Van life: The Scots who have swapped bricks and mortar for life on the open road

It is a nomadic lifestyle which has its roots in the 1960s counterculture, when a life on wheels offered the possibility of unbounded freedom and adventure.

Now, a new documentary aims to explore why a growing number of Scots are leaving behind bricks and mortar to take to the open road in converted vans.

The BBC Alba programme, Beatha sa Bhan - Vanlife - looks at a cross-section of people from across Scotland who now live, work, or holiday in campervans.

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Since the advent of the coronavirus pandemic, growing numbers of Britons have been converting vans to accommodate beds, stoves, and even toilets.

The events of the past two years have inspired some to quit the rat race altogether, while the flexibility of remote working has encouraged others to eschew traditional home comforts.

In 2020, AutoTrader reported that over half of those customers who purchased vans did so with plans to convert them into mobile homes.

Those featured in the documentary include Ian and Zena Stewart, an Inverness couple who purchased a 1980s Volkswagen campervan.

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Diorbhall Wentworth sometimes uses her converted DPD van to stay overnight in Edinburgh. Picture: BBC Alba

The vehicle, they say, is helping to create precious family memories, given how it allows them and their two sons to take a holiday at short notice.

“I’d recommend this to anyone with a family,” Zena explained. “One advantage is that you can just head off whenever you feel like it.

“You can make a last-minute decision to go off for the weekend - you just need to load the van and head off.”

Others featured in the programme use their vans as semi-permanent bases. They include Diorbhall Wentworth, a student who has clad the interior of her converted DPD vehicle in pine.

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She now uses the van to travel from Glasgow to university in Edinburgh, often parking up in the capital and staying the night.

Musician Murray Willis also lives full-time in his Fiat Doblo, moving his belongings from the rear to the front seat each night in order to find space to sleep.

Lisa Anette, a Glasgow-based producer who is desk bound at home during the working week, is among those who converted a van in order to explore the outdoors, with her Volkswagen Caddy Max storing her bike, as well as a mattress as a stove for brewing coffee. She said the set-up has proved to be a “life saver”.

The constraints of the pandemic also inspired some new van owners. John Campbell, from Lewis, found himself unable to book accommodation for work due to various lockdown restrictions, and so converted his Peugeot Boxer into somewhere he could sleep overnight.

While the idea of life on the road is a form of escape for some, others who appear in the documentary, such as Jessica Ferguson from Glasgow, view it as a business opportunity.

She purchased a Volkswagen T5 campervan via Gumtree, and converted it to include a bed, gas hob, and pump-operated shower. Now, she hires it out to holidaymakers.

The hour-long documentary, Beatha sa Bhan (Van Life) is produced by MacTV and is available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

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