Friday, 25 July 2014

On The Road

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Hi Monstres,

How are you enjoying the summer sun?  I have been wilting in the Berlin heat like spinach leaves on a hot curry!  I hoped it would cool down a bit, but I should be careful what I wish for, as the forecast now says storms this weekend - for the two days of the year I have decided to spend under canvas!

My friend Izzy and I are joining 70 other writers at The Reader’s Fort Gorgast Festival this weekend for writing workshops and camping fun!  We will be sleeping in a tent, but we’re feeling optimistic!  The festival is an hour away from Berlin, near the Polish border, so after the festival we’re heading to Poland  for a week to meet some Couchsurfers and explore the cities of Lodz and Gdansk.

When I get back from our trip, I’m looking forward to joining Susannah Conway in The August Break 2014 I took part in this month-long photography celebration last year, and it was so much fun.

Tammy has been feeling the heat too, and made some great suggestions about starting a creative project.  If you’re looking to improve your photography, I highly recommend her online class Everyday Magic.  I took part in it two years ago and loved the daily photography prompts and spent five lovely weeks learning how to take better photos.

What creative projects are you working on?  Tell me about them in the comments.  I'll see you back here in a few days for more interviews, musings on writing and adventure reports! XXX

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Conversation with Alex Audible1

Today's Conversation is with the multi-skilled musician Alex Norgate aka Audible1.  Alex and his girlfriend Caroline rolled up to Pikey Park in their converted luton van to join us for the last weeks of the winter season.  Aside from being a very laid back fisherman and a good friend of mine, Alex is also a touring musician, DJ and music producer.  His latest track is available on Soundcloud and you can hear it here. Here he shares how he managed to fit a music studio into his tiny little van-home, so that he could take his work on the road.

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How did you manage to downsize your studio to fit in the van? It was more of a mental task than a physical one. It required me to re-consider what I needed from my equipment.  I love to work in a studio environment because of the amount of possibilities there are in the recording process. However, I have come to realise that a lot of equipment is not essential in the creation of good music, so I stripped my recording setup to the bare minimum. I replaced my desktop imac with a laptop. I swapped my hefty rack-mounted mixers for portable sound interfaces and so on. I decided that living in a converted luton van and the new found freedom it would bring would far outweigh having a permanent full-sized studio with lots of unnecessary gear. It was a wonky perception of mine to think that I needed all the latest and greatest kit to stand a chance as a producer with a working studio.

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Have you had to compromise anything?
I had to compromise slightly on certain aspects of my studio monitoring and room acoustics. It's frustrating trying to record or mix in an empty room and the van helps to overcoming these issues by having hardly any flat surfaces for the sound to bounce off. It is made of wood and there is plenty of acoustic treatment in the form of seating and bedding. I do have some portable reflection filters just in case. The van has a very natural, tight sound. I use it for the whole production process from recording initial ideas to finished compositions.  It's a really good, viable substitute for a full studio whilst I'm on the road.

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What does your mini studio allow that the full one doesn't? The main thing this mini studio brings is a versatility that matches my lifestyle. I can park in the middle of a forest or at the top of a mountain and record, produce and mix professional quality music. I have the time to be creative and to create music that I love with no compromises. If I bump into another musician that I want to work with on my travels, it's just a case of going to the van and pressing record.  We don't even need to go somewhere else to find electricity because the van has a powerful solar power system set up that works 24/7.

What projects are in the pipeline?
I've just finished writing the music for a computer game that has been designed to aid in diagnosing visual impairment. At the moment I’m juggling a few projects, I am working on a jazz and funk influenced Hip Hop album. It's got a really positive, old school feel. I am also writing some new material with Eva Lazarus and am in the middle of a remix for Chali 2na from J5. My new single Good Time Rhymes featuring Adjua has been remixed by Lack of Afro, Coops and Jon Kennedy.  All the remixes are extremely well crafted, as you would expect from such formidable talents. I have a few on-going projects with vocalists and musicians, some as far away as Mumbai. I'm a big fan of traditional Indian music and have plans to go to India to work on projects in the future.

