Tag Archives: travel

Van Vlog!

Here are all my van vlogs in one playlist!

 

I’ve not written as many articles recently, but I’ve been BUSY making video. Check out my Symphony For Happiness Channel for more!

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Ask A Digital Nomad: How Does Your Life Actually Work?

The most common question people ask me is “how does it work being a Digital Nomad?” “Where do you do laundry?” and “Where do you live exactly?” are popular too.

On reason I haven’t fully answered this question so far in a post, is that I hadn’t answered it in my life! The way I live will continue to change and evolve, but up until recently there were still major problems I hadn’t solved. There was so much stuff in my van that I couldn’t use it as a room, I lacked places to record music, and the van bed wasn’t actually comfortable.

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Van – a bit too full for comfort.

That mostly sorted now, so this is a practical post for those of you who like to geek out on alternative lifestyles, possibly with a mind to try it yourself.

Method: Creating a plan A & B for everything

When I started this incarnation of houselessness, 3 months ago, I’d worry if I didn’t have either a solution that would all the time, or a million backup plans. For example, when it came to internet access (VITAL) I thought I wouldn’t be happy unless I could get it in my van. As it is, I’ve never needed to use the internet from my van – there have been plenty of other spaces I can use.

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It’s possible to get internet in the van, but it’s very slow.

So, nowadays I feel pretty secure with a simple plan A & B.

E.g., Laundry

Plan A: Stick my few clothes in with a friends’ washing, in exchange for something or other

Plan B: Hand-wash / launderette

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Spring brings new laundry drying methods.

Although I feel secure knowing plan B exists, in 3 months I’ve hardly had to hand-wash, and never laundrette.

Having a plan B frees me from worrying about my needs, so I can focus my attention on the people in my life and our relationships. I love the way in which this lifestyle brings me closer to my friends and wider community, through asking and exchange, but I prefer the vibe that comes from me asking out of choice/preference rather than need. That’s why Plan Bs are important.

Plan A usually involves a person, whilst plan B is usually an independent solution. As shown:

Workspace

Plan A: Use a friend’s house as an office.

Plan B: Wifi cafe / wifi in the van (v. slow)

Plan A is more favourable, fun and social, but plan B is also workable and fine.

So, here are my plan As and Bs for most aspects, which hopefully quells your curiosity.

Eating

A: Eat with whoever I’m docking with, and contribute in some way.

B: Eat out / supermarket picnic / in the van

I’m not in my van enough to justify stocking it with food, but I carry a food-bag containing non-perishables such as tins, cheese and hardy vegetables if I’m between van and “docking”. When travelling van-less I carry snacks in my Life-Bag, and my next meal. I’m willing to eat cold or raw food quite a lot, but cooking in the van is also possible.

Sleeping

A: Docking / Housesitting / Van

B: Van

My “Sleeping On The Floor” experiments have helped me to become much more flexible about where I sleep. In this case, I’ve put van under plan A and B, as sometimes it’s a pinch to sleep in it, and other times it really is my number 1 choice, especially now it’s spring. I’m very lucky because so many people have welcomed me that I’m regrettably even having to turn down house-sits sometimes.

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Learning to sleep on the floor has many advantages.

Washing Me

A: At someone’s house

B: At a service station / swimming pool / gym

Amazingly I haven’t had to use plan B yet, and the longest I’ve gone without a shower is 2 days. Prioritising staying clean is very, very important when you’re nomadic, trust me…

Exercise

I have a 10min routine I can do each morning no matter where I am, but beyond that I haven’t got a schedule together yet.

Music Practice

A: At someone’s house

B: Outdoors / In van.

Now it’s spring, outdoor spaces are a wonderful resource, however houses are still better. The van is a last resort: I hate playing sat down.

Recording Music

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In session with Mo and Greg, at Mo’s place.

A: At someone’s (quiet) house / studio

This is the only thing I don’t have a plan B for, and that bothers me to an extent. On the other hand, despite feeling insecure, I’ve actually been able to record enough. Guess we all need to feel vulnerable in some areas of life.

