Dan & Pip are amazing. We met them through Instagram (@montytheford)and have been following their journey for ageeesss! They are so kind and warm and friendly and it feels like we know them, despite never having actually met. As we think they're great, it seemed only fitting that they would be our first Vanlife Story! Read on below...
Who are you?
Dan and I (Pip) met at school, and have been together for just over a decade. We are two twenty-somethings (the preferred term when we’re both nearing 30!) living van life full-time in our 40 year old motorhome called Monty. Oh, and I can’t forget our two dogs Jango and Steve, who used to live on the streets in Romania before finding their forever home with us in the UK.
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 from a customer 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 vanlife?
Before living in the van, we rented a bungalow together for nearly five years. Every time we went away for a weekend of adventure, we’d be disappointed when returning home. It seemed crazy to feel this way, when a huge proportion of our wages was going on rent, whilst living in the van was considerably cheaper. So our dreamy chats about living in the van full-time morphed into the beginnings of some serious lifestyle changes! We sold everything in our rented place, and moved onto a plot in Dan’s Mums garden back in October 2018. Less stuff and cheaper living has meant we can save hard for our future plans and adventures.
How did you convert Monty?
Luckily, there wasn’t too much to convert as the van is a purpose-built motorhome. In some ways this was a blessing. The gas was already in, as was the plumbing, leisure battery, fixed bed, oven, shower etc. However, it was very basic. Everything worked (just about) but the previous owner had gone a bit overkill with white and black gloss paint. There was still surprisingly a lot of work to do…
It was a lot of fun giving Monty more character. All the changes made have been completed by us. Dan is a self-employed landscape gardener 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 on. 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. This is without mentioning installing the solar panel, repainting the exterior yellow and the many, many engine parts we’ve replaced!
Who are your vanlife Inspirations
There are so many! I am always blown away by the kindness of other van lifers online, especially on instagram. People are willing to help and share with conversions, places to stay, and any other general life worries. Below are a few favourites.
Ethical, beautiful couple who explore the world together whilst encouraging others to do good for our planet.
The sweetest little family giving their daughter Agnes the best childhood, exploring Europe in their van Ludo.
Their feed is simply beautiful! Great inspiration for creating a van that feels like home.
A full-time UK vanlifer who has a heart of gold and the best outlook on life. Simply a top bloke!
Inspirational in every way. Seb and Rose are an awesome couple who have worked hard and are now travelling around Europe in their van Vincent. They constantly share tips and tricks to help others in vans. Love everything about them.
your worst vanlife experience?
The worst experience by far was our road trip to South France last summer.
After crossing the channel, it didn’t take long to work out that there was something seriously wrong with the van (there was a constant loud, rattling noise like marbles in a jar when driving). To cut a long story short, we spent five days parked up at a concrete Ford Garage carpark in Belgium, during a heatwave producing the hottest temperatures on record. We had the two dogs with us, and no air conditioning. In the end, we left £800 pounds down and never made it to South France. On the plus side, it was probably cheaper to get the clutch replaced and gearbox reworked in Belgium than at home in the UK! Every cloud.
Your vanlife MUST have
It’s too difficult to pick one, there are so many things we have that are multi-purpose and we use each day. Net bags, tote bags, hooks and a collapsible bucket! Anything that helps increase storage and makes space where you originally thought there wasn’t any to start with.
Your vanlife do WITHOUT
When we bought the van, it came with a hoover that plugged into the cigarette port. The suction was so weak it wasn’t worth the space it took up, so we sold it at a car boot sale and sweep regularly instead. A bit boring, but true!
What does vanlife look like for you for now
At the moment, we are both working hard to save as much as we can for two trips: a three week trip to Canada in September, and a big European trip at the end of the year. I’m a primary teacher, and Dan has grown his gardening business from scratch, so our current lifestyle consists of a lot of work and not much play..but it will all be worthwhile in the end. We are unbelievably grateful to Dan’s parents for allowing us to have the van parked up at their place these past few months. It’s been an added bonus spending more time with family.
What advice would you give to future 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…you never know what you might see when you wake up!
Follow them and their journey on Instagram : @montytheford