Bonjour friends! Wednesday magic is here again! Welcome new and long time followers! Every Wednesday we profile another traveling single/couple/family and their home. Welcome Catherine, Richard, Lottie and Libby of LifeinourVan! I know you all like peeking in windows as much as I do. Now we can do it with approval. We share homes that have wheels, tents, walls, smaller wheels, legs and so much more.
Life with LifeinourVan
Ok, I have to jump right in and say “wow” now that is a rig! Wait until you see the video. I want! I want! I want! I guess I always had this vision of motor-homing/camper van life being filled with dust, cold, extremely noisy and complicated on many levels. This lovely family makes it look so easy and serene. I might go as far to say…zen. Ok, that might have been a little overboard. And wait until you see where the grown up bed emerges from, ok, I will stop spoiling all the goodness.
In truth, we just wanted to ‘live’ not simply ‘exist’… ~ Richard
LifeinourVan has been all over Europe for more than a year now and boy do they have some amazing experiences to share with all of you. They educate their children by way of a combination of traditional book work and “out in the world” adventures and learning. The best of both worlds for this family who hails from England. They are enjoying the simple life littered with new experiences that have time hiking, biking, climbing and more to off the grid areas of the world. Sounds magical, right?
It’s a big world and we want them to embrace new opportunities without worrying about whether they might fit in. ~ Richard
They are lucky enough to be able to pop back to England for those special events they don’t want to miss. Since we are unable to do that because it is so expensive I found myself envious of this option. They plan to return to England after they complete their adventure, but between you and I (and the rest of my readers) I would not be surprised if they continued this adventure for a couple more years. They sound just so blissfully happy.
So, enough of my chatter. Grab a cup of coffee, a comfy seat and get ready to be inspired.
© Lifeinourvan 2017
Introduce us to the people you live with?
Ever wanted to pack your bags, just jump in a motorhome and go off and explore Europe as a family? Well, that’s exactly what we (Catherine, Richard, Lottie & Libby) have done since September 2015. Ok, so we’re a practical, adventurous family who love getting active outdoors. So we’ve enjoyed Bobsleigh in Norway, Climbing into Mt Etna in Sicily and Kayaking the River Dordogne. As for us, well Libby is the most active, whilst Lottie is the bravest… and as for us the parents, well we just tag along for the ride!
Where are you in the world and what are you living in?
Our experiences have included 30+ countries and over 45,000 miles across Europe whilst living in a motorhome. We’ve written over 450 travel articles, blogs and reviews providing advice, tips and experiences for other families from our experiences across Europe. We have been very fortunate to have visited so many amazing places, but our favourites are Croatia and Andalucía, in Spain. Both places are beautiful with amazing beaches and a lot of interesting places to visit.
Why did you choose to live in your current arrangement?
We’d ask readers to picture this scene….
All your belongings safely stowed in the back. Imagine sitting in the driver’s seat, with the kids in the back, ready and raring to go for yet another family adventure in your trusty motorhome….Our road trip really has become that ‘adventure’ in every sense of the word, with every day full of surprises as we move from one location to another. In truth, we just wanted to ‘live’ not simply ‘exist’… Plus modern-day life is just so busy… so slow down. You don’t have to do endless activities to keep children entertained. We enjoy Homeschooling our children each week through new travel/education or adventure opportunities. So now, everyday brings a new outdoor classroom / playground / family adventure for us to discover together as a family. So I guess that’s why we started this adventure and we just want to make every minute count!
What do you do to personalize your unique (less traditional) living situation?
With two growing girls, we opted for the chance to purchase a motorhome that could give them a bedroom away from home, something to return back to each day and feel safe/secure. To make their own! We decided against yet another plastic Christmas toy this year and gave them £100 instead to decorate their rooms.
Both girls opted for totally different colour schemes but they each bought 4 huge cushions with happy messages on them.. There is no better sight than seeing them tired after yet another day exploring outside, but managing to recline with a good book inside. Dwarfed by their choice of cushions for the night.
Tell us your favorite and least favorite room in your space and why?
Living in just one room has given us ability to travel to so many varied places whilst keeping the costs down through cheap camping costs and being able to cater for ourselves rather than relying on expensive meals out. We also enjoy traveling with all our things, knowing wherever you are and whatever you have been doing we will be going back to our own home and our own beds!! So the best room in our house is the only room! But if you want to see what this really looks like, then check these two links out below.
