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Couple Who Met By Chance Ditch Their Jobs And Possessions To Travel Europe In A Van

Hope and James in Portugal (Collect/ PA Real Life)

A young couple who met by chance when he accidentally sent her Snapchat selfie have revealed how they quit their jobs and sold their possessions to live in a souped-up van.

When they first met on Snapchat around six years ago, Hope Peacock and James Hunter were living at opposite ends of the UK.

After spending a year in a long-distance relationship, they finally moved in together in 2015.

James at The Colosseum in Rome (Collect/ PA Real Life)

But in time, the couple began finding the reality of paying rent and bills a struggle.

So, instead of “residing themselves to a life stuck in one place," they decided to ditch the rat race, leaving their jobs and rented two-bedroom house behind to travel Europe in a motorhome.

“Giving up our old life to see the world has been the best decision we've ever made," Hunter said.

James in the sea (Collect/ PA Real Life)

“It's totally transformed us. Before, I was bought up to believe life was about working hard, getting married and having children, and maybe having one or two holidays a year," he continued.

“I thought having a nice house would make me happy – but it definitely didn't. Now I think, 'Why restrict yourself?' Being happy is the most important thing – it's not about money or materialistic things or just being stuck in one place all your life. There's so much out there in the world to see."

James looking out onto the Jasna Lake (Collect/ PA Real Life)

And Peacock agrees with him.

“Right now, I couldn't think of anything worse than going back to our old lives. Maybe one day, when we have children, we might, but you never know – there are families out there that travel the world together, so we could even do that," she said.

It was by complete chance that Peacock and Hunter even met in the first place.

James in the sea (Collect/ PA Real Life)

They first crossed paths when she was 16 and he was 20, and he accidentally sent her a Snapchat selfie.

“I sent a selfie round to all my Snapchat friends before I went on a night out," he said.

“Then, randomly a girl I'd never seen before replied, saying, 'Hope you have a good one!'."

Intrigued by the mystery message, James struck up a conversation with Peacock the following day.

“It was a bit like fate really. Neither of us had any idea how we ended up on one another's contacts lists – we still don't know till this day," she said.

After six months of messaging, they finally met in person when Hunter was visiting his family in Bristol, and asked Peacock if she wanted to hang out.

James Hunter (Collect/ PA Real Life)

Then, they became an official couple the month after that, but living almost 300 miles apart meant that they were long distance for the first year.

After working as a ground worker to save up enough money for his own place, Hunter then moved down to Somerset to be with Peacock.

Following a short stint in their family home, the pair moved into a flat of their own, before upgrading to a two-bedroom house six months later.

James in Portugal (Collect/ PA Real Life)

“When we finally moved in together and got this lovely little home, we were so excited. It was like everything had come together," Peacock said.

But with the strains of climbing the career ladder becoming more apparent, the couple found that their new life together was not all it was cracked up to be.

“Work just got in the way. James was working long hours and then coming home, having dinner and going to bed, and I was working Saturdays in the hairdressers. It felt like we had less time together than we did when we were living so far apart," she continued.

James and Hope (Collect/ PA Real Life)

Still, their relationship continued to grow, and in December 2017, they got engaged after Hunter proposed.

“I was totally taken by surprise. I had no idea James had been saving for a ring," she said.

“He took me out for dinner on my birthday, I went to the toilet, and when I came back, he got down on one knee – it was brilliant."

But rather than settle down, it had always been Peacock's dream to go traveling.

And after some convincing, Hunter agreed to see the world with her.

“I'd always wanted to travel," she said.

“But James wasn't so sure, so he took a little convincing, but eventually he agreed."

James at The Colosseum in Rome (Collect/ PA Real Life)

With their hearts set on traveling Europe, they began saving up and sold virtually all their possessions at a car boot sale in July 2018, raising as much as they could to fund their adventure.

“The only things we kept were a few items of clothing and our television and the unit in case we ever wanted it for the future. It's stored at my family's home. We sold pretty much everything we owned," she said.

Next, the couple bought a camper van they had seen on eBay.

Hope and James' camper van (Collect/ PA Real Life)

“It had everything – two sofas at the back that turned into a Queen-sized bed, a kitchen with a hob, grill and fridge and a bathroom with a sink and toilet," she said. “It had plenty of storage space too."

After giving their mobile home a lick of paint, they hit the road in March 2019.

“That was one of the best days of our lives," he said.

“It was something we'd been dreaming about for so long. It was an amazing feeling that it was finally happening."

Hope and James' camper van (Collect/ PA Real Life)

With no set plan, the young couple “winged it," spending months camping in the wild.

And while Peacock initially found it a little scary, James adored being able to park up wherever he wanted and fall asleep listening to the sounds of nature.

After journeying through France, they headed to Spain, and then the Algarve, Portugal's southernmost region, before venturing on to Switzerland.

“Switzerland was amazing. We stayed on top of these mountains that were covered in snow," she said.

“But it was boiling – we were surrounded by snow, but we were wearing shorts and t-shirts."

After a week in the mountains, they took off to Spain again before driving to Italy and then France.

Hope and James' campervan (Collect/ PA Real Life)

In July, they decided to treat themselves to a nine-day stay at a resort in Benidorm, Spain, as a welcome break from the constant traveling.

“It was like a holiday within a holiday," Hunter said.

Then, having enjoyed the Algarve so much before, they headed back there for nine weeks – deciding to spend the summer by the sea. Next, they explored eastern Europe, covering Slovenia, Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and the Netherlands.

Hope and James' campervan (Collect/ PA Real Life)

Despite having been on the road for more than a year, they rarely miss home.

“Sometimes, when the weather is a little colder and its dark, I get home sick," she said.

“But we FaceTime our families and get it out of our systems."

Before and after pictures of Hope and James' campervan (Collect/ PA Real Life)

In December 2019, the pair came back to the UK to see their loved ones for Christmas planning only to stay a short while so they could make some cash to fund the next stint of their travels.

But then, when the pandemic hit earlier this year and a nationwide lockdown was enforced, their plans were bought to a sudden halt.

However, they have found a silver lining by using the time to become online entrepreneurs, meaning they can earn money indefinitely whilst on the road, and will not be under any pressure to return before they are ready once they set off again.

Hope and James in their camper van (Collect/ PA Real Life)

“We work with brands to market products on social media, and if we sell them, we get a commission," she explains.

“It's brilliant because now we can work from wherever we are in the world."

“We want to get back to traveling Europe as soon as it's safe and possible."

Hope and James in the sea (Collect/ PA Real Life)

“We've not made any plans – we're happy just to go wherever the camper van takes us," she said.

By sharing his story, he is keen to encourage other people who are disillusioned with the nine to five to take a risk, like he and Peacock did.

“We're so glad we took that leap of faith and just did it – it's given us amazing new experiences and completely transformed our outlook on life," he said.

Inside the couple's campervan (Collect/ PA Real Life)

“To anyone thinking about doing it I say stop thinking about it, just set a date and make it happen," he concluded.

“We did – and it's the best decision we've ever made."

To find out more visit Instagram: @couple_in_a_camper