Marie-Laure Parsy Szikola and her fiancé Alan have spent their savings of £50,000 on a van and moved out of their flat so they can see more of the world – but they can’t travel due to rising petrol prices
Image: Jam Press)
A couple who left their rented flat to live full-time in a van say they can’t afford to travel due to sky-high fuel prices.
Marie-Laure Parsy Szikola, 35, from Edinburgh, Scotland, wanted to see more people after the coronavirus pandemic.
Her fiancé, Alan, 34, had lived in a van before and was up for the idea – so the couple spent their £50,000 savings on a Mercedes minibus in July 2021.
They also postponed their leave and left their apartment for a life on the road.
Fuel prices started to rise due to strong global demand as the UK began to emerge from the coronavirus crisis – but the war in Ukraine pushed prices even higher.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has confirmed a 5p per liter fuel tax cut this week but it will only save drivers around £3.
“As experienced hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, we wanted a life that gave us the freedom to find a place to hike, climb or kayak and just go,” Marie told Jam Press. .
“For someone with an adventurous background, staying indoors was a real challenge and I felt it really impacted my well-being – both mental and physical.
“I was put on leave and the lack of mental stimulation didn’t help at all. I wanted a lifestyle that would be more engaging than the mainstream: work, commute, apartment.
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So far they have traveled across Scotland and often visit the west coast and the islands.
But they say they are unable to explore further at this time – with the rising cost of living and fuel prices a contributing factor.
Marie said: “With fuel prices being so high right now, it’s more important than just having a constant adventure.
“Obviously the idea of being on the road all the time is appealing, but the certainty that comes with a regular income is important.”
Despite the setback to their plans, the couple still manage to save a lot of money thanks to their unique lifestyle.
Living in the van saves them around £1,200 a month in rent and between £180 and £200 in taxes and municipal bills.
They spend £15 a week on sewage and water but are largely self-sufficient – with electricity generated from solar panels in the van.
Although the bus has already been converted, the couple added their own twist by replacing the handles for £40 and the original color scheme for £20.
She said: “The previous owners of the bus have already done a superb job converting it using wood and carving details all around.
“We love detail and our work is more of a complement with different paint schemes, hardware and upholstery.
“The bus is a canvas of our lives and we try to design the bus so that every corner reflects a part of our personalities and tastes.”
In total, they spent £100 to make the vehicle feel like home and managed to cut costs by reusing decor from their previous apartment.
For now, despite having no travel plans, the adventurous couple have no plans to return to rented accommodation.
Marie said: “Van life makes you feel independent and more confident in yourself as it forces you to deal with breakdowns, the climate and nature.
“You feel more involved in your life and, in a sense, more in control. It helped me find a path and a set of goals when my life came to a standstill.
“[The positives about this way of life] is a feeling of freedom, which is met by daily challenges.
“Anything can and will break in a van, but patience, a good dose of humor and the ability to learn quickly will turn hassles into pleasure.
“It doesn’t have to be full right away to be enjoyable and it can be done with a wide range of budgets.
“Everyone on the road has their own story and their own reasons for taking up this lifestyle, but I would advise anyone to start by renting a van for a weekend or a short vacation.
“Take the feel first and if you decide to take the plunge, always make sure you know where your next paycheck is coming from.
“A vehicle breaks down more often than a house and the bills can quickly pile up.
“Travel slowly and take time to explore the mountains – it’s good not to feel rushed to reach the next destination.”