project van : 2016
Back in August 2016, I officially introduced you all to a life long dream and my blue-sky-thinking plan to help make it reality. Project Van, as I affectionately called it, was my way of bringing the dream of owning my very own campervan to life.
My campervan obsession began when I was rather small and the dream of having my own someday was completely inspired by my Nanna and Grandad’s beautiful VW. I have many fond memories of taking trips in their camper, especially to Attenborough Nature Reserve to feed the ducks. I also remember playing in the van when it was parked on their driveway and thinking how magical is was to have a mini kitchen in there!
The stories Nanna and Grandad told and retold whenever I went to visit them kept fuelling my dream. Sadly, when they were no longer around to keep telling me those stories, I held on tightly to those magic moments along with some special photos and my dream burned brighter than ever. As cheesy as you may think that sounds, it’s the truth and from the bottom of my heart, which is most likely filled with cheese given how much I love the stuff.
Anywho, my family history and deep rooted love of Campervans made announcing Project Van a big deal to me back then. It took me over four years, since I first started drawing vans and turning them into cards, for me to actually make it a proper plan.
It was terrifying to reveal such a big dream to the world, knowing that I may never afford to make it happen - I mean Campervans aren’t cheap nowadays and sadly I didn’t inherit or learn how to renovate or care for motors like my Grandad did so it was always going to be a BIG dream involving a lot of work, saving and possibly some big loans!
BUT, the idea of someday owning a yellow campervan to take on adventures but also use as part of Hello Sunshine had fuelled my desire to make it happen for so long, so it was time to take some bigger steps towards making it happen. I had to do more than just daydream!
Over the next few months I turned my doodled into pins and finished a range of laser cut jewellery. I used most of my fangirl doodles to create a set of downloadable colouring pages too, featuring 20 different campers, who are each named after members of my family.
project van progress : 2017
To be fair most of 2017 was taken up with wedding planning and every day life, with the odd adventure and several large gins thrown in for good measure. Project Van didn’t really grow a lot that year but the dream was never far away.
project van : 2018
Fast forward to early 2018 and I had designed a Happy Camper pin for our wedding favours. It was similar to my Grandparents van but mostly inspired by the camper we were hiring for our mini-moon in May (hello Colin!) I was in love with these little pins and it made me so happy seeing so many people wearing them on our Big Day!
After an amazing wedding and honeymoon period, little did we know that we would soon be sharing some of the most unexpected, unbelievably exciting news ever. I probably didn’t do the best job at the time as I may have gotten over excited about announcing that this handsome hunk of metal would be joining us at Sunshine Towers…
This is Buddy, Buddy the Sunshine van and even though we’ve had him for three months now I’m still IN LOVE, I’M IN LOVE AND I DON’T CARE WHO KNOWS IT! Every time I wake up and see him on our drive, or walk back to a carpark and see him when were out, I get butterflies and have to pinch myself. I am obsessed beyond belief.
back up the bus a minute…
Where did Buddy come from? How did we go from dreaming and slowly saving very few pennies to bringing home a dream campervan so quickly? In short, a massive F*ck-off loan and a BIG leap of faith!
It really did all happen in a bit of a flash. After spending a week in Colin, (who was also an imported lefty and a lot of fun to adventure in), it rekindled my dream of having our own adventure mobile and Will and I started chatting and daydreaming together.
When we came back from honeymooning we decided, when the wedding was paid off, we would sensibly save and look for one TOGETHER. This was a pretty huge revelation for me because before then I always had seen owning a campervan as MY DREAM and something I would do alone, independently - stubborn? me? Never!
It was silly really, Will has always loved campers too, he’s hired them for holidays before I was in his life and we’ve loved hiring them together since we’ve been a couple so why wouldn’t buying one be a joint venture? Who knows why my brain hadn’t thought of it that way before but it now made things feel like it might be more manageable, more real and VERY exciting!
(Small tangent here but bear with me.)
I get tagged in photos of yellow camper vans and fun motorhome posts ALL the time and I LOVE IT! It always makes me smile and I think I’ve ruined yellow campers for so many people because I get a tonne of ‘I saw this and thought of you’ messages - sorry everyone but it genuinely does mean the world that you think of me when you see them!
I can’t remember if it was the week we were back from honeymooning or it was while we were still away but I was tagged in a ‘FOR SALE’ post on the Retro Campers Norfolk page by a lovely lady I used to work with at Boots. ‘Boogie Nights’ as he was called was a Sunshine Yellow LHD Bay, who grew up in California and came over to Norfolk in 2012 and was now looking for a new home. He was a BEAUT!
I casually sent Will the post and asked him if he fancied a trip to the seaside to visit ‘Boogie Nights’. You know, just to start getting used to ‘shopping for’ Campervans and familiarising ourselves with what to look for etc. Retro Campers Norfolk are in the gorgeous town of Sherringham so even if we didn’t like the van we would still have a nice day at the beach to love forward to.