Here’s our full review of our Adria Motorhome including a video of us showing you around our motorhome.
What’s Life Really Like Living in a Motorhome.
What is the biggest misconception you had about your current living situation before you started living in it?
Motor-homing /Roadtripping doesn’t have to be basic. This has been reinforced by the people who regularly pop their heads in to offer positive comments as we have toured across Europe.. They’ve liked the airy sitting room, the touchscreen panel for heating/water/electricity etc, the fully lined garage (invaluable!), the ambient lighting, the double floor for insulation and the 5th seat option for travel…
What is the one household item you carry with you every time you move or the one item you cannot live without?
The outside of the motorhome shows the workmanship from Slovenian manufacturer (Adria). It’s also been robust enough for a young family. But also has enough places to charge the various electronic gizmos we carry to help homeschooling or run our successful website … so I guess the thing we couldn’t do without are the electronic gizmos that litter the van!!!
What do you miss most about permanent, stationary, traditional living?
We are very lucky that our van is well designed, which makes it easy to live in despite its relatively small size. Initially, we thought that the hardest part was going to be not being able to take many things with us, but we have all discovered that you do not need many things to be happy or to fill our time. The hardest part for us is not being able to bring our dog on our travels, although she is having a wonderful holiday with our family!!
What is the one item your children carry with them to make their unique (less traditional) home more comfortable?
The girls love lying on their beds or the inflatable sofas outside and spend hours writing/drawing or making things with their Pipity Activity Cases… so it would be between these and their array of soft toys that cover their beds at the back of the motorhome. But hopefully we make the most of every outdoor opportunity so toys are quickly forgotten in favour of fresh air fun.
What is your best resource to find items you need for your place?
We’ve been lucky to have a great motorhome dealership back in the UK (Geoff Cox Leisure), so plenty has come from there. But we also love our bright KitchenCraft crockery. Lazy Jack & Sprayway clothing has proved really durable for life on the road, Whilst Vango seem to be the most sturdy, cost-effective outdoor camping equipment we’ve used so far. Bedding is also helped by some great mattress toppers from Duvalay.
If you could only have one of the following in your home which one would it be and why?
space, natural light, dishwasher or above average internet.
So for us none of the above matter, but more importantly our motorhome has had to endure a range of temperatures from -15deg to over 31deg . So we couldn’t be without the Adria’s ambient heating which makes it easy to maintain a comfortable winter temperature whilst we’ve use the many window / roof vents to cool it down under the Sicilian sun….
If you were to compare your unique (less traditional) home decorating style to a kitchen appliance or gadget what would it be and why?
Hmmm… thats a good question and we’ve not really thought about that before… let’s say a coffee machine. It’s both practical and can be stylish, but it’s main purpose is to provide something that gives you a reason to sit and relax… just like our motorhome.
How do you keep traditions alive for your family in your unique living situation?
As we spend 60 days at a time in the van, we try to make sure we return back to the UK wherever possible to celebrate birthdays and festivals with family & friends back home, even getting ready for a wedding from the motorhome… but that’s not always possible… so we try to make it more special by offering the chance to pick a location… so as we write this article, today is Mothers Day in the UK, so we’re heading off to spend today on a Croatian Island as that’s what Catherine had asked for!!
How do you decorate for the holidays in your unique (less traditional) home or do you skip it all together?
Last year saw us carrying both a calendar and decorations for the Advent period leading up to Christmas, whilst last year we spent Easter Day in Sicily and even managed to find time to make an easter egg hunt in the van!
What is your favorite part about this lifestyle choice?
It is something that we had been thinking about doing for about 5 years before we left, but we suddenly realised that either we went now or we would have missed our chance as our eldest daughter was 2 years away from starting secondary school.
We wanted to teach our girls about the world by experiencing it first hand, whether it’s a geographical feature (for example we have slept in a volcano crater in Italy, then climbed mount Etna), a historical event (e.g. we have taken amazing tours of the Ypres and Somme WW1 battlefields) or religious understanding (we have visited various cathedrals, synagogues and mosques). But our favourite part is helping them become aware of the importance of language and understanding other cultures. It’s a big world and we want them to embrace new opportunities without worrying about whether they might fit in.
