Sarah Bankes chats to road trippers, adventurers and weekend warriors Izzy and Laurie to see how they turned their camper-van dream into a reality.
What made you want to own a camper van in the first place?
Our greatest love has always been to travel. Everyone who knows us, knows we are always planning the next big adventure. Over the recent years, the focus of our travels began to be less about new countries and cultures and more about losing ourselves in The Great Outdoors. We swapped hostels for camper van rentals and took to the roads to feed our travel bug. We fell in love with the lifestyle and were instantly hooked!
We started dreaming of having our own camper van but it always felt like a pipe dream. Then in 2016 we started climbing. We found ourselves camping most weekends, pitching our tent after a long day on the rock, only to wake up the next morning and take it back down again. Suddenly owning our own camper moved from 'pipe dream' to 'total necessity', so we decided to just get on and do it.
What made you decide to build the camper van yourselves and what advantages has this had on your experiences?
Every camper van holiday we’d rent a new style of van and one of our favourite campfire conversations would be what we’d do and what we wouldn’t do if we had a camper van of our own. Without realising it we were forming an image of our perfect van which could only be achieved if we built it ourselves.
The beauty of building your own van means that it’s exactly how you want it. Our storage fits all our climbing gear, our large kitchen reflects our love of cooking, our massive fridge reflect our love of cold beer, and our bed is so comfy that we sleep better in the van than we do at home. Having a place for everything means we fit in a tonne of stuff but still have a beautiful space to hang out it. We’ve poured so much of ourselves into the build that it really does feel like a home away from home.
Tell us how camping is part of your lifestyle, and how you balance it with everyday life and responsibilities. What kinds of adventures, big and small, do you get up to?
We both have busy working lives running our own businesses. Laurie is a tree surgeon and I am a therapist which means our weekdays can be pretty hectic. One thing we’ve worked hard at over the years is developing the right work/play balance. We are big believers in living life to the full, and for us that means not letting our responsibilities take over and get in the way of having fun. I joke by calling us ‘weekend warriors’ because sometimes it feels like that. Don't get me wrong, we love our jobs and weekday home life but we can’t wait for the weekends when we can hit the road, lose ourselves in the Great Outdoors and break free from our working weeks.
Most weekends you’ll find us taking the van down to the coast to go rock climbing on the sea cliffs. There is no better feeling than chilling out in the van after a long day on the rock. If we’re not climbing we’ll be walking, riding, paddle boarding or simply parked up somewhere in nature soaking it all in. As long as we’re outdoors, we’re happy.
And of course there are the bigger adventures too. When we hit the road for weeks at a time exploring new and exciting places. Each day is filled with a new adventure and each night pitching up somewhere different. Living the simple life on the road is when we truly feel free.
How does camper-van life help you to switch off and recharge the batteries?
The best thing about camper van life for us is the freedom it gives. Our means to escape is parked up outside our house, ready and waiting to go at a moments notice. The moment we turn the key in the ignition at the start of each road trip, no matter how big or small, it’s like we are a turning off the pressure of our working lives. With every mile we drive we can feel our souls coming alive and our batteries recharging. We talk of adventures and happy things. Some of our greatest and daftest plans have come from road trip chats.
When we hit the road we embark on a simpler way of life. We disconnect from our phones and reconnect with nature. We live completely in the moment. We get satisfaction from taking time to complete simple activities which can be done so quickly and without thought at home. Our absolute favourite way to spend an evening is around a campfire. One of us will forage for wood and build the fire while the other prepares the food. The we’ll relax around the fire reflecting on our day, taking it in turns to tend to the flame or stir the dinner. There is something about cooking and eating outdoors which makes food always taste so much better than if if it was cooked at home.
Can you tell us about a stand-out moment or experience you've had on the road?
A few Christmases ago, snow was forecasted to arrive in the Peak District. We are both big kids when it comes to snow so we hit the road the night before it was due to try and hunt some down. We parked up at one of our favourite wild camp spots and did a little snow dance before went to sleep. When we woke we were in a winter wonderland. If you know of the beauty of Hope Valley, just imagine it covered in white. The conditions meant no one else could get to our park up so we had it all to ourselves. We spent the day walking in the snowy hills and then bundled into our cosy little van to warm up with tea and cake. It was the perfect day. By the time the evening arrived so had the 4x4’s who offered to tow us out. We politely refused. We may have been snowed in but that didn’t bother us one bit!