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Contemplating the Open Road

Adventures in Design

Things that matter to me: design of all kinds, van life, living lightly on the planet, permaculture, flower and food farming; my plans and dreams for the future and my adventures along the way.


Contemplating the Open Road

Susanna Luck

For quite a while now, the concept of Van Life - which is to say, converting an ordinary van into a beautiful little home on wheels and making a life outside of the usual expectations for a mortgage and a house and a place one returns to every day for years - is one that’s appealed to me a great deal.

Mostly I think it’s the design challenge; wringing as much storage and use and one can out of a very small space as much as the freedom to move your home more or less as you please that appeals so much. I’ve been following a number of self-build projects on social media, have visited one couple who’ve taken to the road with their daughter and their cat and have been a little obsessed with finding the perfect van for my own conversion in England.

I’ve come very close to buying two I’ve found online, one a somewhat crappy self build being sold by an Aussie who’d used it to tour Europe for a year (a closer examination made it obvious that it needed too much work, especially on the rust) and another self build in Wales, that, it turned out, was overpriced bearing in mind the age of the vehicle.

I’m still looking and trying to decide between a Mercedes LWB Sprinter, or an old Merc bus of the type used for folk with limited mobility.

The former would have the advantage of being not much bigger than a large car, and therefore easier to manoeuvre in tight spaces like English villages. The latter has more space inside and its proportions appeal to me very much. I’m wondering if the extra living space is worth the trade off in convenience. It’s not a huge bus but would still present some extra challenges on smaller roads, I should think.

My biggest problem at the moment, since I’m in the south of England, in a very small town in the winter, is that I have nowhere to put a vehicle to work on it - no one I know possesses a garage or barn with space for such a thing - and the weather is so challenging this time of year that I don’t think it’s practical to try it outside.

In the meantime, I’m renting a beautiful little self-build from Quirky Campers, a sort of Airbnb for self build Campervans, so that I can try it out for real for ten days. I’m so excited about the possibility of being able to go nearly anywhere for ten days and sleep where I park!