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How to start van life

We love being outdoors, on the move and seeing new places where no two days are the same - and van life allows us to do this perfectly. 

Our experience started back in 2015 when we travelled around Europe, living in our car for three months. From there, it naturally progressed and we bought and converted our own campervan that we lived in for two years. 

And now, we are eagerly waiting to buy a new van and start the adventure all over again! 

 But during our time living in our wonderful Ford Transit van, one of the most common questions we were asked by those thinking about van life is how you get started. 

So I thought I’d put together this guide to help. 

Are you thinking about starting van life? Let me tell you how we did it! 

1. Decide if it’s right for you 

It might seem like a nice idea in theory, especially if you’ve seen lots of dreamy, romanticised Instagram posts from current van lifers.  

But before you take the leap and start van life you need to seriously consider whether it is for you. This is a serious consideration if you're going to be moving out of your house, getting rid of a great deal of your stuff or if you’ve got dependents, either of the human or fluffy variety. 

And it’s not just about getting rid of your stuff. Van life seems idyllic and man does Instagram make it look fun, but when you haven't showered in three days, you’re washing in the sink (true story), you're trying to find somewhere to fill up your water containers or you can’t find a sensible spot for the night, it doesn't always seem so cute. 

Of course, those moments are just part of the van life experience and we’ve come to terms with that, but we also know it’s not the lifestyle for everyone. 

If you're unsure whether it’s the right lifestyle for you, check out our recent post - Is van life for me? The guide will ask you nine questions to help you determine whether van life is the right decision for you or not. 

2. Decide how you're going to fund your lifestyle 

First and foremost, you need to be able to buy a van (otherwise van life is going to be pretty tricky) so you’ll need to set some budget aside for that. 

You’ll also need to decide how you're going to fund your lifestyle - do you plan to save up? Are you selling/renting your house out? Are you a digital nomad or do you plan to find work during your adventures?

Put some thought into how you're going to fund your lifestyle, particularly if you’re planning on moving around a lot as it can be harder to find long-term positions. Unless you can do your existing job remotely, that is. 

3. Choose whether you want to buy or convert your van (and which van to choose)

To make a real go of van life, you need to choose the right van for your lifestyle. This means deciding whether you're going to buy a ready-made van or if you're going to design and convert one yourself. 

If you’ve got children or pets travelling with you, you might need more space not just for them but for their stuff. 

So before you begin van life you should spend some time looking at other people’s vans, getting some ideas, conducting research and looking at what’s out there depending on your budget. 

Your chosen van might also depend on how much and how far you plan on travelling. There are plenty of people out there living in vans and cool converted spaces like double-decker buses, but they never really move anywhere. They either rent, own or come to an agreement with landowners that allows them to stay for long periods of time. 

Or, you might want something small and compact that is great for stealthy camping. There’s a lot to consider and you want to get the perfect van for you, so don’t rush this process.

If you’re feeling stuck, here’s a really useful guide from Engineers Who Van Life, about things you need to think about before choosing the right van. 

4. Pick where you want to go

Next up, you need to decide where you want to go in your van. Will you be staying in your home country or do you want to venture abroad? If you plan on going further afield it’s a good idea to look into visas and the rules of the road before you get going. 

Once you’ve got a better idea of where you want to go you can also get clued up on the rules of overnight parking, places to stay, your rights etc. There are loads of helpful blogs out there that offer tailored advice for your chosen countries. 

For those in the UK and Europe, I highly recommend you download the ‘Search for Sites’ app, which helps you find places to park that are rated by other van lifers - it was a life-saver around the North coast of Scotland. 

5. Downsize your life

Eventually, the moment will come to start downsizing your life! Even the biggest vans with the most creative storage solutions only have so much room - and it’s not as much as a house. So there comes a time when you need to clear out, sell up or put your stuff in storage.

It can be stressful, but you’ll be amazed how much crap you accumulate over the years that you don't really need. 

As well as being practical, there’s also something very freeing about downsizing your life, it makes you more appreciative of what you do have and everything tends to serve a purpose. 

6. Tie up your loose ends 

Now you’ve got the perfect van, you’ve downsized your life, you’ve got money in the bank and/or know how you're going to fund your lifestyle, you're almost ready to go!

But before you do, you need to tie up any loose ends. This might mean finding someone to rent your house, giving up your rented home, leaving your existing job, redirecting your post to a parent's place or simply just saying goodbye to everyone if you plan to be gone for a while. 

