Postcard From My New Home 2

The final part of my dialogue with Richard The Piano Tuner concerning my quest for an alternative dwelling to suit my musiciany needs. My new home is revealed at last.

On 25 Jan 2014 “Kimwei” wrote:

Dear Richard.

Thanks everso for all your information in this time of crisis, both for the warm thoughts and the practical ideas. As many suggestions as possible from someone like you who’s done their research is a helpful shortcut for me. For example, I haven’t yet researched the price of hostels, sleeping bags or storage units, so it’s helpful to hear from someone who’s tried those options

I’m certainly settling on the idea of a van – the conclusion you also seemed to see as the most obvious for me. You’re right that a self built interior or at least a converted vehicle with a wood burner would be the ideal – in fact I used to have one. My friend and I built the whole interior from recycled wood and had a recycled gas bottle woodburner fitted. However, the right vehicle (either prebuilt, or a shell for me to convert) hasn’t come up.

Experience has shown me that a woodburner or stove is the only effective way to heat a van in the winter. By “effective” I mean so-that-it’s-actually-warm-in-there.

If I was to buy a Tardis-like pre-fab, with all the space in the world to practice guitar and even set up a recording studio inside it, but couldn’t heat it, then the van would still be unusable as a place to “be”. Coldness would send me looking for indoor spaces every day, whilst pointlessly driving around in a massive tank at 17mpg. So I may as well admit defeat and get a smaller vehicle that’s suitable to sleep in, then look for indoor spaces in the daytime hours.


My new living space. For security reasons I’ll not show photos of the outside of the van or reveal what kind it is, but this is what home currently looks like to me.

Having considered all these options, a good solution has come up just by chance. An acquaintance in Totnes is willing to rent me a medium sized van for little more than the monthly cost of including tax and insurance. It’s perfect because it’s the right size for me to sleep and sit in. Also, if I choose to I can give notice and give it up much more easily than I could give up a van if I bought one.

It sounds like a plan! Yet, there are a few things to sort out…

Sleeping well:

Good news – the van already has a bed. It needs a little fixing, but I can do that. But what about staying warm at night?

When I slept in my yurt and it was 0 degrees C, I could be warm enough by lying in the bed, on a sheepskin, in my 3 season sleeping bag, with a wool blanket and duvet on top. Whoever said that putting anything on top of a sleeping bag renders it useless due to compression, was exaggerating – A duvet over a sleeping bag is definitely warmed than two duvets!

However, there were nights I was still too cold, even though the yurt had a wood burner. So maybe a new sleeping bag will be in order, to avoid feeling worried about sleeping in the van. I don’t want to feel the pressure of needing somewhere to stay on cold nights

Keeping Music Gear Safe:

The studio is ok and I’m hoping it’ll survive the temperatures in the van. One of my waterproof pannier bags will keep condensation away from it. I’ll simply have to take a risk with the busking and keep it in the van, because I use it so much.

Other perishables include a bag of audio cables, live mics and a bunch of instruments. My main acoustic will be ok, because I’ll take it with me everywhere. It’s in a hard case, which protects it against damp and temperature changes. The other instruments are less protected, in soft cases. It would cost hundreds to buy them all hard cases. On my album I plan to record vocals, acoustic guitar, classical guitar, bass and ukulele. I’d like to record piano too, but I won’t get one of those in a van!


Obviously space is a little tight. But the bike just about fits in.

It would be ideal to have all those instruments with me so I can use them any time… but will they perish in a van? Probably yes. The Ukulele is already damaged from being in the yurt. The pickup stopped working and the bridge is coming unglued. I know someone who left their busking amp in a car for 2 winter weeks and it stopped working until they had dried out indoors for a week. The alternative is to find somewhere to store the music gear and still have regular access to it… I’m working on that one.

Do you mind if I put some our dialogue into my weblog? Of course I’ll let you read and approve the post first: Richard’s advice to someone wanting to go houseless. The input that someone in your position can give to someone in my position might be a useful to others who are trying to make a transition. I certainly find myself reading your older posts from when you were carrying more stuff. They are helpful to my process paring down into a van, because I can’t imagine myself without a sleeping bag or towel.

Kimwei x

On 25 Jan 2014 “Richard The Piano Tuner” wrote:

That’s great news! Takes care of accommodation and transport! I’m glad you’re out if the fix, I assume the van will get cold after a few hours with the engine off but nothing lots of bedding won’t remedy. Plenty of time to think about the van’s limitations and how you would make it so much better.


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