The past three weeks have been a real blur for us - life always has a tendency to throw everything at you at once. It has been a long road, the rebuild was a truly daunting task. We knew that at the end of it we would be getting back to the life that we both love so much. We started stripping the van 3 months ago. Since then it has gone through various states. Looking extremely sorry for itself, piles of rusty panels brutally cut from it. Doors off, glass taken out. To new solid metal, primer and finally to gleaming fresh paint.
As an end to the extensive bodywork neared we started work on re fitting our interior. We both found taking the interior out of the van a horrible experience. Yes it was for a good cause but the rolling home and its contents looked so alien separated from one another. We stored the wooden interior in our small studio space whilst the refurb was under way. Before the bed and cabinets could be refitted we tasked ourselves with rewiring, sound deadening and improving our insulation. We chose a layer of 25mm Celetex style closed cell foam sheets, covered with a layer of foil backed bubble wrap insulation. Making a air tight barrier that wouldn't retain moisture from condensation. Our beloved porthole window had begun to leak in heavy rain due to the rotating part not sealing properly. After some deliberation we chose to replace the semi circle glass with a single toughened piece. Making the van more secure and water tight. We upgraded all of the 12v wiring and added an extra fuse box for safety. Having the seats and cab mat out meant that we could run all of the new wiring through the cab, making it neater and away from harm. I also brought through 2x extra feeds from the leisure battery for the future additions of a 12v compressor fridge and Eberspacher D2 diesel heater. We had hoped to have these in before we left but by this point the budget was all but gone.
We re ply lined the walls with 5mm ply in place of the original 3mm. This gave us a better base to fix our interior to. It was harder to wrestle into place but worth it in the end. I would lay in our pull out bed over the years and look at the little bits I wish I had taken extra care on when we first converted our van. Where the original carpet met the rear doors was always messy in my opinion, so when it came to re carpeting we took our time. The both of us (a little high from the high temp spray glue) inch by inch smoothing out the cord carpet across the new ply walls. We use the cheap foam backed cord carpet from Carpet Right here in the UK. It is a bit harder to work with than the flexible campervan specific carpet. However we think it gives a better finish and we love the cord, plus the price difference is significant!
The only part of the interior that we completely rebuilt was the rear bed unit. Over time it had become tired and a little wobbly. I rebuilt the frame from thicker timber and added a pull out drawer on heavyweight runners. The perfect place to store our tools and levelling ramps.
Refitting the freshly painted hightop was a job that we dreaded, in practice it simply glues on. But in reality you get one chance to place it on to the large bead of body sealer. This stuff is seriously messy and takes a long time to clean up. We masked the sides of the van and with some help from our friends on the farm we managed to place it right first time. Next came our new hightop windows. We opted for the Seitz S4 windows with built in blinds and fly nets. They were a little pricey but being that our old ones leaked we had to bite the bullet.
The new tailgate painted and on, in place of our old barn doors gives us a dry area when it rains and extra shade when the suns out. It took a while to find a suitable tailgate, there are loads for sale but most are seriously rusted through. Luckily we tracked down a solid door and after a lick of paint you would never know.
The plan for the week before our departure to be one of relaxed tinkering, finishing off the last bits of the rolling home shaped puzzle, seeing friends and packing up our small lives into a few boxes - far from it! We had moved out of the static caravan on the farm 3 weeks prior. Our small rented studio space became our temporary home until we left. We had built a 1/4 mezzanine up in the roof for storage, this became our bedroom, and very cosy it was too. We had already given away so many of our possessions to charity and the remainder was destined for the local dump. Left with a handful of boxes, we stored these up on the mezzanine the day before we left. We had successfully thrown off the confines of 'normal life' that had begun to weigh us down. The van rolled out of the workshop for the last time and I was faced with a dream realised. I wished the me of 6 years prior could have seen the van the way it looks now. Proud and significant in its new paint and mended bodywork. Free from the rot that threatened its ability to take us to the places we yearned for. All the hard work was worth it.....
Now with The Rolling Home drivable, we spent the friday evening filling the drawers and cupboards with everything we would need over the coming months. Clothes for all seasons, pots, pans cutlery etc. This should have been the honeymoon stage of the rebuild but we were both so exhausted and emotionally drained. Transitioning your life from one path to another is an intense experience. We had to remind ourselves why we were doing this, but a small part of all of us fears walking away from our comfort zones. The ones that build up inside us quicker than we realise. The farm had become our home in the UK. We had so many unforgettable times their, surrounded by our best friends, but that time was passing. We locked up our studio, said goodbye to the Loake family who had been our hosts the past 8 months and jumped back in to our Rolling Home. Freshly painted, solid and like us itching to head out on to the open road.
We have been asked by friends and family on many occasions over the last few weeks- what is your plan? Well honestly we don't have one, and what a liberating thing that is. To not have a return date, or a final destination. We have moved back into our rolling home; permanently. No fixed abode, no monthly bills and no rent! As I type this we are near Poitiers in France. We have stopped at Lauren's parents house for a week after a few days visiting family in Cornwall before we left the UK. We hope to be able to sustain ourselves by selling our book and products, taking on small freelance jobs and spending as little as possible. We have gone through so many stages with our business over the past few years and this form of it feels like the most fulfilling for both of us. Sharing things we are proud of that may go on to inspire others.
We are living on cloud nine and cant wait to share the next few months or maybe years with you all. In the next few weeks we are heading down through the Dordogne to the South West. After that it will be our favourite spots throughout Spain and on to Portugal. We will be sharing our location on our social channels- If you are in Europe or nearby and would like to meet please send us an email. We want to share the road with as many fellow van dwellers as possible!
Whilst we are on the road we are still sending orders from our online store with some help from our friends back in the UK. If you would like to support us please order a copy of our book or other products from our online store. Worldwide shipping is available!
We have to end by thanking everyone who has helped us out, everyone back on the farm that made us so welcome, lent us tools and knowledge. Shane and Gavin of S Brooker Restorations who completed the bulk of the rebuild. Thank you for letting us use the workshop all hours and for being so patient with the van.