Vanlife: The Good, The Bad & The Porta potty by ‘Calamity’ Shane

So you wanna be a Vanlifer, eh? Well just stop right there before you take one more hasty step and read. Or don’t. But if you don’t, you’ll never know what our Vanlife Ambassador Shane is about to tell you, and believe me, these are secrets no one will tell you!

Hi! I’m Shane, otherwise known as Calamity Shane. If it can go wrong, it will go wrong for me. I live in a van. A hastily converted, poorly executed camper van conversion to be precise. Every month something falls off, or falls apart or just vanishes into thin air like as if one of the Borrowers has erm…….. borrowed it?


I’m sitting on the step of my van right now on a deserted beach on the south coast of France. I’m actually not but you wouldn’t know if I was or not because any one of these photos could actually be right there. Or the moon.  But it’s in North Somerset. This is one of the many reasons why I love my life so much! Forget all the bad bits that I’m about to tell you, because you could have 20 terrible things happen and just one of these good things will make you forget them all quicker than an oiled cat on a marble floor!

So, I guess I shall start at the beginning

How did I end up in a van. Well it’s a messy story and full of woes, but so is life and I’m not on my own with these reasons so I don’t mind sharing them with you.

I had a pub and a restaurant and it wasn’t doing very well and was juggling a debilitating and degenerative disease (and still have the disease) called necrotising chronic pancreatitis, 120 hours a week, a family. I focussed on the wrong things which didn’t work out anyway and ended up losing everything. Like everything. So figured where will I go? What will I do? Where will I sleep? My daughter said she’d lend me some money to pay 6 months rent on a flat in the local area but I had a better idea. An absolute King Kong sized idea! “I want a taste of vanlife” I proclaimed, minus the 500 miles of walking. She disagreed but I stood my ground and the van was hastily sourced and purchased. Very hastily…

Garry, that’s what happens when you let a 5 and 6 year old name your van, was an egg with a surprise toy inside. All delicious until you see the crap hidden behind that irresistible chocolate outer! The wheels didn’t fit properly and vibrated that much that it was enough to give an aspirin a headache! There was no heating in the back. The electrics were well, let’s just say “why haven’t I died in a fire ball.”

In hindsight, I should have hired one or two first, and taken a good look around it whilst I was enjoying myself, checked out how the electrics were done and what heating system was installed. What heating and cooling equipment was fitted. You know, the sensible thing to do…

Anyway, after a couple of months of rectifying these problems as they arose whilst actually living in the van, I was still loving my new life. I learned very quickly that if you don’t open the ‘poo hole’ on the toilet first before opening the lid, then when you do you are guaranteed to get a bit of ‘poo’ on your lip every single time. Yes I did too. No I didn’t learn the first four times. I also learned that the water from the screen wash filler upper contraption at petrol stations makes you use the toilet a lot more often. I learned that having a porta potty just sat in the van not only looks terrible, but at night, with the lights on, the whole entire world can see you doing what nature intended. Rather catastrophically, I also learned that spraying deodorant in a confined space whilst you have a kettle of water heating up over a naked flame will leave you with a very smooth armpit. And one eyebrow. And no eyelashes.

But even with these few calamities in mind, I wouldn’t change Vanlife for the world.

I love my Vanlife

I’ve seen places I never would have bothered to go visit had I not decided “that’s where I’m sleeping tonight!” I’ve slept on top of a small cliff (on the roadside not just perched there like those loons in the news recently) after watching an amazing and most delicious sunset across the Bristol Channel whilst sat with the sliding door wide open and a frothy coffee in my hand. I also had a cheese sandwich but that’s boring so I won’t mention it.

Sat parked on a beach for the day gazing at the sea miles out l, feeling like I was in a Nevada desert rather than Weston Super Mare. I actually cooked my favourite steak and eggs dinner there too. Yes it was amazing and yes because I was on the beach it tasted even better!

Living a life of the van style, has even led to new love! An actual human kind of love. If I hadn’t have bought this van and decided on this kind of nomadic lifestyle then I wouldn’t have met this beautiful woman for sure! So if you’re single love is out there waiting for you! And if you’re not, I can guarantee that you’ll fall in love with each other even more!

A couple of years ago I was in a month long coma. This resulted in PTSD and I’ve really struggled to deal with it, choosing to bury myself into other interests hoping it’ll go away. It doesn’t and brought with it a dark depression. Having the freedom to move around in my home, from town to village, carpark to beach, has helped me see our beautiful planet in a whole new way. You can’t always have that beautiful spot on the coast or that idyllic view across the Peaks but when that carpark or brick wall view starts to get you down then you have the freedom to drive your home to a new place, a place that will refresh your spirits and soul like bathing in sparkling spring water, with ice and a few slices of lemon. Totally refreshed!

The good bits far outweigh the bad bits, you’ve just got to seek the good bits out. They don’t come free, they must be earned. My biggest bit of advice? Rent a van conversion or two first. Try it out. “Live” in it for a week or ten days or more. Don’t just drive to a campsite and stay there, get out there and explore. Stay in a carpark. Stay on the beach (but check the tide timetable first. If you’re unsure then don’t). Drive all day until you find that perfect spot. Stay the night, and find somewhere new the next day. Experience the nomadic lifestyle for real. Then if you love it and think you can do it, then buy one and do it!

Welcome to Vanlife

If you’ve enjoyed this, I have a brutally honest blog on my own Vanlife, The Saga Of Calamity Shane. Where I chat about all the ups and all the downs and all the calamities in between. Read it at


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