A married couple converted a van into a tiny home to help cut down their rent to keep up with the cost of living.
Becky, and Jack Spencer-Ellis, both 25, were spending £1,500 a month on rented accommodation alone in Cornwall and found themselves living for the weekend with their jobs.
So for just £150 more than their monthly living costs, the pair from Oxfordshire bought a second-hand van for £1,650.
With the help of YouTube videos and without any DIY experience, they converted the van themselves into a tiny home complete with a king-sized bed, toilet and a projector to watch movies – for a total cost of £3,850.
Since moving into their van in January last year, Becky and Jack now only work three days a week and spend their free time travelling Europe with their dog Winnie for the remaining four days of the week.
Data Analyst Jack explains “Since we started travelling, we are definitely spending less than when we were renting a house, back then the bills all came to around two thirds of our monthly take home pay and then the rest of that went towards other things and trying to save for a deposit for a house.
“Now I have been able to work only three days a week instead of five so that we can spend more time travelling and we are still finding we have more left over at the end of the month than we did previously.”
He says that he loves the way their travelling tiny home has given them autonomy over their lives.
Jack says: “For me, it’s been opportunity to travel more and a chance to have more ownership over my week.
“Previously I found that I was living for the weekend, especially during the winter when I drove to and from work in the dark.
“Now we have four days to travel and explore then three days where we slow down a bit so we can work with a view and even then, we always try to go out for a good hour long walk around lunch time.”
Wildlife conservationist and writer Becky says living in a more natural way – otherwise known as “rewilding” – since moving into their van has made the couple happier than ever. Rewilding has also taught them how toxic the 9-5 rat race can be.
Becky explains: “You know that feeling of bliss and joy when you are on holiday and rock pooling or picnicking on the beach or you’ve had a wild swim in the forest? Well, Jack and I kept running out of viable excuses of why we couldn’t live that every single day and started listing why we should.
“Since living a slower life and rewilding, we have found that our minds are able to quieten more easily, we sleep incredibly well, we feel more connected as a couple and we actually have time to do things that make us happy.
“Generally rewilding is about living in a more natural way, so for us that means spending time in nature, wearing more natural fibres, living seasonally and learning environmentally based skills, for example.
“Really importantly, rewilding is about unlearning the harmful societal glamorisation of the hustle, consumerism and the lie that we should have ticked off certain life goals at certain ages.”
Becky and Jack – who have been together for nine years – didn’t always want to live off-grid. But after participating in a turtle conservation project together in Greece and meeting like-minded people there who didn’t live “normally”, they realised that it was possible to pursue an alternative lifestyle in nature.
After lots of research, they bought a van and got to work slowly converting it into a family home for them and their dog Winnie.
They decked their van with a king size bed and a seating area as well as kitchen and bathroom facilities.
Jack explains: “We got the van to a state where we could start travelling in it 18 months after we purchased it, it took this long as I was working full time. Had we not been working, or in a global pandemic, we’d probably have been able to complete the build in 2-3 months.
“We built it with the help of lots of YouTube videos, and Becky’s family helped when needed, otherwise we did it all ourselves.
“Neither of us had done any sort of woodwork since school so there was a lot of trial and error as well but it was a fun journey. We sourced most of the wood from the local timber yard and tried to source everything else as locally as possible.
“Overall the cost probably came to just shy of £5,500 with the van being £1,650, all the electric setup about £1,800, and materials and other items such as the oven and mattress coming to around £2,000.
Obviously there have been other costs like fixing any mechanical issues but this is all stuff you would probably have to pay for your house or car anyway.”
Becky says: “Our tiny home is a cosy, hand-made and slightly wonky homage to nature and our life together, with green everywhere, leafy bunting and hand-made art from our family and friends.
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“We decked it out with a view to travel the south coast of Europe, mostly, so it has a permanent king-sized bed, comfy bench, toilet, oven, sink, outside collapsible shower, screen for our projector, diesel heater, electric cool box and plenty of storage.”
In January this year, Becky and Jack began living part-time in their tiny van home and moved there full-time in September.
Becky and Jack are planning to spend most of next year wild swimming and forest hiking in Europe. The couple’s day-to-day lives revolved around being outside in nature.
Becky explains: “Mornings are slow with breakfast in bed and a short wander with Winnie. Then, on a non-work day, we head off for our little adventure, usually a two hour walk in a forest or along the coast, bringing leftovers with us for lunch.
“We play by the daylight hours so are usually tucked back in the van by 4pm at the moment, have a quick tidy up and entertain ourselves by reading a book, playing with the dog or watching a film on the projector.
“Then we end the evening with dinner, catch up with friends/family or some French lessons online and plan our adventure for the next day!
Becky and Jack document their adventures on their Instagram page @rewilding_our_lives and are passionate on educating others on pursuing an alternative lifestyle.
She says: “Our aims are to live more intentionally; first of all with ourselves, by prioritising mental and physical health by pursuing what makes us happy; second of all with the planet, by buying second hand clothing and living on solar powered electricity.
“If we can live this lifestyle, anyone can, we truly believe that. We’ve tailored van life and travelling to suit us- I live with chronic pain and fatigue so our hikes are shorter and we travel slower than most. But we still get to live in nature, and that is absolute bliss.”