So there you have it. The only thing I’d like to improve on at the moment is finding more spaces to record. This happens so infrequently that when I do get to a space, I have to work very quickly, and this is hampering me a bit. But all in all I’ve been amazed by how welcoming my friends and community have been to me and my current way of moving through the world.

-Kimwei

Also check out the Symphony For Happines Vlog

… and connect with me @:

facebook.com/kimweidotcom

Music @:

kimwei.com

youtube.com/kimweidotcom

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Sleeping on The Floor: an Experiment, Part 1

bedAfter another bad night’s sleep in the van, on that dreaded piece of foam I found by the roadside on Crammond Island a few years back, I decided enough is enough: it’s time to take some action regarding the surfaces I sleep on.

Being a Digital Nomad means “sleeping around”: staying with friends, housesitting, van livin’ and more. I never know what I might be sleeping on, from the luxury master-bed, to cushions on the floor. I mean no disrespect to the hospitality of my hosts, who are always generous, caring and sharing, but I’m asking myself how I can take responsibility for making sure I have a good night’s rest each night, on a bed that suits me.

One age old traveller solution is simply to take camping kit everywhere, even if this means ridiculously rolling out your favourite camping mat next to the guest bed in a friend’s house. Why? Because it’s the bed you’re used to and will therefore sleep best on.

Yes, I could buy a top of-the-range lightweight inflatable mat, but maybe there’s another way to guarantee a comfortable and consistent sleeping surface wherever I am: to learn to sleep on the floor.

Let’s get this straight: I’m only going to do this if I find it comfortable. I’m a minimalist, not a masochist.

BUT, if I could truly get used to floors, they are everywhere. I’d have the most flexible sleeping solution possible, since they also have floors at airports, train stations, parks and fields. I could ditch the bed in the van entirely, giving me more space.

A quick google search turned up the following anecdotal info from bloggers. Sleeping on the floor can be comfortable if you:

  • Sleep on your back with no pillow
  • Spend a few nights getting used to it

There are claims that this can be better for your health and sleep quality than sleeping on a bed, but really, with so little evidence, the only way to find out if that’s true for me is to try it. Previously when I’ve had to sleep on floors it’s been unequivocally pointless on every level, but this could be because I habitually sleep on my side and use a pillow.

Let’s try this then.

Night 1:

Well, I can’t say that was a great night’s sleep, but actually, falling asleep on the floor wasn’t that hard. As soon as I lay down without a pillow I noticed that my head actually comes equipped with a flat bit at the back, seemingly designed exactly for the purpose. I was surprised to wake in the morning to find my neck didn’t hurt, and neither did my lower back.

The only problem was that I kept waking up every time I tried to turn onto my side out of habit. According to my research, my body could well stop doing this after a few days, so I’ll just keep persevering. Some parts of my back do hurt, but then those bits hurt before I even went to bed, having slept on that rubbish piece of foam in the van the night before.

So, the experiment continues. Will report back in 1 week to tell you the results.

-Kimwei

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Living In Transit

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Finding happiness on the road all depends on which road you take!

What’s a week away from home when you’re homeless (houseless) anyway? The past week has brought home to me the difference between travelling and “living in transit”. I’ve been away from Exeter, the main city I nomad around, for a trip which included work, play, misc and a total of 3 cities including London.

Travel is a word that usually refers to a temporary trip, during which normal life stops and another sort of world takes over. In contrast, living in transit involves taking even the mundanities of life on the road, and our careers or life paths keep developing as we go along. Unlike gap years or extended holidays, there is no “I’ll do it when I get back”.

The question I asked myself before the week started, was “how can I come up with a sustainable method for travelling? How can I avoid getting exhausted or burnt out?” By the time the week was out, I’d realised there was no such thing as a sustainable “method”, only a sustainable “approach”.

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Yup – I’d got that tired again that this was the only way I could guarantee to get off the train will all my stuff

I’d intended to set boundaries to make sure I didn’t end up working intensely long days, with hours on public transport thrown in, get too hungry, or exhausted. The reality was, that too many factors were out of my control for this to be possible. I did work long hours, get overtired, skip meals, sleep in weird places and get a crick in the neck, but I also managed to take opportunities along the way to recover. The only full day I had to myself in London, I slept rather than seeing the sights, because I knew I couldn’t return home tired when “home” means “moving from sofa to sofa”.

