Bonjour friends. Wednesday magic is here again! Welcome new and long time followers! Every Wednesday we profile another traveling family (whether they’re single, a couple, or a more “traditional” family) and their home. 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.
“I thought we would miss the ‘stuff’ that we couldn’t bring, but actually its surprising how little we need” ~ Tin Can Family
Today it gives me great pleasure to introduce the Tin Can Family. They are RV’ing Europe and North Africa at the moment, but their future plans stretch much further. Do you think it is a sign that they are scheduled on IATW for today? Or maybe this IATW was a sign. Oh boy do we have some decisions to make over here and frankly, it is not easy, but enough of us.
“…we get to share everything and experience things together in a way that is much rarer living in a traditional house…” ~ Tin Can Family
And then one day a family rented out their house, sold their belongs, left time sucking jobs behind, exited the traditional education system and took off in a vintage RV. They traveled through snow and desert, added a new family member along the way and reinvented their life. Because that is all it takes, a year. A year out of the mainstream to connect as a family, see the world, have adventures and make inspiring new friends. And that is their story, well, the edited version. You will have to read on for the full version.
“For us there can be no going back to our ‘old normal’ we’ve changed too much as individuals and as a family.” ~ Tin Can Family
This post is full of great advice, encouragement and creative ideas. And some funny! If we RV I can totally see us hooking up with them on their trip back north, or maybe we will head to Wales, who knows. It’s families like Tin Can that make me so happy we are considering RVing. Even though the local community aspect will be weaker than what we are used to, we will have the opportunity to connect with families who have decided to risk it all for a grand adventure. The TCF is truly another amazing inspirational family who we are lucky to have on IATW.
So, enough of my chatter. Grab a cup of coffee, a comfy seat and get ready to be inspired.
Introduce us to the people you live with?
Hi we are the Tin Can Family, there’s me (Lottie), my husband Chris and our two youngest kids (our eldest is grown up and at university). Libby is 10 and adores cooking, cooking shows and Youtube, Stanley is 8 and an avid ‘gamer’- he is also an expert on getting holes in the knees of his jeans. We have an 8-month-old puppy called Millie too, she likes to chew anything and everything. We’ve been living in our van ‘Mabel’ for nearly a year now. We rented out our home in Anglesey, North Wales, put our possessions in storage, (those that we didn’t sell or give away) gave up our jobs and set off to explore Europe and North Africa.
Where are you in the world and what are you living in?
Over the last 11 months we have visited France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Spain, Portugal and Morocco – we are going to visit Andorra on our way back to the UK.
We are currently waiting (very patiently) in Tanger Med port in our beautiful classic Hymer motorhome. We’ve been in North Africa for the last 6 weeks and are now trying to get back to Europe but the ferry company have decided to let only eight motorhomes on each sailing – some people have been waiting here for 48 hours already! Luckily when your transport is also your home, waiting at ports is not such a bad thing, we can cook a meal, watch a movie – we are ‘at home’ wherever we go.
Why did you choose to live in your current arrangement?
We wanted to travel long-term with the kids but were on a limited budget so lots of flights and hotels were out of the question, plus we wanted some home comforts with us so a campervan/motorhome was the ideal solution – and when we saw Mabel the 26-year-old Hymer we fell in love!
What do you do to personalize your unique (less traditional) living situation?
We’ve changed the lighting – Chris put in coloured lighting and dimmers, I made new curtains and cushions …but to be honest when you are living in such a small space, function is much more important than how it looks. (Cushions get in the way, curtain ties fall off etc). Besides, these older vans have so much character that they feel pretty homely from the start.
Tell us your favorite and least favorite room in your space and why?
My favourite has to be my bed, it’s comfier than the one at home and I love to curl up with a cup of tea or a glass of wine and my laptop. My least favourite is the garage space as it’s so crammed and disorganized. Chris says his favourite place is at the wheel – he loves driving and being at the wheel means we are heading somewhere new. He agrees with me about the garage. Libby loves the lounge because that’s where she can be with everybody else but Stan prefers his bed because that’s where he can have his own space (interesting contrast there!) They both hate the bathroom because it smells sometimes.. and the kitchen sink because the washing up is their job.
