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Escape the Rat Race to live in a van

Life got too hectic for Dusty so he grabbed some wheels and took to the road

Our man Peter R hitched a ride to see how he did it

Dusty Apostle (not his real surname you’ll be surprised to hear) is between the stage of consuming a hearty breakfast and facing the reality that there are pots and pans to be washed. The incessant waves of Covid-19 are meddling with many people’s daily routines but he is managing to remain focused on other things.

Having worked in an office for 11 years in financial services -often stuck in the British version of a cubicle existance- Dusty knows there is more to life than a 9-5 grind.

He has been living in a used Autotrail Mohican van for the last few months and is feeling motivated.

“This van is perfect because it offers me all the comforts and facitilies I need, all under one roof,” he says. “I have everything I need in here, like a pullout bed, cooking equipment, storage for some books and clothes. My fold-up bike is tucked away nice and handy as well.”

carrying a bicycle
Bicycles are practical for getting around quickly

Life in a business park grew stale

The sparse, naturally cramped, environment is a far cry from where Dusty once spent his days, in a business park on the outskirts of London. With thousands of workers buzzing like flies around the complex all day, there was little time for relaxation or peace and quiet in that location.

As the interest in online financial services and robo investing grew, Dusty’s job regularly changed. Longer hours, more pressure and a “harder working culture” as was envisioned at the time by a new CEO. Many of his co-workers lapped it up, eyeing new opportunities and fresh challenges.

One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important

Bertrand Russell

For Dusty, there was little more than a sense of dread at what was to come. “The general vibe was of excitement at all the money everyone was going to make and all the stuff they would buy,” he says. “Nobody stopped to consider the extra hours and added stresses that would come with the changes.”

Society obsesses over materialism and owning ‘stuff’

If Dusty was going to escape from this cycle of materalism and an endless striving to own and buy more items, he would have to plan a great escape. Living in a van was appealing but not his first consideration. Backpacking, working abroad or, like one of our recent intervieweees Margaret, setting up on a country homestead were also alluring options.

“I was always passionate about self sufficiency and looking after my own interests, so jumping into something completely new was a possibility. I thought about seasteading first, or some other kind of water-based activity. But it was so bloody cold here in the UK that I was worried about falling overboard in the middle of winter!”

Despite doing his research and constantly scanning the internet for options, nothing really happened until Dusty reached a low point in the office. Sitting filing paperwork at nearly midnight, as the team scurried to close on a lucrative deal, he realised it was time to act.

“It pretty much became now or never,” he recalls. “I realised that I would have to do something radical – jump without a parachute I suppose- and hopefully land on my feet.

“I actually received a lot of support from my colleagues, which was both surprising and very reassuring. I expected a few to say I was nuts but that wasn’t really the case. One or two said they wished they could do the same. Thinking back now I would tell them they can.”

living on a boat
Life on a boat has its drawbacks

Living in a van was the most appealing choice

Dusty made two life-changing decisions: he handed in his notice and bought a used camper van. By now he had done plenty of additional studying into multiple lifestyle choices, and van dwelling seemed like an appealing option.

“Living in a van appealed to me because it was cheap to run compared to living in a house or flat and it was on the road so I would be able to move about as I please, from location to location, finding places that suited me.”

Dusty went about contacting some more well established road campaigners and grabbing as many practical tips as he could. Nothing, however, could prepare him for some of the trials and tribulations that have occurred since he first took to running the dual carriage ways of the UK and beyond.

“From about October on it can get a bit chilly. I’ve had to invest in a few pairs of woolly socks, thick vests and a furry hot water bottle. It’s weird going to sleep in a beanie hat but it has to be done.”

Dusty might be a late starter but he has swiftly adapted to living in a van. Of course there have been some hairy moments along the way.

“Finding a good, safe spot to park for the evening can be difficult sometimes. I parked up in an industrial estate once and woke up the next morning to the sound of crashing and banging all around. I thought I was being towed away onto the back of a truck! Turns out I had stopped next to some bins and they were getting emptied at like 7am. It was quite literally a wake up call though. I take a closer eye to my surroundings when settling down for the evening.”

Dusty decided not to document his journey online

Now with over a year of experience under his belt, Dusty has decided against blogging or recording his journey in any way on social media. He has nothing negative to say abut those who do but it is just not for him and it took me a while and the help of a mutual friend to persuade him to agree to this interview.

“I’m sure I could write down a few stories and tips for other people thinking about doing this but a lot of it is already out there. Bloggers and podcasters are doing a better job than I could.”

Does he keep in touch with anyone still grinding away in the corporate rat race?

“One or two folks I would email from time-to-time. I don’t even have a smartphone or anything, just a top-up mobile in case of emergencies. I dip in to a Starbucks or the library to check emails.”

Dusty’s dream to escape the rat race has been realised and he has little idea of where he’ll end up next. That said, there is one place he won’t be returning to anytime soon…

“No chance you’ll find me in an office ever again!” he laughs. “If the van life gets too much I’ll pick litter off the streets first and live in a tent before you catch me sitting at a desk, punching numbers into a computer.”

— END —

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