The key is, to make the best of every opportunity, and find what you can do right this moment, rather than focusing on what you can’t do.

One thing I love about this approach is the constant presence of mind it requires. To move through the world in this way, I need to be constantly paying attention, and making the most of the opportunities each moment provides. For example, on the morning before my train back to Exeter, a great opportunity came up for my friend and I to cut each other’s hair, which turned a task which is usually a hassle, into a beautiful chunk of time to be close with them.

What did work beautifully was my new bag and kit setup. I’ve put so much time, thought and money into this system I was beginning to wonder if it was just another distraction or excuse. I mean surely you don’t need kit you just need an adventurer’s spirit, right?

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…and yet the rule is, no matter what bag you have you’re going to try and max it out beyond capacity.

Well, an adventurer’s spirit is good, but the right kit has been a real game-changer for my travelling. It’s saved me time, pain, and money*. Check out my gear post. 

This trip didn’t require any recording kit, so I had plenty of extra room in the bag to pick up groceries or carry food/drink. I was carrying more weight than ever, but with no back and shoulder pain, due to the more comfortable backpack. One place I stayed at required me to clear the room I slept in every morning. This was dead easy because my new bag is clamshell meaning you can access its contents without “unpacking” it. So moving rooms was as simple as zipping it closed.
So what’s my new approach to life in transit? To abandon ideas of routine, dicipline, making plans or forcing my will, but take available opportunities to meet my own needs, give to and connect with others. I’ve discovered that being willing to explain my needs makes people feel more comfortable with me in the long run. At the same time it’s important to be physically prepared with the right kit, and mentally prepared for lots of changes of plans. Something little like always having an extra snack handy and all my devices charged is enough to get me productively through a couple of hours of unexpected transport delays and come out fresh as a daisy.

In a nutshell, be mentally flexible, physically prepared, sleep when you can, and try your best to let go of anything else. Lastly, be present: it’s the best way to make every minute count.

-Kimwei

*Actually I have no idea yet if buying kit has saved me money or just improved my experience. Probably both: investment in clothes that need washing less often, saves money on laundry; bigger more comfortable bag allows me to carry food and drink which is cheaper; lighter load means never having to pay for luggage when flying or get a locker; electric toothbrush saves on dentist fees (and pain); and so on…

Related posts: My Houseless HerosMy Year of Travelling as a Digital NomadHow To Pack Light For A Week’s TravelDigital Nomad Tips – Work, Play, Travel

Also check out the Symphony For Happines Vlog

… and connect with me @:

facebook.com/kimweidotcom

Music @:

kimwei.com

youtube.com/kimweidotcom

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Digital Nomad Kit List 2017: What’s in the bag? (Video + rationale)

I’m always trying to improve my one-bag-travel set up. I obsess about clothing vs music kit. It’s a constant struggle to get the right balance. This is the only time in my life when how many clothes I carry is directly linked to how productively creative I can be. More clothing = less music kit so less creativity. Less clothing = more music stuff so constant laundry issues. Lots of clothes AND music kit = bag too heavy.

Alternatively if I had loads of money I could buy lightweight versions of everything I’m currently carrying… ok forget that.

So, what are my aims for my ultimate setup? Well, as teenager I really enjoyed the freedom of weekends. I’d ball underwear and a toothbrush into a pair of socks each Friday morning and drop it in my school bag, so I could end up anywhere on Friday night, and usually did: road trips, nights out, sleeping on random friend’s floors and sofas. My main subject was art and my sketchbook filled up on these adventures, making it seem like I’d gone to exciting locations to do “extra coursework”. I loved the freedom of having a little ninja package with me that had me ready to say yes to opportunities.

Guess that’s what I’m seeking now: to be able to be freely creative on the road. Trouble is, as a digital nomad and musician, I need lot more kit than I did as a sketching artist.