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What does a typical day look like for you now, now that you're on the road?  Cake cake and more homemade cake!  Right now I'm doing a lot of writing, fishing, wild swimming, cycling, music, foraging and recently I took part in volunteering on an organic farm. 

Alex van next to water
Why did you decide to live in a van and take to the open road? There were many factors in Caroline and I moving away from our previous way of life, but most of them stem from realising that the struggle towards success is one very big illusion. It's an illusion that has many of us tight in its grasp. I feel that the extent to which we collectively live is separating us from our environment, each other and ourselves. I imagine everyone feels it deep down. It has taken me sometime to transform these realisations into something more tangible. At first, I wasn’t sure how viable it was going to be to build a van conversion and live in it. Having done it, I can honestly say it’s the best thing that I have ever done. It made me realise that I could probably do without the van too. It really is freeing to want very little as we certainly don’t need very much. What’s more, I’m far more content, healthy and loving than I ever have been. I have time to breathe, time to connect with other people and most importantly for me time to connect with my surroundings. I feel a relationship with nature is so fundamentally important for all of us to cultivate, not least because we are in the middle of destroying it but because it is essential part of who we are.

Alex and big fish
Where are you now and what are you doing? We are currently in the French region of Lot where we spent two weeks working on an organic farm.  I am spending most of my time fishing. It's something I am very passionate about. I write a blog called Carp Water Craft about it all.

Alex inside of van
What's next for Alex Audible1 (in life and in art)?I hope to continue having adventures on the road living in our van. My girlfriend and I plan to travel around the south west of France before heading to the Alps for the winter season, which we'll spend snowboarding and continuing our creative projects.  In the Alps, I will be gigging with my fellow band member Adam Russell aka Carpetface, who is a long term musical collaborator and friend. You can find out more on our facebook page.  I would like to build us a little off grid house somewhere in France or maybe further afield. I feel that these next few years will be very transformative in ways I'm yet to understand. There will most certainly be music, friends, nature and good time vibes.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Writing Workshops and Rooftop Bars

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Hello friends, how’s your summer so far?

Toby and I arrived in Berlin two weeks ago, it feels like the biggest, happiest relief ever. WE MADE IT! It feels like everything we want to do is possible here because we are in the right frame of mind. We are relaxed here and know our way around the city and there are lots of lovely friends here to welcome us.

It’s too hot for mountain goats like us to be outside in the blazing summer sun, so we spend our days working on our projects, in the shade. Toby has set up a studio and is writing new music and I have been scribbling in my notebooks and clattering away at my computer keyboard.  It's ace knowing that Berlin is outside for adventures when we've been looking at the page/ screen for too long.

I’m taking part in two creative writing workshops with Sarah PeckThe Writer's Workshop is to help develop your creative writing skills and to understand how to start a writing practice.  Content Strategy for Thought Leaders is a course aimed at developing students ideas through creative writing for a specific purpose, for example writing commercially for a blog, brand or business.  Both courses involve a lot of hard work but it’s a total joy to spend my days learning how to better my wordswomanship!

I’m working with Sarah as her online assistant, and it’s a great opportunity for me to peek behind the scenes to see how a writing workshop comes together.  We’ve had so many interesting and inspiring discussions in the facebook groups, about how to overcome writer’s block, where to find inspiration, and the interesting question of how to know when your writing is any good. I love the feedback and support from other writers in the group and I feel like I’m growing as a writer.
  