Once you're feeling ready, set yourself a date for the official move to van life and start getting excited! 

It’s time to start van life

It’s a really weird feeling when you start van life, but it’s such an exciting new chapter in your life. 

If there are any stages of starting van life that you still feel confused about or if I’ve missed something obvious and huge (which is totally possible) - feel free to drop me a comment below. 

Happy van living! 

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  • Writer's pictureNatashia Larkin

sea glass in Cornwall

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been on a mission. 

We’ve been researching the best beaches to find sea glass in Cornwall and venturing around the county, visiting some new places and some we’ve been to many times, collecting treasure. 

It’s been a pretty successful couple of weeks and I can’t wait to get started using the glass for something arty. I haven't quite decided what I’m going to do with it all yet, but I’ll let you know when I have. 

But arty things aside for a moment, there is something really therapeutic about combing the beaches and looking for sea glass, even if you don’t intend to make anything with it right away! So I highly recommend it. 

And if you are hoping to find sea glass in Cornwall in the near future, here are some of the best places to do it. 

1. Holywell Bay 

Holywell Bay is a beautiful beach that is ordinarily great for surfing and dog walking, and it is one that we visit quite regularly during the quieter months. And if you believe the rumours, it also has its own sacred well which can be found in one of the caves on the far side of the beach. 

The well (which is only accessible at low tide) is said to have healing properties if you touch the water. We have been and seen it, and whether it has healing powers or not, it’s a fascinating find. 

Of course, Holywell Bay is also excellent for sea glass, especially when the tide is going out or it has been a rough, stormy couple of days. The beach is strewn with large patches of shingle and gritty sand and these are the best places to look. 

You’ll be able to spot these large patches of more silty, gritty sand quite easily, making this one of the easiest and most popular places to find sea glass. 

Holywell Bay sea glass in Cornwall

2. Pentewan Beach 

Pentewan is a private beach located near St Austell and there is a dog ban there for large amounts of the year, so not ideal if you want to take your furry friends with you. 

However, we went out of season with Lunar and it’s great for finding small bits of sea glass, mostly clear glass, as well as bits of clay and pottery. 

If you park in the village, you can comb the small left-hand side of the beach first, which is where we found most of the goods. You will then have to pass through a small stream to reach the larger beach if you want to carry on. 

Either that, or you can get onto the beach through the holiday park there, but only when it’s open obviously. 

3. Portreath Beach 

Portreath also has lots of very silty, gritty sand which makes it perfect for sea glass. There are also lots of smaller rockpools and caves you can explore while you’re there, especially at low tide. 

These aren't the best places for glass, but they are fun to look at. Most of the glass can be found up the top of the beach and near the stream that runs through. 

There is also a little cafe and pub near the seafront and the parking is right on the beach, so it’s really easy to access. The little village there is very cute and just round the corner from Porthtowan and St Agnes. 

Portreath beach sea glass in Cornwall

4. Maenporth Beach 

Maenporth has loads of rocks, small caves and rock pools that capture and hold sea glass and it was where we found some of our favourite pieces. Plus, the variety of colours and sizes there was perhaps the most impressive of all the beaches we’ve been to. 

Again, there is parking on the beach and a cute little cafe right there on the sand. There is a seasonal dog ban in July and August on this beach, so it’s worth keeping that in mind if you plan to walk your dog at the same time. 

Maenporth Beach sea glass in Cornwall

5. Gyllyngvase Beach

Overlooked by Pendennis Castle, Gyllyngvase Beach (also known as Gylly Beach) is Falmouth’s main beach, right near the town centre. It’s a mixture of white stretches of sand, rockpools and on the borders, beautiful green gardens. 

There is also a lovely cafe and takeaway on the beach, and of course, sea glass! We found lots of small bits there in a variety of colours, but we were just slightly too late and the tide was already coming in. 

But sea glass aside, the beach and the town are so beautiful and the whole place has a lovely vibe so it’s definitely worth a visit. We LOVE Falmouth. 

