#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 3°C Thursday 9 December 2021

'I love waking up and stepping somewhere new every day': Notes on living and travelling in a van

As rents grow, some people have taken to living and leaving the country in converted vans.

The view from inside the van of Niamh Kavanagh and Andres Pesqueira.
The view from inside the van of Niamh Kavanagh and Andres Pesqueira.
Image: Andres Pesqueira

ALTHOUGH IT MIGHT not be for everyone, living in a van has become a very popular option for some people. 

Whether it’s to save on rent, travel the world or simply have your own space away from home, van living has become an attractive option for many people in Ireland. 

More than two years ago, Niamh Kavanagh and her partner Andres Pesqueira took the leap to live in a van due to the expensive rent prices in Dublin. 

“When I told my friends and family, a lot of people were horrified. I think they thought I would be sleeping in a mattress in the back of a van,” she said.

“They were shocked that it has a fridge… We have been able to make it exactly how we want it.”

received_343658840071616 (1) Inside the van. Source: Andres Pesqueira

received_1274099982957551 (1) A shot of the outside of the van. Source: Andres Pesqueira

Although she is back to living in a house at the moment, Kavanagh said the only thing she misses when on the road is a bath. 

“I absolutely love having a bubble bath.” 

The couple worked as rock climbing instructors and travelled around to different climbing facilities in Ireland. 

“The industry could not support the two of us renting in Dublin, so the easiest cheapest option was to live in a van,” she said. 

They generally worked in Dublin for four or five days each week, and then drove around the country on their days off. 

“Inch Beach on the Dingle peninsula is so beautiful. To wake up right beside the seaside is just amazing,” she said.  

The couple moved in with Kavanagh’s parents during the pandemic and throughout this time, they have been converting an old Brennan’s bread van into their new abode once restrictions ease. 

I love waking up and stepping outside to somewhere new every day. If I want to wake up beside the sea I can, if I want to wake up in the mountains I can.

“My adventure starts as soon as I wake up.” 

‘We wanted to see the world’

IMG_20201016_170358_290 The inside of Dean and Jenny's van. Source: The Fitness Forest

Dean (34) and Jenny (32) from Dublin were in a similar situation with renting when they made the decision to live in a van.

The pair travelled around Ireland for two months recently before moving to Spain last month. They are planning to live there in the van for two years before returning back to Ireland. 

“We were both working full time jobs with limited holidays, as most people do,” Dean said. 

“We wanted to see as much of the world as we could and this was the best way for us to do that.”

They said the weather change in Spain is “unbelievable” and has made their living experience “much more enjoyable”. 

IMG_20201016_170354_711 Before the van was done up. Source: The Fitness Forest

IMG_20201016_170403_378 After the van was done up. Source: The Fitness Forest

“One of the big things we underestimated was the wind [in Ireland],” Dean said. “Sometimes it felt like the van was going to fall over.”  

The pair said that “living in a small space makes everything easier” in terms of keeping the place tidy. 

“The main thing we have realised is you really don’t need a huge house to live in,” Jenny said. 

“When we get back home, a tiny home would be perfect.” 

They bought a secondhand van and built the interior themselves during weekends, getting a bit of help with gas and electric work. 

“For people that think they need a big workshop, you don’t. We did in in the front garden,” Jenny said.  

#Open journalism No news is bad news Support The Journal

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support us now

“Before this, we didn’t even own a screwdriver between us.” 

The pair were inspired by what they saw on YouTube about van living and started their own YouTube channel to discuss their own route to living in a van.  

“So many of our friends want to do the same, but I think people are afraid of leaving their jobs. We are total amateurs – if we can do this absolutely anyone can,” Dean said. 

Plans for the future

IMG-20201017-WA0003 Katie outside her van.

Katie from Dublin said she and her partner began looking into living in a van about five years ago and are hoping to make the switch by next March and move to Italy.  

“We were watching YouTube one day, we were 28 and 27 at the time, and we lived in my parents’ house in Dublin in an attic room,” she said. 

“So just the freedom aspect of it… we thought it would be amazing.”  

After running into some insurance issues for a few years, they bought a van which they are hoping to move into full-time next year for six months in Italy.

IMG-20201017-WA0002 Katie's partner in the van.

“I think there’s a huge frustration when it comes to rent and trying to save up for a mortgage,” Katie said.  

“We know it will take us a long, long time to save up for a mortgage,” she said, adding that she eventually realised this wasn’t what she actually wanted. 

“We both want to work for ourselves, we’re both business-savvy people so it will be great to have more time to do that.”  

Read next:


This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a commentcancel