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Amongst all the work, we have had a chance to explore some new places in Berlin too.  Last week we had a couple of beers, with our friend Tom, in a bar/ community garden which was the top floor of a multi storey car park! We had to navigate through a really hectic, hellish shopping mall, but the prize was to pop out on top into this blissful concrete garden where people were relaxing in the balmy Berlin afternoon.  The massive space is littered with old three piece suites, reclaimed sofas and comfy armchairs.  On one was a Mama helping her son do his homework, there was another Mama breastfeeding in the sandpit, and plenty of other folk basking in the glorious Berlin sunshine.  By day this place is a community garden and by night a full on rooftop club.  On Sunday we feasted with our friends at a brunch party in Cafe Morgenrot which is run by a vegan punk collective.  There was an amazing buffet of delicious foods where you could eat as much as you wanted and in return you pay what you can afford.

Broken Fingaz railway bridge
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pink buildings stormy sky  Die Welt in sky
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Ramones Museum flyers

Saturday, 12 July 2014

What Katie Did In The UK

Toby and I left our home in the French Alps in the middle of May, and have returned to Berlin for the summer.  We’re going to spend time working on our personal projects and doing the things we enjoy the most: writing, photographing, exploring, learning, musicing.  We've been itching to get here...but first, we took a little interlude to the UK where we planned to spend 2 weeks visiting family before leaving England, in a timely fashion, for our next adventure.  Our two weeks in the UK stretched to six weeks, due to very boring but very necessary car repairs.  Even though our arrival in Berlin got set back a little, I ended up being glad for the delay, because it turned out to be my favourite trip home. 

We quickly learnt:
  • To not only accept the de-railments to our plans, but to embrace them. 
  • To be grateful that we own a car that we can load up our lives into, and move to a different country every six months. 
  • That being held up in the UK provided us with the perfect opportunity to visit all our family and friends and to savour the moments with them without having to rush our time together. 
  • That there are much worse places to be “stuck”!
I spent several days with my parents in the home where I grew up, enjoying trips on the river in the blazing hot sunshine (am I really in England?!) and sowed some seeds in their vegetable patch.  We celebrated my little sister's graduation by dining, eating, feasting at The Big Easy, where the food is so delicious and share-y and messy that they give you plastic bibs to wear whilst you eat!  I tried a mouthful of lobster for the first time, and realised it was actually delicious, but still scary… (I have an irrational fear of fish and seafood, much to the delight of Toby who loves seeing me shudder at the sight of anything remotely from the sea!).

Speaking of the sea, Toby and I had a holiday-in-a-day by visiting Frinton and Clacton-on-Sea on the Essex coast.  We played for hours in the arcade on the pier where we squealed like children at the 2p machines; and strolled along the beach in the sunshine, ice creams in hand, admiring the colourful beach huts.

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I travelled to Oxford to stroll along the riverside with Megan.  We bought books for £2 a-piece and I was happy to hear about her summer music plans.  We went to see her brother, Joe Henwood of Henwood Studios (where Megan has recorded her forthcoming second album) play with his band Nubiyan Twist play in London and danced all night to their afro-beat sounds.

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I got hooked on crocheting mandalas with my remaining stash of Icelandic wool, thanks to Attic24’s great tutorial.

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I had a weekend of soul sister fun with Izzy and Em.  We mooched through London, hung out in coffee shops, cooked and ate together and generally set the world to rights.  And pretended to be birds.

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Toby and I visited Daniel and Judith in Derbyshire where we slept in their cabin amongst their books.  We ate a LOT of delicious food that we can’t find in France, dubbing the trip “our Culinary Tour of Derbyshire”.  They introduced us to green juice and delicious banana + almond milk smoothies; and the TV series Derek, at which we giggled a lot and also shed a tear.  We met some sheep and admired the dry stone walls that are native to Derbyshire.  We ate the most amazing Full English Breakfast at The Old Smithy in Monyash which had musical instruments on the walls, and where I made the mistake of ordering a pint of coffee and then couldn’t shut up for the rest of the day (as if I needed any more encouragement to rabbit!)

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I headed north to see Izzy at her home.  Whilst Izzy rehearsed and danced her socks off all day at Northern School of Contemporary Dance, I pounded the pavements of Leeds, enjoying my time alone in a new place to explore and to ponder.