Unexpectedly Will said YES. I tried so hard not to pee my pants with potential excitement. I reigned myself in though and we calmly planned to (secretly) go and visit a sunshine-y van that we knew we probably couldn’t afford.
After spending a good couple of hours chatting with Hannah and Simon, (who are the nicest human beans and you should all hire a camper from them), we came away buzzing with a lot of excited, nervous chatter and ideas. We went on the steam train between Sherringham - Holt and back, constantly chatting about how and if we could buy this beautiful campervan. Was it stupid? Was it worth the risk? Could we arrange the loans and lending we would need? Were we crazy?
With my inheritance I had saved, I knew I could pay a deposit to secure him. We just needed to sort out a hefty loan for the rest. We had just picked up Fish’n’Chips to eat on Sherringham beach when we both said ‘Fuck it! Let’s do it!’ Moments later we almost tripped over Simon and Hannah who were also on the beach! (Crazy coincidence!?) We then got chatting to them about paying the deposit and making it all official… THIS SHIT WAS ACTUALLY HAPPENING!
Over the following three weeks we paid the deposit on Boogie, awaited MOT and service results, sorted finances (debts), got over excited, made plans to keep him safe over Winter, maybe someone got scared and cried… and we told nobody a bean!
Three weeks to the day we agreed to go on a sporadic seaside adventure and visit this van and we were actually on a train to Norfolk to pick it up! Even now, it doesn’t feel real typing it out and re-living it. We drove ‘Boogie Nights’ away from Sherringham and headed towards Happisburgh - a place I thought we should go because it sounded like the happiest beach in the world… shame it’s actually pronounced Haze-bruh!
We had already decided to rename him approx. two minutes after we paid the deposit and I had suggested Buddy, mainly because I love Elf (you all know smiling IS my favourite) but also because Will calls Toby Cat ‘Buddy’ a lot and it’s such a friendly name! It just felt right, if that makes sense?! The Beard also agreed it was a great name for him, I mean, as much fun as the name Boogie Nights is we didn’t really want him to sound like a sex wagon!
So that’s how Buddy came to live at Sunshine Towers, in a bit of whirlwind and with a massive debt! But we couldn’t be more excited or happy about it. In the last three months we have taken him on several day trips, a few overnight camping adventures, had garden sleepovers and I’ve turned him into my new favourite studio spot regularly.
I really am over the moon and completely besotted and even though the dream of owning a camper is technically complete, Buddy the Sunshine Van is destined for so much more than just adventures away from home and a second studio space for me…
Project Van : 2019 and beyond
As I hinted to earlier, the Project Van dream has always had a business side to it too. Whether it be to sell Sunshine from at events and festivals or hire out for weddings, Will and I had always agreed the campervan would be an investment and part of Hello Sunshine.
And, after a chat with my lovely pal, Menekse Stewart earlier this year (before I even knew Buddy existed), I think it’s safe to say I could get VERY carried away with plots and plans for Hello Sunshine and Buddy.
so what’s next?
To start with, and for the rest of this year at least, Will and I intend to enjoy Buddy for our own little trips and adventures. We want to get to know him, I want to be able to drive him confidently alone (I’m an anxious driver anyway, let alone in a giant bus with a steering wheel on the wrong side!), Will wants to build his knowledge and mechanic skills so we can look after him properly and we both need to build him a home - Project Van-Shed a go-go!
But in the future, and I’ve already got plans afoot for the new year, we hope to offer Buddy to YOU GUYS! There is A LOT of admin, planning and serious adulting stuff to sort out before this all comes to life officially, but for now, here’s an insight into some of my (our) blue sky thinking for Buddy…
Pop Up Portraits
Mobile craft stall
Honestly, I can barely contain myself when I think of everything I’d love to do with him but all of this also terrifies me, just like when I revealed the original dream plan properly two years ago. But as I have come to see… you’ve got to pull your big girl pants on and put it out there first to have a hope in making it happen!
So… there it is, Project Van and the journey we’ve been on so far, eek! UNBELIEVABLE.
If you’ve got this far then *high five* and thank you for sticking with my ramblings. I started writing and have re-written this post so many times since we got Buddy! It’s such an emotional thing to share on SO many levels. I’ve cried and laughed, pinched myself and got mad at my brain throughout writing it all down so if anything doesn’t read very well, please forgive me.
More importantly though, if there is ANYTHING you want to know about Buddy, our plans for him, or about my work then please poke me; ask in the comments here or even drop me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org), I love to talk about Buddy and even more so with other campervan enthusiasts.
I promise to try and be better at updating you with Buddy the Sunshine news as it happens, I’ve even started a hashtag for him (#buddythesunshinevan) so keep checking in to see if I stay true to my word! For now though, here’s another beautiful snap of the real life dream IN OUR GARDEN (!) and parked right where his new house will be built…. soon!
Here’s to 2019 and many more adventures (of all kinds!) with Buddy the Sunshine Van!