lifestyle

Couple save thousands a month by quitting renting in London to tour the UK’s national parks in a minibus


Charlie and Josh ditched London and haven’t looked back: PA Real Life)

After meeting online in 2018, graphic designers Charlie Osman, 28, and Josh Akhtar, 29, were living the dream.

The pair were making enough money to rent a £1,600 a month flat together in the shadow of London’s Tower Bridge, giving them access to full-on city life.

But they weren’t happy.

Rather than enjoying the hustle and bustle, Charlie and Josh dreamt of living in a campervan.

So in October 2020, they decided to take the plunge.

The couple bought a 2001 Volkswagen T4 van for £2,000 to do up for a big adventure, then in January, they quit their jobs and ditched their London flat, with a plan to travel around Europe.

They’re not only far happier now they’re living life on the road, but are also saving a load of money, cutting their monthly outgoings from over £3,500 to £250.

Now freelancing from a work station in their van on just three days a week, they are earning less but saving more.

The couple, who met online in 2018, both dreamed of buying a caravan and hitting the road (Picture: PA Real Life)

‘Life is richer this way and we love it,’ said Charlie.

‘We already lived in a studio flat, so we thought there wouldn’t be a huge difference living in a bus.

‘Our life in London sort of flatlined, it was almost too easy. I think the highs and lows of living on the road really add something.

‘I mentioned that I wanted a campervan and Josh was instantly excited, as he also dreamed of getting one.

‘I think at the time it was a bit weird for our friends that we just wanted to get a campervan and drive away, but we’re really outdoorsy people.’



Monthly cost breakdown

Josh and Charlie say they’ve been able to save a load of money by embracing van life.

Here’s a breakdown of their monthly outgoings before and after moving into the van:

In London:

  • Rent: £1,600
  • Council Tax: £150
  • Electric and Gas: £70
  • Food: £500
  • Travel: £200
  • Treats and socialising: £500 each
  • Wifi: £50
  • Total: £3,570

In the van:

  • Gas: £6.66
  • Wifi: £20
  • Campsite twice a week: £80
  • Diesel: £140
  • Water: £10
  • Electric: £10 (got a five year battery that provides day round electrics but comes to about £10 per month for the five years)
  • Total: £266.66 per month
They bought a van and spent lockdown transforming it into the perfect home on wheels (Picture: PA Real Life)

The move was prompted in part by the realisation the couple may never be able to buy a house in London.

Doing up a caravan seemed like a great alternative.

Sadly, when Covid hit the pair had to ask for their jobs back and put their plans on pause, but they kept looking forward to hitting the road.

In May 2020 they bought a £4,500 2006 Mercedes-Benz Vario 614D minibus in Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset, and began renovating the eight-metre vehicle ready for them to travel the world when the pandemic ended.

Despite the van renovations being nowhere near complete, Charlie and Josh were determined to hit the road, so set off to Falmouth in Cornwall in October 2020 as planned.

Hitting the road before renovations were complete was a real learning curve (Picture: PA Real Life)

‘It rained for the first three months in Falmouth,’ remembered Charlie. ‘We had moments where we just thought, “What are we doing?” It was really hard in the cold weather.

‘But it made us determined to get the van finished. We had the basics, like a bed but we didn’t have a shower, we had to shower outside every night.

‘And, over the next seven months, we freelanced in our usual profession for three days a week and then worked on the van until it came together – finishing everything in May 2021. Now it really feels like home.’

Honing their DIY skills, the couple fitted a working bathroom, complete with toilet and shower, a double bed and even a kitchen, creating a luxurious home on wheels in the minibus – spending roughly £15,500 on renovations.

The van now has a double bed, a kitchen, and a full bathroom (Picture: PA Real Life)
Living in London prepped the pair for a compact space (Picture: PA Real Life)
The couple say they save thousands on their monthly expenses, too (Picture: PA Real Life)

‘It’s really luxurious compared to other vans. We’ve got instant hot water and we’ve got quite a large amount of fresh water,’ said Charlie.

‘We’ve got a full-size double bed with a normal household mattress on. We’ve got an oven or grill and a two-burner hob.

‘Our fridge in the bus is much bigger than our fridge was in the studio flat in London. I think people wonder how we can live in such a small space, but we were already used to compact living.’

The pair have now taken on a challenge to travel through each of the UK’s 15 national parks (Picture: PA Real Life)

As they began to rack up followers on Instagram and YouTube, the couple were spotted by sportswear brand Columbia, who agreed to sponsor them if they completed a challenge to travel around all of the UK’s 15 national parks in their van.

They began on May 28, working their way clockwise from Falmouth to Dartmoor, Exmoor, the Brecon Beacons, Pembrokeshire Coast, Snowdonia, and the Peak District, and plan to complete the task by September this year.

And they’re loving life so much that they want to encourage other people to give caravans a go.

‘Our life is no longer flatlining and we get so much enjoyment out of every day,’ said Charlie.

They plan to go to Portugal once their mission is complete (Picture: PA Real Life)

‘Of course, there are moments where you miss living in a house, like when you have to remove the toilet waste, or sort out the bins.

‘But there are amazing moments that we would never get working in London. We get a to kite surf after work, while sunset hour is amazing. We have a beer on our roof deck and watch the sunset.

‘I would definitely say if you fancy van life then go for it. Just get a camper for a few weeks and see how it goes.’

Josh added: ‘It got to the point in London where everything just flatlined.

Charlie and Josh encourage others to give van life a go (Picture: PA Real Life)

‘We’d go to work in the dark, sit in an office with no natural light and then come home in the dark. It was just the same all the time and so easy. I also think to live in London you need deep pockets to enjoy it.

‘Since moving to the van everything has peaks and troughs. You have these amazing moments coupled with terrible moments. But it makes it all much more exciting.

‘We’re so grateful for this challenge, we’ve seen parts of the UK we didn’t even know about and its been such an amazing experience for us both.’



Charlie and Josh’s top tips for van life

  • Rent a camper first
  • Think carefully about what you want in your camper
  • Get creative – it is your space, so make it into what you want
  • Have good hiking gear – boots and a backpack are a must in English weather

To find out more about the couple’s travels go to Wandering Home.

Do you have a story to share?

Get in touch by emailing MetroLifestyleTeam@Metro.co.uk.


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