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I was invited to see one of Izzy’s contemporary dance classes and some student shows, which as a layperson and outsider of the contemporary dance world, I found fascinating and intriguing!  I was completely bewildered by the meaning behind the movements, and cannot say that for one second I understood what I was seeing - but I can confirm, that I enjoyed the performances and the crazy shapes made by the dancers’ bodies.  I love this article that Izzy wrote on her blog about taking part in a seven hour improvised dance performance called The Last Knit.  When the weekend came around and Izzy had a break from her classes, we took the train out to Ilkley to meet a friend, and romped around the Yorkshire Moors, getting lost, and sharing stories.

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It was really fun to visit parts of the UK that I didn’t normally get to see.  I really enjoyed playing at being a tourist in my own country!  Toby and I definitely turned our hold-up into a series of little adventures and made the most of being in the UK.  Above all were so happy that we had time to catch up with the people we love. 

Have you ever played at being a tourist at home?  Where did you go and what did you do? Share your experiences in the comments.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Vanessa Runs: Living Outside The Box

This interview with Vanessa is the third and final part of the trilogy I wrote for Sensa Nostra, which examines the lives of people who choose to live in vans.  Vanessa is a trail runner; an explorer of the world; and one of my favourite writers.

Vanessa Runs is a summit-seeking nomad.  She gave up a successful career as an Assistant and Online Editor in an office to live in a motor home and travel the land.  She writes, travels and takes part in ultra-marathons, up to 100 miles long.   Despite inhabiting a very small space, Vanessa certainly lives outside the box.  Here she shares her reflections on success, freedom, and her courage and perseverance in life, as well as running very long distances. 

My partner and I chose to live in an RV (Recreational Vehicle) because we wanted two things: to travel freely, and to live minimally. Our 22-foot Rialta RV is tiny by most standards. Most people use this RV for day trips or camping, but not for living. I love it because it forces us to keep only what we need and use, and it drives us to spend more time outdoors. We also wanted a vehicle small enough to fit into a regular parking spot. We didn't want to spend any time or money at campgrounds, and since we bought it we have never paid to spend the night anywhere.

We essentially drive from trail to trail. Both my boyfriend and I enjoy trail running, so we visit a lot of national forests, national parks, and state parks. He loves water and I love mountains, so we look for places that combine mountains with waterfalls, streams or lakes. We have no set plan in our travels and no deadlines.  I don’t see myself ever going back to owning or renting a home, or working a traditional job, but I would never say never. It’s a big world and I still have many more years to live, and experiences to experience.

Since quitting my office job, my writing career has actually become even more successful, a thousand times over. I finally have the freedom to follow my instincts, write about what I know and love, and dive into research and interviews that truly interest me. My writing has improved drastically, and it is much more personally fulfilling.  More writing time was definitely one of my goals. I have a journalism degree, so I knew I could write anywhere. I had stories to tell outside of my job and I wanted to write a book.  I had never made an obscene amount of money as a writer or editor, and as I was used to a very low-budget lifestyle. I felt I had little to sacrifice.

Years ago, I would have defined success as being married, having kids, having a steady and well-paying job, and owning my own home. The typical middle-class dream. For me, it truly was a dream since I grew up in poverty and I was the first in my family to pursue a higher education. A middle-class lifestyle seemed like a lofty goal at the time and slightly out of reach. I worked hard to put myself through school and achieve that original ideal.  The problem was that after I graduated, got a job, and owned a home with someone who wanted to start a family, I realized that I no longer wanted those things. I wanted more. I wanted to travel and run and live outside the box. So my idea of success changed.