Previously I’ve tried I’ve travelling with a 19ltr backpack and guitar, or even just a laptop bag (no guitar). The effect: I don’t have enough stuff either clothing-wise or creative-wise; definitely not enough for semi-permanent travel. There’s no room for snacks / my jacket, plus travelling without a guitar is unacceptable. When I carry my 30ltr backpack I have almost enough stuff, but it’s too heavy for comfort.

My solution to all this problems is: to increase my luggage (shock, horror)!!

Ol’ faithful next to shiny new shiny-ness

I’ve just bought the Osprey Farpoint 40 (litres): the only “Digital Nomad” backpack I could try on in a shop. It’s brilliant: more space than my old 30ltr 1970s hiking backpack, plus a much better strap system so more weight doesn’t really feel heavy. When you live out of a bag, changing the bag could change your life.

Now what to put in it?

This is the functionality I’d like from my kit:

For my body:

  • Clean, weather and occasion appropriate clothes every day.
  • Toiletries
  • Snacks and drinks

For my work and creative mind:

  • Kit to make and upload decent quality video for YouTube (and photos too)
  • Kit to record and produce high quality audio.
  • The electronics needed for my Digital Nomad teaching role.
  • Pens and paper for notes and sketches.
  • Enough instruments to keep me happy: will settle for guitar, penny-whistle and kazoo (if it’s a really good kazoo)

Ideal Weight limit =10kg

Turns out:

A: It’s not possible to keep it under 10kg

B: I can live with that

In the end managed to get down to 12kg (minus snacks and drinks), 2kg over target. I can try it for a while and over time, decide what to shed, or where to invest money in order to lighten the load. Plus, my next few months will be a mix of van living and travelling van free, so for short trips away from the van I could take less. The kicker is my recording studio kit (3kg) but it would cost over £1000 to buy a lighter version of that, so sod that!

In my experience, yes, 12kg will affect my independence a little, but it’s workable. With guitar added, that’s 16kg, so I’d find myself wanting to get a locker or take the bus rather than walk. That’s a shame, but it’s a work in progress.

-Kimwei

Also check out the Symphony For Happines Vlog

… and connect with me @:

facebook.com/kimweidotcom

Music @:

kimwei.com

youtube.com/kimweidotcom

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Pros, Cons & Unexpected Benefits of Being a Digital Nomad

I get the impression that many people think being a digital nomad is like being on a never-ending holiday… which is sort of is, but sort of isn’t. The transition has been a huge learning experience for me, even though I’ve not been touring the globe. I work as an online tutor on a music BA and have travelled in the UK and rural France.

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Here are some of the pros, cons and unexpected outcomes of living this lifestyle.

Pros:

  • No more travelling to work: Actually, it’s likely you’ll still spend a lot of time travelling, from one city or one country to the next, but this feels more meaningful than running back and forth to the office every day.
  • New experiences: When you do new stuff, it leads to more new stuff. Meet new people, see new places. It’s said that people who try new things are happier, even if they don’t always like what they try.
  • Work from anywhere: I’ve had some completely amazing experiences whilst still maintaining my teaching schedule work hours. If I had a regular job, I’d be waiting till the holidays for these opportunities and even then they might never happen. I even rejoiced at being able to help my friend in Wales insulate her living room. Instead of having to say “sorry I’m working that week”, I simply ducked out to change my shirt and do a couple of tutorials.

Cons:

  • Reliant on Internet: At first I’d envisaged myself as a permanent van traveller but that’s not possible because mobile-internet isn’t strong enough for my needs. Getting to a fast connection, in a quiet room, preferably where I can Ethernet connect my laptop is a restriction. I believe you should NEVER let a nomadic lifestyle compromise the service you provide in your work, so I worry about arriving in a house, only to find the router is unreliable. Having said this, it hasn’t happened yet.
  • Constantly moving my stuff: Some people are psychologically rattled by constantly having to move. I’m not really, but it sure is a pain moving all that stuff! I’ve obsessively read one-bag-travel blogs to see if I could cut down to that, but I just can’t without giving up music, which I obviously won’t. Having said this, I’ve already minimized more than I ever thought possible, and realized the existential value in that, as well as the logistical flexibility. Many people purge quickly, but I find it takes me time to learn to live without something.

