It’s a brisk, blustery day in June (thanks British summertime). And we’re sheltering in two cosy campervans, parked up in East Sussex, squinting into the distance for a glimpse of the Telscombe Cliffs. Alongside us are two couples: full-time motorhomers Sandra & Phil and part-time motorhomers, Alice & Gemma. They’re here to tell us all about campervan life: from creepy-crawlies at rest stops to seeing the big wide world, one campsite at a time.

4 people in front of 2 caravans

From left to right: Phil, Sandra, Alice, Gemma

How long have you been living the campervan lifestyle?

Gemma: We got the van in November 2022. So a good 18 months now.

Sandra: Nine and a half years. A long time.

And what made you want to start campervanning?

Phil: In 2011, we went to my nephew's wedding in Poland. And we drove all the way there and back, stopping in hotels and things.

Sandra: We thought we could easily do this as a way of life. And we were both able to retire then. So we took out our pensions and decided to go off into the sunset. We're lucky to still be doing it.

Gemma: For us, it was meeting each other. We're both quite outdoorsy and when we got together, we started camping. And then we saw everyone driving up in their vans.

Alice: We thought that looked cool, but it's a big investment. So we hired a van first and did the North Coast 500 as our very first trip, which is miles and miles of the Scottish coastline. It was scary at first, but we loved it. And within four or five days, we knew this was what we wanted to do together.

three images of people with their vans

What’s it like living in such close quarters with your significant other?

Sandra: It's surprisingly possible!

Phil: Oh, charming!

Gemma: We definitely get more quality time together. And life doesn't get in the way as much. It's about working as a team, because you kind of have to do everything together.

Alice: It's wonderful! Everything slows down and we don't really go on our phones. We're lucky to never really argue, so that over-romanticised version of van life isn't over-romanticised for us. That’s genuinely our experience.

two ladies and a campervan

What does home mean to you?

Alice: I think it's a feeling. If Gemma's not there, I always feel like something's missing. As long as we’re together, anywhere can feel like home.

Phil: This - the campervan - this is home.

Sandra: Living in a house, we could easily lose each other and have completely separate lives. That's not possible here.

Alice: It's cosy. We sleep better in the van than we do at home. There's something really cathartic and really therapeutic in winter with the wind and rain howling or in summer, with the door open and the breeze coming in. Or you'll get a nice sunset. That's when the whole dreamy van life really kicks in. Obviously, there are moments on the M25 where you think I'm not living the dream. But evenings of making cups of tea or hot chocolate in the winter are very cosy.

a couple on folding chairs

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learnt about yourself?

Gemma: To slow down. I'd usually go a hundred million miles an hour and rush to get things done.

Sandra: How simple life can be. That it doesn't need to be really complicated.

Alice: I'm more adventurous than I thought. And I’ve calmed down a lot since. Even when the pop top flew up on the motorway that time, I didn't panic. I just held on. I was like ‘find a lay by!’

two women posing on one leg

If money (or practicality) were no object, what would you add to your van?

Sandra: A bath and an actual settee. I miss collapsing onto a really comfortable couch. We met a couple with a Chesterfield in their van once. It took over the entire van and was slightly ridiculous. But they were very happy.

Alice: A trailer for all the books I buy. And a couple of surfboards. And a kayak.

Gemma: I love a van gadget. Maybe a fire pit. Or a pizza oven.

couple in front of their van

Any camping horror stories?

Gemma: The only thing that will ever spoil van life is a really disrespectful neighbour. But it’s mostly the level of spiders, really.

Alice: Yeah, France was... rustic, to say the least! One campsite, I was having a shower, looked up and the rafters were full of spiders and dragonflies. Plus, Google Maps has sent us down some horrendous roads. It sent us through the Duplex Tunnel in France once, which was about 2m high. And our van is just under that height. That was a heart-stopping moment. And the last time we ever travelled without a paper road map.

images of people on grass
couple posing in front of van

And finally, what's your favourite thing about van life?

Gemma: The freedom. The feeling of not being on a time scale or having to go into the office for 9am. It’s the spontaneity and flexibility of it.

Alice: Slowing everything down. And having a chat with people we meet. I love seeing other people’s vans.

Sandra: It's the constant feeling of being on holiday. Exploring, discovering new things.

Phil: Going to new places. You’ve only got to open the door and there’s the big wide world.

Sandra: And a different big wide world each day.

van life panorama shot

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