Dr. George Sheehan said “Success is the certain knowledge that you’ve become yourself, the person you were meant to be from all time.”  To me, that is true success. The freedom to be yourself at all times, never compromising to please a boss or a spouse.  In life, I most value freedom. That doesn’t translate into everyone being jobless and traveling the world, but it has a lot to do with never feeling like you have to settle. Freedom means being able to construct and live your life on your own terms, whether that is raising a family, starting a business, or working in a career you are passionate about.

I love this quote by Howard Thurman: "Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." If you find what makes you come alive, your world will always be filled with wonder and beauty, regardless of employment.  I now see the world with much more enthusiasm and excitement. My values have deepened. I feel child-like in my ambitions, as if the world is there for my taking. I can read about a place that sounds interesting, and immediately GO there. I don't have to put it on hold. I don't have to ask for vacation time or permission from my family. I don't have to write it down in a bucket list. I have the freedom to move and travel wherever my whims take me. I feel in complete control of my life, it is truly liberating. 

For those who are considering living a more simple life, my advice would be this: Don't wait to simplify your life, do it now. There are many ways you can start downgrading to make the transition easier. This can include giving stuff away, selling things, or cutting out non-essential expenses. We waited until the last minute, and it became overwhelming to get rid of so many things. In retrospect, we should have started much sooner.  I believe that this lifestyle is sustainable for me and I can easily see myself doing it when I'm older. It's certainly much easier to continue this lifestyle than to suddenly adopt it at retirement age.  I don't think working necessarily means you will miss all the wonder and beauty in the world. 

Work can be seen as a dirty word in circles like ours, but that is a mistake. In reality, I work much harder now than I ever did for an employer, because I am more motivated and passionate about what I do, however, my pay check just isn't as large or as steady.  We started off our travels with a small base of savings, and then I immediately started working on my first book. Now my book and other writings are my only source of income. It's not a lot, but it's enough to support our simple lifestyle. I am working on my second book, but it doesn't at all feel like a job. It's a labor of love, and I've been lucky enough to work because something interests me, not because I need the money. This is the first time in my life I have been able to say that. 

There are definitely inconveniences of our lifestyle, which become surprisingly easy to get used to over time. Things like showers, laundry, and chores look very different than they used to, but I can't say they're negative. Is rinsing your clothes in a stream more negative than throwing into a washing machine? I think it's just different.  Living in this way has allowed us to travel, which our old life never could.

I fell in love with running in 2007, and when I discovered trail running I never went back to road. I always loved long distances. Ultra running fits well with my personality. It requires a lot of drive, dedication, energy, and mental strength. I love things that are hard and demanding, but low-profile. I love being alone in nature, drinking in the mountains and pushing my body to its limits.  I embraced barefoot running as a way to connect with nature. I love the feeling of mud, bark, soil, and grass under my toes. It goes back to that child-like freedom of running wild, with no cares in the world. It brings me back to that place of bliss.  Running, writing and living in a trailer are all things that I love, so in that sense they are inter-connected. I don't think I will always live in a trailer. I can just as easily live out of a backpack, or a van. What matters is mobility and freedom. Writing and running I believe will always be a part of me. 

Sometimes people on the trail are surprised or impressed to see me running barefoot, but I rarely receive any negative feedback. I think that has more to do with the fact that I very rarely surround myself with proper society.  I'm in the woods, and there aren't very many norms in the wilderness.  When I'm running, I think the same things that I do when I'm not running: writing, nature, people, ideas, projects, among other things. The furthest I've run in an ultra marathon is 100 miles. The shortest is 50K. I always run for pleasure, though not every mile in a race is pleasurable. I usually start feeling it after 50 miles, and always when it gets dark. 

My goal for the future is to run across El Salvador next year. I was born in El Salvador and I haven't been back for years. This will be my way of coming back, making my mark, and reconnecting with a community long-forgotten.  I have a love-hate relationship with my cultural upbringing that drove me to separate myself from Hispanics in the past.  I was raised to be submissive and subservient, always sacrificing my own needs for the men around me. I was also raised to depend heavily on men, both emotionally and financially.  Going back to El Salvador for me would represent a re-birth and a coming out. Kind of like facing an old bully that tormented me for years. I want the country to see who I am and to see that I have become so much stronger than they thought I could be and I have bigger balls than most of the men by doing something none of them have dared to attempt. I also want other women and girls to see an example of female strength, courage, and independence. I want them to know they can do whatever the hell they want with their lives.