Many traveling families subscribe to the “house is not a home” theory. What is home to you?
All families will know that traveling with the children can be a little bit tricky, especially if you choose to spend over 500+ days across Europe. But if you get it right, it’s the journey of a lifetime. So our home also has to be our classroom and our mode of transport! We’re not even sure what a home really is anymore… all we know is that we miss our friends yet love finding new opportunities to experience… So i guess we’ll have to wait to answer that one… for us, our home is the space our family lives in (even if it has 4 wheels and a steering wheel at the moment!)
What makes you love the place you live?
It just works for our family! The girls have their own space in their bedroom, whilst we can comfortably gather as a family in the living area for board games or meals. Everyday brings a new view, so what’s not to like! It really has become our home from home!
Can home be a person, or an idea?
Of course, a home is just somewhere to rest your head… and we have lived in over 400+ homes in the last year (if you count campsites & wild camping places)… A home is made by the people you share it with…
Words of wisdom to anyone considering venturing out into the world of unique, less traditional homes?
We’ve found that by deciding to pick a country and see how broad we could make the learning experience has helped our girls understand the culture of other countries. Which has certainly broadened our girl’s horizons.’ But education has certainly not been abandoned. Two or three mornings a week we have classroom-style lessons as well as using education apps to help them with Maths, English and languages. Libby already studies geometry and Lottie has won a camera and Lonely Planet award for her photographic skills.
However, if you’re looking for tips on what to look for in a van (for a long-term road trip). We’ve made a LifeinourVan Top 10!
- Get a decent Heating System (ambient heating air flow really works!)
- Find a van with a Comfortable, Light & Airy Colour Scheme (interior/exterior)
- Make sure you can get around so space for bikes & keep the weight under 3500kg Payload (maybe a garage like ours with space for 4 bikes)
- Make evenings relaxed with Ambient Lighting (perfect for relaxing after a busy day with the kids!)
- Make sure you get a Bathroom that can fit all your needs (separate shower/toilet becomes one room)
- Create a space in the van for the kids to call ‘home like our Back Bedroom – (spacious+full blackout blinds which are not to be underestimated)
- Carefully consider Storage Space – (make sure it’s well located storage in/under living space)
- If you want to keep the van small enough to really explore Europe, consider the Drop Down bed option (perfectly usable for 2 adults long-term)
- Don’t compromise on Drivability & Visibility (our girls can enjoy the journey fully through the side windows)
- Does it have Ergonomic Design -(ours just seems to work for us, we’re never cramped… that’s crucial)
- Make sure you get one that feels well screwed together from start to finish with limited travel rattles… it matters! Thankfully we struck lucky with the Adria Matrix.
Anything else you would like offer?
If you’re considering it, we’d say go for it!! We have had the most amazing experience so far. Our girls have learnt so much from what they have seen and experienced. We will always be grateful for having been able to spend this time living and learning together as a family. It is not always easy, each day can bring new challenges that need to be overcome, but it is worth it for all the fun and memories along the way.
What is next for you? Will you continue to live in your current home or try something different?
Next year, should see us return back to the UK and return to a more orthodox lifestyle… but you just never know! I guess we’ll all have to wait and see what happens in September!
Quote to ponder:
Our girls have learnt so much from what they have seen and experienced.
Wow! I know, I know, exactly what I was saying. Can’t you just see yourself pulling up a chair and hanging out with them around a campfire, swapping travel stories. Well, they are in Europe so maybe we can make that dream come true for all of you. And I can get Will to vlog it all so you feel like you are right there with us. What do you say LifeinourVan?
Interested in living like the Thorley’s? WorldTowning’s services can help make this families story ‘your reality’ and we can do it all stress free. We will be there will you every step of the way.
© [Richard Thorley] and [LifeinourVan] [2014-17]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, photographs and links may only be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to [Richard Thorley] and [LifeinourVan] with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
Inside A Traveler’s Walls is where we feature families living in less traditional and unique homes (tents, boats, camper vans, yurts, flats, etc). If you think you might be one of those families and are interested in being profiled, please contact us for details.