Tell us about yourself, and why did you embark on this VanLife road trip?
Hi! I’m Hanna, and I was born in Germany and grew up between Sweden and USA. I spent 10 years in Germany, and it’s such a fascinating place. The landscape is so diverse, the people so interesting!
I have always been into vanlife & road trips, but I have only recently had the opportunity to actually live it.
The concept has always fascinated me, and I have a huge love of the outdoors and travelling. I came out of a 5 year relationship and had a cliché life: house, mortgage, job etc. At the end of the break up we sold the house and with my share of what was left I saw the right moment to follow my dreams and just went for it!
What van do you have and why did you choose it
I have a Volkswagen T4 called Emma. I wanted an old Norse name but I just couldn’t decide on one so my friend said “Let’s just call her Emma for now” and it stuck!
She was a holiday van but I upgraded her myself to become my full-time vanlife home.
What is your worst experience
I don’t really have any negative experiences if I am honest. Well, not what I would call negative. Clumsy? Most definitely. I have good instincts so if I am not comfortable where I park, I will simply move on.
I do have a bit of bad luck too when travelling with people. Well, they have the bad luck. On 3 separate occasions I have been in convoy with others and each time, they have broken down!
What is your favourite memory
That will be visiting the Isle of Skye for the first time! Skye is something else, it really blew my mind! It’s such a magical place, almost mythical. I’ve been there twice now and will definitely go back very soon. Waking up at my favourite spots, which I am keeping a secret, surrounded by all this amazing scenery. I was completely in that moment, my mind at peace.
It’s amazing how beautiful our earth is. Skye has touched me in so many ways and I am so grateful I get to live this life!
Actually, can I just add to my favourite memory? Sorry! The Fairy Pools on Christmas Eve is something that will always stay with me too. There was only one other person there and (Foolishly according to my mum) went for a dip.
The water was so cold I’m sure I died for a moment! I have lived in Sweden yet I have never experienced anything like that. My mum gave me a lecture when I told her. But it was such an incredible experience like I had been touched by mythical creatures and they hit the reset button.
Tell me one thing you would save from your van
If there was one thing I would save from my van it would be my journal. I have kept a journal all of my life and they are very important to me. I have 3 in Emma at the moment from the past 18 months. They help me to reflect, release and reboot.
Where is the most extreme place you’ve visited
I have been to many countries already, never just passing through but always on the way to somewhere. I always explore, as everywhere is a destination to me.
In November ’21 I was in Spain and drove across the Pyrenees to France. I am a winger, I wing it all the time. I never plan anything and this often lands me in some erm, awkward situations. I followed the tiniest of roads for hours and hours, 25% inclines where I was spinning and almost slipping backwards, but I was committed.
No turning back. I drove up, up, up into the clouds. I could see nothing. I saw no other cars, no people, nothing. Then snow. So much snow! I was in a summer dress and flip-flops so unprepared for snow!
Then I saw a sign stating “Road Closed” and thought “****” but I had to get down. I was at the top so may as well go down in the direction I wanted to go.
The snow was worse on this side though, I didn’t think about that! I prayed that I wouldn’t die, and I really don’t know how I didn’t but I made it down. There was a strange smell coming from Emma, I think she was just as scared as I was…
Do you miss bricks and mortar
Absolutely not! Not one bit. Having a house, hot shower at your disposal and not having to worry too much about getting flat batteries is nice but so boring! Same routine, same blah blah blah! I had just turned 28, I had the big house, big kitchen etc but I had to work so hard to afford that, that I didn’t have the time or energy to actually enjoy that lifestyle. I never want to live like that again. I don’t think vanlife will be forever but I’ll cross that bridge when or if I ever get to it.
How do you usually work out where to visit
Well, I started out with Sweden as I know the language and I am familiar with the ways. I read travel blogs, watching documentaries etc. I have been planning for years really, so it didn’t take much extra. Then I just went for it. After 8 weeks I was more confident, more relaxed and felt secure. I had my routine down, so I departed and left Sweden. I touched Norway, then Denmark and headed to Germany. The UK was next on my list of vague destinations and made my way up to Scotland. I just winged it the whole time.
After Scotland, I had to head back to Germany to change my tyres for winter ones for my insurance and law as that’s where Emma is registered. I’m a good girl you see. Then I went to France and Spain for a bit of warmer weather but the vibe wasn’t there this time and I could hear Scotland calling. I thought “screw the sun, Let’s go back to Scotland” and off I went. Just like that. Scotland has had that much of an impact on me, I left Spain for it…
Which do you use more: free camp or sites
In 9 months I have been to a campsite 2 times, right at the very start of my journey. I’m always for the freedom!
How do you deal with breakdowns on the road
I have a worldwide breakdown cover that my mum bought me as a leaving present. They will also take you to your destination wherever it may be. I haven’t used it yet, but it’s nice to know it’s there. So I don’t have to worry.
How do you find winter
I love winter, I love the cold. I can deal with it so much better than the heat. I love the winter vibes, dancing in the rain and heading back to Emma to get all cosy. I have survived winter pretty well due to an excellent power system but when it does get low on long dark damp days, I just deal with it.
Do you feel safe in your van
Yes, very much. I’ve not yet been in a bad situation but as I said, I trust my guts and move on.
One night in the Highlands though I woke up to the van rocking violently at 4 am. I was a bit scared then but peeked out the window only to be met with a cow rubbing its big arse on the van!
At the end of the day, not everyone is out to get you, so trust your gut.
Erm… Just going to wing! I want to see the Orkney Isles and I want to go back to Sweden in the summer but I’ve no set plans.