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The Little Things of Van Life

by Lottie Lewis (@lotlewis)

I met Lottie a couple of years ago, the sister of one of my very best friends back in Cornwall. Since I started at Growing Happy in September last year, I've been itching to share Lottie's experiences of living more minimally, in a rolling home; roaming around, falling into the next adventure, with fewer possessions, and a much greater appreciation for the good and the simple things in life. That nomadic, minimalist lifestyle is something that this modern world, I believe, craves at the moment. I hope that this small insight can inspire you to consider what you really 'need' and what really makes you happy. It certainly did for me.

"Who’d have thought we could fit all the belongings of two people and a dog into an ex-South West Water van? It may need to be seen to be believed, but we have all we could ever need (and more!) tucked inside our panel van"

Craig Shirley OCD Specialist

Image by David Gray (@dgray76dc)

The Little Things of Van Life

The decision to live in a van full time was made exceptionally lightly for such a lifestyle shift. I was a pint or two down, so was Charlie, he called me, we got a bit over excited about the whole idea and decided to stop talking about it and just go for it. At around the same time, I decided to quit my job and branch out as a freelance writer, so the prospect of no rent or bills was also a hugely contributing factor… Luckily we are both pretty easily pleased, and my dog is happy whenever she is with me, so we knew van life would more or less suit us down to the ground.

From a work van to a home on wheels, Charlie worked tirelessly (and I followed him round with a paintbrush asking how I could help) for 6 weeks or so, before he finally declared moving day. Who’d have thought we could fit all the belongings of two people and a dog into an ex-South West Water van? It may need to be seen to be believed, but we have all we could ever need (and more!) tucked inside our panel van; a double bed, a little kitchen, smart clothes for meetings, grubby ones for side hustles, jumpers and blankets, food and water, dog bed, Charlie’s art supplies and tools, my laptop and books (so many books), trinkets from travels, photos and postcards, all with their own special place.

Image by Steph Rogers (@stephaniezoerogers)

Instagram would have you believe that van life is absolutely rosey and super sexy. It’s all tanned legs and beers at dusk and lounging around on bright white sheets overlooking sun drenched beaches. And some days it does feel like that; days when Charlie goes fishing after work and brings home fresh mackerel, foraging for mushrooms and samphire, golden surfs at sunset on glorious autumn days, my dog, Nica, rolling around in the grass on the clifftops, no one around except us and the seals in the bay and the gulls wheeling overhead. Some days I sit at the little table that pulls out from below the bed, books spread around me, writing about the things that set my heart on fire, the morning light filtering in through the windscreen, coffee bubbling away on the hob. Friends popping by on their daily dog walks, crystal clear, cold water dips after lunch. Charlie painting or drawing whilst I cook warming stews from fresh veggies and local meat.

Image by Ben Battell (@benbattell)

In reality, if you live in a van full time in England, you spend the majority of your time exceptionally damp. You never dry off. Your hair, wetsuit and towels are permanently soggy. Nica is practically always wet because, more often than not, it’s raining. You eat pasta for 5 meals a week. You have no choice but to constantly do your dishes (urgh) or the mess is unbearable. The windscreen is always steamed up when you need to be somewhere in a hurry. Sometimes, when you’re driving, things come crashing down in the back where you didn’t put them away properly. Things spill and break and explode. Oh my god, some nights are cold - no amount of blankets will keep your nose warm. Even if you wipe your feet before getting in, the floor is always somehow muddy. Storms shake your little home and the rain hammers on the tin roof all night long.

Sometimes it’s a dream, sometimes it’s just life - living in a van has its ups and downs. There’s laughter and there’s tears. Sometimes we are parked down a muddy lane, sometimes we pull up on the mountainside in the Swiss alps. Sometimes I’m wild swimming at a secluded cove in Cornwall, sometimes it’s hammering it down with rain, dark and windy, and I need a wee. Sometimes it’s hard, but most of the time I feel incredibly lucky to live in a van.

If van life has taught me anything, it’s patience (I was well overdue a lesson in patience) and that I don’t need a lot to be happy. All the things that make me smile are tucked inside our rolling home - Charlie, Nica, green tea, surfboards, fresh air and fluffy socks. Sometimes I’m even graced with the presence of my little sisters - which leaves me beaming. I may have had to part with many sequinned dresses and see my cute going-out shoes grow mould, but I quickly learnt that it’s purely the simple things in life that bring me joy.

Written By Lottie Lewis (@lotlewis)

Not only can Lottie tell you all there is to know about living on wheels; she also creates the most beautiful content and copywriting for small businesses, as well as proofreading services for foreign brands. To find out more and to get in touch with the lovely Lottie head to or drop her a message on instagram (@lotlewis)


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