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Couple & Their Beagle Travel Europe in their Sprinter Van Renovation

Meet Ceri, Will, their puppy Piglet, and their amazing Sprinter Renovation with a ceiling bed.

Originally from Northumberland in the UK, the couple (@tothemountainsnback on Instagram) first bought their Sprinter thinking they’d use it for brief holidays, but fell in love with the tiny/nomadic community during renovations — they ended up moving into their van full-time. Will even changed his business style so he could work remotely and make money while traveling.

They gave such thoughtful and interesting answers to our Q&A you can read at the end of this post, and you just have to see their bed lift! One of the most creative van beds I’ve ever seen. Enjoy the photo tour!

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Couple Living & Working on the Road in their Sprinter Renovation

The Sprinter van was just a basic shell when they started, but the end result is absolutely breathtaking.

What a transformation! You’d never know it was a van, honestly.

See the ceiling? That’s actually their bed on electric risers! The next picture shows their workspace/table in “bed” mode.

Ta da! Here’s the bed. No need to make the bed every day.

Another one of Ceri’s favorite features of the van renovation is this adorable kennel for Piglet.

They’ve rigged up a swing in the back of the van for admiring the views.

Ceri says the wood mountainscape on this wall was a real labor of love. The results are stunning.

They use an induction cooktop for their meals, which sucks a lot of energy but is worth it overall.

A simple projector makes it movie night in their tiny van.

Yes, there’s a bathroom! It’s possibly the tiniest wetroom ever, but at least they have that toilet.

Here’s a close up with the door open. And then…

Here it is with the sliding door closed.

Piglet looking less-than-amused, but Ceri promises the pup LOVES living on the road with them.

Ceri and Piglet then…

Ceri & Piglet now!

Here’s a better view of the mountain woodwork in the kitchen. Also they have a regular apartment fridge under that countertop.

Now who wouldn’t want to eat dinner here?

What are your names?

I’m Ceri and my other half is Will. You may know us as To the Mountains and Back on social media.

How many people and animals live in your van?

People wise it’s just me and my husband Will, and then the most important member of the family, Piglet. She’s a slightly crazy beagle who hasn’t really calmed down at all in the last 8 years but absolutely loves van life!

Where do you live?

We’re based in Northumberland in the UK, which is a really beautiful rural county that borders with Scotland. We don’t spend much time there at the minute though as we are off in our van across Europe whenever we can be.

Why did you decide to go tiny? What are you hoping to get out of living tiny?

Going tiny was initially a means to an end for us. We wanted to travel whilst still being able to earn a living and take our dog along with us. Living tiny in a van enabled us to do this, and then we discovered living tiny was just as much fun as the places we were going to see!

How did you first hear about van life?

I saw an article on Facebook about a couple who had driven around Europe for a year in a self converted van with a beagle and all the adventures they’d got up too. I forwarded it to Will and a few weeks later he announced he’d bought a van!

How long did it take to finish your van?

We took quite a long time over it! We both had full time jobs and as we’re lucky enough to own our own home there was no rush for us to complete it by a certain deadline. We also had no set plans to head off in it for months on end, we initially thought of it as a home for the weekends and short holidays. It was only once we were deep in to the build and had connected more with other people on Instagram living the van life that we started to think we could actually live in it long term. In the end it took us almost a year to finish converting our van but we definitely weren’t working on it with any kind of hurry (until the last few weeks at least!). We mainly worked on it at weekends and around trips abroad we already had planned, and around finances as we pretty much decided on a whim to do it so didn’t have savings in place.

How did you build your van? Did you have any help? Did you do it yourselves?

We did almost everything in our van ourselves. We got a specialist to fit our diesel heater and a motorhome repair company to fit our back windows. That was a mistake and we wish we’d been brave enough to do it ourselves, it wasn’t done well and eventually both windows had to be re-done as they nearly fell out! We also had help from a mechanic friend to run the coolant lines from our engine to our water tank that provides us with hot water whenever we drive. Everything else we did ourselves. We had very little experience and spent a lot of time researching the best way to do things on blogs and YouTube. Will works with electronics and technology for a living so the electrics in the van were relatively easy for us, he’s also quite handy when it comes to DIY! We both got involved in the build but often I’d come up with the design and an idea I thought would be perfect and it would be up to him to try and figure out how to do it!

How did you find a place to park and live in your van?

We don’t have one place we stay in our van. We’re always on the move and it’s rare for us to stay in one place for more than a few days. Being in the van, for us, is about the freedom to explore, so even if we find a place we love we tend to move on within a few days to see what else there is around. There is just so much to see and we’ve barely scratched the surface so far! We make use of apps such as Park4Night to find places to stay, as well as recommendations from other vanlifers on Instagram. Occasionally we’ll happen across a spot by accident and just stay. We prefer rural areas and tend to avoid cities as they’re harder to explore with a dog and not as easy to park in. We always try and find a spot that’s well away from houses (when possible) so we’re not bothering anyone and aim to leave places better than we find them by clearing up any rubbish left by others.

