Adele Dingles, 26, a photographer, and her videographer partner Thorin Toz, 26, have ditched their three-bedroom home for something more portable.
The couple, who struggled during the Covid lockdowns, now lead a much more nomadic lifestyle, traveling the world in a 7-metre wheelbase Sprinter van.
The vehicle cost them £7,000 and they have spent a further £13,000 turning it into a home, relying on solar power and batteries to travel.
To date, Adele and Thorin have traveled a total of 20,000 miles on it, visiting France, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium and Luxembourg.
They are currently back in the UK to earn some extra money but have no plans to stay.
“We do several shoots and then go back and live on small amounts to cover insane gas prices and groceries,” Adele said.
After completing their work commitments, the couple will travel to Spain, Portugal, France, Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, Turkey and the Canary Islands over the next nine months.
Adele says living in a van saved her life. She suffers from ADHD and a mood disorder and the lockdown made her afraid she wouldn’t be able to experience new things.
The pandemic forced the couple to reevaluate their lifestyle, prompting them to change it and hit the road.
“I found everyday life difficult, I just didn’t feel like I belonged,” Adele recalls.
“I felt like something was missing in my life and I didn’t know what it was, but I knew I wanted to travel and see the world and get away from the little island I grew up on.
Adele’s mother was initially apprehensive about her travels in the world, as she sometimes struggles with change or without a defined structure.
However, she lived on the freedom that life brought.
“The days went by and I lived in the van and I felt something change in me,” Adele said.
“Muscles in my body that I hadn’t even thought about relaxed. I felt my whole body go from a pressure I hadn’t even thought about to nothing. My body healed and so did my mind.”
The two simply live while exploring, using a 525W solar panel to generate power for their 200AH lithium leisure batteries.
Adele adds: “We have so much solar energy that we can use a hair dryer for three hours and then it dies, but it recharges every day from the sun or from driving.”
They cook on a camping stove, connected to gas bottles, with which they can travel all over Europe.
While they love their lives, there are also scary moments.
“When you hear a strange noise coming from the van down the road, it can be quite scary,” Adele explained.
“The worst moment had to be when we had a bad travel stomach from the Italian water and I accidentally left the lights on and drained the battery on a remote mountain road.
“Fortunately, the second person we encountered and helped us.”
Their next investment in the van will be a shower facility, but they are currently more focused on day-to-day maintenance.
“At the moment we are using public showers that are available in various places, such as swimming pools, truck stops, etc. But we are checking that the van shower is accessible,” said Adele.
“Things always go wrong that need fixing, from leaky skylights to drawers that open when we drive, we need to find a new solution. It needs maintenance, but for us these things are worth it.”
Thorin and his father were able to take the van from boring to awesome in just 15 days, working eight to 10 hours a day on it.
“I love it all, so much love has gone into the design of our van it’s hard to pick a favourite,” said Adele.
“This lifestyle is beyond what I could have imagined, the freedom you feel in your soul is indescribable, I feel like I’m really home now.
“My psyche and my outlook on life are getting so much better, I’ve grown so much and I owe it to this way of life. I live very happily and keep working on myself every day.”
Adele used to work long hours before going full-time, but she loves that she can now use her camera skills to document her life on the go.
Adele said: “We don’t need a flashy car, expensive clothes, the best hotel or the best villa.
“All we need is our house on wheels, our camera, the open road and each other, and isn’t life really about getting out and about, making memories and finding happiness?”
For others making the leap into nomadic life, Adele has some advice.
“Do your research and follow other people on YouTube or Instagram so you can see the reality,” she said.
“Ask other van-lifers questions. It’s not all rainbows and you have to be prepared for things that can go wrong.”
I, Ronald Payne, am a journalist and author who dedicated his life to telling the stories that need to be said. I have over 7 years of experience as a reporter and editor, covering everything from politics to business to crime.