How the pandemic inspired this backpacker to commit to vanlife

How the pandemic inspired this backpacker to commit to vanlife

February 12, 2021

Story submitted by traveller Lucy

In March 2020, over six years of full time travel and living abroad came to grinding halt.

Along with the rest of the world, I was plunged into lockdown after lockdown as the pandemic swept across the globe. “Stay inside” was the advice – not an easy task for a woman who was passionate about exploring the world. At the time, I was in Colombia, halfway through my dream trip through Central and South America. It was the adventure I had been dreaming of since I first started solo travelling the globe, the trip I had put all my hopes on after escaping an abusive relationship. But as borders closed, countries and businesses were shut down and flights were grounded, it was time to admit defeat and get home while I still could. I passed through five airports in two days, more time zones than I could count, but finally made it back to the UK safely. As I started my quarantine, the announcement came and the UK was thrown into the first lockdown.

It’s strange to think back on that time now, almost a year on and now *hopefully* halfway through our third full lockdown. How our attitudes towards the lockdowns have changed, the novelty has worn off and we’re tired, exhausted by this limited pandemic existence. For someone whose life is travel, giving up my greatest passion has been devastating. Every day the reminders come of the life I lived before, the freedom, the joy I felt and the amazing people I would meet. But it was a necessary sacrifice and now the world is a different place – it will be for years to come. I realised early on that my style of travelling – budget travel in hostels – was going to be a lot more difficult in a world of restrictions and social distancing. My dreams of continuing my trip in South America and New Zealand would be on hold for a while. 

If there is one thing that travel has taught me, it’s to remain adaptable in the face of adversity. There’s no such thing as game over, you just need to get creative in making your dreams a reality. I had always loved vanlife after spending several months road tripping Australia and Europe after converting a van with my ex-partner. I loved the freedom of the open road, the way it allowed you complete independence to head off-grid and to wake up anywhere. Opening the doors of the van to see ocean, mountains or lakes, or camping wild in a national park. It’s the people you meet along the way, and the kindness they show you. I loved the way vanlife forces you to slow down, to take your time and appreciate the things you usually don’t even notice. When I was forced to leave my partner after he became extremely violent, I remember him telling me I would never have a van of my own, that I couldn’t do it without him. I certainly didn’t do it for him, but it was all the more satisfying to know that he was wrong, and that I was capable of anything I set my mind to.


For years I had dreamt of having a van of my own, and had planned to buy one when I went to New Zealand at the end of 2020 to live for two years. Unfortunately the world had other plans, so I had to think of a way I could still travel safely post-lockdown while being able to socially distance and isolate if needed. It was actually my mum who made the suggestion that I buy a van while I know I’ll be based in Europe for a while. I started to research and read online about vans – to get ideas about what kind I would like, what features I would want. I was debating whether to convert a van myself, when I came across my perfect van – already mostly converted – and perfectly within my budget. I was lucky, the prices for vans were skyrocketing at the time as many other people had the same idea. 

I travelled from one side of the UK to another to view the van, unsure whether I was ready to commit to it. But she was the one! An ’07 Vauxhall Movano I’ve since named Fortuna – she’s the Roman goddess of luck, abundance, good fortune – and most importantly, of safe return. Although the main conversion was already complete inside, there’s been a lot of things I wanted to change so lockdown has provided the perfect time to work on the van. It’s given me hope and something positive to focus on for the future. Sadly I was just about to head out on my first trip in Fortuna when the most recent lockdown was announced, so now I’m *not so* patiently awaiting the day when restrictions ease and I can take her on the road. First up are the Lake District, Cornwall, Scotland and Wales. Then hopefully in the summer, I will drive the van to Portugal and explore Europe – something I can’t wait to do. 

vanlife 2

Words and photos by Lucy. 

Absolutely Lucy is a solo female travel blogger from the UK who has spent the last six years full time travelling or living abroad in nearly 40 countries. Lucy gave up her nine-year relationship and career as a journalist after she reached burnout and followed her dreams of taking a gap year. But that gap year never ended and instead she turned travel into a lifestyle, sharing her colourful travel stories and zest for life through her blog: www.absolutelylucy.comLucy is all about chasing adventures and empowering women to travel solo and head off the beaten track. Follow her on Instagram: for solo female travel inspiration.

This post was submitted by a traveller as part of our Trade Your Time for Travel program. Click here to learn how you can earn travel credits towards a future trip with us, just by sharing a memorable travel experience. #tradeyourtimefortravel

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