By Mark McConville
MEET the British woman who packed up her life into a van to travel around Europe with her Australian boyfriend and plans to ship it Down Under to continue the adventure.
Hannah Jenkins (26), from Aberdeen, Scotland met Oliver Whittaker (27), from Melbourne, Australia while they were both working as product designers in Bristol.
The couple, who can be followed on Instagram @whoknowswherenext, hit it off and decided buying a house and settling down wasn’t for them as they craved adventure.
The pair bought a Volkswagen Transporter T5 and converted it into a cosy mobile home over the course of four months, working mainly on weekends.
“Coming from opposite sides of the world, travel quickly became a big part of our relationship; something that allowed us to show each other the parts of our continent that we both love,” said Hannah.
“A lot of our friends had started buying houses and settling down, but somehow it just didn’t feel right for us. At this point we craved excitement and change, not routine and stability.
“With Europe on our doorstep, the opportunity to explore it in more depth, over more time, became more and more tempting.
“As we wanted to see more of the outdoors and nature, rather than cities, travelling in a van became the obvious choice. And why wouldn’t we want to tour around with our own home on wheels?”
The adventurous duo spent four weeks travelling through Hannah’s homeland, Scotland, before meandering through England and across the channel into France. They took in Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Belgium.
They came back to the UK for one day but are now driving through Spain and hope to make it through Portugal before Christmas. So, what’s next?
“We’ve decided to move to Australia for a few years and want to ship the van with us, hopefully for a bit more travel at the start of the New Year,” said Oliver.
“We love our design careers but find that they are not very suited to working ‘on the road’, so we might have to get 9-5 jobs again and become weekend vanlifers.
“Then again, we also have some personal design projects on the go, and would also love to convert more vans for other people, so who knows. Our plans are very loose, but we’re totally comfortable with the uncertainty.”
The couple completed the refurbishment of their van themselves by working on a very narrow street in Bristol with battery powered tools in the freezing cold of February.
All the effort was worth it for a full summer of travelling in the van and Hannah explained the benefits of living in a van.
“We start our days quite slowly, taking our time to grind and make coffee, and eat breakfast together which is something we never had time to do when we were working and commuting,” she said.
“The spontaneity of this lifestyle is something we’d been craving for a long time. We get to have so many varied types of experiences, which helps us to understand what we most enjoy in life, and how little we really need.
“We stay out of the main tourist areas, find hidden gems and experience local culture. It is also a very affordable way to travel; often we only pay for food and fuel, while our accommodation and activities are free.”
Oliver elaborated on some of the more unique aspects of travelling in the van and the freedom it affords them.
“No one day is the same when we’re in the van, which is perfect for two people who thrive from change,” added Oliver.
“Sometimes we wake up in below freezing temperatures in the mountains topped with snow, and sometimes we wake up drenched in sweat by the ocean under a strong sun. And the beauty of Europe is that sometimes those experiences are only 24 hours apart.
“We only decide where we’re going a few days in advance, sometimes on the day, depending on what we feel like doing; hiking, kayaking, wild swimming. We’ve got no constraints, and it’s extremely liberating.”
For more information see https://www.instagram.com/whoknowswherenext/