Are You Living Full-Time Off Grid?

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UKHippy is a long running online community and of likeminded people exploring all interpretations on what it means to be living an alternative lifestyle -- we welcome discussions on everything related to sustainability, the environment, alternative spirituality, music, festivals, politics and more -- membership of this website is free but supported by the community.

  • Hello to all,

    So, I recently joined this site and I'm keen to hear from people who have taken the plunge and moved to full-time living in a van, bus or similar. I've been pondering this very thing for some time now, should I sell my flat and live in a van full-time? When I say van, I'd love to buy something like an old army truck and build it to my own specification. I'm also keen to hear stories of people who sold up, bought some land and are now living off-grid.

    Whatever happens, it's time to make some radical changes and I'm interested to find out what the pitfalls are, if any, and if you have any regrets about doing it. I'd also like to know about the costs involved, which is something that is usually not talked about so much but surely that's what it boils down to for everyone?


  • Wow save some room for your own life. Just kidding.
    Chances are you may come out with 30k to 50k profit from your property investment. So army truck, 4 x 4 under 7.5 is still a bit restricted for habitation and economics. More metal on the chassis = less tat or mod cons to keep within driving licence weight limit. So building to your own specifications may mean compromise on truck type and end result.
    If you've got HGV licence or prepared to get it. Them big truck, no problem.
    Land to live on, park up on indefinatly. Is really hard to find. There's lots of land for sale, just not land with laid back neighbours or Council officials.
    If you've got the money and you will need plenty of it. Buying land with residential (planning consent) is the way to go. Again, rare as chickens teeth and costs more than a rare breed of Urbanite usually has to spend.

    Ive known quite a few who 'sold up' did the trip, now their back at the grindstone trying to mend from broken relationships and it's no fun trying to get out and about in your truck conversion, when every day is a work for accommodation rent event. If your the kind of person who can handle solitude, deal with spending lots of time on your lonesome. Go with out creature comforts otherwise taken for granted. Smile when the worlds turning to shit and above all, get back in the saddle when the race looks lost. Then Living in a truck on the road in the UK, could just be for you.

    Those who kept their property. Who Worked to buy and build a second mobile home, are now the lucky ones. Regular income from said 'rented property' always a safety net. Life's a blast and every road goes somewhere. Be lucky, work out what you wanna be doing in ten years and try to limit self inflicted damage.

    Its never been easier to make things more comfortable, LED lights, 12volt flat screen TV's, microwaves, fridges, good cheap sound systems. Mobile internet, mobile communications, cheap disposable technology ready for rape and pillaging to mend and make do.

    Years ago, it was candles and paraffin lamps, propane cooker, woodburner, build, blag, basic or go without. These days we can kit out a mobile home from carboot's and freecycle. Unless you want a trendy one off custom build.

  • Hey there

    We've been full time now for almost 3 months - overall, it's been an amazing experience but I have a partner who doesn't work so he makes my life easier in doing the chores/cleaning while I'm at work, although he's going to start working part-time soon. It's amazing how dirty/messy the place can get in a very small amount of time when two people are occupying the same small space.

    We full-time in London which so far has worked without any major issues. Saying that, this weekend has been a bit challenging as we found a nice "nature" spot to park up in and have been here on an off for the past month but when the sun's out, we get a bunch of rude boys who always seem to park next to us, blare their music out and then leave in their wake a load of Rizla papers, plastic cups and bags. In fact, that's happening as I write! But on the weekends we're out of London, it's great! I feel so much more connected to nature.

    It was pretty challenging during that really hot week we had recently but that's mainly due to not being able to open the back up in Central London.

    We've found we eat far less meat (partly due to hygiene reasons and making it easier to clean) but also cost and food storage. We are less wasteful as we can only store so much stuff.

    I wouldn't say I really regret anything as I know for the future but if I did it again, I'd make some changes to the refit. We also still have way too much stuff and as we're both naturally very messy and disorganised, it does make finding things a bit of a pain at times, so we're going to offload even more stuff soon. I miss having a grill for certain things but it's not a biggie really. We certainly don't miss the kettle and my hair is thankful for me not using straighteners on it. Keeping clean is quite hard work as is washing my hair (I can totally see why some people get dreads).

    Cost of living generally is considerably cheaper than if we were renting (even with all the trips out of London). With the money I'm saving from my job, I plan to travel for 12 months and look for some land to park up and attempt self sufficiency. No, it may all go horribly wrong - the van may get nicked, my partner and I may split up (he's the driver!)...and you have to be in a position to accept the unexpected but it's all an interesting experience if you can look at it without categorising too much into good and bad (easier said than done, I know). I sold my house 10 years ago - didn't make much profit, spent quite a bit going backpacking after that but I have no regrets and I never wanted again to to be in a mortgage situation since then, even when all my closest friends have properties in London and will presumably be a lot financially "better off" further down the line.