 

Unexpected benefits:

You’ll get your work life balance sorted!: Many over-workers comment on how much they would love my relaxed lifestyle, but guess what – you take your baggage with you! If your work life balance is off, making your own schedule will only accentuate it. The good news is, being a digital nomad and designing your own timetable can give you the opportunity to examine this and change it.

I’m a recovering over-worker, and my big challenge is to be able to relax and do something else even if there is still more work to do that day, or even that week. At first I tried to do the week’s work (apart from scheduled online tutorials) the start of the week, but this plain didn’t work. Now I do a little every day AND do something creative every day.

For me the key is FOCUS FOCUS FOCUS – to be truly working when I’m working and truly playing when I’m playing. I never force myself to do anything anymore, I simply wait until I’m excited about it and then get started. The result is, I’m much more productive in everything I do, and enjoy it more, which was a complete revelation!

IMG_0123Overcoming feeling displaced: Although I don’t really experience displacement, that’s partly because I’ve got some strategies to combat it. It helps that I’ve got a van – a mini-room in itself which can feel like my own space. It’s not big enough to live in, but it’s a constant.

Since I have few possessions, I interact with them often and they become my portable environment, which helps me feel grounded. It may surprise you to know, that even as a minimalist, when possible I travel with my own knife, spork, mug and bowl, because these little things help me feel at home anywhere. If I’m on a shorter trip with just a backpack, I still bring my meditation mat – my smallest portable environment.

Coming out of my shell: Although the requirement for a strong internet connection stops me from buying a big van and moving in, it’s forced me to seek housesitting opportunities, which has led to meeting wonderful people, seeing more new places and generally being out in the world more. What I’ve learned is that although it seems like we might be safer and happier keeping ourselves to ourselves, in my experience the opposite is true. This is a big topic (which I’ll do a full post on soon) but it stands to say, a nomadic lifestyle challenges your ideas about what you’ll need in your life to feel safe and happy.

So that’s it. For me, the pros clearly outweigh the cons, and the unexpected benefits can’t be measured. However, I wouldn’t say it was easy – I welcome the challenges because they are part of my choice to live this way.

Kimwei

kimwei.com

youtube.com/kimweidotcom

facebook.com/kimweidotcom 

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The Wooden House

 

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Wooden House living room

I’m writing from a farmhouse in the Loire Valley, just having completed a 10 week house sit in a beautiful self built eco Wooden House just 30mins from here. Our host and friend arrived yesterday for a handing over of the keys, welcome meal and an afternoon’s unpacking and rearranging before we headed on, van packed to the gills.

 

At 10 weeks, this is the longest house sit yet, and although I’ve been calling it a “sit” that’s not truly accurate, because I don’t honestly think this friend needed their house occupied for that time period – it was more of a favour/exchange. It’s been the most ambitious house sit yet, being abroad in France where I don’t (yet) speak the language plausibly. It’s also my first try at being a true digital nomad, in that over 95% of my income for the period was from online work (Skype teaching).

DSC01545.JPGAs you can see from the pictures, we have been exceptionally lucky with a gorgeous location and beautiful house, however I wanted to write mainly about the challenges presented by a longer house-sit abroad and what I learned from them.

Van: I travelled without breakdown cover, because it would have cost £200 and I was advised that in France garages are plentiful. There were two problems in 10 weeks (that’s the type of van I own!). One non-starter – the local garage came to fix it, and one flat tire – I actually managed to drive to the tire-shop without creating further damage.

IMG_0056.JPGHaving no cover is quite high risk and I do still feel uncomfortable with it. Because I didn’t speak French, it took me two weeks to get the van fixed in the first instance, meanwhile cycling 14miles back and forth for food shopping. My bike was my “breakdown cover”. If you’re thinking of travelling without cover, it’s best with spare food, a bed and a bike in the van, not to mention never leaving the house without your phone and wallet. I learned that the hard way.