What is the biggest misconception you had about your current living situation before you started living in it?
I thought we would miss the ‘stuff’ that we couldn’t bring, but actually its surprising how little we need…and very freeing too. Now I can’t imagine ever needing any of the things we have in storage back at home. Chris’ biggest misconception was that we’d have more free time than we actually have – traveling can be hard work as there is a great deal of packing and unpacking, emptying waste and topping up water before moving on so the days fill up very quickly.
What is the one household item you carry with you every time you move or the one item you cannot live without?
I always want to have my phone or laptop with me as I like to be connected, to know how our eldest daughter is getting on and what our family and friends are up to. We’ve also met some great fellow travelers via social media and had some fantastic support from online forums. There is a sense of ‘community’ online and community can be hard to find when you are moving from place to place.
For Chris it’s definitely his phone. Most of our photos and videos are taken and edited on it and our social media accounts are run from it. He also uses his google timeline to track all the places that we’ve been so we can look back at our journey in detail. In his downtime it’s also where he watches the occasional tv show, plays games and reads, since his laptop died in a white wine accident he’s hardly used a laptop and transferred all his digital work to the phone.
Libby says she couldn’t live without Daisy, her toy Dalmation, they’ve been together since Libby was a year old – Oh apparently, I’m not allowed to call her a ‘toy, she’s still very real to Libby! Stan says he wouldn’t have come with us if we didn’t bring his Xbox, it’s more than just a game console, it’s a way of keeping in touch with his friends.
What do you miss most about permanent, stationary, traditional living?
For me it would have to be my bath, showers just aren’t the same as a good long soak at the end of the day. Libby and Stan miss their friends and Chris is still trying to think of something that he misses…
What is the one item your children carry with them to make their unique (less traditional) home more comfortable?
Apart from Daisy and the Xbox – Their Pokemon slippers – Snorlax for Libby and Pikachu for Stan.
Do you have a pet joining you in this journey? If so, has this been complicated? Any advice?
We didn’t when we started out but in Spain we met Millie, a (then) three-month-old puppy, who had been found wandering the streets. The rescue charity based in Almerimar was just around the corner from a camper stop that we had stayed at and they had a picture of Millie saying that she needed her ‘forever home’. We were only an hour away in Cabo de Gata so we drove back- she has travelled with us ever since. This complicated our trip to Morocco because it’s a high rabies country and so animals that have travelled there have to have a ‘Titer’ test proving that they have rabies antibodies to a certain level – without this you can’t bring them back into Europe. So we had to find a vet in Algeciras and arrange for the test and certification. It took a few weeks and delayed our departure for Morocco but the vet that we found was fantastic and made it a hassle-free process. Traveling with a dog, especially a puppy, does change things though – there’s a lot more planning and thought involved when we visit somewhere and it is harder to do some things altogether as someone has to look after the dog. Even so, we wouldn’t change it for the world and the kids absolutely adore her.
What is your best resource to find items you need for your place?
We’ve actually spent more time getting rid of things than we have acquiring new ones. Managing the small space means we try to have as little ‘stuff’ as possible. Usually it’s when something has broken and needs replacing which often means a specialist part that we have to order online. Advice on what to get and where to get it has been the most important bit of help for us and this often comes from the ‘Classic Hymers’ group on Facebook which is an amazingly friendly group where someone almost always has the answer.
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.
Above average internet, without a doubt. We all use the internet, for education, entertainment, research and keeping in touch with family, friends and the people who follow our travels on Instagram and Facebook. A good internet solution was one of the priorities for our van.
If you were to compare your unique (less traditional) home decorating style to a kitchen appliance or gadget what would it be and why?
A swiss army knife, because although we want the van to look nice everything has to have at least a dual purpose to earn its place in our tiny space.
How do you keep traditions alive for your family in your unique living situation?
The tooth Fairy still visits, I think she must use some kind of magic dust to work out where we are each time and we still have bedtime stories, the latest was The Midnight Gang by David Walliams. The nice thing about traveling is discovering and trying different traditions from places we visit too. The three kings festival and 12 grapes at midnight on New Year’s Eve were great fun in Spain.
