My first ever blog post. Where to begin? It must surely be a question every blogger asks themselves at some point. Once upon a time… hmm. Let’s start at the beginning, seems logical enough.
I’d been employed as a Youth and Community worker for the past 15 years, working for a council in east London. The job was great in many ways, while it lasted, but there were many aspects that simply weren’t so good. The politics were pretty suffocating and although there were some really good people around, there was also a glut of arse-holes. The hierarchy was stacked high with career managers, all cascading their own unique misunderstandings and incompetences down the line to everyone ‘below’ them. More often than not, inspiration and creativity were crushed under the full weight of paranoia and fear, born in the depths of the corporate policy nebulae. Let’s just say it was a pretty uninspiring environment – I’m sure you get the picture. If any of this sounds familiar, you have my sympathies.
Adding to the daily joy was the constant threat of redundancy. Ever since a certain Bullingdon boy and his cronies took the reins in Westminster and promptly set about hacking away at council budgets across the UK, round after round of ‘restructures’ were set in motion, each one with a new group of casualties. The black cloud of potential unemployment hovered tenaciously overhead for more than five years before it finally became concrete reality in 2015.
The obvious questions arise: what the f*ck will I do? Will I find another job in analready saturated market? Or, a little more extreme: How will I survive? Argh! The thought of competing against droves of other unemployed youth workers, to end up in a similar environment, being expected to do ‘more for less’, with longer commutes and lower pay, AND be grateful that I even have a job in the first place, was already providing an answer to the first question for me – I needed to do something else, something very different.
During the long period between knowing I would be made redundant (redundant: such a soul-destroying word anyway, isn’t it?) and actually being unemployed, Mrs Bee was experiencing a similar syphoning of her joie de vivre in her workplace. Poor Mrs Bee was being driven to distraction in a literally suffocating office (the windows can’t be opened), surrounded by a motley crew of career sycophants, back-stabbers and bureaucrats, all aspiring to be the number one psychopath that runs the show. If any of this sounds familiar, you have Mrs Bee’s sympathies.
We were on the same page. We both wanted out. The gravity and the stress of it all was really taking its toll. Situations like these are known to cause serious mental and physical health issues, and we were certainly feeling that. We decided it was time for a change. A big change. A change we could make together. I think I can safely speak for both of us when I say, Mrs Bee and I love being together. We have lots of shared interests and values and we were feeling like two creative hippy souls trapped in a routine of despair. We felt as though we were wasting valuable time being cooped-up in an east London shoe-box – or apartment as they are now commonly known – doing work we didn’t enjoy, in order to pay for the said shoe-box and travel fares, so that we can return to work to earn the money to, well, to perpetuate this dead-end cycle of ennui ad-infinitum.
For a long time we talked, cogitated, researched, argued (yes, it does happen occasionally!) pondered and talked some more. Ideas were formulating. We knew that ‘traditional workplaces’ were making us unhappy and unwell. We knew we wanted to embark on a new enterprise together, utilising our skills and pooling our resources. We also knew we were a bit tired of London. Don’t get me wrong, London is great in many ways, it’s just not the best place for two nature loving hippies who want to live sustainably, get their fingers in the soil and clean air in their lungs (we lived in a corner of the city sandwiched between London City Airport and the relentlessly congested A13). I won’t say that the process of deciding what to do and where to go was easy. Far from it. After all, how do you know where you would like to live and put down roots, unless you have visited some, or lots, of potential places, to see if you actually like them?
It was perhaps with this thought in mind that our grand plan was hatched. On a chilly winter’s evening, watching the jets come down on their approach to City Airport, we decided we should put wheels on our home home and drive it around looking for a place to settle. In other words, we decided to downsize, up-sticks and set off in a campervan on the adventure of a lifetime. So with my job coming to an end and Mrs Bee bravely giving her job its marching orders, we began to start working towards our own personal dream. It was time for me to put what I had been learning as a hobby, web design and development, into practice, with the intention of giving this digital nomading lark a go. It seemed an obvious thing to try, as working online affords us the freedom to make a living on the road. Mrs Bee is a great writer and a translator, as well as being super awesome at strategy and organising, so we figured we could be a fantastic working team as well as bestie soul-mates.
And so far so good. We’re now a couple of weeks into our trip as I write this. The London life is all packed up and left behind (with the help of some amazing family members who very kindly agreed to store some of our boxes of stuff – thanks you guys!). I am now sitting by our little van, surrounded by forest, putting the finishing touches to this post, ready to be uploaded to our fledgling, home-made website and reflecting on how this was all born out of a perfect mix of circumstance, conscious energy, determination, perseverance and love.
We would really love to hear from our readers, so if you have similar plans, or are already #vanlife veterans, or would just like to offer any words of wisdom or support, please do leave a comment below. It’ll be fab to read your views and stories.