It is a story as old as the system of nine to five jobs, yet one that never fails to enchant. If you have ever dreamt of escaping the trappings of city life and losing yourself in travel, solitude and exploration- of going beyond the conventional and answering to yearnings deep within your soul, then the story of Mike Hudson will beckon and, hopefully, inspire you to respond to those yearnings seriously. “In October 2013, I quit my job to convert an old van into my home. Five long months later, I was finally on the road travelling Europe, living and loving life. I want to do this for as long as possible,” writes Mike.
At twenty five he had had enough of the life he was expected to lead. He says, “I was an Electronics Systems Engineer for a global company, with clients mainly in the oil & gas and power industries. I always thought I’d be working my way up the corporate ladder etc. I didn’t really question it until I started working. What's the reason though? If it’s for the money then for me it is not worth it. If it is for the personal challenge, well there are loads of other challenges I want to do. I have too many interests to follow just one narrow ladder. I seem to go further on my own anyway.”
And he did. He bought a beat up old van for a pittance, stripped it and renovated it himself and then took off to see the world- his travelling home being his vehicle of choice. “After getting it running ok and removing all the rust I started from the outside and worked in. I insulated and lined the walls with pine. At this point I just looked at it as an empty living space and fitted it out with everything I need. I broke everything up into small jobs and sub-jobs,” he says.
‘In a little under a year, he has spotted bears in the Romanian mountains, surfed on the Portuguese coast, swum in the Danube, taken in the sights from the rooftops of Bucharest, raved hard at festivals and free parties in Spain, Hungary and Switzerland, and celebrated Christmas with his family, who flew out to meet him in Athens,’ The Guardian reports of his escapades.
In the process he has created something wonderful- his blog. It is the one thing he says he feels most passionate about. “My blog. I love doing it. It's something that really challenges me and lets me use and learn a really diverse range of skills.” As his story captures the imagination of more people across the globe, his fan following increases exponentially. In January alone he amassed some 25,000 followers, reports Guardian. But it is not about the numbers alone. It is the emotions his writings and photography evokes in the reader. One of Hudson’s most popular posts titled, ‘The Best Things Are Never Planned’, has this comment at the top: “I really do not understand why I get teary-eyed every post! I need to stop it! lol The pictures are beautiful and it is so true what you say about the best things happen without planning.”
While it is easy to be swept away and fetishize the beautiful reality this presents, life is as hard as it is wonderful for Mike. At times, it is deathly dangerous. “The time I nearly lost the van off the edge of the road in Slovakia. I was pressing so hard on the brake so I wouldn’t move any more down the embankment. I threw some rope out the window to a guy passing by. He pulled me out with just a bit of damage to the underneath of the van. I thought it was the end of my travels,” he shudders.
Even when no mortal danger presented itself, life was no picnic. He recounts the time a mouse held him hostage and almost undid all his good work with the van. “I was quite ill for the first week I arrived in Romania. That was quite tough to be living in a van on my own in a country I knew nothing about. The same week I got a mouse in the van and stayed up for nearly 2 days trying to catch it. I wasn’t sure whether to go to the hospital or catch the mouse. I started to dismantle all my woodwork because it was running behind the pine cladding. I eventually caught it.”
Despite all the hits and near misses, there is nothing Mike would rather do than live off the grid. “That I can be in the side of a mountain looking with the most wonderful scenery and have electricity to power my computer and speakers-that is the best part of this adventure. *puts the kettle on*,” he says.
The other best part is having breath-taking experiences on a regular basis. “Driving through the mountains in Romania! That’s when I felt the most alive. I was on my own and I had just watched the sun set from the top. It’s when I saw a brown bear.”
Even when he is not trying to hoist himself up from east European mountain tops, life is not easy. “Staying motivated is the hardest part,” he admits. I started out during winter in England, which made things a bit difficult.” (A huge understatement once you imagine what winter in England is really like). Mike misses his friends immensely. “I also miss having a workshop with space to make things,” says the one time engineer. Though these sacrifices are a difficult price to pay, getting to go round the world in your home on wheels is a sweet deal. That home is his masterpiece and embodies his design philosophy to the fullest. “I engineered the whole van to live awesomer rather than easier, but in the easiest possible way. I don’t want to live too easy,” he says.
Mike started financing his travels the traditional way- through his savings. But now things are turning around. “I was lucky enough to save up a decent amount with my job. Recently though in the past month I've been seeing some money come in through the blog. If I can earn just enough to sustain my travels through the blog then that would be a whole new level of dream come true for me,” he exudes.
Mike’s advice for those looking to follow their dreams is simple: “Don’t watch the news. Stop watching TV. Measure success by your own standards. Above all, trust yourself.”
Giving up what he did to follow through with a crazy idea must allow for some regrets surely? “Whatever I did or didn’t do was what I wanted to do at the time, or is how I felt at the time. I am responsible for everything and I want to be in the moment as much as I can. However, I know that I would probably feel quite sad if I got to 50 and had never done anything like this,” he fires back.
My last question is what has been the worst part about becoming a full time nomad. Mike replies with his characteristic candour, “I'm not sure yet. Maybe it will become apparent in a year or two when I realise I've ruined my life.”
Website: Vandog Traveller