This is a guest post bu DNG Nadia who travels in her VW bus with her boyfriend while working as an equestrian and canine writer (yep, that’s a thing!). Nadia shared how she lives her life, stays productive and lives the tiny Vanlife for Digital Nomad Girls.
Hey Girls, I’m Nadia, but you can call me Narnia – everyone else does! And much like many of you, I’m a digital nomad – but, with a bit of a vintage twist.
You see, I travel full-time, but not in the conventional sense, instead; my preferred form of transport is a 1969 VW Adventurewagen named Red.
As well as being my wheels (of the raddest variety!), Red also happens to be my home!
Yup, that’s right, I live, work, travel, and throw tea parties out of my 7.5 sq meter home, and I wouldn’t change it for the world!
The official term for my lifestyle is “Vanlife” so that would make me a “Vanlifer”, this lifestyle is pretty big, and growing fast (Unsurprising when you consider the fact that I can be anywhere in the world and not pay rent – boom!).
Today, I’m going to be talking to you guys about how it’s possible to live, work, and travel from the road.
What’s Your Day Job?
I am a specialist equestrian and canine writer, so I can be writing anything from reporting on an international horse show to helping readers choose the perfect dog breed for their family. It’s incredibly varied, and I love what I do so it rarely feels like work!
I grew up on a farm in the Yorkshire countryside, and we had quite the menagerie of animals, from horses and dogs to the not so common meerkats and llamas.
I starting writing for equestrian magazines when I was only ten-years-old, so I’ve been doing this for quite some time!
But, writing wasn’t always my full-time job, I started out in the fashion industry, then switched to the tech industry before deciding to write full-time for the complete flexibility that it offered.
What’s It Like Living Tiny?
Other than when I was eighteen years old and wanted a grand equestrian estate, I’ve always been interested in tiny living!
For some reason, it took me years to work up the courage to jump in and go for it. If I knew then what I know now, I would have started living tiny years ago.
Many of you may be thinking “Wow, 7.5 sq meters – I could never live in that”. But for the majority of you DN ladies who live out of hand luggage, let me tell you; having space to store things again like paddle boards and mountain bikes (plus three times the amount of clothing – jackpot!) is such a luxury.
How is Your Day To Day Life Different?
My daily life is pretty similar to when I lived in apartments; In the bus, we have all the comforts of home – a kitchen with sink, gas burner, fridge/freezer, a dining area with fold-out table, a living area with three-seater couch, and a bedroom area with memory foam bed!
The main difference is the fact that being in such a small space encourages you to get out more, which is one of the things that I love most about vanlife.
I used to have days where I would sit inside of my apartment working for two days straight without leaving once – crazy right?!
But now, we’re in a new town or city every few days; I wake up wanting to explore – wanting to make the most of my time in a spectacular Spanish city, or tiny French town!
How Do You Work From The Road?
The two most challenging things about working on the road are finding power and internet, but there is an easy solution for both!
We have a TP-Link Mifi with a sim card from EE that gives us 30 GB of data for £30 per month, and also a Goal Zero Yeti 400 Lithium Battery for charging devices.
The Goal Zero takes around six hours to charge when plugged into an outlet — we charge it at coffee shops — and then gives enough power to charge a MacBook Air fully up to seven times; that means we can be wholly off-grid but still be able to work.
We do always go over the 30 GB allowance (don’t tell the fella but I think it’s from watching cute puppy videos!), but we can top-up for £15 for every additional 10 GB.
The coverage has been incredible, and in the past year there have only been three spots that we didn’t have any service, and they were all right out in the sticks.
How Do You Stay Productive?
Having been a digital nomad for most of my working life, I’m pretty good at just getting my stuff done when I need to. I love my lifestyle, so every time I have a deadline, I work towards it as though, if I miss it – the lifestyle goes away and I have to get a “normal job” because realistically if I don’t keep my clients happy, one day – I will. That keeps me hella focused.
For me, staying productive is all about having a good work/life balance. I used to work all hours of the day and night; you know what I’m talking about ladies – the hustle is real!
But now that I’ve worked my way to the top and considered an expert in my field, I can be much more picky about the projects I take on, and the hours I work. I now work three days per week, Monday through Wednesday and I’m far more productive because of it!
Every week, we have a four day weekend, because life should be filled with memories of actually living, shouldn’t it?
I want to reminisce about the time that we hiked up Table Mountain in Cape Town – or went boogie boarding down a snow-covered sand-dune in Utah.