Before going tiny what was life like?

I think I’d class our life as ‘normal’ before we purchased our van! We both worked full time, I had a job around 30 minutes commute away and Will ran his own company (as he still does) that operates across the UK. Will was often away during the week as most of his work was in London (around 300 miles away from our home) so it was rare for us to see each other for more than a couple of days. We joked that when we set off in the van it would be the longest time we’d spent together since we met so it could possibly break us… thankfully it didn’t!! I had to leave my job, where I’d been on and off for 20 years (it started as a pocket money weekend job!) which was hard but the draw of hitting the road was strong! Will still runs his company and has made a few changes so that he’s able to work remotely most of the time from wherever we are.

What benefits are you experiencing after going tiny?

For starters we’re seeing a lot more of each other, which is mostly a good thing!! We’ve always loved exploring but hated leaving Piglet behind (although she always had a great time at her second home without us!). We love being able to take her with us to new places and seeing her happily exploring. We definitely have a lot less ‘stuff’ when we’re in the van and it really makes you realise how little you actually need. It also makes you a lot more aware of how much power and water you use and this definitely translates even when you’re back in a house. Overall we just love being on the road, we’ve found so many incredible places that we would never have visited on a short holiday and we get to call those places home, for 24 hours at least!

What about some challenges?

There are definitely challenges to living this lifestyle! The biggest is finding somewhere to sleep for the night. In some countries they’re really not a fan of ‘wild camping’ and you can drive for hours desperately trying to find somewhere/anywhere to park! A lot of places explicitly say no camping or no overnight parking so you have to decide whether to chance it, some countries will issue you hefty fines if you’re caught and other places you just don’t get a good feeling about. On Instagram you mostly see the stunning park-ups with endless views and nobody around for miles, we live for those park-ups but they definitely aren’t the norm! Finding water can be difficult, we carry 100 litres of fresh water so depending how often we shower we need to top up every week, some places this is easy, others not so much, particularly in winter when a lot of taps are turned off. We also use a lot of power in our van. We cook using electricity and need power for laptops so ensuring we can charge our battery, especially if the sun isn’t shining can be a bit of a challenge too! We charge as we drive but sometimes you just don’t want to leave that perfect parking spot! Reminding yourself to sit down and do some work is also a daily challenge. You have to be very disciplined to ensure you get things done, which can mean you don’t get to explore an area as much as you’d like but in the end we still have bills to pay so we need to work most days.

What makes your tiny house special?

We put a lot of time and effort in to our conversion so that it truly felt like a home, so it will always be special to us. It’s taken us to some incredibly beautiful spots and it’s amazing to have your home with you everywhere you go. It’s also really nice to sit back, relax and think “we did this”, especially if you’re sipping wine looking out across the Dolomites or parked up on a golden sandy beach in Ireland for the night!

What is your favourite part of your van?

For such a small space it has so many features that I love. Everything has a purpose and no area is wasted. I love our mountain scene on our bulkhead, it took days to do but I’m really glad we persevered. Our bed is pretty nice too! We have a Happijac Bed Lift so our bed disappears in to the ceiling every day meaning we don’t have to make our bed up each night and giving us a huge seating area for working/relaxing. I love Piglet’s little barn door kennel area too. Yeah, I can’t pick just one feature, sorry!

What advice would you give to others interested in going tiny?

I think that’s quite a hard question as there are so many reason people choose to go tiny. For some, like us, it’s to travel, others want a more minimal lifestyle, some are pushed that way for financial reasons and there’s probably a hundred other reasons I could quote! That’s my main piece of advice though, sit down and have an honest conversation with yourself or whoever you’re going tiny with and work out why you want to do it. Make sure going tiny is the right solution in the first place. It’s easy to look at incredible pictures on Instagram and watch YouTube videos and think going tiny is the answer to everything. It might be, but it also might not be! Once you know why you want to do it the how becomes a little easier, working out the kind of rig, the size, the essentials you can’t live without and the amount you can afford to spend etc.

Do you have a website/blog/social media?

We do! We just launched our website and will be filling it with all the details of our build, daily life and resources for people interested in living tiny and van life in general. We’d love for you to check it out – www.tothemountainsandback.com. We’re also on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/tothemountainsnback/ and Pinterest https://www.pinterest.co.uk/tothemountainsnback/

Learn more

Our big thanks to Ceri for sharing!🙏

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Natalie C. McKee

Natalie C. McKee is a contributor for Tiny House Talk and the Tiny House Newsletter. She's a wife, and mama of three little kids. She and her family are homesteaders with sheep, goats, chickens, ducks and quail on their happy little acre.

Latest posts by Natalie C. McKee (see all)

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Theresa Perdue
    April 8, 2020, 3:53 pm

    This is one of the nicest van conversations I have yet to see. I do believe it will be copied quite a bit.
    I sure would 😉

    • Natalie C. McKee
      April 9, 2020, 1:56 pm

      Yes this is so tasteful and lovely. The wood is what makes it!

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