Starting 'vanlife'

With a road trip around the Cornish Coast

Van life intro

I’m a nomad at heart, there is no better feeling than jumping in a car and setting off to discover new places. I’ve been sleeping in the back of my Ford Fiesta all over the UK for the past few years but the idea of ‘van life’ has appealed to me for as long as I can remember. The idea of having more than just boot space to sleep in, cook in and, well, live in was hugely appealing. It would revolutionise road trips, and was the big push behind my decision to buy a non running 30 something year old camper van on eBay.

Despite everything I’ve read about choosing a vehicle based on practicality, not looks, something reliable and good on fuel I have always had a deep love for the notoriously unreliable VW vans. Months of tables, comparing vans, from sprinters to caddy, to ‘American Vans’ I was always drawn back, against the advice of my family, friends and the internet to the VW T25. I love the boxy look, the dated interiors and the idea that they were created for a life on the road. Buying a van unseen, with little to no information is probably the least economical and to be honest stupidest thing I could have done.

I would love to say ‘no regrets’ and ‘I don’t question my decision for a minute’ but that wouldn’t be the truth. The old saying of ‘you get what you pay for’ pretty much sums up the purchase of Lola, my rust ridden, slightly garish van liable to breakdowns and slightly strange noises. I payed a pittance for her, only £1200 and proceeded to sink a whole lot more into a reconditioned engine, after months of garage time, problems and breakdowns following the engine installation and a seemingly constant oil leak and I was at my wits end. Close to throwing the towel in and forgetting the dream altogether I sat down and remembered why I bought her in the first place, I reminded myself that nothing worth having ever came easy.


My father has a passion for older vehicles and reminded me that this was all par the course, and persistence was key. The days passed in a haze of body filler, anti rust paint and a lot of tea. These vans are a life times work and a job born truly of passion. My main aim was to get her running and waterproof, and I’m pleased to say that I finally succeeded. She might not look like much but she’s mine, I can run her (albeit at a top speed of 60mph) and, most importantly she’s ready to customise to fit my needs.

I think being honest about your failures gives people a lot of ammo to say ‘i told you so’ and ‘I knew this wouldn’t work’ but down the line, after blood, sweat and a lot of tears, it gives you the chance to show them that you can. That you did. It strengthens your faith and your self knowledge.

Stay tuned for part 2, a documentation of Lola’s maiden voyage!