The journey blogger profiting from Europe in a transformed van
With travel restrictions still in place across Europe, stays are in – vacations are over. Have you ever thought about converting your own van to help you explore the country? We spoke to travel blogger Jess Meyrick who did just that.
She has one of those Instagram feeds that make you want to quit your job and become a full time adventurer. After a quick scroll down, you’ll find photos of translucent lake and cliff edges, cityscapes and sunrises with you basking in the sun Jess sits and soaks it all in.
But how do travel bloggers start? After Jess quit her job as a full-time nanny in Bermuda, she bought a DSLR camera, learned to edit, and started all over the world. Once she started exploring, she caught the travel bug and decided to begin The wondering dreamer, now with over 170,000 followers.
Jess Carbon is very conscious of her environmental footprint and offsets all of her flights with a nonprofit organization My climate. But mostly she stays within driving distance and explores nature with the van.
Live life in a van
With a constant stream of holidays almost every week, it must be difficult to stay down to earth. Despite her glamorous adventures, Jess still manages to live a minimalist lifestyle.
Earlier this year, Jess and her boyfriend Will bought a van nicknamed Pat. The couple live in Pat the van Anytime you’re back in the UK enjoying the simple pleasure of roaming the UK countryside at home. Will’s job as a marine engineer means he’s working on the rotation so they’ll spend two months in the van when they’re back together.
I ask Jess where they bought Pat and how they built it to suit their needs. “We bought the van from a couple with whom they transported their husky dogs through Norway,” she tells me. “It was a clam when we bought it, which was perfect for us.”
Will designed the layout on his computer so they know how much could fit in the small space. The van is a high-top Mercedes Sprinter model. It’s cozy, but offers enough space to get up without having to contract. The couple tells me that they often open the doors and have their feet in the air – dreamily.
Scandi beaches and wild British countryside
Jess tells me how they traveled across Europe in Pat the Van, from the Lake District in the UK to turquoise lakes and medieval towns in Germany and even as far as Scandinavia. When I ask if something special stands out somewhere, she says that “it is actually too difficult to determine a place because there were so many!”
“I think it’s so liberating to live in the van. We very rarely plan our trips in advance and do mostly street research to give ourselves creative freedom. We drive when we want to drive and stop when we want to stop. There is no time frame and no schedule. “
Jess has all the time in the world to discover hidden gems and remembers a beach in Sweden “where vehicles could drive on it”. She adds, “It was very exciting for us as we are both ocean lovers. We decided to stay one night there, sleep with the doors open and enjoy the sea breeze. “
Can life be difficult to live in such a small space?
From the way she talks about it, I can tell that the van is more than just a means of transport to Jess, it’s a home. Despite the inevitable lack of space and the sometimes untidy practical aspects, freedom makes everything worth it.
I discover that the van has a full size double bed, wardrobe, seating, and kitchen area. Jess and Will even managed to push in a tiny shower / tub – and a fridge that pulls out of a drawer under their bed!
“We wanted to be able to live off the electricity grid without having to stay on campsites. The van has solar panels on the roof that generate all the electricity we need for lights, refrigerator and charging connections. “
When I dare to ask how they get rid of trash on the street, Jess laughs: “Without sounding too gross, the worst part is definitely the bathroom department.” They decided that a “Porta Potti” was a necessity for the van, especially in the winter in the mountains. But it’s not as messy as you’d think: “We only dispose of wastewater at campsites or gas stations.”
A minimalist lifestyle
Jess concludes that minimal living is more of a state of mind. “We actually drive very easily in the van – we quickly noticed from our first trip how little we consume.”
The key is to conserve your resources and live within your means, she says. The couple explains that their 80 liter water tank can last for three days while they still shower and use the water to wash dishes.
“On average, a person in the UK uses around 140 liters of water a day,” says Jess, “so we’ve found that it’s not about making sacrifices, it’s just about consideration. “
For Jess and Will, a typical van road trip will be filled with all of their favorite podcasts, Ted Talks and “We love a singalong,” she says with a smile.
“We listened to the Beatles on the way to the Lake District!”
Aside from the van itself, Jess lives a green lifestyle in a variety of ways. She is committed to promoting sustainable apparel brands as much as possible on her Instagram account, stating that they are trying to support local businesses, although it may not always be possible.
The couple have found innovative ways to cut plastic usage as much as possible and never waste food – leftovers are always gone the next day. With a sizable following on Instagram, it’s clear that Jess really believes in living minimally. She concludes, “If you have the power to influence it should be done the right way.”