Please, introduce yourselves to our readers!
We are Sam and Rachel Dix. We travel full time in our self converted LDV Convoy Minibus with our 2 and a half year old son, Ellis! We’ve been on the road for 2 months and we are currently in Finland, gradually heading South!
When did you both decide that Vanlife was the adventure for you? And how long has it taken to plan?
Travel & adventure has always been a huge part of our lives – we are both pretty intrepid and have always enjoyed being outdoors and exploring new places. We didn’t want that to change once we became Parents! Parenthood also really made us question what was important to us and we became really critical of how our actions tallied to our intentions. We wanted to spend more quality time together. We wanted to live more meaningfully and sustainably. We wanted to be free – outside of modern living. And importantly we wanted Ellis to experience the beauty of the World at a young age so that he could develop his own love and appreciation for Nature. Vanlife just really offered us a means to fulfil our dream – minimal & sustainable travel whilst really immersing ourselves in Nature.
The turning point to commit to Vanlife came when, in the middle of purchasing a house, we were let down by the seller and so we took that as an opportunity to do something a bit different. Sam went to go view the bus and bought it straight away! The conversion took 9 months to complete and we set off for full time travel at the end of June 2019. The only travel plans we set before leaving was to reach Norway before winter, but apart from that we just go at our own pace: wherever & whenever!
How have you found travelling with a little one?
Travelling with Ellis has been incredible! It makes us so happy to share these enriching experiences with him. We can already see him developing a love and appreciation for nature and see how it is inspiring him at such a young age. He’s adapted extremely well to nomadic living and whilst he is thriving, we always make a conscious effort to set aside time everyday for him to do whatever he wants to – so usually that’s playing with his toys or painting. We built a toy & bookstand in the bus for Ellis to have some of his favourite toys & books. We also built a chalkboard and art stand so that he has space to be creative when he wants to be.
Of course, travelling with a toddler can make things a bit more complicated. It’s harder to hike mountains with an extra 2 stone on your back and we’re governed by his bedtime and don’t stray far from the bus once he’s asleep. But these are general parameters that you’d usually deal with at home anyway, so it doesn’t really make parenting on the road any different.
The main challenges that we have faced so far includes; trying to entertain a toddler in a small space during a rainy day. This is where all his toys and art materials become lifesavers! And despite travelling to Countries where English is spoken very well, children of Ellis’ age don’t yet speak it and so he finds it hard to converse with them in playparks. To counter this we make a good effort to arrange meet ups with other travelling, English speaking couples or families, so that Ellis can enjoy interaction with others.
What is the one item you would not go without with in your van?
Ahhh its SO hard to pick just one! Because we are living so minimally, the living space in the bus has been designed so that everything has a real purpose and therefore is needed. Of course, electrics, water and gas are necessities but we find it really hard to pick one thing more important than the rest. Perhaps the sat nav?! HA!
Is there anything that you miss from home? How has it been adjusting to a more paired down lifestyle?
Apart from Family & Friends we’re not actually missing anything from home – maybe marmite?! We haven’t found any on the road yet haha!
For us, it’s been really easy to adjust to minimal living. We were already really conscious of what we owned so we didn’t have loads of stuff, but having to downsize into the van definitely gave us a nudge to be even more critical. The things that we have bought with us generally have multi-purposes or are necessities. We each have a capsule wardrobe and 2 or 3 footwear options, so we tend to wear the same things which we really don’t mind doing.
We find having minimal possessions so freeing! A small habitable space and very little possessions, encourages us to make the most of our time especially being outdoors and enjoying nature. Having said all the above, there are still some items that we have bought with us that we haven’t even used yet – mainly toys for Ellis so we’ll be sending some things back with Family after they visit.
We believe that living a minimalistic lifestyle and separating ourselves from the mainstream mass consumer culture is crucial to becoming more sustainable.
Can you explain a day in the life of the Dixie tribe
Our day starts when Ellis wakes, which is fairly early. We all sleep in the same bed. We designed it to be pretty big to accommodate all 3 of us, so that we all have enough space. It works well for us and because we’ve always co-slept with Ellis so we are used to it!
We store all the bed sheets away and convert the bed back into the seating area and have breakfast. Whilst it can be annoying sometimes to remake the bed or put it away, having the open plan floor space during the daytime is really beneficial. And its great to have a seating area with a table to be able to eat at or do work.
We have a few different types of day: exploring, chores or driving. So we either set off out for a day of adventures – exploring, hiking, sightseeing, meeting friends etc. Or we have a chore day, which involves washing clothes, bus maintenance, filling up with water or gas, food shopping and other things. Or we are driving – we try not to drive above 3 hours at a time just because it can be boring for Ellis.
Every day, we try to set aside time for Ellis to do whatever he wants to whilst we take it in turns to do work, exercise or have some kid free time!
Lunch slots in somewhere and then we usually eat Dinner pretty early, so that we can all eat together before Ellis goes to bed at 7pm. After tea, we have a little play with Ellis and tidy up. Ellis then does some calming bedtime yoga, and then we have cuddles whilst we read or make up a story as he falls asleep.
Depending on the weather, whilst Ellis is asleep, we either sit outside by a fire and enjoy the views with some childfree conversation or we will catch up on work, our favourite Netflix series, bake some bread or vegan treats until its time for us to sleep!
We’ve been on the move a lot throughout Scandinavia, it really is an expensive place especially when you are visiting for an extended period. Whilst we don’t like driving as much as we have been, we have to keep moving until we are somewhere a bit cheaper. We are looking forward to slowing right down so that we can enjoy a slower pace and really get to know the places that we visit.
What is the one piece of advice you would give others who are considering a Vanlife adventure?
For those dreaming of a life on the road – go for it! Do whatever it takes to achieve the life you want. Vanlife is all about living freely & minimally. You don’t need a lot to achieve this way of living.
We’d like to think that we could be an inspiration to other Parents who would love to travel with their Children. It’s scary committing to an alternative way of living, especially when you have Kids, but the wealth of life skills they will develop exploring different landscapes and immersing in varying cultures will far outweigh any negatives. Imagine having beaches and mountains as your back garden growing up!
Any favourite from the van food recipes?
We are passionately vegan and because our pantry staples and spice collection are kept to a minimum due to minimal space; we need to get pretty creative sometimes!
We’ve recently upped the ante though, after purchasing an Omnia stove top oven and so we’ve been able to bake bread, make pizza, nachos, brownies. Ahhh soo many wonderfully naughty things! We’ve managed to persuade everyone we’ve met to also purchase an Omnia oven too… they’re so good! But one of our favourite meals was cooking a chilli over a campfire with Friends!
So far on your travels, where has been your favourite place to adventure?
So many places! But Norway is definitely top of our list. Norway is a country known for its dramatic and unparalleled beauty and for having some of the least restrictive camping laws. “Allenmannsrett” or the “right to roam” allows residents and visitors to explore the land and camp liberally – with a few exceptions. Norwegian culture is deep rooted in its love for exploration and appreciation for nature and this shows in the way the land is respected and looked after. We highly recommend visiting Norway!
Enjoyed reading this? Then why not check out our other interviews?