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Couple Ditches The 9 to 5 Lifestyle To Travel Europe In A Blinged-Out Van

Couple Ditches The 9 to 5 Lifestyle To Travel Europe In A Blinged-Out Van
Harriet and Josh (PA Real Life/Collect)

This couple is revving up for their next adventure in a van fit for any traveler.

Harriet Evans and Josh Wycherley met seven years ago working at an adventure camp in Hindhead, UK.

Now, they found even this unconventional nine-to-five restricting and longed for a life on the open road.

At the end of 2018, they bought a van from classified advertisement site Gumtree. Spending six months and “bits and bobs" of money transforming it into a mobile home, they hit the road in May 2019 and visiting 18 countries.

In August 2019, they traded it in for their current bigger and better model, taking odd jobs to save up, with the intention of driving off again in April.

Nothing will hold this go-getting couple back for long, though.

“Josh and I are at the age now where a lot of our friends are settling down, having children and getting mortgages, so there is part of us that sometimes thinks, 'Are we doing the right thing?'"Evans said.

“But the amazing freedom that comes with van life far outweighs that. Aside from right now, while traveling is on pause, we can go anywhere we like. If we don't like somewhere, we simply move on, or change direction. There's something about waking up every day without a plan that's really liberating."

Harriet and Josh (PA Real Life/Collect)

Evans and Wycherley first met back in 2013, after landing jobs at PGL, an adventure camp specializing in school trips, activity holidays and outdoor education, requiring employees to live at the Surrey centre.

Spending a lot of time together, they forged a tight bond and soon became a couple.

While they loved their active jobs, they still had itchy feet to create an adventure of their own.

Harriet and Josh in Slovakia (PA Real Life/Collect)

“After a few years, we just thought, 'What are we doing?'" Wycherley said.

“No disrespect to anybody that wants to work and doesn't prioritize travel, but we wanted to get out there and see the world. We thought there must be more to life than the daily grind."

So, in 2018, they took the plunge and bought a van to travel the world in.

Harriet and Josh's first van once it had been renovated (PA Real Life/Collect)

Wycherley already had a vehicle, but it was too small to adapt into a home, so they traded it in for a better model they had customized it to fit their needs.

“It was like a little red Postman Pat van," he explained. “The guy advertising the van we got needed one like mine, so it worked out really well. We pretty much just swapped vehicles."

To save up for their trip, they continue to work at PGL while slowly renovating their Volkswagen Transporter van over a six month period, until they had turned it into a fully-fledged home on wheels.

Harriet and Josh at Lake Garda, Italy (PA Real Life/Collect)

“We had no idea what we were doing to start with. I'm not sure what we spent on the renovation, because it was little bits of money here and there," Evans said.

“We watched a lot of YouTube and Instagram videos to teach us how to install everything. We also found a whole community of other van dwellers online who we never knew existed. Everyone was so helpful."

Doing everything themselves, the pair fitted the vehicle with a double bed, a kitchenette, fridge, and several cupboards for storage.

Harriet and Josh in Germany (PA Real Life/Collect)

In May 2019, they quit their jobs and set off on their epic journey.

“We'd travelled before, but never anything like this. We were used to staying in hotels and hostels, but suddenly, everything we had fitted into one van," Evans continued.

“It was quite a scary feeling – scary, but exciting. Getting used to the practicalities and logistics of the space and where to put everything took a while, too."

Harriet and Josh's second van pre-renovation (PA Real Life/Collect)

But Wycherley admits that his excitement was tempered by some trepidation.

“It was so exciting leading up to setting off, but when we actually went, it was strangely daunting at first," he said.

“We'd gone from lives of routine, waking up at the same time every day, going to work, then coming home to the same evenings, to having no real plan. We would just drive along and stop if we liked the look of somewhere."

Harriet and Josh's second van once it had been renovated (PA Real Life/Collect)

After catching the ferry over to France, Wycherley and Evans then drove through Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Lichtenstein, San Marino, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Poland and Italy.

“Slovenia was one of our highlights. We didn't know much about it, but it's a beautiful country," Evans said.

“We were there for my birthday and went kayaking on Lake Bled. It was such an unexpected gem."

Harriet and Josh's second van once it had been renovated (PA Real Life/Collect)

Croatia also stood out as a jewel of their travels to Josh.

“We loved Croatia. We'd been through a lot of inland Europe and wanted to see some beaches, so were thrilled to make our way down there," Wycherley said.

“We got a boat and went out onto the crystal clear seas, had some beers in the sun and went swimming. People think of living in your van as just trying to survive each day, but it's not like that at all, it's utter freedom."

Harriet and Josh's second van once it had been renovated (PA Real Life/Collect)

Originally, the couple had planned to be on the road for six months, but disaster struck after just three. They broke down at the side of a motorway in need of a new engine.

But, luckily, their insurance covered their flights back to the UK and the cost of having their van repatriated once it had been fixed.

Harriet, Josh and Hudson (PA Real Life/Collect)

So, they carried out some more repairs on the vehicle before deciding to sell it.

“We already knew that we wanted to trade it in for something a little bigger, so we had more room to make things more luxurious," said Wycherley.

“We loved that first van, but it was just too small. It was gutting to break down and have to come home early, but this was our way of turning a bad situation into a good one."

“We had some money left in our travel pot, as we'd saved for six months but only been away for three, so we used that to both fix up the old van and buy a new one."

Josh and Hudson (PA Real Life/Collect)

In September 2019 they spent $3,100 on a Vauxhall Movano, which they named Monty and transformed in just four weeks. Fitting a wooden seating area that flattened to become a double bed, a kitchenette complete with a stove and fridge and a sink, shower and toilet.

Unlike the earlier van, Monty also has air con and a heater, built-in WiFi and even a projector screen.

They took on odd jobs to save funds.

Harriet and Josh's second van once it had been renovated (PA Real Life/Collect)

“The renovation cost us about £4,500 in total. We kept a spreadsheet of all our costs, as it's easy to get carried away," Evans said.

“But that was for absolutely everything we needed to make the van our home from home. It has a lot more creature comforts than our first van, and is decorated and designed exactly how we want it."

In March, the pair even got a puppy, Hudson, to join them on the road and were planning to set off in April.

Hudson posing outside the van (PA Real Life/Collect)

Now, as they wait for various borders to reopen and for travel to be deemed safe, they are staying in Telford, Shropshire, where Wycherley is working in a warehouse and Evans is tweaking the van to maximize their storage space.

Wycherley cannot wait to be given the green light to go.

“The main challenges of van life are simply the practicalities – where do you camp, where do you find fuel, where can you refill your water tank and stock up on food?" he said.

“But the memories we have made are unforgettable and we've met people along the way that will be friends for life. People are often interested in the van and ask questions about how comfortable it is, but it is genuinely better equipped than some places I've lived in."

Harriet, Josh and Hudson (PA Real Life/Collect)

“It's got it all – WiFi, a bed, a shower and toilet and even a projector. We can literally lounge on the sofa and watch Netflix on the beach," he said.

And Evans does not miss the creature comforts of conventional living for one second.

“Renovating the van and hitting the road was a leap of faith, but it's the best thing Josh and I have ever done," she said.

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