteering and beach exploration!
Just a few photos below of the activities:
Fisherman’s Walk and low ropes:
Cwm Idwal and Conwy Mountain:
Both were equally fun. We looked at a lot of the geology, rock formations, history and flora and fauna of both areas. The only difference being with Conwy Mountain was the hill fort at the top and being able to discuss slingshots and use the rocks to create routes for the teams to navigate with!
I’ve also been taking one too many pictures of the curious sheep within this area:
These are Lleyn (pronounced ‘Kleen‘) sheep (named about the Lleyn Peninsula in North Wales) and are identified by the lack of wool on the legs and face, their white faces with black noses and lack of horns. These sheep almost became extinct in the ’70s! Their use today is their fine wool and meat. They are curious and will approach you until you make any sudden unexpected movements. Still not as lovely as the Herdwick.
One day I will own a sheep. Or maybe several. I might just Sheep Trek instead…!!
I just wanted to add in these photos from Anglesey. I’ve never seen such iridescent waters as we did on this day. The sea was in a swathe of blue hues and it just looked so unnatural but equally mesmerizing. The camera did not capture its beauty and I doubt I’ll ever see anything like this again.
These few weeks have been busy and have passed quickly. I only have seven teaching weeks left within this placement, an action research project to complete, a couple of outdoor course assessments, a couple of weeks at university then it’s all over! In the meantime, I shall be heading back home, the Isle of Wight, Peak District and some caving and I still have no idea what I’m doing this summer or beyond! Fun times.
This is it. I have departed Swindon and now I am in North Wales.
And I’m anxious.
I’ve spent the last two weeks thinking about the kit I will need to pack into the van and the last two days doing so. I’m surprised at how much space I still have and how much I have actually packed. My books and clothing have taken up the most space, followed closely by kitchen items, toiletries and bedding. Sadly, after all my careful planning I have left my mouse back at home! So the plan is to buy a cheap USB one if I can find one. D’oh.
Last night was very emotional and I am still full of mixed emotions. I very much want to be doing this but there are certain people (and a certain dog) that I do not want to be four hours drive away. So, I have been on and off crying since last night and there’s a terrible pain in my chest from missing them.
On the other side, I NEEDED to get out of Swindon and find somewhere else to explore. Just tonight I have been walking along a promenade, alongside a train track gazing out into a bay and feeling calm at the sight. It has been bliss.
And now, as the sun goes down and I am parked up, I am nervous at the thought of spending overnight in an unknown location. Sure, I have slept in my van alone before, but in areas I know. I suspect over time this feeling will lessen but as a precaution, I am sending my location each night to family and will be logging where I stay so I don’t have to think/search very late at night.
(For safety, and reducing environmental impact, I won’t be posting my locations on this blog.)
Tomorrow, I register and start the various introductions to the different aspects of the PGCE course and I get to meet the other trainees (there’s ten of us altogether), some I’ve contacted already via social media to say “hello”, but haven’t spoken to the late additions. So it’ll be fun to meet them- I’ll probably be the oldest one there!
For tonight I do have company! I won a Rastafarian pug toy from one of those hand-grab arcade machines on my first go – £1! So he rode shotgun on the journey up.
For the evening I’m going to watch a film I’ve downloaded on Netflix and try to relax and take my mind off things and get ready for bed. I’m looking forward to tomorrow but right now I am already missing the luxury of having access to a shower!
Not long to go now before I set off. This time next week I’ll (hopefully) be returning from the sea side and starting to pack ready to leave next Tuesday for North Wales.
I have been considering what I will need to take. Having spent a lot of time on various camps/in various locations away from home for long periods of time I think I’m fairly clued up on items I will definitely need.
So I’m making a list, checking it twice… a work in progress!
Small frying pan
Spare gas stove plus gas
Laptop plus cable and mouse
iPad plus cable
Books plus pencil case
Sat nav plus cable
Clothing inc work clothes
Wet suits plus goggles and shoes
Running kit inc trail shoes
GPS unit plus compass
Tent plus bivvy bag
Thermos plus water bladder
First aid kit
Waste basket (plastic bags?)
Financial paperwork (might scan it all)
Things I really want to take but can’t
I’m hoping the list is robust enough that won’t require me to spend out on any extras from student loan money. I’m pretty sure I have forgotten something!
It’s the two-week countdown to when I leave this place for mountains, the sea and hopefully a more fulfilling career life so thought I’d give an update of what’s been happening so far with the van.
The van passed it’s MOT, it only had the side light (which I forgot to change) and a tyre replaced, so that was a plus. I’ve gone around the vehicle and identified points to be aware of in the future (beginnings of rust etc), but it all looks pretty sound for now. Just need to get a second set of keys cut. I still haven’t figured out how to store an additional key on the vehicle in case I lock myself outside (this would only happen if I exit via the side door and both front doors are locked, as the side door does not open from the outside once shut due to a broken lock). Will ponder on that.
Deciding and organising what is needed, especially with limited space, has been challenging but I think I’m getting there. I know I will need all my outdoor gear and have been given a rough idea of what Outdoor Activities teachers wear (skirts and blouses just won’t do in a kayak) so more clothes have been purchased… (boo!) I just hope no more surprises are sent my way.
I have been pondering food provision within the van. Obviously, anything with a short shelf life/perishables can’t stay in there for long due to the van’s warmth (it’s so toasty!). I don’t intend to use the hob much, except for boiling water for noodles and tea (going completely with that student lifestyle here…), and I will have a spare stove as back up. I am pondering keeping some carb tinned food, like rice pudding, just in case there are times I need a snack and am parked away from shops or they’re closed. What I want to do is reduce any spills/crumbs within the vehicle to avoid attracting rats/mice/ants so will keep unpackaged food to a minimum. When the weather begins to turn cold and start snowing then I will stockpile tins in case I am snowed in and shops are closed (which, assuming North Wales, will happen at some point). This area will be a lot of trial and error moments, especially to begin with. Still undecided on how much cutlery etc to take but I can always buy more if needed.
