‘I lived in a van in London but had to move back to an apartment because it failed its MOT’

The hashtag #vanlife has been added to over 11.5 million Instagram posts, mostly showing extravagantly equipped trucks in front of stunning mountainous or coastal scenery.

Nomad living has become a trendy alternative lifestyle in recent years, with North Face-clad influencers showing off their impossibly beautiful (read: expensive) travel homes on social media, but you would be forgiven for believing that van life is’ It’s not so aesthetically pleasing when you do it on the streets of London.

Recruitment employee Farida Saydo Mimi, now 39, lived in a motorhome in London for six months in 2019.

Tired of ordinary life and looking for a new adventure, she bought an old van and made it her home – that is, until it failed her MOT and she had to return to live in a normal apartment.

READ MORE: ‘I get paid to live in a London museum that is 500 years old and every day I feel lucky to be here’

Farida’s campervan on the streets of London

“I was in a strange period of my life, I had had enough of society and people and bull ****, and I thought of people living in small houses, vans, cars and thought: ‘it’s interesting'” said Farida.

“In the beginning, it was an adventure – I drove around and camped. Then I started parking close to where I used to live because I knew the area.”

One of the biggest issues that comes to mind when thinking about living on the road is hygiene. How do you go to the toilet, shower, brush your teeth without proper running water?

Farida explained that she usually went into a hospital to wash and brush her teeth. She said, “I had a toilet [in the van], but I did not really want to use it too much, because then you have to clean it, and I also had a shower, but again I did not want to use it too much, because I needed water [for other things]. “

After a short stay driving around and out on adventures, Farida had to start parking his van on the streets of London and in car parks within easy reach of his job as a bookbinder in Acton, West London.

Going to work prevented her from having a truly nomadic lifestyle, but living in her campervan was still a big adventure.

In the beginning it was an adventure - I drove around and went camping
‘In the beginning it was an adventure – I drove around and went camping’

Despite common assumptions that in order to live your best #vanlife, you need to explore mountain ranges and expansive landscapes, Farida says she loved living in a van in London.

“Living in a van is just perfect – if you’re bored, can you just go, who cares? It’s perfect,” she said.

“It was good to do it in London – The only downside is if you have a job, nine to five where you do not work from home, in which case it’s a bit of a pain because you have to find a place to park [nearby]. “

The last few months of Farida’s van experience were spent living in a parking lot behind an apartment block, where she rented a parking space.

The parking lot did not have a gate, so she had to be aware of potential burglars: her whole life was inside her van.

Despite this inherent insecurity, she said she generally felt safe in her unconventional home, but she had to keep her sanity on her.

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“Once I was sleeping in a parking lot and a couple was shouting next to my van – I had forgotten that people could be awful,” she said.

“In the parking lot behind the apartments, I started to hear noises, shadows, there were bottles and cans of beer around the morning.”

“From then on, I was aware that it could be dangerous, but actually because the van was old, people probably thought I was dangerous,” laughed Farida.

Unfortunately, Farida’s campervan adventure was interrupted by a disappointing practical function – her van failed its MOT and had to be taken off the road.

She tried to sell it for parts, but in the end it was so old and broken that it was only destined for the scrap heap.

After giving up her beloved van, she had a brief visit to her home country of Italy before signing a lease on an apartment in Tooting.

'It's the best the van can give you.  You can just say, 'okay, I'm going to Amsterdam,' and just go.  Just go.  Simple as that.'
‘It’s the best the van can give you. You can just say, ‘okay, I’m going to Amsterdam,’ and just go. Just go. Simple as that.’

Her nomadic days were already behind her, but would she do it again?

“Absolutely,” she said enthusiastically. “It helped me understand myself, to learn that I want a house, a place to go and just stop, but also to have the van to just go where I want.

“It’s the best the van can give you. You can just say, ‘okay, I’m going to Amsterdam,’ and just go. Just go. It’s that simple.”

To anyone who wants to follow in the footsteps of her London van life, Farida says: “Before buying a van, check everything properly, make sure everything is okay.

“But even that does not succeed, it’s fine. It’s an adventure. It’s the meaning of life, right?”

Have you lived in an unusual home in London? We would like to hear from you – contact us at [email protected]


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