When I am struggling on a run, I ask myself whether there is anything else I would rather be doing, and the answer is usually no. I ask myself whether I would still want to be doing this if there were no race, if my finish didn't count, if there were no medal, or if nobody could see me. The answer is always yes. Those questions remind me that I am doing something that I love. There is no pressure and nobody I need to impress. I am doing it for myself.

You can buy Vanessa’s first book The Summit Seeker here; and you can follow her adventures on her blog, Vanessa Runs.  If you enjoyed this article, please share it. X

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Not French, Packing Lists, Tree Houses and Tipis

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I’m not in France anymore, by the way, in case you were wondering.  I’m in the UK and have been for a month.  Me and the boy are heading back to Berlin for the summer, and had hoped to be there by now.  We’re learning that plans don’t always go to, well, plan; and the trick is to be flexible and make the most of where you are.  It’s our car who is holding us up.  She’s taken a beating from the harsh alpine conditions over the last six month, and is having a bit of TLC in the garage in England.  Parts need to be ordered and fitted, all very boring, and it’s taking a little longer than expected.  But we’re having a blast with our friends and family in the UK.

Around the inter-web I’ve found all sorts of delights to warm up my travelling spirit.  I can’t be everywhere at once, so I can voyage online and in my mind.  Come join me!

What’s giving you wanderlust right now? What are your summer plans? XX

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Living the High Life

Living the High Life is the second article in my three-part series that I wrote for Sensa Nostra in Berlin last year.  This one is about the how and why Toby and I live in our van in the French Alps.  We built and live in the van together, but it was still interesting to interview him and write this article from his perspective.  Click on the image to see the article in it’s original format on the Sensa Nostra site. 

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Ski resorts of the French Alps are typically the stomping ground of the rich and famous who inhabit luxury million euro chalets, spending a good years’ salary on just one week of snowy indulgence. On the other end of the scale, seasonaires flood in at the beginning of every winter season to work hard and play harder, and vanish again when the spring comes. They’re squeezed into shoe-box apartments and worked to within an inch of their life. Would you go even smaller and willingly live in a 8m2 converted Ford Transit at 1700m altitude through a heavy Alpine winter? Nightmarish though it sounds, Toby Ryan is one of a small community of van dwellers who live ‘the high life’ – atop the mountains in a French ski resort. He explains the beneficial aspects of this lifestyle and how it has had a positive impact on his life.

My girlfriend and I met in 2007 whilst working in a bar during a winter season in the Alps. At the end of the winter, we moved to London because we wanted to have a complete change of scenery. We planned to return to the mountains for the following winter, but we couldn’t find a way to leave London before February due to work and flat contracts. Despite having friends in the Alps, there was no guarantee of a job or accommodation if we just turned up halfway through the season. We came up with the solution of converting a van, and fully winterising it for the cold conditions. By bringing our home with us would solve the problem of where to live, as well as providing transport between the UK and France. If we couldn’t find work, it wouldn’t matter as we would already have our own accommodation and wouldn’t have to earn money to pay rent. Just before leaving London, in the middle of a bitter snowy winter, we bought a vehicle and embarked on building our home in the back of it. It’s a converted Ford Transit and, not including the cab, is 4m long, 2m wide and 2m high. Building our van-home was an adventure in itself and took us much longer than we expected.

We designed it to be fully-winterised and self-sufficient. I’d spent a few months working with an electrician, a plumber and a boat-builder so had a few building skills before starting the project…but most of the specific knowledge I learnt from a Haynes manual and the internet. We stayed flexible on the build, changing parts constantly until we came up with the right mix. We originally estimated it would take as little as two months, to throw a mattress and a camping stove in the back. In total it took us a year and a half but in return we had a tiny palace on wheels.

