How to work and travel like modern nomads – The story about Charlotte and Nico…
We are Charlotte and Nico, and for the past 6 months, we have been putting our plan to travel and work while on the road into action. In 2021 we finally decided to buy a rusty old van, restore and convert it into our dream camper and set off around Europe.
Covid acted as a huge catalyst for change all around the world, and it was no different for us. We both had 9-5 pm office jobs in London and took the opportunity of lockdown to spark change in our lives. We took steps to take our work online and made the mental shift towards an alternative style of living. All to find a sustainable way to work and travel, indefinitely.
Nico’s background is in design, so he founded an agency specialising in branding and packaging for high-end liquor companies. His clients are based all over the world so he works across different time zones with the help of a network of contacts and freelancers he has built.
Charlotte has always had a passion for yoga and fitness. Her background was in marketing, PR and social media so she wanted to combine both her skills with her love of yoga. She completed her teacher training during covid, and in 2020, launched her Yoga & Wellness brand – Hello Spirit. She runs weekly classes on her YouTube channel and creates content for brands on her Instagram @hellospirityoga.
The transition to van life was a long one. They took a few months picking and sourcing the right van and then started with the mechanical jobs to bring Maui back to life after years of neglect by his previous owner. Once all the rust had been removed, the engine had been given a full service and the brakes were replaced, Nico and Charlotte began work on the camper build. They did everything from scratch, learning new skills by watching YouTube videos! With perseverance, anyone can do it!
Balancing the work to build Maui in the evenings and weekends, around their jobs was difficult. It took about 2 years in total. The goal was to be as self-sufficient as possible when on the road and be comfortable enough to work off their laptops wherever they parked up. Two of the key factors were electricity and the internet. Both are easily solved through a good solar set-up and local data SIMs with a high-speed dongle and booster on the roof of the van.
If you are thinking of trying something similar, it’s important to consider your work environment. Do you need a desk, do you need a shower and a toilet? Having their own bathroom made life a lot easier for Nico and Charlotte on the road, especially during the winter months. They also opted for a compostable toilet instead of a chemical one which was a fantastic decision! It is much cleaner and easier to dispose of waste.
After phase 1 of their build, they began their maiden voyage in the summer of 2022 to Portugal. 6 weeks of travelling through France, Spain and Portugal to finally return back to the UK to complete phase 2 of the build. By this stage, they had lived in Maui for 2 months so they knew what was working and what needed to be redesigned. This is a critical piece of advice, test and rework, don’t expect to get it perfect the first time!
For phase 2 of the build, Charlotte and Nico were preparing Maui for Winter Vanlife – a big challenge. You have to plan for sub-zero temperatures, meaning winterising your water system, insulation, vehicle fluids etc. They set off towards the alps in December 2022 and are currently on that trip. One of the hurdles a UK citizen will face travelling through the EU after Brexit is the limitations of the Schengen Zone. You are only allowed to be in countries that are in the zone for 90 days out of every 180 days. For Nico and Charlotte, this dictated their journey through the alps to the Balkans. They went via Austria, Slovenia and Croatia to Montenegro and Albania, and then finally back through Italy and Switzerland.
The freedom that comes with van life is incredible. Charlotte and Nico are extremely happy with how their build has turned out. Maui allows them to successfully work from the road, and while van life has its challenges, like the unforeseen breakdown or maybe getting lost up a mountain road, the views and the freedom of the lifestyle make it all worthwhile!
Below are their top things to consider if you want to set yourself up to work on the road:
- Consider where you are going to be travelling and which country you could pay tax in!
- If you are from the UK, check your Schengen zone allowance using. This is critical! A useful resource is: Schengen Visa Calculator (visa-calculator.com)
- Consider what is a must-have in your build, or something you can’t live without. Make sure you have it so you can be as comfortable as possible. To be able to work successfully for Nico and Charlotte, this meant having enough electricity to charge both their laptops all day, having the heating on, a full desk setup and high-speed internet. You need to be organised when you enter a new country and become efficient at finding the best data sims in each country you go to.
- Time zones and environment. When you are moving countries a lot, but trying to maintain a professional service at whatever work you do, you need to be very considerate of the times you drive, when you take your calls or meetings, what the background noise is, etc.
- Discipline! Yes, you might be travelling, but you still need to do the work. There is no golden and magic formula to travel 90% of the time and work 10%. They put in the hours!!!!
Reach out if you have any questions for them, they would love to hear from you: @mauiandus – Instagram profile.
Check out our work and links below!