  • Hello , my advice regarding the litterers is approach em holding a bin liner and calmly ask ' do you need one of these?' , quite often they will take it sheepishly and pick their shite up (maybe to throw it out the window on the way home but at least not making it look like yours).

    I am imprisoned in sweet suburbia atm , yesterday I saw a middle aged woman and her daughter and baby eating chips, occasionally a chip went from hand to baby in buggy instead of hand to mouth (they were both 'portly'), eventually the younger adult with the kid folded her chip wrapper and put it on the tray under her buggy , so far so good , her mum(?) however screwed hers up and chucked it under the us shelter bench she was perched on , to make it worse as she sat back down she kicked a grubby ole baby pacifier on to my/our driveway..... out I went picked up the pacifier and said 'you all finished with this then ? ' , she indignantly replied that it wasent theirs , when I asked why she kicked it on to my property she replied ''so that little children dont pick it up and put it in their mouths'' , 'oh , likre my grand daughter that visits and plays here daily ? , by the way , why have you chucked the litter from ya lunch under that seat ? ''

    'Because there aint no bin at the bus stop!!' was her defence , my final retort was 'I hope you got a toilet on your doorstep , because if I find out where you live I will take a shit on it on the basis theres no toilet''

    They walked off to the next bus stop :)

  • Yeah people are unbelievable. My partner and I took a walk around the park/woodlands where we're parked last night and picked up a load of litter. What astonishes me is that a lot of people have scooped up their dog's poo to put into a plastic bag, only to then neatly tie it up and launch it into the undergrowth or...tie it up and hang it from a tree! If you can't be arsed to dispose of it properly, at least just leave the dog poo to decompose... I like people to see that we are picking up litter though in the hope that it makes them at least reflect on their own habits (if they are of the littering ilk).

    Kudos to you for confronting the woman. I can be a bit wimpish with that kinda thing but the people who park round here are pretty rough so I guess I'm being cautious - people have been knifed around here for less.

    On a side note, are you a member of the Nexus? Your profile pic feels strangely familiar..

  • Hi shinobidef,

    Thanks for your comprehensive reply, it's been really helpful. Like you, on selling my flat I would make quite a modest amount (5 figure sum) so I would need to ensure that I used what I had wisely. Also, I do have an issue with not owning some "bricks and mortar" somewhere, largely due to my upbringing and a father who regularly drummed into us how essential it was to own your own property. But hey, he was of a different time and now I, like you, would rather be mortgage free. It's no accident that the literal translation of the word "mortgage" is "death contract"!

    It sounds like you don't have any toilet/washing facilities in your van but that would be essential for me, otherwise I wouldn't feel truly free to travel. I would see this as an essential part of living off-grid. What do you do for mail though? Do you get it sent to a friend or family member's house or do you have a PO box? Being able to receive post would also be essential for me. Another problem is the issue of working from a camper. For what I do I need a reasonable amount of space that involves essential bits of electronic equipment.

    So, I guess I just need to make my decision and take the plunge.

    Regarding litter louts, litter is one of my major bugbears. Some time ago, a friend and I were out for one of our usual walks in the local park. We passed by some young boys who were standing near an extinguished fire which was surrounded by a shitload of litter which they claimed wasn't theirs. It looked like someone had had some kind of party, complete with cake and candles and booze and simply left the whole lot when they were finished. I was raging and began gathering up the litter into the plastic bags that they had also left. The boys asked us what we were doing and seemed genuinely shocked to learn that, even though it wasn't our litter, we felt the need to tidy up. They walked with us a short way as we left and one of them did seem to be sincerely affected by our actions. I hope that he was. I asked him to promise that he would not drop litter and he agreed but whether he meant it or not, I have no idea. As far as I am concerned, there is just no excuse for litter, none at all. It's emblematic of all that is wrong in a society, seriously! There's no need for it. End of rant.



  • I don't get litter either. If you can carry the bottle, can, box or packet when it's full, it' easier when it's empty. Particularly if you drove there. Vehicles need petrol or diesel, and petrol stations have bins.
    We've been off grid for years, and have always picked up litter where we park. The charge of 'dirty gypsy' is uppemost in my mind. We're not gypsies, but don't want to be called dirty either. Many travellers just don't get the mess they leave behind ruins it for them and any that might follow.

  • Post by schadenfreude ().

