Fall in love with life on the road with our favourite wanderer, Laura from @parkingonthewildside. Giving us major wanderlust, let her take you on a whimsical trip through the European alps. With picturesque landscapes plucked from a scene of a fairytale, she's living our wildest travel dreams right now! We chat all about adventures and vanlife with Laura.
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF - WHO YOU ARE, WHERE YOU'RE FROM AND WHAT SETS YOUR SOUL ON FIRE?
I’m 26, from Yorkshire in England. I dropped out of studying Fashion in London to live a slower paced life in nature. Now I travel around the wilderness in my self built campervan, creating myself a life of simplicity and freedom.
YOU’RE CURRENTLY ROAMING THROUGH EUROPE IN YOUR SELF BUILT CABIN ON WHEELS. TELL US ABOUT YOUR TRIP?
My partner Aaron and I set off for a 3 month European trip in August. We're dwelling in the Italian Dolomites and Swiss Alps because we just live for the wildflower meadows, snow capped mountains and turquoise lakes that are in complete abundance here!
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE YOU HAVE VISITED SO FAR AND WHY?
We've actually been travelling in the van for 2 years now since the day we finished our conversion. We’ve travelled through 10 countries so far but my favourite has got to be the Italian Dolomites! You have the fairytale scenery of the Alps combined with the beautiful Italian language, food, and a culture that celebrates the beauty of the past. There are these houses everywhere that are complete works of art with all their details, they are hundreds of years old and nobody is trying to replace them with modern ones. They're left to just tell their stories of the past, with grape vines growing all over them. It's all so beautiful, especially since it's rare to find places in the world where old things remain untouched by the modern hand.
ARE YOU A BIG PLANNER WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR ITINERARY OR DO YOU GO WITH THE FLOW AND SEE WHERE YOU END UP?
We like to swing between the two, if we stick to a plan for too long we start to crave a life with less structure. On the other hand if we go with the flow for too long we can become too comfortable and loose our buzz for adventure. So before we set off, we map all the magically wild spots that we dream of waking up to, and we set off with those ideas and dreams but without any strict time constraints. This way we have a burning excitement for travelling without the stress of keeping to a schedule.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO LIVE THE VANLIFE?
I reached 23 and suddenly found myself completely overwhelmed with the modern world. I'm super slow paced and was working in this cafe where I was constantly reminded that I wasn't fast or productive enough. I just realised that the 9-5 wanted me to be everything that I’m not and vanlife was a way that I could live a life of creativity, freedom and calm with very little money. Eventually this lifestyle became my income too!
YOUR VAN LOOKS SO COZY AND PERFECT FOR ADVENTURING! CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE PROCESS OF BUILDING YOUR DREAM VAN?
Our little camper gets its character from all the upcycled materials! We wanted to do the conversion eco and with a small budget so all the wood inside was from palettes that were heading to landfill. We used upcycled vintage cabinets and vintage blankets to make our seat covers. The shelves are stocked with old jars, books and picnic baskets. We wanted it to feel like a fairytale cabin built by some drop-outs in the '70s and we think we made that happen! Decor trends come and go but rustic cabins are pretty timeless.
WHAT ARE YOUR TOP 3 ESSENTIALS FOR ANYONE TRAVELLING IN A VAN?
1. Something to document your travel memories with. Whether thats a precious journal, a sketchbook, or a camera. Record all the funniest, calmest, scariest and most captivating moments of your camping adventures to look back on and maybe even share with the world.
2. An open mind. You have to be accepting of all the strings attached to vanlife. For example the lack of conveniences like dishwashers and showers, and the unexpected plot twists that often turn out wonderful. Vanlife isn't very predictable so you have to be really flexible with your plans and embrace all the unexpected things along the way, from new roadtrip friends, to losing mobile signal, to divinely timed breakdowns.
3. A mindfulness practice. When you head on such a wild adventure it's easy to be in hazy mindset which hinders your experience. Carry with you a mindfulness practice that roots you in the present moment, soaking up all the subtleties that are taking place around you like a butterfly landing on a flower or the breeze rushing through your hair. This way you'll be able to truly absorb the magnitude of the places you visit.
Laura wears the Sky dress in indigo child
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL STYLE?
In two words: Seventies Folklore. I love the mystical and medieval themes that emerged from the psychedelic movement in the late '60s and early '70s. Donovan's theatrical capes, Jimi Hendrix's flouncy romantic bell sleeves, Jessica McClintock's Gunne Sax dresses and the gothic influence in Stevie Nick's wardrobe. I love blouses with big sleeves, tiered maxi skirts, picnic baskets, psychedelic and floral prints, and little embroidered waistcoats. Styled with crystal necklaces and bare feet ready to run through some wildflower meadows.
WHAT’S THE BEST PART ABOUT LIVING ON THE ROAD? AND DO YOU EVER GET HOMESICK?
My favourite thing about vanlife is the ability to live my dream life without having to spend years saving up for it. I so badly wanted to live in a rustic cabin in the mountains with no deadlines and no boss to answer to, but I was repeatedly told 'That's just not the real world'. I kept thinking, 'Actually that is the real world, that is how humans have lived for millenniums!' and vanlife just made all of that possible for me. Suddenly I owned this rolling home for barely any money and I could convert it into my dream home and drive it anywhere in the world, choosing to live in the most enchanting, peaceful pockets of wilderness. Thankfully we never get too homesick, we see our families every few months and the time with them feels so much more mindful and sacred now than it did before; vanlife has definitely made us more grateful in that way.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR MOST EXCITING, PINCH ME MOMENT IN YOUR TRAVELS SO FAR?
This is such a tricky one to answer because every single day in vanlife there is something that makes your jaw drop! The moments that stand out are my first time gazing up at snow capped mountains, my first time laying in an alpine meadow in full bloom, the time a group of Scottish deer came to peek inside our van and the time we decided to start selling our art through our Instagram and sold out within minutes. Vanlife definitely comes with a lot of inconveniences and discomforts but it's more than worth it for those everyday moments of total wonder.
WHAT DESTINATION WOULD YOU LOVE TO SEE NEXT?
We are really hoping to dwell in the snowy mountains of Alaska and the lupin fields of New Zealand. Perhaps we'll ship our camper across seas to get there. Another option is to do a van swap with someone from those places, we live in their van for 3 months and they live in ours!
Follow Laura and Arron's journey here