Longtime lurker, first time poster, I'm also a vandog. Before I share my experiences, a little background. I did have an account way back in 2004, when I owned a London home and was planning a big jump up the "ladder", that would've involved major mortgage, debt and lifestyle change. Things seemed wrong with the UK and housing, even back then, so I began researching and ended up concluding that sites like hpc.co.UK, greenednergyinvestors, zerohedge, ftalpha, notayesmanseconomics, others, confirmed my gut feelings. At the same time, job opportunities in SoCal turned up so I left UK PLC and jumped straight into negative equity anyway over there.
I never believed the UK political system would trash the UK economy with money printing, zero interest rates, tax payer funded props to hold together the housing market with sticky tape and string but boy was I wrong! For one reason and another, I came back two years ago, managed to get out of housing negative equity, just, but did make a bit of money in the SoCal tech industry so thankfully not pennyless. Point being, today feels exactly to me like 2006-7 did in the UK in terms of property and economy but who knows. I thought back then collapse was inevitable, so get out the UK, I thought. I didn't see serfdom as an alternative but that's kind of what I see on the horizon, instead of economic rationalisation. Serfdom is maybe not the word I should choose but the sentiment is in that general direction. More "brave new world" than "1984". I can't see how the debt levels and exponential mortgages can continue but I was spectacularly wrong last time, so what do I know.
Anyways, back to vans, one of the reasons I don't really care about property much nowadays. Whilst in America, I used to have to travel up and down the west coast on site visits for a week or two. The american guys I worked with all used to own RVs or campervans (some the size of a London bus!) that they used for working away from home. So that's how I got into vans. Intact, before I left the US, I spent six months just touring around the west coast and desert states, ending up in Florida. One of the best experiences of my life, tbh.
When I came back to the UK, I just couldn't bear the thought of buying into the crazy prices around London, where I come a lot for work, so I bought a " stealth" van and a wooden 3 bed cabin in Devon for very little money (that allows 12 month occupancy). I spend my time between the two. I rent a small workshop and storage unit on the edge of london, in a green leafy area with direct trains into town and not far to tubes. There is a connected car park next to the offices/studios that is really a residential street with permits but with no houses around except at either end, with CCTV around and security in the business development. Parking permit and storage/studio space is £160 per month. Van is always safe in parking area, 24 hour access to studio/storage that has shower, kitchen facilities, etc. I have water, gas and electric in the van but only ever sleep there, cook and wash in the building.
Van is a cult Japanese model with limo black windows. Press your face against the glass, you see nothing, even with lights on inside, but I can see out perfectly. Fully felt lined with soft furnishings, gas central heater costs about £250 per year to be toasty warm. Last winter in the snow, I was sitting inside my van watching TV in shorts and T-shirt, looking at a blanket of snow outside. Dual sunroofs so I can look up at the stars at night or the morning sunrise.Vans are great once you get solar panelling (mine is "invisible", foldups inside the sunroofs) and also slimline roof turbines (about the size of soup bowls, you don't notice them even!) to generate power for your leisure batteries and lithium power packs for charging phones, laptops, fridge, vacs, aircon fans during day, to air van. Cost me around 3000 quid, super reliable. Place in Devon costs 25k not far from sea. Monthly studio and storage space around 160 per month. I save around 80% of my money each month and that includes eating out a lot and disappearing to Florida for 6 weeks in winter.
Life feels very relaxed. Infact, Sunday pub lunch with a mate few weeks ago, we got chatting to some women and the question of age came up. They guessed my age around 32-35, one said maybe I was older but looked young for my age. I had to show my drivers license to them to prove I am actually 51! Back in 2004, struggling on a big mortgage in London and contemplating a much bigger one, I usually had people putting me 10+ years older than I was then! I enjoy van life and my cabin nowadays, as well as the life experiences in the US, even if I had doubled down on debt in 2004, I would probably be nearly retired now with the equity I would have built up. But hey-ho, life feels good now in this form, I come and go as I like and don't have any stress.