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Couple have saved £15,000 while touring UK after moving into ex-police riot van

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Sales professional Rachel Franklin, 25, and carpenter Cameron Smith, 30, have visited the Outer Hebrides, road-tripped around Wales and explored the Lake District since giving up their bungalow and taking to the road

van

Rachel Franklin and partner Cameron Smith share the space with Odin the husky and the trio have enjoyed trips around the UK in their new home, all while saving money (

Image: MDWFeatures / @livinginkevlar)

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A couple has shared how they saved £15,000 by moving into an ex-police riot van in order to reduce their living costs.

Sales professional Rachel Franklin, 25, and carpenter Cameron Smith, 30, from southeast England share the space with Odin the husky and have enjoyed trips all around the UK in their new home, all while saving money.

Cameron said the idea came to him after hearing that one of his housemates was moving out, and rather than continuing to pay rent, he decided to use his carpentry skills to build himself a home on wheels.

Requiring plenty of storage for his woodworking tools, as well as a bed and space to stand up, Cameron spotted an ex-police riot van on eBay which suited all of his needs.

He spent an initial £8,000 on the van and an additional £3,000 fitting electrics, plumbing and building the cosy interior.

In their free time, Rachel and Cameron love sketching and reading In their free time, Rachel and Cameron love sketching and reading (

Image:

MDWFeatures / @livinginkevlar)

Cameron said: “I remember sitting in my six-hundred-and-fifty-pounds a month room in a shared bungalow watching YouTube and stumbling across van life videos.

“I was hooked and couldn’t believe that it was a real lifestyle that people live.

“A few weeks later, a housemate told us that he would be moving out which left us all thinking what to do.

“With ten years of carpentry experience and one-hundred hours of van life videos behind me, I knew what my plan was. I was going to move into a van.

Cameron found the Mercedes Sprinter on eBay and spent £11,000 on purchasing and converting the van (

Image:

MDWFeatures / @livinginkevlar)

“After the initial investment, this would allow me to put my old rent money to one side and work towards building myself a future.

“I needed plenty of storage space to store my tools for work and I needed something I could easily stand up and move around in.

“When the riot van popped up on eBay, I knew it was perfect, with all the additional security that comes from its former life as well as the box shape which makes for an easy conversion.”

Keeping with the police theme, Cameron decided to name his van ‘Kevlar' after the bulletproof material.

The couple love spending time outdoors, hiking with their dog Odin (

Image:

MDWFeatures / @livinginkevlar)
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Cameron and Rachel, who first met in 2013, reconnected online and became a couple at the beginning of 2020.

Since then, they have spent time travelling the UK together with Cameron’s husky Odin - visiting the Outer Hebrides in Scotland, road tripping around Wales, rambling in the Peak District and taking in the panoramic scenery of the Lake District.

The couple says that their love and appreciation for nature has only increased since living in the van full time and being able to live sustainably by generating all of their power from solar is very important to them.

They also have managed to reduce their expenses since there is no rent to pay and no room to fill the van with lots of materialistic possessions.

The couple estimates that they have saved approximately £15,000 on rent, utilities and unnecessary expenditures since living in their van.

Carpenter Cameron stripped out all of the seats from the van before installing beds, a table, a kitchen area and even a log burner (

Image:

MDWFeatures / @livinginkevlar)
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For Rachel, one of the hardest parts of van life is not having a warm bath to soak in, but she admits that this is a small price to pay for the idyllic life the couple share together.

However, the pandemic lockdowns throughout 2020 did prove to be a challenge for Cameron and Rachel since waste disposal and recycling plants were closed, leaving them reliant on finding a large supermarket or help from friends to get rid of their rubbish.

For Rachel, the benefits of van life far outweigh the challenges it poses.

The environmentally conscious duo love that their lifestyle is more sustainable than living in a conventional house (

Image:

MDWFeatures / @livinginkevlar)

Rachel said: “We love being so close to nature all the time.

"Since living in the van, we definitely look outdoors more for entertainment and we have so much more appreciation for the world we live in.

“Obviously the ability to cut out a lot of expenses is brilliant too, we get our electricity from the sun.

“There isn't rent to pay and because of having a smaller home, you don't spend as much money on material possessions.

Rachel, Cameron and Odin pose for a family picture together (

Image:

MDWFeatures / @livinginkevlar)

“Small living also means we're able to be a lot more environmentally conscious.

"We know exactly how much water, gas, and power we use each week and despite living in a vehicle, our carbon footprint is so much lower.

“The beauty of living in a van is that Cameron can pretty much take work anywhere, without worrying about a commute - this means we also get to explore places that we wouldn't necessarily visit on a holiday.

“Having a home on wheels means we never have to pack or plan around our work commitments - we can be as spontaneous as we like."

Cameron and Rachel park up for the night at a scenic spot in the Lake District (

Image:

MDWFeatures / @livinginkevlar)

Whilst for many couples, living in such close proximity for so long would cause friction, Cameron and Rachel say that their relationship has only gotten stronger.

The pair say that communication is vital, as is being able to happily pursue their own hobbies which include sketching and reading together in peace.

“Communication is always key in a relationship, but we think it's probably, even more, the case when you're living small,” Rachel explained.

“We don't find the constant proximity an issue and we still spend our downtime doing things we love.

“When we aren't spending time outdoors, Cameron likes to sketch and I like to read, and we often find peace in just doing activities we enjoy.

“On the occasions where one of us needs a little bit more space, the other can take Odin out for a walk, or go and meet friends, or busy themselves elsewhere.

The couple have lived in the van together for the past year and love the freedom it gives them (

Image:

MDWFeatures / @livinginkevlar)
Cameron sits in the back of his converted riot van with his husky Odin (

Image:

MDWFeatures / @livinginkevlar)

“We actually find that living in close proximity to each other has made our relationship really strong.

“We know each other very well and are able to freely ask for alone time when we need it.”

Rachel and Cameron have no plans to change their living arrangements anytime soon and plan to travel around Europe when the time is right.

“We have no immediate plans to move away from van life because we want to travel around Europe and in particular Scandinavia, and freely explore even more of the UK,” said Rachel.

“Our long term dream would be to buy land and build our own tiny home on it or to restore an old property and create a new sustainable home in its place.

“Regardless of where our future takes us, we have no plans to get rid of Kevlar and will be keeping her with us.”

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