Something happened when we finally moved into our house in 2016, we realised there was something missing from our lives, a van.

We had a sensible car, a Citroen Picasso, and we loved it. It was very low cost, very economical and also comfortable to drive. Too comfortable possibly, maybe a bit dull. So we decided to buy something a little more exciting, a VW Transporter. Check out the picture of Phil in the van, he looks so happy!

Phil in the van

There was plenty of vans to choose from, work vans, converted campers and crazy chromed up lowered suspension racing wannabes with neon lights, well maybe not. We decided on a more basic but none the less very good Highline model with relatively low mileage and now we’re looking to adapt it for our needs. Disco lights and a glitter ball may be added inside at a later date!

I didn’t realise this but when you buy a VW Transporter you’re actually joining a club. A club I didn’t know existed but yes it happens, people do actually wave at you from their vans while you’re driving around. The first time it happened I thought I might know the driver and waved back instinctively just in case, but it happens a lot.

We went on our very first camping trip all the way to Kent for a wedding, which took us literally hours through miles of traffic issues. We should have arrived about 7pm on the Friday night, but due to the traffic got there well after 11pm to find the barrier to the site was down. They close it after 11pm to avoid disturbing other campers – which was fair enough! Fortunately there was a small car park a little further up the road, so we just parked up and bedded down there for the first night. It was a bit of a squeeze with the back seats still in place, but entirely doable! Thankfully we’re both only 5’6″.

On the second night we were able to completely remove the back seats and inflate the air beds we had brought with us which fit neatly into the back of the van no problem. It was a good job we had a sheet of tarpaulin with us to cover the seats which we left outside, as there was a massive downpour during the evening!

First night in the van

We knew we wanted to convert the van into a camper but nothing in the magazines we’ve read comes close to what we are looking to do, and we’ve bought a lot of VW publications over the last 12 months for inspiration! Some of those crazy campers take their themes to the extreme and while I love the creativity involved, it might make the van impossible to sell on afterwards, should you wish to. So turning it into a replica A Team van, or the Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo may not be so much of a good idea if you only have it for a couple of years!

Mystery Machine from Scooby Do

We’re looking to create a van that we can travel, sleep in and effectively still use as a van as I’ve got into upcycling furniture. Space for some storage sure, but we’re traveling to experience the outdoors so we have no need for a fitted kitchen, we’ll have a bbq outside. About the only thing we need connected up is a fridge and a kettle – neither of us functions well without coffee in the morning! Plus we’ll stay in camp sites so have no need of washing facilities or a toilet and yes there are some available!

We’ve fitted some curtains and also had the Austop pop top fitted now too, so we can get changed standing up (which will be a relief) and when we go to bed, we can actually sleep on the roof. We could have gone for a rock and roll bed, which expands from the back seats, but it seems the only way to fit one is to replace the floor and put the seats at the back of the van, no good for our needs. Plus passengers will never get to see the scenery while you travel?

We toyed with the idea of creating our own bed which fits neatly over the back seats when folded down, but as we have one in the pop top there is no immediate need right now. Our main focus is insulation and new panels which my husband Phil is expertly cutting to shape from plywood (there was plenty of choice words to be heard from the garage, but I think we’re almost there now). I’m then going to stain and varnish them. Plus we need to fit plugs and new lights – which should be fun!

Phil measuring the panels

Our next trip will probably be a weekend away, so we’ll have a chance to test out sleeping on the roof and work out what storage we need as later in the year when we’ll be spending a full two weeks living the van while we travel across Europe.

We’ll love it or hate it, but either way it will be an adventure.

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