When we began our van conversion project it wasn’t greeted with the universal optimism we had for it, I think some people don’t really understand what the point is. The natural position for many is to question your sanity and whether you’ve thought about heating and hot water etc. Most people from the UK have only ever gone camping in a tent or a camper-van in the summer time, for a couple of weeks, so they were totally bewildered when we told them of our plans to go to 1700m above sea level and make a Ford Transit our home for the winter!!

Many friends indirectly suggest that it is not a clean or tidy way to live. It’s funny because so many flats in the Alps are rented and trashed by seasonnaires every year. Our van is ours, and we take care to keep things tidy. Mainly as a necessity as there is not much room. An untidy/unclean van is a difficult place to live.

There used to be no facilities for people to live in vans in the ski resort we live in, and this caused problems with the local people. Instead of banning living in vans, the local council decided to provide a site with amenities for anyone willing to brave the elements. Every van dweller has to have a local job, with an official work contract and monthly pay slips. We rent our pitches, just like someone rents a flat, and because of that we have respect for the area around our homes, and are now viewed as contributing members of the local community rather than as a problem to get rid of.

We live in a community of 15 other vans, perched on the edge of a valley with a beautiful view of the mountains. Every van has access to full time electricity and we all share the toilet block, shower block and hot water. It’s lot more community based than anywhere else I have lived. You think more about your neighbours because of the limited resources, and everyone is there to help out with any problems you may encounter. Because we now have facilities on the site, we no longer need the original 350ltr water tank and backup water heater in the van, so we removed them to make room for a clothes storage space and some drawers. We tend to make all our internal alterations, and repairs before a winter begins. Home renovation is not the sort of thing you want to be attempting in the middle of a busy Alpine winter!

Tiny living does not have to mean basic. We didn’t have to get rid of all of our belongings we just had to think about them differently. when I lived in a house or flat, I kept everything, amassing a huge amount of stuff that i didn’t really need, or even want. Now, size vs usefulness vs emotional attachment vs desire is a constant thought process when bringing anything inside. You end up being pretty ruthless about what you keep and what you throw/give away. It’s a good lesson in what you actually need to live. aving less space makes it easier to let go of non-essentials. We also have some very good storage solutions.

That being said, space can obviously be an issue, especially with two of us in the van. It’s important to have time to yourself and we have to be thoughtful of each others space. I’m out most nights working and not back until late so my girlfriend had evenings to herself. Last winter I had a year off snowboarding, and had loads of daytimes to myself whilst she went out on the slopes.

I work as a DJ and play up to 10 gigs a week all over the Alps. My girlfriend teaches French to the English-speaking community. We’re both able to work for ourselves doing things we love. Because our van costs very little to run, we were able to spend time working on our own projects until we were good enough to do them professionally, instead of working hard in unsatisfying jobs just to cover the rent. We do pay some rent, but not so much that it eats up all our earnings. We have no contracts for water, gas, electricity, or ground rent. This way of living suits us at the moment as we can travel in the summertime, and take influence from the places we visit. Having the van is like owning a home. Not in terms of the investment, but in terms of a worry free place to return home to.

We travelled in our van when we first built it, through France during a very hot summer, but for the most part during the winter, when we live in it, the van is stationary. Part of the deal with the plot we rent is that it is only for a vehicle. We cannot build additional structures. This is so we conform with the national French laws regarding motorhome pitches. At the end of each winter we move the van to a regular car park, where it is kept, with a friendly watchful eye from the police, until we return the following year. To build a permanent house of a similar size in the Alps, you’d have to buy a plot of land to build upon. Land prices in the alps are amazingly high, and hard to find. Plus the house can’t move! So for now, we are sticking with our van.