Life in five square metres
Many people dream about it. The freedom to do exactly what you want and take the day as it comes. But what are we really prepared to give up for such freedom? We met Jørund Eggen who has chosen to live a “Van life”, a lifestyle that more people in Sweden are becoming aware of.
It’s starting to be more common to hear about people that live a van life, but what does it actually involve? Van life originated in the surfing cultures of Australia and the USA, but in recent years it has spread to other parts of the world. In a nutshell it is when people live and travel around in a converted van. It is a movement that has spread widely, mainly amongst younger people. Jørund believes that it is partly because it is so much cheaper than buying something like a motor home, but also because it is easier to find places to stay.
“In southern Sweden in particular, it can be difficult to find the real beauty spots, because they always herd you to camp sites. But as soon as you start to go further north, both in Sweden and Norway, there are large car parks and beautiful mountain passages. So you can camp right there in the mountains and drink water directly from a mountain brook.”
Living a van life often means living a very bohemian and minimalistic life. People who choose this lifestyle are often active people that enjoy being outdoors most of all, and for Jørund, the move to a van life wasn’t such a big one. He has previously spent longer spells living in a tent or in smaller cars. His last home was a tent in Spain where he lived for four months and spent his days rock climbing.
“Last year I had a motorbike and a tent, and that was actually what I wanted to have now too. But it’s easier to sleep in a van and you can bring more gear with you for activities. Especially ahead of the winter season. I can get my skis and all the equipment I need in the van.”
If you look inside Jørund’s van, it’s obvious that he has a huge interest in outdoor recreation. It has climbing equipment, a bike, hiking equipment, a tent and a slackline, but so far, the van has not been either insulated or furnished. There’s a sofa that opens out into a bed, as well as a hammock hanging from the roof.
“I’d planned to get the van into shape straight away to begin with, but then I felt that there was no point in spending so much of my time in summer trying to do it up when I could be climbing and doing other stuff. It works fine as it is. But now that we’re approaching autumn, I’m going to fix it up with the help of my Dad. I’ve decided to insulate it and put up panels on the inside.”
If you look up van life on, say, Instagram you’ll get millions of hits. You can see creative solutions showing how people have built and decorated their vans. There are all possible kinds of vans, from large motor homes to smaller vans. And when people who live a van life get together, the van is a big topic of conversation. They talk about different solutions, van sizes, cost of petrol, and other things.
“I’ve chosen a somewhat smaller type of van. I went from a motorbike to wanting to have a van, and I didn’t really want to have the biggest and best van I could find. I wanted it to be big enough to be able to stand up, sleep and make food. I might get something bigger in the future. ”
Jørund works as a paramedic nurse, which gives him the possibility to work intensively during certain periods and then be able to take longer holidays. Since he qualified in 2016, he has worked an average of 4-6 months per year. He’s been able to spend the rest of the time climbing, skiing and doing other interests.
However, there are downsides to living in a white van. In addition to having to give up certain comforts, you can also get suspicious looks and questions. Especially in places where it is not as common for van-lifers to travel.
“You know, there’s been quite a lot of thefts from farms in northern Sweden using white vans. I’ve been pulled over a couple of times and questioned about what I was doing there and why I have so much stuff in the van. Places like Lofoten, Åre or Narvik are different. It’s common to see young people who live a van life there. In those places, people usually know what it’s about and you can instead get a thumbs-up from completely random people.”
Creature comforts are often talked about. Should you have a toilet in the van or not? Should you have a shower and running water in the kitchen? So far, Jørund hasn’t really had much of a problem living without running water. He gets clean by bathing in lakes here and there, and he fills up containers of water for making food.
“Of course it can be a bit awkward sometimes with dish-washing, but as long as you plan a bit it’s fine.”
Jørund does not believe that life in a van would suit everybody. But he thinks that everybody who dreams about it should test it out. His suggestion is to buy a smaller van like he did to see if it suits you. Rather than spending lots of money doing up the van straight away, you can test out the lifestyle and then gradually fix the things you miss as your needs expand.
There’s even limited space in the wardrobe. Jørund doesn’t remember when he first came across Woolpower, but he has worn woollen clothes ever since he was a child.
“Merino wool wasn’t as common then, and I remember that damp, scratchy feeling that some kinds of wool have.”
The scratchy wool left its mark on Jørund and he switched to using polyester base layers for a while. But after some time, when he started going on longer trips in the mountains, he felt that the base layers didn’t live up to his needs.
“When you go to the mountains, you of course try to pack as light as possible, and you often wear the same base layer for a week or more. After just a few days in a synthetic base layer, I hardly dared to open my sleeping bag as I knew I would feel sick from the smell of sweat and stale plastic. My time with synthetic base layers was very short-lived and I soon started to prefer wool.”
When you have limited living space, every purchase is made only after careful research. At the top of Jørund’s list are products that he can rely upon and that are of high quality.
“The fact that Woolpower products are developed for and sold to the armed forces gives me confidence. They are part of a large group of people that have completely different demands on products than what outdoor enthusiasts probably have. So that makes you feel like you can completely rely on the quality.”
33 years old
Favorite Woolpower garment:
In general, I like Ullfrotté and how it feels against my skin. If I have to say one garment, I really like the mid-layer jacket. If could only choose one garment I would choose a Full Zip Jacket 400. You can use it for everything and I use mine all the time.