Challenge Accepted!

After our first night in the van I wake feeling liberated and sleepy. It was cold, but peaceful. We know we’ll find our rhythm eventually. A first night anywhere is unsettling, regardless of scary fox noises! After a full day of tipping junk, recycling recyclables and squashing items into a storage unit, we’re back at the new van and managing to get it into a homely state.

While putting cutlery away yesterday in a teeny tiny drawer, I popped my head outside and said to my husband “I think this is going to work”. I spoke with more confidence than I had felt in a while. His return was a big smile. I’ve always wanted to live somewhere I felt proud of. Which is why I would get so angry looking at grotty flats and compromising by looking in non desirable areas. For that’s all we were told we could afford. It makes you feel worthless and like you don’t deserve a nice place to live. That you’re being targeted for your life choices. But here, in the van, facing the orchards and surrounded by nature, I feel proud. Not just of the surroundings (which I can’t take credit for, that’s all down to my Mum and her partner). I’m proud of myself and my new life partner for being brave enough to start our marriage so unconventionally, and for accepting help. Some may see moving into a van as a step backwards, that we should be moving into our own home by now in preparation for children. But to own has never been our priority. We’ve studied in India, seen the migrating grey Whales in Canada and smelt the spices of Morocco – we’ve explored and learned all over the world. We now pause and accept where we are as a newly married couple. We’re continuing to learn through this latest new experience. This is an opportunity for us to eventually take a leap forwards and to make decisions that are right for us.

We know it will be hard and there will be challenges. First challenge; keeping the whippet out of the bed at night! Second challenge; fridge space! But at the end we’ll have such great stories to tell and a whole new perspective. I can already see and feel us both beginning to heal after being at the mercy of others for so long. My message to them is; challenge accepted!

The Only Option

In the Spring of 2017 my new husband and I moved into a caravan at the bottom of my Mum’s garden.

Let us start from the beginning. In October 2015 my partner in crime asked me to marry him. It was one of the happiest moments of my life. A close second is the day we brought home the third member of our family; Remy our three year old whippet. I of course said yes and we decided to allow at least a year to plan the wedding. We booked our wedding for March 2017. In January 2017 our landlord decided to put our home up for sale. In February 2017 it sold! On March 11th we marry, on March 13th we Honeymoon (in Finland) and on April 12th we move into a caravan.

While in Finland my husband receives news that he’s secured a new job at a Steiner school in Bristol. He grew up in Bristol and we shared our first 4 years there. We loved living there. We left Bristol back in 2015 as the house we were living was sold (there’s a pattern here!). We absolutely adored that cottage and we truly cared for it as if it were our own. Sadly, the rise in rental prices pushed us out of Bristol.  We decided to move to Taunton (Somerset’s county town), it was cheaper and closer to my family and work. Taunton was no where near as funky as Bristol, but we thought we’d give it a go.

Fast forward two years …..

My husband’s new job at The Steiner School was ideal and a chance to start on a new interesting career path. However, Bristol prices have continued to rise. In fact, over the last two years Bristol rental prices have risen disproportionately to the rest of the country. Our two bed terrace house in Taunton cost £675pcm, it had great transport links, a garden and was close to the town centre. In comparison, a similar property in Bristol would cost £900pcm upwards. It was obvious that sustaining our current lifestyle in one of the UK’s greatest cities wasn’t possible.  We are not frivolous spenders and we were even happy to downscale, but viewing a stable “conversion” with no central heating, a cottage with no kitchen and a flat where the estate agent didn’t even turn up….proved there was a problem.  Our budget was our downfall. Huge rent, plus commuting costs (for me) spelled potential for a financial pickle! We couldn’t see how we could possibly make moving to Bristol work.

After a day of disastrous viewings we arrived at my Mum’s house looking like the most unhappy newlyweds ever! We chatted for hours about cheaper areas around Bristol, storage solutions, second cars and I just felt myself drowning in a sea of compromise. I didn’t want our lives to move backward.

The next morning after an anxious nights sleep, my Mum suggested we move into one of the caravans at the bottom of her garden. My Mum and her partner are currently undergoing a reshuffle of their home in order to offer Air BnB. So they had the space ready. They live in a idyllic rural setting surrounded by apple orchards and prancing lambs! It was where I spent the majority of my childhood. My Mum showed us the caravan and left us alone to discuss the options. My husband and I had a tentative discussion and it was the only option that didn’t fill us with anxiety or spark a conflict. So we accepted the kind offer and the same day placed a deposit on a storage unit and began selling some belongings.

The caravan is cosy. We have an awning that doubles the space. There is a small kitchen area and a loo (pees only please, poops in the main house!). The lounge becomes our bed. We have direct access to an orchard and we don’t have to pay extra to bring the dog. This concept was already saving us money.

Don’t mistake this as a ‘Bristol slag off’. I love Bristol and hope to return one day. This is an observation to the fact that my new husband and I have become a statistic. More 30 somethings than ever are moving back in with their parents in order to save for a home. We’re lucky, we have our own space, but many will be back under the feet of their parents who have gone through their own growth and transition since their kiddies left.

My partner and I have good jobs, giving jobs, wholesome jobs. Yet we can’t afford to rent where we wish or even move back to where my husband grew up. What’s the alternative? This isn’t a housing crisis, it’s a greed crisis. A classic rich get richer and are calling all the shots. I’m not going on a political rant, but I am going to tell our story.

I’d love to hear from you if you are having a similar experience or creating your own creative solution to this issue.

We now hope that by moving into the van we can get our heads above water and eventually buy somewhere and not deal with landlords and letting agents again. But for now we’ll downscale to what’s important and look out at the orchards and start our first adventure as husband and wife.