Ceri, Will and Piglet are the nomads behind @tothemountainsnback - they travel in their van all over Europe throughout the summer and winter. Occasionally they head back the UK for work and to check on their house but they make sure their visits are condensed so they can be back on the road for as long as possible.
They have careers that allow them to work entirely online letting them explore Europe while making a full-time income - the dream! Will runs a smart home company and mainly writes software on the road and Ceri does marketing and web design/management and their dog, Piglet makes sure they are meeting all of their deadlines!
Here is what they had to say about their nomadic lifestyle...
What is your van set up?
We have a long wheel base 2014 Mercedes Sprinter Van. We bought her second hand and converted her to a camper van ourselves.
What made you choose this alternative lifestyle?
Freedom to travel was definitely the main reason. We’ve always loved travelling and talked about all the places we would go when we eventually had enough time and money. One day I read an article online about a couple who travelled around Europe with their beagle in a van and suddenly we wondered what we were waiting for. Why not do it now? So we did!
Do you have other sources of income other than your main careers?
Will runs an established smart technology company that writes software for smart home systems and this takes up all of his time. Luckily he can do that on the road most of the time so this gives us a steady income. I had to leave my job to enable us to travel as it couldn’t be done remotely and have since picked up work designing websites and online marketing. I also have a van build and blog website (www.tothemountainsandback.com) that covers our van conversion and travels which I hope will eventually make us a little extra pocket money on the side!
How has the van life community grown in Europe over the past five years?
We had no idea there was such a thing as van life until a few years ago! It wasn’t something we’d come across, but once we started exploring the idea we realised what a huge community there was in Europe. I definitely think social media has increased its popularity and we’ve seen it grow and grow in the time we’ve been involved. Europe is an incredible place to explore by van as there are so many easily accessible countries to visit, all with their own cultures and landscapes. I’ve noticed an increase in popularity in the last few months as well. I thought Coronavirus would put people off, but I think more people are realising they don’t need to be in an office to do their job and trying to find ways to travel with more flexibility once everything goes back to relative normality.
How long do you plan on living primarily nomadically?
We don’t really plan anything! We don’t have a set time-frame in mind so we’ll stay as we are as long as it’s working for us.
How much money per year would you say you save by living in your van?
I’m not sure we save very much to be honest. We’re very lucky in that we own our home and so far we haven’t rented it out, so we still have mortgage payments to meet each month. There’s undoubtedly bills we don’t have by being on the road, but there are other costs. The largest of which is diesel for the van as we move around a lot. We very rarely pay for campsites or electricity, but any money we save, we tend to spend on activities and experiences in the places we’re visiting. So I guess we spend our money more on fun things and less on bills and expenses!
Would you recommend social media marketing to people trying to make an online income? If so, what advice would you give?
That’s a difficult one. If it’s an area you have skills in it’s definitely possible to make an income from it and it’s incredibly flexible location wise. Many social media sites are making it harder to promote brands outside of their paid channels so I think it’s an area that’s not as easy as it once was, but it can still be done. In my experience, brands are a little more skeptical about social media than they once were and depending on the sector, it can be hard to accurately monitor conversions. Increasing the following of a brand is no longer enough and it’s much more about engaging with followers and building loyalty now, which isn’t always a quick process, but much more rewarding.
What three pieces of gear can you not live without while on the road?
I’d love this answer to be all about adventure gear, but the reality is much more boring!
Our kettle… seriously I love our little whistling kettle and let’s be honest, we’re British, so tea is needed pretty much every hour!
Karcher Window Vac… if you live in a van and don’t have one of these, get one! They suck up moisture, making them perfect for use on windows and in bathroom areas, especially useful if you travel in winter. Keeping moisture out of the van can be a constant battle!
Long dog leash… We travel with our dog, Piglet, and she’s an escape artist so we can’t ever let her off her lead. When we’re parked up in nice weather we tie a long rope or dog leash to the van, open all the doors and let her explore.
Would you recommend travelling with a dog?
Definitely! We love having Piglet along with us and she seems to love being in the van and exploring new places every day. We sometimes have to change our plans to make sure it’s not too hot for her or head somewhere more dog-friendly. It means we spend a lot of time outdoors exploring and we’re all happy with that! It’s also a great way to meet people. People are really sociable if you have a dog with you. The only problem is we don’t always speak the language they do, depending on where in Europe we are at the time!
To continue the Sprintrview tradition, what is your favourite road trip song?
We don’t listen to a huge amount of music whilst on the road as one of us is usually working whilst the other drives. One song that immediately comes to mind though, and this is really random, is “Top of the World” by The Carpenters! We promise we’re not that old, but we made it to the very top of Norway (in winter) and we couldn’t stop singing this song. It was pretty much on repeat the whole way home. It was appropriate though!
Thanks for taking the time to share your story!
It is so interesting to hear about vanlife in Europe; all of the Sprintrviews I have done so far have been based out of the US - it truly is a worldwide movement. Although people have been living in vans for decades I think it is on an upward trend that will continue to grow for years to come. With online work, the ability for people to make great money while exploring the world has never been easier.
It takes people like Will and Ceri to show us that this is a sustainable lifestyle that can add an amazing amount of adventure to one's life. Keep moving forward to achieve your goals and before you know it you'll be exploring the world in a van of your own!
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