We are so happy to be sharing the Vanlife Story of a young family who began their full time vanlife journey a mere two weeks ago! Not only that but they are a family who we have followed since we began as we bought our vans only weeks apart and they are both the same make model and color (The best color for a van yellow) VANLIFE TWINS! We haven't yet met face to face, but we have absolutely no doubt that our yellow buses will meet for an epic evening sometime soon!
Who are you? Tell us a little bit about you and your lovely home on wheels!
Hey guys! We are Sam & Rachel Dix – along with our 2 and a half year old Son, Ellis we are The Dixie Tribe.
We first met when we were 18 years old and we’ve been together well over 10 years now and married for 3. We’ve always had a thirst for adventure and have travelled to some pretty awesome places in the World and very nearly emigrated to Canada. In 2018, we hit a bit of a crossroads…to buy a house or travel fulltime?! We actually decided to do the sensible thing and buy a house and so put all our savings down as a deposit. After a few months we pulled out. We had a strong sense that it just wasn’t meant to be and yet the yearning for travel & adventure was just getting more & more unshakeable. We decided pretty swiftly that we were going to put everything we had into making fulltime travel a reality for our little Family. And not long after we purchased a bright yellow ex-minibus LDV Convoy – pretty much Flora’s twin!
Why did you choose vanlife
Soooo many reasons! But the main instigator for seeking an alternative lifestyle was becoming Parents. After we had Ellis, we became more & more aware of the choices we were making and the example we were setting for him. It really made us really question what was important to us and we became really critical of how our actions tallied to our intentions. We wanted to spend more quality time together. We wanted to live more meaningfully and sustainably. We wanted to be free – outside of the conventional work & buy a house storyline. We wanted to fall in love with the World’s natural beauty by EXPLORING it! And Vanlife just really offered us a means to fulfil our dream - Minimal & sustainable travel whilst really immersing ourselves in Nature. WIN!
Your conversion process
From purchase to completion it took 9 months. But, the start was slooooow. Sam was working on it roughly every few weekends and it soon became apparent that we weren’t going to get anywhere at that rate. We needed to commit and so Sam spent nearly every evening working on the Bus and as many weekends as possible to push the conversion along.
After the initial rip out, we assessed the structural integrity of the bus and were pretty lucky that nothing needed welding and there was minimal rust. Of what rust there was, we treated and then laid sound deadener and insulation. At this point we planned the layout of the bus so that we could determine battery positioning and electric points. We ran all the cables and fitted three leisure batteries and two solar panels. We ripped out the old ceiling fan and installed a new electric one with two-way air flow. Then we cladded and ply’d the ceiling and walls and started building the internal structures and purchasing appliances. Once everything was fitted, it was just a case of decorating - tiling, painting and furnishings.
This was the very first exposure we had to van living. Along with her Husband & 2 kids, they travel very minimally in a converted bus around Australia. It really made us realise that having kids shouldn’t stop you from having dreams & adventures – in fact it’s even more reason to do it!
The road is our home – Was the first van account we started following once we’d purchased our bus and we learnt so much from them with regards to a van conversion.
Carly & Laura are the sweetest couple and the life they give their little girl Agnes is incredible. Again, it really opened our eyes to the spectacular life a child can have whilst exploring the World. They’re both SO friendly and always answered our endless questions haha!
Of course, Our Convoyage – you guys were hugely inspirational! You finished your conversion and began your travels a good few months before us and so it’s been like glimpsing into the future, as to what our travels will be like. It’s also been beneficial for us to see what does/doesn’t work with a LDV Convoy. (Aww, shucks you guys!)
We have met, talked to and followed so many inspirational people, couples & accounts who have inspired us in so many ways!
What were your vanlife must haves?
Space! We are travelling with an extra mini-human, so we really wanted the space to be as open and as versatile as possible. Therefore we opted against a fixed bed and instead have two bench seats that convert into the bed at night. This allows us to keep an open floor space running the length of the bus during the daytime. We were going to put in a shower, but decided against it because it took up too much space and opted for a collapsible bucket and shower pump instead. We added an awning so that we could expand the confines of the bus with a sheltered outside space and this really helps!
Although Ellis will be outdoors a lot; we really wanted to include a space where he could have some toys, books & art materials. So we built him a toy & bookshelf and an art unit for chalks, paints, crayons etc. We have a chalkboard for him to scribble on whenever.
And of course; practical items such as a fridge, toilet and as much power as possible!
How did you find the conversion process? Challenges, problems you came across, what went easier than you thought it would? What were the bits?
Truthfully; it was hard! The initial excitement wore off and as we neared the end we both got a bit sick of it. We were both knackered and barely saw each other. Some days Sam wouldn’t even get to see Ellis and this went against everything we wanted! We really had to keep focused on the end goal to keep pushing us on through the conversion.
During the initial stages (like treating rust and insulating) you spend so much time working on the van and it seems like nothing is changing and at other times progress happens really quickly. The electrics were super brain melting! Fitting the gas tank was fiddly and definitely needed an extra pair of hands! And LDV’s are renowned for leaking so even after we thought we were water tight – we had leaks. It was super frustrating but we got there in the end.
Of course it helped that Sam is a skilled carpenter and has all the right tools to hand. This really shows in the quality of the build and finishing touches like the handmade handles!
What advice would you give to would be vanlifers or people thinking of living/or converting a van?
For those dreaming of a life on the road – go for it! Do whatever it takes to achieve the life you want. Vanlife is all about living freely & minimally – you don’t need a lot to achieve this way of living.
We’d like to think that we could be an inspiration to other Parents who would love to travel with their Children. It’s scary committing to an alternative way of living especially when you have Kids, but the wealth of life skills they will develop exploring different landscapes and immersing in varying cultures will far outweigh any negatives. Imagine having beaches and mountains as you back garden growing up!
What tips and tricks have you picked up about vanlife/ the conversion process?
With regards to the conversion – preparation is KEY. Research, plan, & talk to other vanlifers online. Even go view some vans if you can! Everyone is so friendly and so happy to offer help and advice. We’ve learnt a vast amount of things just by talking to other vanlifers.
Invest in security – if you have a lot of windows like we do, locks wont be any help at all if a window gets smashed open. We’ve found some anti-shatter glass film, which is blast proof to apply to the inside of the windows. It’s a clear film so doesn’t disrupt the view out the window but offers peace of mind that access can’t be made if someone does try to smash their way in.
And a great practical tip: When tiling, use grab adhesive and silicone instead of traditional grout. Grout cracks from the vibrations whilst driving so use grab adhesive to stick the tiles to the wall and silicone to fill in the gaps!
What is your plan now you've converted the van? Where are you going?
Travel for as long as we can! We are starting our travels with a ferry across to Holland and then working our way through Scandinavia. We don’t have a detailed travel plan – we’ll maybe plan a week in advance but just go wherever we feel like at the time. We would really love to meet up with some fellow Vanlifers in Morocco at Christmas time. That would be amazing.
If you could take your van anywhere where would it be and why?
Oh man, so many places haha! Canada, America, Iceland, Scotland, Australia, Asia… We could go on & on & on.
A massive thank you for taking the time to be a part of our Vanlife Stories series.
If you liked reading about their story and journey head over to Instagram and give them a follow at @thedixietribe for all the details of their conversion and their amazing trip around Europe!
For those reading, if you are converting or living in your van and would like to be featured you can download the questionnaire here or you can get in touch with us either through our Instagram or through our contact us page!