After a week working in my camper, what do I think?

As I write this, I'm at the end of my first week of trying to work from my camper van.

In my last post I wrote:

I've realised I need to be comfortable spending time in places that don't have amazing views, but that have showers, shops and a way to get online. Not to focus on the destination, but on whether I can be productive when I get there.

Since then I've been parked up in Kinlochleven, a village nestling in the mountains between Glen Coe and Ben Nevis, at the head of Loch Leven. It's got everything I felt I needed; showers, a good Co-op, a café with Wi-Fi access, and excellent 4G coverage. There's even a hostel where you can get your laundry done!

Here's the view of Loch Leven from the MacDonald Hotel. Actually, it's a hotel worth knowing about; there's space for your tent, you can use the showers for just £2 (even if you're not staying), and the bar overlooking the loch is called the "Bothy bar"!

Loch Leven, from Kinlochleven

I spent three nights in Kinlochleven, and worked from the café in the national climbing centre for two days.

How did it all work out?

At the start of this experiment I listed a few things that I thought it might be a problem.

Let's recap.

  • What will it be like trying to work from a small metal box in bad (or hot) weather? This problem evaporated once I got to Kinlochleven and could work from the café. But it was definitely too hot in the van when it was parked in the sun.
  • Surely the ergnomics of working on a laptop at a small table will be terrible? I normally use a standing desk, and didn't fancy sitting in the van for long periods. It's okay for a couple of hours, but after that it's not great. Coffee shops aren't much better, but at least it's easier to get up and walk around a bit in a café. So ergonomics aren't great, but not really a show stopper.
  • How will I keep the laptop charged? This isn't a big deal; I was in a café, but even in the van a decent solar panel will keep everything else you need running (fridge, lighting, etc). Even in typical UK weather.
  • Will I get lonely? I've always been good in my own company, but what I hadn't realised was that being alone for long periods is much easier when you've got friends nearby (and have the option of popping round to see them, even if you don't do always take it). So yes, I got lonely. And it was crap.

There was only one problem that I hadn't seen coming — once the working day was done, I started to get bored.

I'd been looking forward to having plenty of time to read. But when the time came, for some reason, I just didn't want to.

It's hard to be objective about this, but I suspect that being a bit lonely undermined my enthusiasm. I was also a bit under the weather, and (along with the midges) that kept me cooped up in the van in the evenings. I fancied going cycling (there are some great trails around Kinlochleven) but I just wasn't up to it.

By the end of the week, I was bouncing off the walls.

So where does that leave my little experiment?

It seems that working in a camper van just isn't for me. When I've explained this to friends they usually respond with "oh dear!", but I'm really pleased to have discovered it so quickly. I could have spent months planning a trip, only to come home after a week.

I still think vans are great for long weekends, holidays, and for getting out into the sticks with my mountain bike. They're just not something I want to live in, on my own.

If you've been following this little series of blog posts thinking you fancy doing this yourself, for God's sake don't let my conclusion put you off. You should try it for yourself.

Some people clearly have an amazing time living in their camper. Check out Ben and Leah's YouTube channel, Mike Hudson's excellent books, or Jack McGowan's Instagram feed for inspiration.

Now, perhaps it's time I took my mountain bike to the Lake District for the weekend… :-)

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