“I choose to believe things are possible, even when I don’t know how they will happen” Jack Canfield
For us, 2019 was a monumental year; during which our lives and our ambitions changed drastically. But let’s take a step back. It all began a little earlier than 2019, with a trip to one of our favourite cities, Edinburgh, in November 2018. During the 4 hour drive home to Cheshire, I was keeping myself busy by looking at the Dalhousie Castle website (the former seat of the Ramsay Clan and Alex’s Scottish ancestors). I only wanted to know how much it would cost to stay for a night, when I just happened to stumble upon (yeh, right!) their wedding page. Turns out Dalhousie Castle offer elopement packages. Well, I swear the page jumped out of my phone and smacked me in the face! It was perfect!
Now, I should probably mention that we were, in absolutely no way, engaged. However, we had been together for 12 years (yes, you read that right, we were 13 at the time) so let’s face it, there was no escaping now. Long story short, after a few days the idea went from being a joke, to us deciding to just go for it. I mean, why not? At the time we were living in an apartment, concentrating on our careers and trying desperately to get on the property ladder. But why? Because we wanted to, or because that was the next logical step? It was the first time we actually sat down and openly evaluated our plans for the future. The verdict: we weren’t ready to buy a house, settle down in one place and have a massive debt hanging over our heads. So instead, we used the money we had saved for a deposit to run away and get married.
The few months that followed were spent planning our elopement, and on 27th March 2019 we became Mr & Mrs Ramsay. Our only guests were Alex’s sister, Samantha, who also happens to be the best wedding photographer we know, along with her partner, Steve. Besides them (and a few who needed to), no-one else knew; not our parents, not our best friends, no-one. The day itself was better than we ever could have imagined. We have no regrets and when we revealed the news to our friends and families, they couldn’t have been happier for us.
Photographs taken by Samantha Kay www.samanthakayphotography.co.uk
With the money that was left over (yes, we even had cash to spare! Weddings do not have to cost a fortune) we had the most amazing honeymoon in Namibia. Two weeks of driving through the desert, living it up in 8 different luxury lodges and witnessing the most incredible wildlife we have ever seen. We were finally saying “to hell with it” and vowed to live life the way we wanted.
(((Honestly, I could go on forever about our wedding and the honeymoon, but I’ll save it for another time. If however, you would like to know more and see some of the stunning photographs taken by Sam, you can check out these blogs:
But eloping was just the start of our new unconventional lifestyle. At some point amongst the madness of planning a secret wedding, we were watching a documentary (I would love to tell you which one, but neither of us have a clue). It was something to do with alternative living and travel. That’s when we discovered the idea of living and travelling full-time in a van. The fuse had been ignited; there was no going back.
Almost as soon as we returned from our honeymoon in June, we starting researching the logistics of living in a van. It’s important to note that the term “van life” has several interpretations; its all about finding what’s best for your circumstances. The biggest dilemma for us was motorhome or camper van? In the end (as you’ve probably already guessed), we went for a motorhome. Here’s a few reasons why:
1) As this was to be our new home, we wanted to be as comfortable as possible without being too restricted in terms of space and storage. This was already going to be a massive change so we wanted to make the transition as easy as possible.
2) Travelling was our main objective. If we weren’t so impatient, we could have spent a few months designing and building a camper van from scratch, but ultimately getting on the road was our main goal.
3) Just the thought of making up a bed every single day made me tired; we knew a fixed bed was the way to go. With a camper van this probably meant having a smaller seating area or none at all. With a motorhome we could have both.
4) Barney (our cat) was always going to be coming with us and we didn’t want him to feel trapped during long stints in the van; so again we opted for more space. But that doesn’t mean that a camper van isn’t absolutely fine for cats; it was just our preference and what we thought was best for Barney at the time.
There were lots of other little things that contributed to the decision, but that pretty much sums it up. Sure, there are days where I see all the incredible camper vans that are out there and wish we had gone down that route; maybe its something we’ll venture into in future when we have more time and experience.
After that things progressed rather rapidly. It didn’t take us long to find Rosa and in July 2019, we travelled the 200 miles from Cheshire to Norwich to pick her up! By August we had sold the majority of our possessions and moved out of our flat and into the van. Albeit, we were on my mum’s driveway, plugged into her house, but it was a step in the right direction.
Initially we planned to save for a few months before hitting the road. That didn’t happen. I am, after all, one of the most impatient people ever. I couldn’t help it! The open road was calling me. So, I handed in my notice and on in September 2019 I left my job as a Dental Nurse. It was daunting to say the least, with more “OMG what have we done” moments than I can even count.
But here we are, nearly 4 months down the line, still alive and we haven’t burnt the van down (touch wood). We spent 6 weeks towards the end of 2019 exploring France before popping back to the UK to spend Christmas and New Year with our families. And now? Well I am currently sat writing this blog in a small village south of Girona, with a glass of red wine (or should I say, vino tinto), without a care in the world. If you told me 12 months ago that this is where I would be, I would have laughed and told you to stop being so ridiculous. It just goes to show that by putting aside the goals that society lays out for you, anything is possible.
It goes without saying though, that living in a van comes with it’s challenges and it’s not always as glamorous as instagram would like you to believe. It’s been a massive learning curve and we’ve had to adapt even the most mundane aspects of our lives. Everything requires planning and there’s always something to do; filling up the water, emptying waste water, filling up the gas. And of course there is nothing more glamorous than emptying the cassette toilet that you’ve been sharing with your other half for the past few days.
Our next challenge will be when Alex has to fly home to go to work. Alex is a pilot and works across several countries in Africa doing aerial surveying (that’s the extent of my knowledge). At the minute he is home more often than not. But in the near future he’ll be away on a month-on-month-off basis. Which of course means that I’ll be travelling solo. Luckily this hasn’t happened yet so I’ve had a decent amount of time to prepare myself. Which of course means nothing and I’m sure my brain will turn to mush as soon as I drop him off at the airport. But hey, it’ll make a cracking blog when the time comes. Silver lining and all that.
Hopefully this explains a little more about who we are and how we got to where we are today. I’m excited (and absolutely bloody terrified) to see where the next little chapter of our adventure takes us. Fingers crossed I’m not completely useless on my own; we’ll find out soon enough.
Until next time. Adios!