Not just have memories of sitting in one spot sending emails and writing articles – no matter how good the writing may be, that’s not what life should be.
Where Do You Park?
Pretty much anywhere that’s out of the way! Sometimes we’ll stumble upon an amazing parking spot right on the beach, and other times we have to use apps such as Park4Night to find camper friendly parking.
This was one of the parts of vanlife that I was worried about before we got started, would we always be able to find somewhere to park? Would the police wake us up in the middle of the night telling us to move on?
In fact, since getting the bus we’ve had nothing but friendly locals coming by to take pictures and ask us about the bus! The police usually just smile and wave, and have never asked us to move.
From the many people we’ve talked to along our journey, it seems that of the biggest barriers for many potential vandwellers is the fear factor of parking – it was for me too – but seriously ladies, it’s not a problem.
So You Don’t Have a Shower or Bathroom?
Nope. But one of the absolute best things about living in a VW is that no matter what, I have to go to the gym to get a shower! You might be confused about why that’s a great thing, when many of you cana walk into your very own bathroom and take a shower right here, right now.
Well, it’s because it is the absolute easiest way to make yourself go work out, I don’t get to think about whether I feel like working out, or whether I’m just too tired today, I’ve just gotta get up and go!
We use public bathrooms, cafe bathrooms, and pretty much any kind of bathroom that’s available. It’s very rare that we’re not able to find a proper bathroom, but when that does happen I have a GoGirl which is a handy little device that makes it possible for ladies to pee in a bottle – so ladylike I know, but when you gotta go, you gotta go!
Do You Cook In Your Bus?
You betcha! We have a single gas burner as well as a fridge/freezer and a very sizeable pantry (well, by VW standards!), so we do tend to cook a lot of our own meals.
I had to get a bit creative when we moved into the bus to find recipes for one-pot meals as I was very much used to having four burners.
We could cook one thing at a time and use multiple pans – but as we have a 10 liter water tank for washing up, we try to be as streamlined as possible with our cooking.
Other than that, it really hasn’t felt any different to cooking in a regular kitchen. I have enough counter space for chopping veg and if I need more – I just pop up our dining table and use that.
We don’t have an oven, so sometimes I miss baking, but whenever we’re visiting friends and family – we make the most of their kitchens and bake up a storm which tides me over until my next big baking day!
Is It An Affordable Lifestyle
Hell to the YES! If you do it right, vanlife can work on a tiny budget. I’d go as far as to say that, in my opinion, it’s the best lifestyle for digital nomads!
If you’re starting out, you can afford to travel and see the world while building up a client base, and if you’re a more seasoned DN’er – then you can put money aside for your retirement, or splurge on some mega trips every now and then!
The most significant costs associated with vanlife are gas, insurance, and repairs! Then you’ve got food, gym memberships, and wherever else you choose to spend your money.
My boyfriend and I spend approx £1500 per month for both of us to travel full-time in Red, but I know we could do it for way less if we wanted to – we’re vegan, and coffee addicts so a chunk of our budget gets used up in those areas.
Do You Ever Get Me-Time?
Absolutely. Only working three days per week means that I have plenty of time to read, drink tea, and go on epic adventures. I have to admit, I’m a bit of a workaholic, so I do struggle to go completely work free for those four days, but I’m working on it!
My boyfriend and I were warned by ALL of our family members how much we’d get on each other’s nerves living in such a small space, but having already travelled together pretty much 24/7 for four years before buying our bus – we’ve learnt to be good at communicating when we need alone time.
So, even though we’re in the same little bus – he’ll play video games, and I’ll read – it’s actually quite lovely being alone, but together.
So Your Life Is One Big Endless Adventure?
Pretty much! Although I think everyone assumes that it’s all sunshine and rainbows – grass is always greener and all! But, we have to run errands, pay bills, and get our work done just as much as the next guy.
The difference is that we took the time to design and follow through on creating a life that makes us at our happiest. Which for us, means spending our time outdoors in the sunshine, going on adventures, and exploring as much of this great big world as we can!
Happy Travelling xx
Nadia is a badass digital nomad, currently travelling the world in her vintage VW, working three days per week as a specialist equine and canine writer, and spending the rest of her time going on adventures!
She recently launched a blog all about her journey to find the perfect work/life balance and say yes to life. To read more of her caffeine-fueled ramblings, and to find out how you too could live the vanlife – head over to SayingYes.is or follow her on Instagram @SayingYesIs!