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How Tinder made me fall in love with van life

I’m here to tell you about my journey, as a single woman who built a micro camper and entered van life mid-2021.  

Rose Churchill on Van Life Matters
Rose Churchill, Van Life Matters columnist.

My story begins on Tinder – yes, the online dating site – I met a guy who had a campervan which I thought was pretty cool.

The same dream had always lingered at the back of my mind but I had assumed it would be too expensive to ever be reality.

He had a quirky, DIY T5 and he taught me that building a camper van does not need to break the bank.

I was besotted with the van, and quickly came around to the idea that I could actually do this.

Three months later I purchased my own Volkswagen Caddy.

She was completely empty, a panel van used for the plumbing industry.

I was excited and ready to build my own weekend-home-on-wheels. 

I took most of my inspiration from van lifers on Instagram and YouTube and quite frankly, stole, many ideas from my Tinder acquaintance!

The first thing I will say is it’s absolutely doable.

“In the past I perceived camper-vanning to be a somewhat solitary, quiet pastime, but I have experienced the exact opposite”

I spent £3,000 on the Caddy itself (and that was with ramped-up Covid prices!).

She’s nothing special, 18 years of age, standard body kit, short wheel base and painted common white.

The conversion itself cost no more than £500.

The tools I needed were mostly borrowed from the garage of Dad and I did all of it, from insulation and carpeting to designing and making a bed.

I picked up everything free or second hand and recycled the ply panels that I could.

I loved the building process and after months of finally putting my woodwork GCSE to good use, we (my camper and I) took our maiden voyage to Portland, Weymouth, UK. 

When it comes to actually camping, I can’t deny that I feel a degree of vulnerability camping alone.

I initially found it hard to relax as a single female camper which surprised me as I am fairly outgoing and confident.

Of course, I can only speak of my own experience.

I have searched extensively for advice and come across some amazing women with creative ideas about staying safe whilst camping, so I want to encourage anyone who feels the same to engage with communities online for advice and support (for me this is mostly Facebook groups).

In the past I perceived camper-vanning to be a somewhat solitary, quiet pastime, but I have experienced the exact opposite.

Being a 30-something-year-old, I typically decided to blog my build on Instagram.

Within the year I gained over 1200 followers, which, for a random girl in the middle of Gloucestershire with very little travel experience, seemed quite strange.

It also reflects what an amazing, supportive community this is. 

“Meeting new people has been the best thing about it”

I gained many ‘real life’ friends too and was invited to various van meets, shows and festivals.

Meeting new people has been the best thing about it, for me, especially after the isolated few years we’ve all just been through.

It’s fair to say that my experience of campervan life can only be described as ‘modern’ with social media and online connections playing such a big part in my story.

‘Modern’ camper-vanning also means I’m joining this lifestyle just as things are getting harder for us… but perhaps I can talk about that another time.

Hopefully I’ll catch you on the road, on the ‘gram, or through the pages of Van Life Matters sometime this year.

I can be found @rosie_on.the_road for anyone who may be interested.

Safe travels.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the Van Life Matters newsletter to stay up-to-date with the latest UK Van Life news, tips and advice.

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