In October, 2013, Mike Hudson left his job, sold everything he didn’t need, and got to work converting an old LDV Convoy into a home on wheels. This would be a monstrous task for anyone with limited woodwork/DIY experience, but in five busy months, he managed to build himself a serious camper through sheer determination and McGuyvery. When the van was ready, he drove himself south from England, across the pond to Dunkirk on a ferry, and hasn’t looked back since. Eight months, over 7000 miles, 4 festivals and 7 countries (and counting) later, he is still a very happy camper.
As soon as you enter the working world and start accumulating stuff, it gets harder to pull up the handbrake and take stock of what you really want from life. I guess that’s one of the big reasons I respect what Mike has done – he had the stones to say ‘F*ck it, this isn’t worth it,’ and take a new path. I came across his website, theVanDogTraveller.com and wanted to know more. So, this last weekend, while in Romania, he took some time to answer a few questions for These Walking Blues.
Either I have created my own world or a new world has opened up. I can attract the things and people I want in my world. I am free to do as I please. I am overwhelmed with ideas and new things to learn. My mind is free of limitations. I think I now believe that anything is possible.
This is one of the best descriptions of everyday life I’ve ever read. How much of your situation was planned and how much takes place on the fly?
Haha, it’s a bit embarrassing but yeah, I kind of started to see the power of our thoughts and how we shape and create our own world, our subjective world. We’re kind of in full control. I think it is most evident whilst travelling, because you’re exposed to an infinite amount of different possibilities, situations, and people. You know what I mean?
The only thing I planned was to buy a van, convert it and go where I feel, and I didn’t even really plan that. I did a lot of daydreaming at work. I think my head just sorted out most of it without me knowing. The van conversion was just ‘on the fly’ but I did know how I wanted it. Everything on the road just happens. I may just hear about something and go there. I have ideas of where I’d like to go (I like looking at maps) then go there, but I may change my mind at last minute and just go that way instead. This can use a lot of diesel but it seems to have worked up to now.
The van is bloody amazing – the before and after photos are such a gnarly contrast. Did you have much DIY experience before you undertook this or has the whole process been about learning how to do this from scratch?
This was the first thing I’d made anything of this nature, like out of wood and stuff – apart from making dens when we I was a kid. I have always made things and always been into electronics though, which helped.
It was difficult. I looked at the empty van and I just couldn’t imagine how it was ever going to happen. People don’t see all the difficult bits, they just see the final result and think that I just did it without a problem and then say ‘I wish I could do that’. They don’t see the whole learning process and the mistakes and the frustration. What I’m saying is that I think pretty much anyone can do this (or anything). I’m currently working on a ‘guides’ section for my site. I didn’t realise how many people dream of the van thing as well so I’d like to help the people that don’t know where or how to start.
I spent a lot of time learning how to do things, redoing things. I spent a lot of time documenting it, which meant I had to learn how to use my camera and also about web design along the way. I’ve learnt a lot! And the learning continues as a travel except the lessons are not technical ones. Can learning be a hobby?
It looks like it has been an epic summer – festivals, camping, etc. What’s been the highlight of summer 2014?
I’m sat with a friend who I met this summer and asked her this question. Her answer was like mine: wide eyes and a deep breath… all of it!
One real nice memory for me is from the last day of the SUN festival after a big thunderstorm. The sound system came back on. Everyone comes back to dance. Something amazing happens when there’s a load of people all dancing in front of a soundsystem. It’s basically magic. Everyone knows the feeling I think. Can’t describe it.
I guess I’ll go as far south as I can. If I had the money for diesel I’d probably go as far East as I can. I’m in Romania now so probably Turkey and Greece. I have no idea what it will be like but it’s the best I can do for warmth I think. It’ll be interesting for sure and will complete my 4 seasons in a van. I have no set route though. Before I set off I drew a big fish over a map of Europe for a route to follow (it was on the tracker page of my site). I’d end up in scandinavia for winter though if I carried on following that. Plans, they don’t always work out.
Do you think of this as a trip you’re on (something that will potentially end/ start anew in a new form) or has the van-house conversion just become a fluid lifestyle?
I think it’s a project. But one without Ghantt charts. I’m not sure I see it as a trip. This is how I want to spend my life at the moment and feels right– I still have no end in sight. That’s all I know. I don’t think I’m just going to go back to England and carry on as I was before, like I would if it was a trip or holiday.
I see you play music? What do you like to play and what do you generally listen to? I definitely make sounds with things but I’m not very good at making it be music.
There is music for everything I do; Music for making tea, music for making coffee, making coffee on a Monday, making coffee on a Monday with one sugar…. driving south, driving west. It’s fully woven into my life and is definitely the main way I connect with people. I love discovering and sharing new music.
I can’t answer what I generally listen to but I’d be happy to show you if you’re ever near the van. I used to run a pirate radio station where we played only hardcore dance music (you know +160bpm with MC and stuff?) but at the same time, I’d be listening to bands like Leftover crack and Rancid. Now If I were to run a station again maybe I’d play Klezmer music only and then go home and listen to Primus. It’s complicated. Like one bit multi-way love affair. I feel bad for even mentioning this music.
Your post on the things you’ve had to get used to quickly is great. If you suddenly developed magical powers and could conjure one invention that would make your life easier/better, what would it be?
Probably to make people know what I mean by just clicking my fingers. A brain-to-brain interface (B2BI)? I’m not really a talker. Won’t be long now…
(Do yourself a favor and read the full story here, in Mike’s own words).
*All photos courtesy of Mike Mudson.