I remember before me and Olivia had decided to go travelling together and I was looking for people who were living in very small vans and successfully travelling and Marina of @pamthevan91 came up on a search with an interview she had done. I was super impressed that she was living such a small life but with a dog as well! Finally I’ve been able to get an interview of my own with her to find out about how she got into this lifestyle!
Who are you?
Hey! This is Marina, creator of the blog www.pamthevan.com
Where are you from originally?
I’m half Italian, half French but lived in the UK since I was 20.
What type of van do you have?
I have a tiny Renault Kangoo from 2001
How long have you had it?
I bought it in 2016 so about 2 years ago.
What do you call your van?
The van is called Pam aka Pamthevan (which makes me giggle every time I say it).
What is it that drew you to travelling in your van?
I’ve always enjoyed travelling and never thought as myself as someone that would simply settle somewhere, work and watch the days pass. One day I realised I was doing exactly what I feared the most: living an unexciting life dictated by money and comfort. Back then I really fancied travelling around Europe with a bike but I soon realised that would be very impractical with Odie my furry companion. I realised that travelling with the van would be the best solution for keeping him comfortable and also for carrying all the necessities with me.
What’s the best thing about living/travelling in your van?
Sounds cheesy, but for me the best thing is just to have your home wherever you go. You can be anywhere and truly enjoy it without having to worry about going back home. It’s just a big weight lifted, especially if you like me, are travelling with a dog (it would be nearly impossible and very expensive for me to find accommodation every night for me and Odie). To me the thought of having Pam parked up somewhere while I’m hiking on a mountain just makes me incredibly happy. Also, not having to pack bags is a big bonus.
What’s the hardest part about living/travelling in your van?
I will be controversial and say the freedom that it brings you. You might have experienced this if you have been travelling yourself. It dawned on me after the first few weeks of that “spatial freedom”, opened other doors such as “what do I want to be”, “what and who do I really care about” and “which goals are important for me to achieve”. A lot to take in right? I feel like by living a mundane life, especially if surrounded by people we just get distracted from thinking about those important questions. By throwing yourself into this new way of living (I think especially if you are travelling on your own) you’ll more easily access parts of you that maybe you have never questioned. I really do believe that the amount of choice and freedom we nowadays have is unprecedented. We are not used to it and it’s easier to find ourselves lost and confused. At the start travelling in a van (and travelling in general) can really hype this feeling of “who am I and what am I doing with me life” because of it’s lack of structure (no routine, no hours to respect, no fixed location) and force you to do a lot of work on yourself. On the more practical level, making money has been a struggle, but as someone I know always used to tell me “money is always there to be made”.
What would you be doing if it weren’t for vanlife?
I think I would have probably tried to find a job in environment conservation, somewhere in Scotland maybe?
What’s your favourite feature of your van?
Right now my new Dometic Sink. I didn’t have a sink in my first build and now that I have one I just don’t know how I did it before! It really makes all the difference. I also love my little library at the end of the bed, I think that a home is not a home without one.
What was the biggest surprise about vanlife?
I’d say the fact of feeling safe and home wherever you are. It’s difficult to explain, but living in a van breaks the boundaries between “my home” and the “outside world”. By van dwelling you kind of learn how to make everywhere you are your home, whether it’s taking a bath in a river or using a public picnic table in a forest as your lunch table. I feel like this experience is making me re-appropriate and feel at ease in public spaces whilst teaching me that really the earth belongs to all of us and none of us.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking about getting a van of their own?
Expect to face problems. A lot of them. I feel like a lot of people see van life as the solution to whichever issues they are facing. Although van dwelling is a fantastic, enriching experience it’s definitely not trouble free and does not solve the problems you had before. There will be a lot of breaking things, a lot of learning how to fix them, some stress about where to park at night, organising where to get your water and your showers etc etc. Be prepared and embrace this, it will only make you stronger! Do a LOT of research before buying your van, and lean about it before you set off on your journey, it will come in very useful. And stock up on wet wipes, they are the grail of vanlife!