Meet Ruth and Josh Betts, who did something we all probably have contemplated to do at least once, they packed up their life and are now living out of their van, while travelling in South Africa and working remotely. I am fascinated with this lifestyle. Do you know any other South African Van lifers? Please mention them in the comments.
Enjoy the story of the “Life of Betts”
Josh and Ruth, tell us about your life and how you decided to make to move to permanently live out of your van?
We have been married for four years this year and we were high school sweethearts. Before we embarked on this van life adventure we were actually travelling full time already. We decided at the end of 2019 that we wanted to travel the world so Josh quit his job and started his own company (more on that later). We embarked on what was meant to be a great big adventure around the world and left SA soil on leap year 2020. But, covid-19 changed our plans quite rapidly. We got locked down in Mauritius for three months then travelled back to SA on a cargo flight. We really had to re-evaluate our life plans. We both knew with absolute certainty that returning to a 9 to 5 lifestyle wasn’t for us. Our brief taste of freedom and travel pre-covid had impacted us greatly. We spent the following six months travelling through South Africa in a rented car and staying in Airbnb’s. The plan was to do this until international travel opened up again. But, that time never seemed to arrive and it was costing us a lot of money to stay in beautiful locations and rent a car continuously. Thus, leading to the decision to buy, renovate and move into a vintage Van we now call Stan.
How do you make it work financially?
We make it by doing the following:
1. Sticking to a budget. We write out a budget that covers all our expenses, gives us entertainment money and ensures we save every month.
2. Caravan parks are much cheaper than airbnbs/hotels. We find that staying long term (1+ months) makes caravaning very affordable. Most parks offer long stay discounts and this means it’s sometimes less than half of what we were paying in an airbnb/hotel.
3. Living near areas we want to explore saves us travel expenses.
4. For much of 2020 we lived out of one suitcase and this helped us learn to live minimalistically.
What jobs are you both doing remotely?
– I (Ruth) am an online English teacher. I have a bachelors in Education and transitioned to online teaching 3 years ago. I work around 4 hours a day, Monday – Friday. I love the freedom my job gives me and the flexibility of my schedule. Josh runs and owns a Lead Generation and Direct Marketing company. This also allows him to work with a flexible schedule.
What are the challenges of your lifestyle and how do you overcome them? Did you have to give anything up to do this?
Living in a vintage van means we sometimes have hiccups along the way. Stan the Van is a 1988 caravan and had his own story to tell before he became our home. Josh has had to learn how to be a builder, electrician and all round handy man. We have learned to laugh a lot and not sweat the small stuff. Living in a small space in an often very sandy campsite can be tough. I gave up the idea of striving for perfection and have learned to just enjoy the moment. Did you have to give anything up to do this?
All in all I will say no. We had already given up everything back in 2019 and had just lived off one suitcase for almost a year in 2020. We were so used to being on the road together that the transition into van life felt more like a gain than a loss.
Do you have a base to get back to?
No, it’s just us and our few belongings that travel in Stan. Once we have traveled South Africa and maybe parts of Africa we will sell up and hopefully return to international travel again.
What about alone time, don’t you need that?
2020 was a year that many people were confined to small places and Josh and I were no different. 3 months locked down in an apartment in Mauritius. Two weeks quarantined in a one room hotel room in Johannesburg. Then, 6 months of small airbnb’s around the country meant we got used to being with each other 24/7. We are fortunate that we were best friends for four years before we started dating so we knew each other very well and have a deep friendship at the heart of our relationship, but we do spend time apart everyday while we work for around 4/5 hours.
Where have you been so far this year and do you have a plan ahead or do you just journey spontaneously?
This year we have traveled through KwaZulu Natal and parts of the Eastern Cape. We have a general idea of the route we would like to travel but we don’t have any time limits. If we find ourselves in a place we love, we have and will extend our time there. We travel slow and steady.
What is your favourite part of Van Life?
Ruth – Parking our little home atop a beautiful hill overlooking a breathtaking view. Pouring coffee and stepping out our door to the warm salty air and sound of the ocean OR to the crisp morning air of the mountains. Being able to be completely free and travel wherever we choose. I love the homely familiarity inside Stan the van compared to the rugged adventure waiting just outside his door.
Josh – Being able to travel, live and work in the most beautiful locations.
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