Vanlife: the old van and the new Sprinter
For the last 2 years I’ve travelled and lived on and off across Europe in my small campervan that I bought and build out when I was 18. A 2005 Citroen Dispatch with 125k miles on the clock, it was truly the best and worst vehicle I think I might have ever owned. To overtake I had to have perfect conditions which meant either downhill or flat and a 1km in straight road to get up to speed. If I wanted to drive economically I’d be sitting at 58 miles per hour in the slow lane, I did of course drive faster than this on numerous occasions but if I did I could just see pound coins on the fuel gauge and how quickly they were disappearing. I’ve had glow plugs stop my engine turning on in the middle of winter, icicles forming inside and my exhaust fall off whilst driving through the Italian Dolomites which I proceeded to fix with electrical wire and drove it like that for numerous months before I was forced to repair it for the MOT.
Seriously though that van has been the best vehicle I’ve ever owned, at the age of 18 it gave me freedom!
I spent months on the road at time and what I loved most was having my home with me, the concept of a snail carrying it’s home on it’s back seemed very fitting especially considering my van wasn’t particularly fast. The van enabled me to work remotely on the road no matter where I was parked whether it was a ski resort lift area or a supermarket car park. I learnt how to work on the road allowing me to travel for extended periods of time whilst exchanging my photography for ski passes with tourism boards. I’d ski all day whilst capturing the content I was asked for then I’d find a cafe or more often than not I’d park in a McDonald’s car park and borrow / steal their wifi to send the client the edited work. At first the excitement was above everything else, I was travelling virtually for free but I soon realised that I had a tool that would enable me to spend time in the places I love doing the things I love and if I was lucky even make a living out of it and tell meaningful stories.
In this day and age so many people don’t find what they love and settle for the classic 9 - 5 office job because it’s safe. Realising I had a tool that might give me the opportunity to craft a lifestyle that I wanted I’ve worked hard to be able to create that. I’m still not there and have so much to learn but every year I look back and realise the countless amazing opportunities i’ve had thanks to pursuing a career in photography and how project by project I’m getting closer to my goal. I’ve been teaching myself since I was 16 where I started photographing music bands and corporate events just to learn how to shoot and occasionally i’d make £50 - 150. I always knew there was a bigger reason behind it all and that I wanted to transfer my skills to bringing home stories of adventures. Now at the age of 20 I’ve been able to work with some pretty amazing brands in some beautiful locations and honestly a lot of that is thanks to the van and it enabling me to explore more.
One reason I built out a van into a camper is to escape the hefty costs of accommodation and crowds. I had installed a Goal Zero solar panel on the roof which meant I was totally self sufficient on the road. It powered my lights, charged my camera batteries, laptop and iPhone.
I knew that whilst I’m young I’ll be wanting to spend longer periods on the road, whether thats living out of a van at uni to save on student debt or spending ski seasons skiing from the back of the van I’ve got some serious adventures in mind!
It was time, I put the old van up for sale and started looking for a bigger vehicle for more long term plans…
Welcome to my new home on wheels…
For a while I’d dreamt that one day I’d get a bigger van that would allow for more than one person to live comfortably. I’ve slept two people in the old van and it was a squeeze!
So here she is, a 2015 Mercedes Sprinter medium wheel base high roof with only 55k miles on the clock when I bought the van. Over the course of the following months I’ll be converting this to a adventure vehicle that’ll be my home from next summer onwards during my last 2 years of university. After that I’m pretty sure i’ll be heading off to Europe to test myself in the mountains and then who knows maybe I’ll ship the van off to the US or Canada and try my hands at the Pan American.
I’m taking everything I learnt from my last build and putting it into good use for this project. The plan is use more eco-friendly materials, run a more powerful electrical system with multiple solar panels on the roof and turn a standard panel van into a well designed tiny home.
So far i’ve had the van 4 months and i’ve lived in the empty shell of the van in Chamonix whilst I was working for Epic TV this Autumn and it gave me time to think about my interior layout. In the last month I’ve made some big modifications and it is now ready to start work on the interior.
Below are some images of the original van before modifications when I was in Chamonix.
Work on the sprinter van so far has been slow because i’ve been working on finalising the build plans and sourcing the materials I want to use for the build. Before I can start work on the interior I’ve been sorting some of the modifications to the Sprinter itself, this includes fitting the following:
Changing it from three front seats to two seats (one of which swivels)
Whole new colour change
50mm lift to get extra ground clearance when offroading and to fit BF Goodrich All Terrain tyres (this i’m going to do near the end of the build as it can be done at any time)
I break up from university on the 14th of December and then have till the beginning of January to really make progress on the interior of the build. First off is the process of insulating and preparing the flooring and batons for fixing the tongue and groove wooden panels.
For now I wanted to share the current changes to the Sprinter.
Miska is certainly already looking alot more like a adventure van than a standard panel van now.
Stay tuned for further updates on the van build and be sure to follow along on Instagram
Personal - @ClementHodgkinson
Van build - @Miskaontheroad
Thanks for reading!