Tips for finding sea glass in Cornwall 

If you are going to go out searching for sea glass in Cornwall, there are a couple of ways you can increase your chances of sea glass success:

  • Choose a sunny day (when possible) as it’s easier to see the glass when it’s glinting in the sunshine

  • Go down at low tide when the beach is at its biggest. Look on the edge of the water as wet glass is easier to spot 

  • Go after a storm if you can, as more glass is likely to have been churned up and left on the beach 

  • Walk slowly as you look and get low. If you spot some glass, stop and comb that area in more detail as you usually find a few bits next to one another 

  • Train your eye to spot the unique glint of sea glass by doing it often

Hopefully these tips, along with insights into the best beaches for sea glass in Cornwall, can help you find some hidden treasures. 

Happy hunting!

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  • Writer's pictureNatashia Larkin

Updated: Mar 6

The challenges of being a freelancer

Over the last seven years, I’ve loved working for myself, taking on exciting new projects and being free to fit my work around my life. 

There are so many great reasons to be a freelancer, especially a completely remote freelancer where you can work, travel and live as you please. 

However, I’d be lying if I said there are no downsides to working this way. 

I have certainly come up against some key challenges and some days (in fact, some months) have been tougher than others. 

So, if you’re thinking about becoming a freelancer, or, if you are already a freelancer and it’s just nice to know you’re not alone in these feelings, here are some of the downsides to being a freelancer. 

It can be lonely 

When you work for yourself, particularly from a remote location, there are times when it can feel pretty lonely. You miss the connection you have with co-workers and seeing people face-to-face on a daily basis. 

Of course, if you’re busy in other areas of your life, you are less likely to feel this way. But if you traditionally rely on work for a lot of your human interaction, the freelance life can become a bit isolating. 

You need self-discipline 

In order to stay focused, stay on track and make sure you get all your work done on time, you need to be disciplined. This can be tricky, particularly on days when you’re not feeling productive, well or possibly even when it’s just sunny outside. 

We all know how hard it is to keep yourself inside working when the sun is shining and the outside looks far more appealing! 

But essentially, what I’m saying is that you have no one to blame but yourself if you fall behind and it could cost you work and your reputation. So you must push yourself to remain productive, manage your time well and avoid distractions. 

It can be unpredictable 

It’s likely that you’ll experience ups and downs throughout your freelance life and this unpredictability can be tough. From quieter periods to unstable income, you have to be prepared for a rainy day. 

And by that I mean, you have to be prepared for slumps, clients dropping out, delayed payments and more. 

On the other hand, you also have to be ready for busier periods, and in some cases, long days or projects that overrun. 

Difficulty switching off 

Although there is the possibility of having a better work-life balance when managed properly, this can also cause problems if you’re unable to switch off from your business and work. 

Without set work hours or a set office space, you might find that you struggle to establish boundaries between your work and personal life. It can be tempting to work long hours and to be constantly available to clients, which can lead to burnout and stress.

Finding regular work 

Unlike a traditional role, if you want to make sure the work (and money) keeps coming in, you have to be proactive. This means that during quieter periods you need to keep looking for work, applying for new projects and pitching your services to relevant businesses. 

You also have to promote yourself and keep putting your name out there. This can be time-consuming, but it’s important for building your professional brand and helping clients find you. 

For some, finding and securing new work is one of the hardest parts of freelance life, especially when you’re first starting out. 

The lack of workplace benefits 

While you get a lot of freedom to go on holiday when you want to, the one thing you don’t get is holiday pay. You also don’t get sick pay and some of the other benefits that come with traditional employment, like a pension scheme. 

That being said, you should set aside money for situations like sickness and having to take unexpected time off. You can also invest in your own pension fund or savings, you just have to be more disciplined and find the best way to do this for your own future. 

Staying on top of your career development

Unlike traditional employment where there may be opportunities for you to get a promotion, freelancing can mean limited prospects for career growth. Sure, you could change your own job title when you feel like it, but in terms of other benefits like a pay rise, this all comes down to the work you pull in.

For some, this lack of a clear path can be tricky. But you can still take online courses, grow your network and strengthen your skills with a focus on personal and professional development.

Plus,  if you continuously market yourself and seek out new and impressive opportunities, your business and knowledge will naturally grow. This, in itself, is a type of development and one that many are far more proud of than simply being promoted by their boss. 

Don’t let any of this put you off 

As with everything in life, being a freelancer has its challenges, but you shouldn't let this put you off if you’re in the early stages of your career or you’re thinking about going freelance in the future. 

There are so many reasons why being a freelancer is great! And I certainly can’t imagine my life or work any other way. Right now, this gives me the freedom and flexibility to enjoy my life to the fullest. 

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