Nic and Stu have been kind enough to talk to us a bit more about living and travelling in their van and some of the benefits and struggles of vanlife. We’ve been following their travels for a while on their instagram @bothyadventures and were intrigued to learn a little more about their vanlife
Who are you?
We’re Stuart and Nicole Berryman, and Crusoe our spaniel pup!
Where are you from originally?
Before leaving we were both living in East London and have done for the last ten years. But Nic is northern (from Sheffield) and Stu was born in the Netherlands and grew up in Shropshire!
What type of van do you have?
Ford Transit, long wheel base, high roof
How long have you had it?
Since the end of December 2016.
What do you call your van?
Our Instagram name is Bothy Adventures because Scottish bothies (free to use mountain huts in the hills) have been an important part of our relationship… we even got engaged in one on the Isle of Skye. We haven’t actually given the van a name as such… it was something we intended to do and never did!
What is it that drew you to travelling in your van?
Honestly it was a totally random decision made after one too many drinks at a friends birthday party at the end of 2015. We were having long chats about the future, discussed moving out of London and before we knew it we were talking about living in a converted van and driving to Mongolia (we amended the plan a little). At that time I’m not sure either of us knew whether the plan would come to fruition but we are both pretty determined people and we put enough plans in place early on that we couldn’t back track!
Adventure starts where plans end • Or maybe in our case, adventure starts where plans change. After doing some reading / thinking last night we realised we're officially priced out of Switzerland (without the help of wedding gifts) so we're ripping up our original plan and heading to Austria for a night before driving into Italy to spend some time in the Dolomites. One of the best things about van life is the realisation that a plan is only ours to follow… so it's ours to change. Nothing is set in stone. #bothyonthemove
What’s the best thing about living/travelling in your van?
It sounds so cliched but freedom. I don’t think there is anything more satisfying than being self sufficient and waking up in the morning and deciding ‘where next?’ Not having to be tied to anything or anyone apart from ourselves is incredible. Separating ourselves from the churn of London life and having the opportunity to take a different perspective on life… it’s everything we’re learning about ourselves, each other and the world. We got married in April and I can’t imagine a better way to start our married life together. We’re sharing new and amazing experiences yes, but we’re also being forced to consider so many big questions and test ourselves and our relationship in situations that can feel really challenging. One of the things we have always said about our relationship is that we’re a team and that becomes so important in van life.
What’s the hardest part about living/travelling in your van?
The every day niggles of living in a small space, the days when you just annoy the hell out of each other. There’s no escape. Also (and we wrote about this on our blog) there is an inherent pressure for every day to be picture perfect. Instagram doesn’t help that. So when things go wrong or not as you expected it can feel like a real blow.
The silver lining to that is the opportunity to learn to roll with the punches, to accept you can’t control the journey and make the best of NOW.
As I write this I am sat with my ankle on ice after twisting it coming down a mountain for the second time in a month… it was just healing enough for me to do long hikes and now we’re back to square one… but I guess I’ll just have to embrace relaxation for a few weeks and make good use of our hammock 😉
Tonight is our last night in this part of Switzerland…it is busier and less 'van friendly' than Scandinavia (parking is a nightmare and we've had to bite the bullet and pay 😱) but as soon as you get out into the hills higher up the valley, away from the towns and onto the trails, it's a different story…the sheer scale and beauty of it all has blown us away… Tomorrow we're packing up and heading to Zermatt… or Saas Fee, we haven't decided yet. But more mountains await!
What would you be doing if it weren’t for vanlife?
Honestly, probably still working and living in London. We didn’t dislike our old life by any means. We both ran our own companies, have awesome friends in London which is a wicked city but we felt the pressure of being on the hamster wheel, worried that we’d look back and say.. was that it?
What’s your favourite feature of your van?
Argh so difficult! Our bed is pretty amazing. We splashed out on a custom fit memory foam mattress so even though it’s weeny so comfortable… it’s also our sofa area and general chill zone for the dog, so what’s not to love! But also our kitchen… we both enjoy cooking and I love the rituals we’ve developed around making tea, cooking, washing up. It’s also extremely satisfying when you nail your system of where everything lives… you can turn a completely chaotic van back to order in minutes when everything has its place and that feels sooo good!
We're home! 🚐 We woke up this morning to a very messy van, the sound of rain on the roof and barely any food… but we couldn't be happier. The last week of running around visiting friends (and partying) has been lots of fun but a little tiring and it's made us both feel out of sorts. It made us realise (again) how much the van has become our home. I think the dog is happy too. We're off to Strasbourg today…after a much needed trip to the supermarket.
What was the biggest surprise about vanlife?
I think to some extent, the lows… I am an eternal optimist and unfortunately tend to paint a picture of how I expect something to be ahead of time (it’s something I’m trying to get better at though!) – so I guess I expected it to be 24/7 sunshine and smiles which is just crazy… it’s real life after all!
Conversely I’ve also been surprised at how easy it is to fall into the routine, how little I care that we don’t have a shower, how little I miss all the stuff we left in storage in the UK. How settled we have become I guess!
What advice would you give to anyone thinking about getting a van of their own?
Really, don’t sweat the small stuff. We rushed our build at the end (for plenty of reasons – getting married being one!) and I wasn’t happy with plenty of the details but you know what? It hasn’t mattered so much. The functional stuff makes a difference – having the right storage, having enough hooks, a comfy bed…
Equally, try not to expect too much. Van life is messy and you can’t control it… there are too many variables so try to set out with an open mind, remember that every bad day will be met with another amazing day and trust the journey!