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2nd May 2024

Van Life with Simone Stewart

We caught up with TikTok star, Simone Stewart, asking about all things van conversion, travelling tips, and staying safe on the road.

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Still just in her 20s, Simone Stewart has accomplished a lot in the last couple of years, with a flourishing social media career and some amazing travel stories under her belt, but it has definitely been a process that she’s had to embrace.

In 2022, she posted her first video on TikTok, showing her followers the van she had bought and was about to convert, with plans to use it as a vessel for adventure. 

Since then, Simone has amassed over 20K followers on the platform and she’s been able to take her converted campervan on multiple trips with her boyfriend, Zac, plus their adorable pooch, Roo.

Her van is decked out with practical design elements, including lots of storage options, electricity, and a built-in campervan toilet that’s hidden under a chair. The best part? Simone converted most of it herself, making it a true labour of love.

The social media star has driven her van across Europe, plus to the most northern part of the UK in the Shetlands, and she loves taking her followers along for the ride.

From van conversion tips and tricks to the funny series of videos that came from her being stuck in the Shetlands due to an unruly storm, her content has something for everyone. 

We caught up with Simone, asking about all things van life, travelling tips and exploring what the Somerset local is up to in the future. Keep reading to find out what she had to say.

You’ve talked about how teenage you probably wouldn’t have envisioned yourself living and travelling in a van, so what originally inspired you to start renovating the campervan?

“It wasn’t until I was in my early 20s that I even knew renovating a van was possible. Until then my perception of a house on wheels was an American RV for young families, ‘We Are The Millers’ vibe. 

But in 2022 I found myself having lived in London for 5 years, exhausted by the rat race, and quite honestly desperation hit for drastic change and to achieve something big before I reached 30. 

So I planned a big road trip to America in hopes of travelling in an RV, but I didn’t like any of the options for getting my dog over there. I honestly don’t remember how my trail of thought took me from changing it to a Europe trip, to building the vehicle myself. 

I started researching and developed an absolute blind confidence in myself, excited to build something that would fit all my needs, and with having zero DIY skills, I think I was just so excited about how much of an achievement it would be if I did it. 

So no, living in a van wasn’t where I saw myself at age 29. I thought I would own a brick house and have a steady 9-5 but I think I much prefer this outcome!”

Your lovely fluffy companion, Roo, loved going to Europe with you  was it always the plan to take her with you on some of your travels?

“Roo comes everywhere with me, train, bus, boat, on my bike in a dog rucksack. It’s never a question that she is part of every van trip. She’s the inspiration for the van build, so I could find a way to travel to other countries with her easily. My parents always joke that she’s a dog well travelled!”

What would you say are some of the hardest parts about travelling with a dog and what wouldn’t you change about it?

“Not everywhere is dog friendly, so my experience of cities like Paris or Milan might be different to your average tourist – I can’t go up the Eiffel Tower or in a museum for example. But I wouldn’t have it any other way on a long trip! I was actually pleasantly surprised how dog friendly places were in Europe. There wasn’t a restaurant we weren’t allowed in, and we went to the best dog friendly beach I have ever been to! Shade umbrellas for dogs, dog water bowls and dog sun loungers. I even hired a boat on Lake Como and Roo loved it!”

What is your process when creating online content in the van?

“I like to change up the shots and angles to keep the story moving. So I end up with a lot of footage at the end of each day, which means my editing process is slow, but hopefully more entertaining. 

Other than that, I like to create videos that have answers to some of the questions I wish I had seen when building, and just have fun with it!”

You also mentioned in a video that being in the van alone can feel a little daunting – do you have any safety tips for women wanting to travel in a campervan? 

“Yes! It’s still something that I worry about, but there are a few tips and tricks I have learnt along the way. 

Number one, is always pull up to your camping spot in the daylight, everything is scarier in the dark. Pull up within good time to get to know your surroundings in the light, cook some food, and then you can start locking up for the night in your own time.

This also gives you time to suss out the area, and get a sense for how safe it feels, maybe meet some other female van lifers in the carpark, safety in numbers!

I thread my seatbelts through the doors in the cab area, so it would be difficult to open the door, probably excessive, but you’ve got to do whatever makes you feel safer. 

Getting a security camera on the outside of your van is always a great bonus, and I am currently in the process of adding locks on the doors that I can lock from the inside. 

Planning your route ahead of time will also alleviate any worry, and share your location with a couple of people. 

Lastly, having a dog always helps, my dog Roo is a very good guard dog, maybe too good because she also alerts me when she hears foxes.”

Speaking of tips, what would be your number one tip to give to someone travelling abroad with a campervan?

“Make sure you bring all your basic tools, you never know when you might need them! (I spent a pretty penny in a few DIY shops fixing bits when I was away). 

And sometimes driving off the toll roads (although not faster), is worth it for the beautiful sights you see. Like rivers you can spontaneously swim in and there’s never any traffic because everyone’s on the tolls!” 

Do you have any future plans to renovate another van at some point?

“If you had asked me a week after the van build I would have said absolutely not, not in a million years. But now a year has passed and the stress of building has slowly left my body. I’m coming around to the idea…”

What’s next for you and your campervan? Anything exciting?

“In the next couple of months, the NC500. A trip along the south coast to stay by the beach near some friends. And I would love to explore the south of France and Spain later this year. Hopefully I can make it all happen!”

Want to insure your van or campervan like Simone?

Whether you have converted a van yourself or bought your campervan ready to go, Sterling will have a campervan insurance deal to suit your needs. We also offer van life insurance if you’ve decided to live in your camper or motorhome full time.
Simply call 0344 381 9990 for a quote today or book a callback at a time that suits you.

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