DSC01573.JPGHouse Care: With a longer house sit, it’s much more difficult to remember to put everything back in its original place. You might move furniture, or hide away precious ornaments you feel nervous about. I took reference photos, but even then it was tricky – which cupboard was that cheese grater originally from? I’d also ended up leaving my own stuff in many different places in the house without even realizing – a pain for packing up. If I did it again, I’d be stricter! I also wish I could travel with less stuff:

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My things. Music stuff on the left – recording studio, keyboard, guitar, flutes, live kit including amp. On the right, my personal possessions including cycling stuff (bike in van). May not seem like a lot but feels that way when you have to keep moving it. Sadly I’ve actually used all of it, so what can I discard?

DSC01578.JPGBeing in a house for longer there’s also more chance that something might break. I’d never broken anything during a house sit, but this time there were two broken glasses, a joint snapped on a chair and the plumber needed calling out when the toilet leaked. This panicked me! I prefer to leave a house just as I found it if not better, often cleaning, clearing or sorting some corner as a thank you to my hosts. Although we did plenty of that, I was still terrified. In the end I just had to accept that these things will happen from time to time.

IMG_4483.JPGFrance: The house sit was located in rural France, meaning that for the whole stay I really only spoke to 5 people besides shop staff. Although I wasn’t lonely, I felt very exposed, lacking the recourses of a more populated area. If I needed something, it wasn’t always possible to buy it. As a result, I joyfully found that the few neighbours were extremely collaborative. One picked me up from the rail station an hour away(!), after my train was delayed and the busses had finished. Another neighbour I took to work when her car was totalled. A culture of lending and giving freely was engendered by this isolation, despite the language barrier. Amazing!

Being a Digital Nomad: Focus focus focus! Many people must be imagining me leading the French lifestyle, a man of leisure, never having to go to the office. Whilst it is pretty idyllic, of course I go to the office, or rather the office comes to me. IMG_0087.JPGRight now, this is my view, sat in my van working. I’ve just had a Skype call with a colleague discussing a student’s essay draft, and look forward to writing up my lesson reports this afternoon, and preparing my tutorials for the evening. My schedule is different every week, but the most important thing is to be focused – both to be working when I am working and to play when I am playing. I’m still learning this and will write a post on it soon.

Hope this post has been useful to anyone thinking of trying house sitting, digital nomading, or other alternative lifestyle ideas.

-Kimwei

kimwei.com

youtube.com/kimweidotcom

facebook.com/kimweidotcom

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Design 2 – My Dream Small Van (Part Time)

The 2nd in my series of Dream Tiny Home designs – A small van for part-time living.

This is what I’ve chosen for my current lifestyle – a vehicle I can sleep in at a moment’s notice and live in comfortably for a few days at a stretch without any planning, but that isn’t suitable for full time living.

A bigger fully self-sufficient van is useful for weeks on end in nature or an urban life in which the van essentially acts as a full time home. You can stand up in it and it has enough room for a wood burner.

View From Rear Seat

Interior of my last big van, with mini woodburner.

Unfortunately it’s also easy to spot and invite hassle, on account of the chimney, long and difficult to park. Having such a low MPG, it could be prohibitively expensive to drive.

Alternatively, a moderate sized van can sleep two, may not have enough room for standing or for a burner, but will be as economical to run as a large car. It’s a better choice for a lifestyle in which long distances are covered, and cooking/sleeping in the vehicle fill the gaps between using indoor spaces. The money saved on fuel can be spent on the occasional cheap accommodation, or using coffee shops for office space.

The nightmare comes when you need a live-in vehicle that you can also drive long distances…I haven’t found a solution for that problem yet.

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My current setup – quite similar to my ideal design but with less storage space

 

So, I’m currently running: a short wheelbase VW Transporter. It’s a squeeze. I’m continually pairing down my possessions. My pet gripes with this lifestyle are that it’s not possible to set up my studio speakers in a van so small, and I have to store most of my instruments in a friend’s cupboard. It’s too cramped a space to act as a useful practice room, so I’m sad to say I’ve practiced less since having a small van.

My dream small van represents how I’d upgrade my current van. To summarise, I’d double the cupboard space and buy more sports bags and packing cubes.

