'There are so many ways to live': Meet the man who quit his job to make an $8,000 van home

'There are so many ways to live': Meet the man who quit his job to make an $8,000 van home
Mike Hudson in his van.
Mike Hudson in his van.

Mike Hudson is currently living out of a van in rural Greece—and that's exactly where he wants to be right now.

Hudson, better known to followers of his popular blog as Vandog Traveller, quit his job a year ago and set out traveling Europe in a converted van he calls home.

And he's doing it rather successfully. He's traveled more than 6,000 miles from England to Greece in the course of a year. He's seen Bucharest while hopping from rooftop to rooftop; partied at practically secret music festivals in the hills of Spain; and learned how to make toast without a toaster, find water to clean his clothes while wild camping (aka, camping for free) and how to cut his hair without a mirror. He has sung songs in front of a campfire with new friends, has hopped on his bike and cycled throughout Austria, and was chased by wild dogs in Bulgaria.

"The small, random and unplanned things are always best, like meeting amazing people in unexpected circumstances or just lying on the roof looking at the night sky," he says.


Hudson, 26, is currently living in an off-grid eco-community in the hills of Greece, waiting out the winter and preparing his van for travel during warmer months. He's hoping to head next into the Peloponnese, a mountainous peninsula in Greece, and then who knows?

The whole scheme started out as a merely a daydream while at his day job in Sheffield, England. The kind of thing where your mind wanders when you have a bad day, feel trapped by the daily grind, and yearn for something more.

"I've always had this van dream, but it came back to me whilst working," he says in an interview. "I sat at my desk and thought about it quite a lot and then it built up and I started to think it was possible."

He read books like Jon Krakauer's dreamy "Into the Wild" and the more practical "How to Live Off-Grid" by Nick Rosen. He started researching all the hows, from how to live (the van) to how to get things like electricity (solar panels) and water (wells and gas stations, among a few).

But first, he had to leave it all behind.

"I knew that for anything to happen I'd have to quit my job immediately and tell people my plans," he writes on his blog. "This was the first step and was all I needed to do so I'd have no other choice but to work on my dream."

He spent four months working on the van, adding a kitchen, bed/couch, electricity and little essentials such as a toilet and fridge. All told it cost about $8,000—half for the van and half for converting.

Not to mention planning—as much as he could—for everything that would crop up, like repairs to anything from his jeans to his van's engine (though, he readily admits, he's still pretty nervous about a breakdown).

Meanwhile, he's been updating his blog—no easy task sometimes.

"I'll never take a solid Internet connection for granted ever again," he jokes. "Sometimes I'll have to hike up to the top of a hill with a directional antenna on a big stick just to do a post, or sit on the step of a cafe with a blanket round me until midnight to fix something on the site."

Toast sans toaster.
Toast sans toaster.

But it's really taken off. Hudson's easily personable. He's realistic about his experience and offers accessible advice -- on digging ditches for when nature calls, or how quickly you get used to people staring at you -- yet the pictures and quick captions speak volumes about the breadth of natural beauty and freedom he's experienced.

He's also very encouraging toward his readers, fostering a growing community of fans through the Vandog Traveller forum.

One, Marti, actually quit her job and is setting off on her own journey after reading about Mike's.

"I get emails nearly every day now from people who are quitting their jobs, or have just quit," he says.

Although he's left everything he used to know behind, "I have never felt more involved than I have in the past 11 months," he says.

"In my life I've always felt just on the edge of mainstream culture, just looking in, never quite sure if I like what I see. I never liked the feeling that I had to do certain things or act a certain way just to fit in with something I wasn't really into anyway.

"There are so many ways to live, there is an alternative for everyone."

He doesn't expect to stop anytime soon, and is plotting how to stretch his savings (a little more than $7,000 to start) further. He picks up hitchikers to help cover cost of fuel, does a little juggling for some extra cash, and is starting to earn a few dollars off his website.

As long as his cash and van can carry him, he hopes to continue creating his dream.

"I think I've pretty much created my daydream down to some very small details. The daydream continues as I travel," he says.

"I've realized how powerful daydreaming is, and how it creates and shapes your reality. I continue to be amazed at how this works."

Click here or on a photo for a slideshow of Van Dog Traveller Mike Hudson's $8,000 camper van home.