No stranger to adventure or sustainability, this girl has spent the last year driving across Europe and Morocco with her boyfriend in their self-converted camper van.
Sophie Wilkie is not your average 24-year-old and she has no plans of changing anytime soon. We caught up with the magical traveling duo in-between their globe trotting journeys and got some incredible insight into the life that we have been told only exists in dreams or movies.
I was born just outside of London, and spent my early childhood in the sleepy seaside town of Lymington, playing on pebble beaches and eating ice cream, before moving to Birmingham where I daydreamed my teenage years away. Nowadays I’m girl on the road.
I’ve been solo-travelling since the age of 16, and full-time travelling since late October 2013. The van trip began in July 2014, when my partner, Mike, and I, caught a flight from Los Angeles, to Oslo. We spent a magical week camping under the midnight sun, in Svalbard, before heading over to the UK and purchasing the rusty old window-washing van we were to transform into a cozy home for the both of us.
A lifetime of ancient grainy BBC travel documentaries, globe-spinning, hours spent pouring over crumpled old maps, tearing at the edges… and an incurable case of wanderlust!
It was springtime in LA, there were strawberries and yellow tomatoes growing in the garden and a nest of baby hummingbirds on the patio. My U.S. visa was running out, and this meant I was scrambling to try and figure out where it was I was going to go next. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by nomadic living, by minimalism, and by those people daring enough to craft out their own path in life. After researching bike tours, backpacking, and tiny living… it just seemed like life in a van was the way forward. A few months previously, I’d road-tripped from Boston to Las Vegas, over the course of a couple of weeks — I guess that feeling of being able to go anywhere, anytime, is super enticing.
The uncertainty was a concerning factor at the beginning of this… but also part of the allure. I also had some concerns as to how we were going to make the trip sustainable.
My partner Mike and I imported our van from the Netherlands, into the UK. It’s a left-hand drive, blue, Hyundai H200, which began life as a (slightly rusty) window washing van. We stripped it out entirely, insulated, built furniture, a bed and a sink, carpeted, and then pinned up flags, maps, and fairy lights. The conversion of the van was a constant learning process, as has been living out of it. What’s surprised me somewhat is how little space two people really need in which to exist, and, contrastingly, how easy it is to accumulate large amounts of ‘stuff’.
I think my fondest memory of life lived out of a Hyundai H200 campervan, as of yet, would have to be the time we drove an old road, Route 307, in Morocco, that connects the furthest reaches of the Sahara to the lush green valleys that surround Cascades D’Ouzoud, Morocco’s most famous waterfall. The road was supposed to be a high-mountain shortcut, but in actuality turned out to be a crumbling dirt track that had, over the course of a couple of particularly hard winters, begun to crumble away at the edges; the road was slowly being eaten up by the Atlas Mountains.
In truth, the road wasn’t a place our van should have ever driven, it was a little dicey — but the thin, biting, air, the jagged horizon views, the mud-built villages, sleeping up in the mountains under the most incredible starry skies… it was overwhelmingly beautiful, an unforgettable journey.
It’s a work in progress! I think that is what’s most exciting about the time we’re living in. The digital age is unveiling countless opportunities that would not have been available in the past — the internet is an immeasurably valuable resource for anybody that’s seriously considering living nomadically. You can craft a career anywhere in the world, as long as you’re connected, and you can also network with those already living in such a way — writers, photographers, developers, musicians, professional full-time travellers. It’s amazing. Digital nomads are pioneers, sort of. It’s a whole new way of existing.
I think a lesson I’m starting to learn, or perhaps beginning to truly appreciate the value of, is the real possibility for each of us to craft our own path of life — now more than ever.
We’re living in an age where the internet allows us to plug in and connect with anybody, anywhere. We are also networking like never before, and this never-ending fountain of communication offers up immense knowledge, on any topic. People are connecting the dots, realizing that the established paths in life are, for some people, problematic, and looking for alternatives. It’s no surprise that the tiny house movement is flourishing, that more and more people are living nomadically.
I think what I’m trying to say is, appreciate the resources you have, make use of information, and realize that if you have a passion, there is more opportunity now than ever before, to pursue it. Even in just a small way, embrace uncertainty, and adventure — and witness magic happen!