We’re coming to the end of our ‘strict’ lockdown in the UK. I’ve had a radical change of heart regarding my approach as an older digital nomad and decided that I should be living in a van full time. Read on to find out why I’m doing this and what my plans are for the coming months.
It’s been a while since I last wrote in my blog and I’ve been taking the time during lockdown to really think about my approach to both travelling and working. Like many nomads, my travels came to an abrupt halt in March 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic arrived.
At the time I was in rural Goa, and I had to make an extremely stressful journey out of the country, at great speed, to arrive back in the UK before the commercial flights stopped. This involved driving myself to the airport with my rented scooter in the middle of the night (no taxis in rural Goa), and then abandoning the scooter at the airport, hiding the keys and sending a photo of where it was to the hire company.
Finding lockdown very tough
Since then I’ve been living and working in one room in my house in Bristol, which is mostly rented out to lodgers and my daughter. I have to be honest, I’ve found it quite challenging doing this after roaming free range around Bali, Thailand and India in the months beforehand.
Originally I had plans to make lots of videos to help people learn how to move their business online, but I found that I really lost my mojo during the lockdown period. Days seemed to slip into nights based in that one room, and I could not focus at all. I found myself feeling exhausted and burned out, and I realised I needed a rest. Apparently this phenomenon – lockdown fatigue – is quite common worldwide. So I did the sensible thing and focused only on my freelance marketing communications consultancy work, which brings in the money I live off.
Adapting and changing my nomad plans
Around 50% of the nomads I had met on my travels had gone home, and the rest had either stayed in Thailand or Vietnam (countries which handled the pandemic very well).I found myself feeling quite low at the prospect of having to stay in the UK for the next year, without a plan of travel to look forward to. At the same time, I felt guilty having these thoughts as I realised that there was a very serious health crisis taking hold and people were losing their lives.
Watching forums and groups online I noticed an emerging existential crisis within the digital nomad sector. Suddenly we were being told that travel was a bad thing, and that if we even harboured thoughts of it, we were being inherently selfish. For people who shape their lives around travel, this is a hard concept to swallow.
I knew I needed to do something to improve my mood. It felt like it was going to be a couple of years before ordinary flight patterns resumed, unless a vaccine was found sooner. And who knows whether the air industry will really recover?
After some reflection, I realised that one of the things I’ve loved about travelling over the last 18 months is how happy it makes me to be outside in nature. This then led onto the idea that I could buy a van and simply work in it in different locations near the house, if required. Then as lockdown eased, I’d be able to travel further afield.
I was also mindful of the fact that the UK will be coming out of the EU on 31st December 2020 and I wanted to make the most of our ability to travel freely through Europe before then. So I decided to take the plunge and use some savings to buy a van.
Introducing Juno – my digital nomad van
On the 6th June 2020 I bought Juno. She is a 1998 Peugeot Boxer and she has her own full bathroom and kitchen on board, plus solar power and a leisure battery, and mobile wifi. All of this enables me to be fully self sufficient. I need to empty her waste every 2 to 3 days: to do that I can use service points in campsites (if they’re open) or garages on the continent. But apart from that I’m entirely self sufficient.
Living in a van full time as an older digital nomad
Juno is quite old – she’s 1998 van – but she only has 60,000 miles on the clock. Being a medium wheel base van, she is very easy to drive. I’ve been learning so much over the last few weeks – how to change gas bottles, how to get rid of my waste, how to add coolant to her motor. She doesn’t have the coolest interior design – this is something I’m hoping to renovate next winter if I return to the UK (or stay in one place long enough to find an upholsterer). But I don’t really care about that – what I’m more interested in is getting on the road with her as quickly as possible.
Here’s a van tour if you’re interested:
When I first bought Juno we were not allowed to stay overnight in her as the lockdown laws prohibited this. But on the 5th July laws in England changed, and since then I’ve been touring around in her whilst working.
Adapting to become a nomad living in a van
Over the last two weeks, I’ve visited my family in Wales, and friends in Kent and the River Wye valley (whilst adhering to social distancing). This week I’m off to the North Yorkshire Moors, the Pennines and the Lake District. I then travel to Dorset before catching a ferry from Portsmouth to France on 27th July 2020.
I will drive through France throughout August and make my way down to Spain in September. Both France and Spain have similar epidemiological profiles to the UK now, with a similar number of new Covid-19 cases against population levels, so a ‘travel corridor’ has opened up and there’s no need for a quarantine period anymore (this will stop on the 11th July). Obviously I will still take great care and wear masks when I’m out and about.
Juno has completely revolutionised my life and given me a huge spring in my step once more. It is an absolute joy to be outside in nature again. Working whilst travelling in this way takes great discipline because I need to allow more time for driving her. This has enabled me to be more focused and productive with my consultancy work. I have more of a reason to finish my work and get on with living.
New approach to blogging now I’m living in a van full time as an older digital nomad
I’ve also had more time to reflect on what I want to do with GenerationXit. Whilst I enjoy making videos that focus on marketing, it’s not the thing that lights me up inside. So I’ve decided to simply spend more time documenting my travels, on this site and YouTube. At heart, I’m a storyteller and this is what I want to keep doing. I will continue with the podcast and written interviews of other older nomads, as I think its important to continue to inspire others. And from time to time, I will write an advice-focused article, too. Of course, if anyone ever wants advice, they are free to contact me personally and I will always do what I can to help them.
I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about Juno. I create Instagram stories every day, so you can see more of my daily travel adventures at www.instagram.com/__sam_brown__. I’d love to hear your thoughts and questions, please drop me a line in the comments below or you can email me on [email protected].