Van Top viewOver time I’ve come to love the simplicity of my current van furniture – one bed and one kitchen cupboard set. I wouldn’t do much to change it. At first I was frustrated with a few things but soon discovered they were symptoms of having a small van not design flaws in the furniture

  • IMG_2569The bed is too low to fit boxes underneath, but if it were higher I couldn’t sit up in bed.
  • The bed is too short (5ft), but I’ve got used to it now and lengthening it would only eat into the living space.
  • There’s no bike rack, so I have to take my bike out of the van and lock to a lamppost literally every time I want to use the back space. But actually, a rack would cost £200 and then it would keep costing by decreasing the van’s MPG, so I won’t bother.

Other things that you may have to deal with in a small-van:

  • No heating: The gas stove can be used in short bursts but that’s it really. Fortunately such a small space warms quickly, but having no wood burner can result in damp just from breathing – air your van regularly.
  • Limited kitchen: I currently have no running water and no fridge, but re-fill water bottles whenever docking. If I started spending more days in my van I’d upgrade, but currently it’s better to have more cupboard space than to have a fridge sitting empty half the time. Most foods except meat keep ok in the kitchen cupboard and I don’t mind eating tinned food for when needed.
  • No toilet: This hasn’t been a problem so far. In urban areas toilets are often available, especially when docking in a driveway. I’ve also a funnel and some piss-bottles (emptied when facilities appear). In nature, a trowel enables bears to shit in the woods.
  • Low headroom: Bad weather during a trip can mean being shut in a tight space with no room even to stand up for days on end. Solutions are to buy a bigger van, just deal with it, or go to cafes. In an ideal world I’d get a pop-top – currently out of my budget at £3.5k

Having accepted all this, until recently I still found my van too small for all the stuff I needed to carry to make my life function. I pared down hugely, but was still stuck. Then I discovered the key – It’s not about how many cupboards you’ve got, but about what’s going on IN the cupboards.

Van Side ViewCupboards with stuff chucked straight in don’t work – once filled to only ½ their capacity, everything starts to fall out whenever you open a cupboard after a rocky drive. Boxes are better, but you lose a lot of space around the box since it needs to be smaller than the cupboard opening in order to get it in and out. Stuffing cloth bags in can provide more space, but it’s hard to see what’s in them.

Recently I’ve solved these problems using packing cubes – mini nylon suitcases with transparent tops so you can see what’s in them. Sounds pretty basic, but moving over to using a combination of sports bags and packing cubes has doubled the storage capacity of my van – yes that means I can keep twice as much stuff in the same space! To give you an idea, the majority of my clothes fit into 3 medium sized packing cubes, but I estimate that at least 50 cubes of the same size would fit under the bed.

When I first got my van, I started collecting rectangular nylon sports bags because plastic boxes were too tall to fit under the bed. I’d previously thought that boxes were best, but sports bags showed distinct superiority: they could be folded away if empty or squashed into a smaller space if only half full.

Whenever I stay somewhere even for just a night, it’s easy to take most of my possessions inside since all the bags have convenient handles and shoulder straps. Valuables come inside even if I only stay somewhere for an evening, but I never pack and I never unpack.

The main improvement I could make on my current van is to add another set of cupboards to the right of the bed that reach up to the ceiling, and a small set of cupboards to the left of the bed, high up (as shown in both drawings). With my new packing cube system, I don’t even need that extra space  – it would just be for “visitor” luggage.

masse_kurz

The Dream Yurt was 113 sqft (10.5 sq metere) and was about the right size for a modest living space. Designing a a small van will ultimately be a compromise – trading off features against each other because with less than 4 sq meters (43 sq ft) of floorspace, there simply isn’t enough room for everything. Rather have a short bed or a folding bed? Rather have a full kitchen or more cupboards for luggage?  I’d rather be able to ride my bike than give it up for the sake of more space, so I’ve gone for packing my van to the brim and packing smart. This system really shines when I’m working. It’s wonderful being able to pull my portable amp out, strap it to my bike and go for a day’s busking, or to go to a country house with one bag and set up to shoot a https://www.youtube.com/embed/b07rbdJ-UpA” target=”_blank”>music video like this one.

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