Hi! We are Ant and Lou Black-Hartman. An unconventional British couple drawn together by our shared love of obscure techno music and the mystical force that controls us all.
We’ve chucked away our cushy London lifestyle full of friends, parties and a regular income because we’d prefer to live simply, dossing in the back of an old Toyota campervan. On the hunt to find our VanUtopia!
Ant Black-Hartman – Writer of this blog; Sarcastic; A healthy cynic; Tongue lodged firmly in cheek. (Writing influences: Stewart Lee, Chris Morris, Hunter S. Thompson, Andrew Mangan)
Lou Black-Hartman – Mother of two; Lover of all things; Hyperactive; Handy; Crafty; Experienced Vanlifer. (Comes from: Slough via Austria.)
Everything you read about us here is true. Very little of it should be taken seriously.
We are wildly individual. Much like this blog we call VanUtopia.
We’ll spare the love story on this page but if that’s your thing you can read our tale here
Why have we decided to live in a campervan?
Because we need a place to call home but we don’t want to stay put:
Lou is a crab. Not a lobster. A crab. That’s to say she’s a Cancerian – Imbued with a need to nest.
OK. I don’t believe in star signs either. Well, apart from Chinese ones. Rooster anyone?
Personally, I have a paralytic fear of staying in one place too long, often confused with a sense of adventure.
Living in a campervan satisfies Lou’s nesting instinct and it’s fair to say we share the desire of being in new places every day.
What is VanUtopia?
A made up word. Obviously a combination of two words. We don’t need to explain that do we?
Dictionary definition of ‘Utopia’: An imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect.
Dictionary definition of ‘Van’: A covered motor vehicle… used for transporting goods or people.
This sums up perfectly what Lou and I are doing – We are imagining that if we quit our jobs, get rid of most of our stuff and start living in a van, life will be perfect. The reality might be different.
Our aim is to show you all the things we’ve done, the places we’ve seen and the people we’ve met so you can achieve your own VanUtopia and make it even better!
What lead us to the search for VanUtopia?
We used to have below average wage jobs in London. Before I went travelling in 2014 I was a criminal investigator for the Council. The wages were good back then.
Working for the Council taught me several things: It’s the best 9-5 job you can get in terms of pay versus work ratio; Staying eight years in one job is seriously unhealthy. So is management hierarchy.
Then I went travelling. through South America, the US and Japan. I found the inspiration I’d been craving but I didn’t know it yet.
On m return, lacking any solid business ideas and ignoring my newly honed instinct for avoiding bosses and I fell back on an old friend. Wine. Specifically a wine advisor role I’d had briefly when I was at studying at Aston University.
I ended up managing a wine merchant for nearly two years – probably the only wine shop in the world to play a continuous stream of rave music to its customers and still beat its targets. Selling wine is fun but ultimately I felt trapped in a retail environment.
Lou and I barely saw each other most nights. I was on a third less money than I had been at the Council and my working days frequently finished at 10pm.
Lou was a professional carer of the elderly and disabled. Being one of life’s true caregivers, this is a role at which she excels. A profession which quite obviously deserves very little in the way of financial recompense. (#SARCASM – you’ll be seeing a lot of that in this blog.)
Something was very rotten in the state of Denmark, (or at least the UK). We both wanted more. The seeds of an alternative lifestyle together, were being sewn in our minds.
I already had extended family who’d spent much of their lives living on canal boats but it was too expensive to buy and maintain a decent boat, plus all the mooring costs.
Now, Lou had always owned campervans. Pretty crap ones, as it happened. She had a Mercedes Vito, a 310D and a Ford Transit 100 which she still owned when I moved in.
Lou has even done extensive repairs to the vans by herself. It’s fair to say she’s something of a pro.
Lou’s Ford Transit campervan wasn’t very reliable broken so it didn’t move very far but the fun we had in there really opened my eyes to the potential of another alternative lifestyle. #VANLIFE
Having sold Lou’s old camper we decided to invest in a more solid vehicle. A 1991 Toyota Hiace campervan we immediately named Heidi.
How are we paying for our trip?
Using the traditional ‘scrimp and save’ method. We managed to put away a few hundred pounds each month.
To augment these savings we then implemented a more traditional scam, known as a Wedding. Through the contemporary medium of the ‘online wedding gift list’ we’ve managed to con our friends and relatives out of enough hard earned cash to keep ourselves afloat for a year or so.
Honestly though, we encouraged our family to contribute the monetary value of parts for our campervan or other things we’d need like breakdown recovery. It looked something like this…
In total we’ve got a budget of £700 per month to last us a year. Over the coming months we’re aiming to develop the skills needed to earn money whilst being location independent so that we can continue our nomadic lifestyle indefinitely.
Protip: Pretend your marriage hit the rocks and get a divorce. Get remarried for further, if lesser, gifts. Or, an alternative strategy could be to, ‘renew your vows’.
Where are we going?
First off, we’ll be exploring the exotic climes of France. The average middle-class Londoner has been there seven times before they’re 35. #MADEUPSTAT
If you’re British this is literally the least exotic country you could visit. So why France?
Simple. You can drive there easily and there are loads of facilities for campervans. Oh and wine. Oodles of velvety smooth wine soon to be sloshing around our tummies.
Plus there’s thousands of places you can stay for free. We’ll be giving you the low-down on the best places to park up for the night.
Many people head straight for Brittany and the West Coast but we’ll be sticking the primarily to the Eastern side making a detour to Burgundy and using local recommendations to decide the final route. We’re open minded and highly suggestible.
Like migratery birds we’ll be heading South for winter. Exact destination unknown. We’re hoping to use a combination of Couch Surfing and House Sitting to avoid the worst of Western Europe’s wintery weather.
If you’ve got any tip on where to go, you’re a brand that would like to work with us or you just want to say something nice then please drop us an email: AntLou at VanUtopia dot com or keep up with our adventures on the Instagram Page: VanUtopiaBlog and our YouTUBE channel