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  • Mort-gage - haha, yeah I remember reading about that relatively recently as never thought of it before.


    t sounds like you don't have any toilet/washing facilities in your van but that would be essential for me

    We have a compost toilet which I just made out of a wooden toilet seat I bought nestled into a box made out of a stick frame and boarded with pallets. We use coconut coir to cover the shit up as I think this is more eco than peat, and I pee through a fixed funnel toward the front of the "hole" that feeds down into a 5 gallon bottle tucked away inside the box. I'm amazing at how quickly this gets filled up, especially when I spend 40 odd hours a week at work and consider myself to one of the most dehydrated people I know!

    The loo lid comes down on top but with the hot weather, it has ponged from time to time so we've been burning incense like mad! It's not ideal at the moment, but bearable - I wonder if we perhaps need a small fan? I read about one guy than had a small fan to ventilate but other people reckon they've had no issue with odours. I guess we would empty more regularly but a bit tricky when we're in London Mon-Thurs.

    We have a shower enclosure that we built and a 12V portable shower which is actually pretty good. We have a foot pump rather than a 12V one so it takes an age to fill up a large container with water - it does force us to use very little though. My hair is pretty long and since I started making my own shampoo, it's quite difficult rinsing my hair so it feels clean, but then I probably need to experiment a bit more.

    In all honesty, we're pretty dirty people by the usual standards but if the danger zones are taken care of, if I don't smell and I'm not making myself ill, then I don't worry too much, despite the odd look of horror from my mates :)


    What do you do for mail though?

    I'm lucky in that my work don't really mind me getting stuff delivered (I got an axe and some wood carving knives delivered the other week!) but I use a relative's address for things like banking and that's what my HR department have. It's great that now we have that Click and Collect thing as an option too.

    As for the lecky, we store all ours under our sofa and kind of hidden in a bookcase so it's out of site but easy to access. We have some mid-size speakers, a small hand blender, camera, two laptops and a large monitor for films, but we're going to get rid of the monitor. What do you do for work out of interest?

    I guess it depends on Brexit, but with 5 figures, you could certainly get a decent place somewhere in Europe if you want to invest but depends on where you want to be/don't want to be in the longer-term.


    So, I guess I just need to make my decision and take the plunge.

    What will you do if you don't take the plunge? Best of luck and feel free to ask away - lots of full timers on here and I'll help if I can.

  • Shinobidef,

    Thanks again for such a comprehensive reply. When I first started looking into living on wheels, I quite quickly dismissed the "converted van" type of thing as I didn't think they would suit full-time long term living. So, I started looking at the "expedition vehicle" type, as I really would like to start travelling abroad on a regular basis, including a trip to India. The ones in my price range are not the Unicat type things that can run to hundreds of thousands of pounds but there are plenty that are affordable and they are quite well kitted out, including proper kitchens, toilets, showers, etc. Oddly enough, Germany seems to be the main marketplace for these things, this site's particularly good:

    I'm not sure I could stomach a smelly toilet in the long term. I don't think I'm squeamish at all but there are some basic rules that I have for mobile living. I want a decent kitchen space for cooking and decent washing/toilet facilities. I also need a reasonable-sized workspace. Talking of which, you asked what I do for a living, I produce videos and short films but I want to go full-time making films. I'm just nearing completion of my first feature film script which I hope to shoot next year. My workstation at the moment consists of a Mac Pro (the old "cheese grater" style), a PC, two screens and a pair of KRK monitors. I'm not so naive to think that I can fit all this into a mobile home but if I could get some semblance of it that would be great. I love the idea of buying a vehicle that has most of what I need and then working on it to bring it up to my own spec.

    The real problem is that I have a lot of "stuff" lol I'm not a hoarder, everything I have has a purpose, either aesthetic or functional, and I don't need to climb over stacks of newspapers to get to my bedroom but, to give you an idea, in my living room I have 2 x Hammond organs, 3 synths, the workstation stuff mentioned above, a guitar amp, an accordion, two guitars, a hi-fi with two sets of speakers, plus some furniture! That's my main problem really, I've been spoilt for space in this flat. It's only 3 rooms but it's a Victorian-built flat and they're quite large. Did you have any adjustment issues when downsizing to live in a van? I'm looking for space somewhere, along with some filmmaking mates, where we can set up a small studio and workspace so that all my gear would go in there eventually.

    I'm with you on the hygiene front. I'm really not one of those "shower every day" people. I think that's a lot of bullshit unless you work in a particularly dirty environment, like a coal mine or building site. Sometimes a "posh wash" is just the ticket! I also have long hair but I haven't tried making shampoo, that sounds interesting.