I have opted to remove the water containers for the sink and use this space as extra storage and make more room for the outdoor gear! I think a couple of 2-litre bottles will suffice and take up less room- they can always be refilled. I don’t see me using the sink much anyway because of access to sinks at university/residentials/schools for washing cups etc. For rubbish, it’ll just be getting it to the nearest rubbish bin as soon as possible to keep the van clean and free from smells. Still, need to purchase that small wastebasket…
Clothing wise, I am thinking two weeks worth of clothing will suffice as I can go to the laundrette on a fortnightly basis. I have yet to organise my clothing but think the van will accommodate this proposed amount comfortably. I can easily switch from a winter set to a spring to a summer set when the seasons change, so that will reduce the amount I need to take. I now have shelving in which to store the clothes as well! Yippee!
I do still have the issue of drying wet clothing within the van. Now the fan is ‘fixed’ I can have hot flowing air and do have an oil heater for warmth as well as dehumidifiers – I just don’t want to run the risk of the van becoming mouldy or developing that lingering wet smell within the material. I’m not so much worried about wetsuits etc, just waterproof jackets and shoes drying for the next day. I think have to think on this one – if the school/residential has a drying room/tumble dryer then it won’t be much of an issue.
Toiletting – everyone is curious about this. I don’t have and can’t fit a portable toilet. I’m no stranger to peeing in bushes and as for emergencies number twos – I’ve watched a few interesting tips videos online and have decided to a) learn to hold it in as much as possible until a toilet is found and b) have a map of all public toilets and pubs in the area including opening times. I will just have to avoid eating any curries or spicy food for the next year and keep a supply of toilet paper with me (plus the emergency shovel for emergency hole digging).
Showering – schools and residential setting will have staff showers and public gyms have them. I have budgeted for paying for showers weekly and numerous wet wipes and dry shampoo sprays. I like to think I’m not a smelly person but this is probably because I’m paranoid about leaving the house without using deodorants and perfume so lavish them on daily. Again, this will be a trial and error area but, hopefully, by making other uni/teacher friends they might be generous enough to let me use their showers once in a while!
My van is able to charge several electronics and run the lights from the solar panel and cigarette charger comfortably after a bit of issue with inverters. I’ve managed to upgrade my mobile tariff so now I have 8GB of data each month for cheap, which combined with free wifi, I believe will be sufficient. I do have a smartphone, however, it does not have Google maps app but I can share the internet to my iPad so can source locations when needed (I have insured the van to cover these personal belongings although I imagine I will have access to a locker in my placements to store). When connected to free wifi I can download films and shows via Netflix and music via Spotify – I also have an app that lets me stream Virgin Media channels – I feel that I might be spending quite a bit of time sitting outside MacDonalds borrowing their free wifi…
I do have a lot of resource books with me. I suppose I could download them but I can’t read off a screen, it gives me eye strain and I lose concentration, so the books will have to stay. Hopefully, I can offload these somewhere when not needed.
I’m not sure if I’ve covered all the bases that I need to cover. The vital parts are keeping warm, dry, comfortable, fed and watered. Working to a budget that includes sensible eating and diesel will be very interesting – gone will be the takeouts I so often enjoy (as I won’t be able to afford them) but on the plus side as well, I’ll be buying fewer crap items via the internet as I’ll have nowhere to post them to! I might even erase some bad lazy habits I’ve picked up.
I have readjusted my bills etc and cancelled subscriptions I no longer need – the only thing I can’t bring myself to cancel right now is my magazine subscription app, Readly (referral link), as it’s £7.99 a month for lots of big named magazines (I subscribe to nearly 30, both UK and US magazines). I love reading and magazines are my guilty pleasure – at one point I was spending approx £40ish a month of them so this app is a saving grace for me… so, someone might have to pry this app from my dead hands before I give it up.
This whole endeavour has really been scarily eye-opening for me but it’s been really interesting and exciting; I’m glad I purchased it last year as it’s given me a lot of time to make any adjustments, try it out, get used to the van’s quirks and seek help and advice. I’ve watched a lot of videos on youtube and blog sites about van lifers and how they manage. It’s astounding how little one actually needs to live and the tricks they can do to manage without, though I don’t think I’m going to go to the extreme of the ‘all-natural-let-your-body-clean-itself‘ attitude of some van-lifers I saw…
The cost so far:
Car – donated (£800)
Solar panel kit- donated (£150)
Oil heater – gift card (£20)
Led lights – £40
Fire extinguisher – £8
Invertor – donated (£130)
Carbon monoxide alarm – donated (£25)
Leisure battery – donated (£105)
Dehumidifier – £13
Shelving – £30
Mot – £40
New tyre – £50
Road Tax – £140
Total spent (of own money): £321 Donated: £1,230
I recently received documentation from the university offering me student accommodation for the first five weeks whilst studying there – £20 per night… £700 in total for 5 weeks! The van costs just a little bit more than that and hopefully will last the 10 months I’m away (and more!)… I am forgoing a lot of comfort for cost saving but, due to repaying a loan (really, I wanted to give this a go), I can’t afford a lot.
Park anywhere for free?!
None of this would have been possible without donations (thanks to Rob M for the leisure battery and parents for the van and solar panel donation) and the support of others to help fix parts of the van (Shawnee and Chris for the shelving and Terry for the solar panel installation and discovering the trick to getting my fan to work; Stewart for telling me how to sort out my seat belt when it sticks). For all this, I am enterally grateful and hope I will adapt to the changes of a semi-freeloading life for nearly a year.