We have all seen the photos on Instagram and Pinterest. The perfectly filtered photos of beautiful people are making a living working on their laptops in a converted camper van. Sipping a coffee while sitting in front of a stunning view. The ability to travel and work where and when you wish. It looks like a dream right?! Whats what I thought anyway, so I thought it would give it a go.
Our decision to be a remote company from the start was almost an accident. When we were looking for our hire few devs, it made no sense to limit ourselves to only our geography as this significantly reduces the talent pool. Additional hiring in major cities like London, New York and San Fransisco comes with a hefty financial premium, hardly an ideal environment for an early-stage bootstrapped startup looking to build a talent team.
For these reasons our company VEED has always been remote from the start and many of the team take full advantage of it (As we love it). Josy has spent a lot of time working and travelling around Vietnam, Stephan seems to always be in a hotel lobby somewhere speaking at or attending a conference. But this can only work if you have 110% trust for your team, and we do ❤️
This year Covid 19 and made travel really hard, almost impossible. Working from home everyday started to get repetitive and frankly a little depressing. I felt like I needed some excitement and some randomness in my life again. I am sure I am not the only one who found this year hard. So in a whim, I decided to buy a campervan with the idea to travel and work from it.
The van Breakdown and Tech modifications.
We bought a fully converted Van, as much as I would have loved to do the work myself, I have to admit I would not have been able to do a good job. The Van already had heating, a fridge, wet room, sofa/bed, heater, solar panels, leisure battery = and some sexy wave stickers on the outside of it.
The only tech modification I had to make to get the van office-ready was a mobile 4G router and 500Wh portable solar power station. This little bad boy would be able to change a MacBook book pro 6 times, keeping everything running for a good 3 days totally off-grid.
Managing power consumption is one of the hardest parts of the trip to get right. From research before the trip, we calculated that our MacBook Pro would consume a lot of power at 24V and would simply not run on our leisure battery. We found a Power Generator online that would charge of our solar panels and also of our cigarette lighter/alternator while driving.
The power oak has a capacity of 500Wh meaning you can change a MacBook pro 5 times. This was great, but we needed to reduce our power consumption too to extend off-grid working. Using the Mac Activity Monitor, we found that Sarafi used less power than chrome and working offline also significantly reduces power consumption too. Unsurprisingly not being connected to the internet all the time helps with productivity too.
Finally, I would do video calls from my phone as this was a lot more efficient in comparison to my laptop. I could also benefit from simply changing my phone from a 12V USB charger from the leisure battery too.
There is an interesting take away here, we are all so used to using as much electricity as we like. But when restricted, in stead of looking for more we should look to reduce what we use.
Let's face it, you cant run an internet company unless you are connected to the internet. As CEO of VEED, I need to check in with multiple team members regularly, attend meetings, interview new candidates, work on the product. Fortunately, 4G Internet coverage in the united kingdom is surprisingly good, even in a remote loch in Scotland.
Simply tethering from your mobile phone is more than sufficient, however, connecting multiple devices can be unreliable. Therefore I bought a simple mobile 4G router with unlimited internet for a month. Before we would drive to a new destination, we would check 4G coverage in advance. We never had to
Initially, the plan was to head to Italy, drive down the cost, hop over to Croatia and swing by the Viljko and Stefo in Serbia and then head back to London. Altho with covid rules changing all the time, we decided to play it safe and just stick to the UK. I dont want to bore you with the exact details, so I am going to fly through the trim here.
We left London and drove north to Windermere in the Lake District. We spent our first few days parked up next to the lakes waking, walking and enjoying the views.
At the weekend we headed to the foot of Scafell Pike, the tallest mountain in England. The day after, we had breakfast overlooking the lake and the headed to Scotalnd.
In Scotland we stayed next to loch Lomond, then Oban and finally headed to up Fort William to climb Ben Nevis.
After climbing Ben Nevis, we made out way back down south to visit a friend in Bristol. We then went to Salcombe in Devon
Finally to New Quay in Cornwall (to Visit Ale) where we stayed for a week. In Newquay, we decided to join a co-working space as the van was feeling a little cramped. Attending the co-working space was also practical as we could use showers and toilet too!
Cornwall marked the end of our 3 week UK Van trip, it was an amazing trip.
With all things considered the trip was amazing. However, working from a van is just not practical or productive. From this experience, we learnt that if you want to go on a holiday... just go on holiday for a week or two. But if you want to work remotely from a van, staying in one location and going to a coworking space during the day is the most practical. It is possible to work completely off the grid in the van but in practice, it's just not that great. As we enter 2021 with covid vastness being rolled out globally, I am looking forward to taking the van across Europe, meeting members of the VEED team in person and enjoy the freedom of remote working.