    So, you asked what I would do if i don't take the plunge. I don't think that's an option now, I really need to decide. I've been pondering too long. It's time to move on to the next stage of my life. Whether it's to sell and go mobile or keep the flat, rent it and do something else, I'm not sure. The only thing holding me back, to be perfectly honest, is fear - the great adviser! I think that's what holds most of us back, it's drilled into us from day one, fear of God, fear of teacher, fear of failure, fear of success, fear of being unpopular, fear of not being liked etc. blah, blah. I've been dealing with more and more if this stuff over recent years and it's something that you never stop working on, I guess. I manage to not bother with most of the mainstream fears, like being popular, liked, etc. but I know that this is a massive decision that there's really no going back on. If it doesn't work, I may not be able to buy another property like the one I have at the moment but then, is that such a bad thing? Have you resigned yourself to not owning bricks and mortar again or is that the long-term plan, to return to that way of life?

    Thanks again for the advice.



  • Sounds like you have more resource to put into a move onto the road than many, could put that into your vehicle/space, or into plans for places to put yourself, or just fund not having much income for a time.

    I'm pretty much camping in a basic van, at a crossroads of trying to put some funds together to make it longer term, or getting back in a building. At present I'm squashing down the excitement of being on wheels to make the indoors choice. Just that I feel like in two years time it'll be easier for me to decide that after all I do want to go nomad, than to decide I messed up and need a house.

  • Hi Alf M,

    Thanks for your reply.

    How long have you been in your van? Do you feel that you made the wrong choice initially? Why do you say that it will be easier in two years time for you to decide, rather than right now?

    Apologies for all the questions!

  • No problem.
    In the van since February, wasn't really a choice so much a response to an emergency. Could probably have solved things another way but at the time I didn't have much capacity to make sensible decisions and it was the easiest thing. Also the way I could hide away from the world best, living with other people then would have been very uncomfortable.

    Sorry, I didn't make that last point very well. I just mean that whichever decision I make, I may end up (e.g. 2 years from now) feeling that I chose the wrong thing. If I choose house now but feel like getting back on road then that is easier than vice versa. Also buys me some time to save and do the van thing right.

  • Thanks, sounds like you may have had a bit of a rough time so I hope everything's worked out better for you since.

    I did wonder if my ideas had been driven by a desire to run away and hide or a genuine wish for a different life. I'm pretty sure now that it's a genuine desire to change my life. I'm becoming increasingly disillusioned with the so-called mainstream life. It looks like bullshit to me, always has really.

    When you talk about saving up and doing the "van thing right", do you mean building one from scratch or spending a lot more on a bespoke vehicle that's already been built?

  • I reckon with a little time and money I'd look to buy a decent bare luton and kit it out basic but good. Much of the work I'd manage myself but pull in support as needed.
    Proper bed, maybe pull-down. Seating, cooker, sink. Solar set up. Burner or gas blower (my mate has a nice set-up and maybe has converted me). Speakers!

  • Sounds good, I guess the toilet/shower issue is down to personal preference, for me it's more of an independence issue than anything else but, horses for courses and all that.

    Do you have access to a workshop area or somewhere that you can do the work on the van? All the conversion videos and blogs that I've seen they seem to have access to massive workshops or farm buildings plus all the necessary tools, welding gear etc. I think I would be better looking for something that's specced out as close to my requirements as possible then do the work as and when it was possible.

  • That's not an option for me, I live on a fairly main road where it's difficult enough to park my car never mind something bigger. Will you be posting up progress of your project once you start? I'd be interested to follow your progress. :)

  • Ha, that's two big assumptions - that there'll be a project, and that there'll be any progress!

    You not got a mate with space that'd put up with a van for a bit? If not I guess part of your budget maybe has to go to yard space. Make friends with some likely types down your local industrial estate.

  • Nah, there's no-one I know that has any decent space but me and some mates are looking for space for other stuff anyway so there may soon be somewhere to work. The more I look into it though, the more it looks like I'll buy something that's already converted. Well, if you do get started I hope you post the progress here. Good luck with it and I hope it works out for you :)

  • There no lock ups round you? They are £25 a month here, few months is all you should need.
    Anyone local with a drive you could rent cash in hand, either for your van and work from there, or park your car there and park your van outside your place.

  • There are lockups but they wouldn't be big enough for a van or truck. I'm on the south side of a big city and everywhere we look at seems to be £1000 per month minimum. There may be an opportunity at a mate's mum's house but I'm still waiting to hear. There's no way I can work on a van/truck outside my flat, even if I got a space (rare) it's right on a main road.

    It's a strange thing here, a friend of my mum's owns a farm and I asked her if she wanted to rent or lend me some space. She thought about it for a few months then, via my mum, told me that "every inch of the farm was being used", which is bollocks. I know it's bollocks 'cos I pass her farm regularly and there's at least two fields that are never used by either animals or crops and I know they've been like that for years 'cos I grew up near there. People are strange!

    Anyway, if I have the cash, I think I'll buy a ready made thing and work on it as I need to. Also it will be ready to hit the road so I can eff off straight away. :D