Van Life

Welcome to Scotland Thariea and River Paige!

Their story has really caught my eye. They have a stunning Instagram feed @slowlywild, where they document buying an old Bournemouth council bus and turning it into their family home in which they plan to travel with their three young children, in the UK, at present, and once covid restrictions lift, through Europe and Africa. They arrive in Scotland tonight.

Outside River’s parent’s home in Leicester.

Here is River removing the original seating when they first bought it –

Here is the van gutted –

Thariea is a family photographer, which half explains their beautiful Instagram feed, but the subject matter is equally responsible: River’s handiwork on the interior of their vehicle is beyond amazing.

Before they embarked on this project River was a graphic designer, working for a company who manufactured super yachts, creating logos, signage and bespoke fittings. Despite his expert design skills, he had no real DIY experience: they were living in a rented home where he had no need to even hang a picture. However, he bought this bus, for £8,000 with it’s distinctly unromantic interior and has transformed it over the course of 16 months, into the most stunning scandi style family home, doing everything himself on a budget of around £13,000.

They started hatching a plan to travel, thinking they wanted to spend time together as a family and home educate their children for a while. They saved some money by living with River’s parents in the suburbs of Leicester for a few months. Yes, in-law living is a ‘thing’ – I am doing it too! Thariea gave up work when she had Nalu, her third baby, 18 months ago, ‘the child care costs no longer made sense’ she explains. Now River has left his job as well and they have at last taken off, heading to the Scottish Highlands, intending to dos the NC500, the circular route taking in the stunning coastline north of Inverness. Their children Roman, eight, Arabella, six, and Nalu-River, 18 months, are all for it, they had a sleepover in the van in March and loved it so much they refused to leave and have been living in it ever since!

They all help – here is Nalu helping with the painting and finishing –

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to interview Thariea and ask her a few questions to gain little more insight into their chosen lifestyle.

AG: How will you support yourselves during the journey?

TP: Well, River is planning to continue to work while we are on the road, he is a website designer and has commissions lined up. He has also been approached by a camper van conversion company, unsurprisingly, to do some design work. His aim, while we are on the road, is to create a two day working week for himself and a 5 day weekend when he can enjoy our travels and focus on the children.

AG: How will you educate your children?

TP: Like many people we have found ourselves home educating during lockdown and discovered that we loved it and wanted to continue. We are calling it ‘Road Schooling’, a form of the more commonly known approach, ‘Unschooling’. We will cover basic maths and english, and allow our kids to follow their interests. Our 6 year old daughter loves art and our 8 year old son loves history. We will incorporate their interests into our travels, visiting castles and historic sites and weave art activities into every lesson. We aim to teach our children ‘how to learn’, knowing that they will be more than able to keep up when they return to school, as learning will be a huge part of their daily life.

AG: What about your children’s friends and friendships?

TP: At the moment we are parked in an idyllic caravan park on Northumberland coast. It is extremely quiet and peaceful but if I look out of the window I can see my two older children playing in a group of five other children, they could not look happier. They will miss their school friends of course, but we will FaceTime their friends and write letters and emails, learning useful English and IT skills along the way.

AG: Where do you get your style inspiration from?

Five years ago we lived in a house full to gunnels with ‘stuff’. We had a baby and a toddler, heaps of toys and clothes and washing everywhere. It was like white noise, we could not think straight or concentrate. We stumbled upon Scandinavan minimalism, and got really serious about it, adopting a minimalist approach to create an airy interior, with only a handful of clothes and toys. Good design gives you such a positive feeling: we immediately felt lighter and happier and able to achieve so much more. I noticed that we learnt to value experiences over things

AG: I have to ask about your toilet, it looks very modern and comfortable?

It is a composting toilet and it is brilliant. It uses no water for flushing, so, it is also known as a ‘dry toilet’. Sawdust or coconut coir is added after each use instead and we add Pine essential oil to the sawdust to create a completely odourless environment. The system is so easy to use, it is very environmentally friendly, there is minimal waste and it is very easy to dispose of it regularly.

AG: Do you have a shower?

Yes we do, it is inside but you can hang it out of the window if we are very sandy or muddy from a walk. We are planning to stay at campsites regularly though where there are hot showers available and of course there are always facilities at service stations.

AG: Your kitchen is so beautifully designed, tell me how you achieved it?

River designed and built the bespoke plywood fittings. We bought a cream vintage style cooker on eBay for £60, it is absolutely perfect and a very smart stainless steel fridge for the full price of £600. There is no dishwasher, nor do we have a washing machine, we will use the washing machines available on the campsites.

AG: What do you cook?

Well, we are vegans but still enjoy a wide and varied menu, we all love Mushroom risotto, peanut butter rice, lentil spaghetti bolognese, we all enjoy baking baking, banana loaf is a big favourite as are vegan pancakes.

AG: What about the future?

I simply don’t know! We are very spontaneous people, I do know that I have never felt so content. I dream of an open plan Dutch barge, and River dreams of buying a plot of land and building a house and growing food… All I know is that you only get 18 summers with your children and we want to make the most of every second!

AG: I feel so inspired by my chat with Thariea. I am a real home bird as you know and this moving malarkey has really unsettled me, but her wonderful spirit of adventure is infectious and I have noted down everything she has said and will take a leaf out of her book and enjoy rather than fear the changes and challenges we are currently faced with.

If I have a piece of advice for her though, it is that I think she is wrong that we only have 18 summers with our children, I think she will find that her kids will let go and explore when they are ready, but I have a funny feeling they might seek her out again – I am hoping to have adventures with my kids when we are all quite old – it will take more than a Zimmer frame and a blue rinse to stop me having wonderful weekends exploring new places with my children – sorry!!

We are nearly there by the way, we get the keys to our new home in 10 days exactly, but, a number of times in the wait I have thought ‘Why are we bothering? Why don’t we just buy a camper van?

In for a penny, in for a pound?

Well we have done it – we have bought and old Berlingo Multispace. Doug thinks it is for buying materials and taking stuff to the dump, but actually, once we have finished the house I am going to pop a mattress and a kettle in it, hang some pretty curtains and hit the road!

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