A couple who moved out of their rented flat in favour of living in a converted van have found themselves unable to travel thanks to rising fuel prices.
Marie-Laure Parsy Szikola, 35, from Edinburgh, Scotland, found herself itching to travel after moving back home due to the pandemic.
She pitched the idea of living in a van to her fiancé, Alan, 34 – who had already experienced this way of living before – in order to see the world from the comfort of their own travelling home.
The duo, who were living in a small flat at the time, had enough money saved to purchase a Mercedes Vario 614d minibus for £50,000 in July 2021, which they called ‘Blue.’
“As experienced trekkers and overall outdoor enthusiasts, we wanted a life that gave us freedom to find a place to hike, climb or kayak and just go,” Marie told Jam Press.
“For someone with an adventurous background, staying indoors was a real challenge and I felt it truly impacted my well-being – both mentally and physically.
“I got furloughed and the lack of mental stimulation didn’t help at all. I wanted a way of life that would be more engaging than the mainstream: job, commute, flat.”
So far, they have travelled across Scotland and often visit the west coast and islands.
But they have found themselves unable to fully satisfy their wanderlust and travel across the world so far – with the rising cost of living and fuel prices a contributing factor.
Marie said: “With fuel prices being so high at the moment, there’s more importance than having a constant adventure.
“Obviously the idea of being non-stop on the road is appealing, but the certainty that comes from a regular income is important.”
But the couple are still managing to save plenty of money thanks to their unique way of life.
Living in the van is saving them an estimated £1,200 a month in rent and between £180-200 in council tax and bills.
They spend £15 a week on water disposal and water but are largely self-reliant – with electricity generated from solar panels in the van.
Despite being limited to the local area for now, the couple have still managed to turn their unusual abode into a home.
Although the bus was already converted, the couple added their own touch by replacing the handles for £40 and the original colour scheme for £20.
She said: “The previous owners of the bus already did a superb job by converting it using wood and carving details all around.
“We love detail and our work is more an add-on with different paint schemes, hardware and soft furnishings.
“The bus is a canvas of our lives and we are trying to craft the bus so that every corner reflects a part of our personalities and tastes.”
In total, they have spent £100 making the vehicle feel like home and managed to keep costs low by re-using decor from their previous flat.
For now, despite their lack of travel plans, the adventurous couple have no plans to return to rented accommodation.
Marie said: “Van life makes you feel independent and more confident in yourself as it forces you to deal with breakdowns, climate and nature.
“You feel more engaged with your life and in a sense, more in control. It’s helped me to re-find a path and series of goals when my life hit a standstill.
“[The positives about this way of life] is a sense of freedom, which is met by daily challenges.
“Everything can and will break in a van, but patience, a good dose of humour and the ability to learn quickly will turn hassles into fun.
“It doesn’t need to be full-on straight away to be enjoyable and it can be done on a wide range of budgets.
“Everybody on the road has their own story and reasons to take this way of life, but I would advise anyone to start by hiring a van first for a weekend or short holiday.
“Get the feel for it first and if you decide to take the step, always make sure you know where your next pay check will come from.
“A vehicle does break more often than a house and bills can rapidly pile up.
“Travel slowly and take time to explore the mountains – it feels great not to feel rushed to reach the next destination.”