How do you decorate for the holidays in your unique (less traditional) home or do you skip it all together?
We were in Cabo de Gata in Spain over Christmas and we went to town on decorations for the van we even had a fake Christmas tree with lights outside the door to the van! It was strange because the days were sunny and warm but Spain has a type of shop called an Oriental Bazaar which are brilliant places for picking up the kind of tacky decorations that Chris insists we have each year…he’s a child of the 70’s and it shows!
What is your favorite part about this lifestyle choice?
The people. Although we’ve been to some fantastic places it’s the people we meet along the way that really make the memories. Whether fellow travelers or locals, we’re always amazed by the welcome and generosity of people we meet on the road.
Many traveling families subscribe to the “house is not a home” theory. What is home to you?
Home to us is the place where we come together as a family and eat, play and generally feel protected and comfortable. The van has certainly become home for us. Whether we are parked on a beach with a beautiful view or between HGVs in a truck stop as soon as we close the curtains we’re at home.
What makes you love the place you live?
The fact that it has taken us to so many amazing places and the small shared space means that we get to share everything and experience things together in a way that is much rarer living in a traditional house with space to lose each other in.
Can home be a person, or an idea?
Home can be many things to different people I think. For us it’s about a place we share with those closest to us; somewhere we can be together and protected.
Words of wisdom to anyone considering venturing out into the world of unique, less traditional homes?
Downsizing and decluttering can seem like a daunting task when you’ve spent years accumulating ‘stuff’ in a traditional home. Plan and go about it in stages and make sure you give yourself plenty of time to prepare. Make sure you research your new, less traditional home well to be certain it meets your needs and test it thoroughly before you finally take the plunge. We spent only three nights away in our van before we moved in full-time, we were lucky, it worked for us but more time acclimatizing would be a better way to go about it. Finally, don’t underestimate how your views and attitudes will change over time living with less stuff in a smaller space. For us there can be no going back to our ‘old normal’ we’ve changed too much as individuals and as a family.
Anything else you would like offer?
If you even think this kind of experience or way of living might be for you and suit your family then we can’t recommend it enough. We have the privilege of spending a whole year traveling with Libby and Stan which is more time than 18 years of ‘traditional’ holiday time would have given us. It’s a precious time and something that will stay with us as a family forever.
What is next for you? Will you continue to live in your current home or try something different?
We will be going back to our house for at least some of the year, but not back to our life as it was. Chris has changed his job for one with less money but more freedom and the kids have decided that they would like to try continuing with unschooling. This combination gives us the opportunity to have a base and for Libby and Stan to maintain their friendships at home and their clubs and activities but also for us to travel for a few months each year in our van. Our next destination will hopefully be through Scandinavia to the Arctic circle – quite a change from the Sahara!
How do you educate your children?
We had always been a traditionally educated family and had planned for the kids to take a year out of school before going back and continuing with the national curriculum. However, our experiences and those of the other families we have met on the road have changed our thinking for all of us. Libby and Stanley have decided that they would like to continue with an unschooling approach and follow their passions rather than a generalist curriculum and we are happy to facilitate this for them as long as they remain happy doing it.
How do you make a living?
Chris initially took a year of unpaid leave from work and I left my job as it was a fixed term contract anyway. We spent our savings to fund the trip. We also rented out our home which covered costs for the house, a few bills, and our eldest daughter at university while we were away. We have both freelanced in the past and are looking at developing this to create a location-independent income that will enable us to travel in the future and earn on the road.
Quote to Ponder
Although we’ve been to some fantastic places it’s the people we meet along the way that really make the memories.
Ok, who wants to hang out with this cool family? I hope they come through Hyères on their way back to Wales, it is a bit out of the way though. So, what did you learn? Do you think RV life is for you? Do you think you are capable of more than you can imagine? The TCF really makes it seem that easy. Or maybe that is just my mind playing tricks on me since we have a big decision to make. I hope you are walking away from this post filled with inspiration and hope. I know I am.
Interested in living like the Tin Can Family? WorldTowning’s services can help make this traveling families story ‘your reality’ and we can do it all stress free. We will be there will you every step of the way.
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.