Campervan Renovation tips from Real-life digital nomads: ‘Maui & Us’ (Part 1)
Whether you are already on your Vanlife renovation or just toying with the idea of whether to drop everything and head out on the open road, here we have tips from two real life digital nomads who are travelling Europe and beyond. This is part 1 of our chat where we discussed everything from choosing your Campervan to tips on renovating!
We caught up with Charlotte and Nico, two seasoned road warriors who shared their valuable insights and experiences from living and working on the road travelling across Europe. As they travel Europe in their trusty van, Maui, they've mastered the art of balancing work, adventure fixing issues, and working as a team.
Maui is a Mercedes Vivaro - so he’s a big boy - bigger than your average Campervan conversion. Charlotte and Nico bought him second-hand with over 300k miles and completely gutted and renovated the inside. They did almost all of the work themselves, including wiring, plumbing, painting and carpentry - no mean feat. This took, overall 2 years and some serious blood sweat and tears. But we think it was worth it, just look at the stunning interior!
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Join us on this incredible journey as we unveil their top tips, tricks, and hacks to help you make the most of your own Campervan escapades. Whether you're a fellow digital nomad, a weekend warrior, or a curious traveller, Charlotte and Nico's tips are sure to inspire and guide you towards the ultimate mobile lifestyle. So buckle up, and let's hit the open road together!
Don’t forget to check out their Instagram page to follow their journey: @Mauiandus
Top 3 things you must know before starting out
- Be prepared for the big ups and downs! Van life as much as it looks idyllic, is full of peaks and troughs. You might find a peaceful, scenic, quiet place to park up, but you might have broken down on the way to get there. There will be days where you struggle to find a parking spot. There will be days you have a work deadline but the wifi isn’t working. Your doing a lot of miles, which increases the likelihood of a crash!
- You need to know about the Schengen Zone and the Schengen Visa The Schengen zone includes 27 countries and most of mainland Europe. A Schengen Visa allows passport-free travel in each of these countries for up to 90 days at a time. Your time allowance in these countries is very strict and it is very hard to get an overall Schengen zone visa extension. We have a full section about the Schengen zone below, or you can find loads of information at their website (https://www.schengenvisainfo.com/). We have included more info on the Schengen Zone in part 2 of this interview – check it out at the link below.
- The lifestyle is a completely different way of living to the norm. The change in lifestyle is so rewarding, particularly if you work in a creative field or enjoy changing scenery but you need to work at it. Keeping some structure and routine will help ensure the lows are not too low, and the highs are incredible.
Tips for When You Are Searching for Your Dream Camper Van
Searching for the perfect camper van can be an exciting but daunting task. To help you make an informed decision, here are our top 5 tips to consider when you're on the hunt for your dream van:
- Think about the size of the van you'll be comfortable in. To determine the right size for you, take a moment to consider the amenities you can't live without. Some people are content without a dedicated workspace or bathroom, while others may prioritise having these features. If you know you need a bathroom, for example, you'll want to make sure the van you choose has enough space to accommodate one.
- Decide if you want to convert the van yourself or purchase one that's already been converted. If you opt for a pre-converted camper van, it likely has a Campervan MOT (Class 4 MOT), which can save you time and money. However, if you choose to convert it yourself, be prepared to pay more for an HGV MOT, as obtaining a Campervan MOT can be more difficult and expensive these days.
- Consider the age of the vehicle: newer or older, and take into account the year, mileage, and make. Older vehicles may have more engine issues or require harder-to-find, niche parts. However, you can often find replica parts on websites like Autodoc to keep your camper van running smoothly. We recommend Mercedes for their solid reputation and reliability; a newer option, such as a Sprinter Long wheelbase, could be a great choice.
- If you're leaning towards a larger van, be aware of the driving license requirements. Obtaining a driving license can cost around £1000, so factor that into your budget. Keep in mind that the law changed regarding licenses: if you passed your test before 1997, you're allowed to drive a larger van, but if you passed after that year, you'll need a C1 license for vehicles up to 7.5 tonnes.
- Let your creativity shine – don't be afraid to break the mould! Remember, your camper van is your personal space, so design and customise it to suit your preferences and needs. Express yourself and make it a space you'll love to call home on the road.
By keeping these tips in mind, you'll be well on your way to finding the perfect camper van that meets your needs and suits your personal style. Happy hunting!
Top Tips for Renovating Your Camper Van
Embarking on a camper van renovation can be a thrilling yet challenging endeavour. To help you navigate the process, here are Charlotte and Nico’s top tips to keep in mind when renovating your van:
- Be realistic about the time commitment, especially if you're doing the renovation yourself. If you have no experience, expect the project to take longer than six months. Factor in the cost of hiring tradespeople for specific tasks and the time constraints of being in full-time employment.
- Approach the renovation step-by-step. We highly recommend the book "Van Build: A Complete DIY Guide" (LINK) for its detailed, step-by-step guide on renovating your van. Supplement this resource with research on YouTube, and find your style by watching videos featuring the specific vehicle you're working with.
- Connect with the van community for support. Join Facebook groups for people with similar or the same vehicles, and ask for help and advice. The community is incredibly helpful and always willing to share their experiences.
- Create and try to stick to a budget. Most people end up going over budget, but you can minimise expenses by repurposing items, like wood. Don't skimp on plywood boards for insulation and walls; a solid skeleton is crucial. You'll probably need more plywood than you think.
- Pay attention to insulation. Good insulation keeps you warm in winter and cool in summer. We recommend using products from Deadening, which has excellent reviews. For a more eco-friendly option, consider thermal fleece insulation made from recycled plastic bottles.
- Visit thrift stores for affordable materials. You can find inexpensive wood to chop up and modify to fit your van's dimensions. Or repurpose furniture to install into your van.
- Plan your layout carefully. Create a floor plan to guide your wiring, and decide where to place your leisure battery, as it's heavy and needs strategic placement. Also, think about the placement of plugs, electricity, pipes, and freshwater systems. The van book mentioned earlier is an invaluable resource.
- Leave the cab until last. The cab can be intimidating to work on, as it houses key components for running the vehicle. Focus on essentials like heat, power, and water first. It's also a good idea to live in the van when it's half-finished to identify any issues before finalising the furnishings and decor.
- Invest in as many solar panels as your van can accommodate. Solar panels can save you money and trips to campsites for power boosts. Although they can be pricey, they're well worth the investment in the long run.
By following these tips, you'll be well-equipped to tackle your camper van renovation project and create a comfortable, functional, and personalised living space on wheels. Happy renovating!
Those are Charlotte and Nico’s top tips for before hitting the road – check out Part 2 for their tips on hitting the road and while out on your adventure!
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Updated 21st Jun 2023
Written 4th May 2023
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