Couple ditch sales jobs to turn van into dream 'off-grid' roaming home

Toby Lane and Abbey Clarke are converting a van into their home and are planning to travel the UK a

Toby Lane and Abbie Clarke are converting a van into their home and are planning to travel the UK and Europe - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

A couple determined not to become "another statistic" have quit their jobs in sales to embark on an independent and off-grid journey - revamping a van which will soon become their travelling home.

Abbie Clarke, 22, and Toby Lane, 23, who live in Southwold, have always dreamt of living an alternative lifestyle and travelling the world together. 

After years of saving, the pair decided to quit their nine to five jobs back in February 2020, just days before coronavirus hit the UK, after deciding they wanted more from life.

Toby Lane and Abbey Clarke are converting a van into their home and are planning to travel the UK a

Toby Lane and Abbie Clarke are converting a van into their home and are planning to travel the UK and Europe - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

With a 12-month travel visa in their hands and flights just weeks away, coronavirus put a stop to their move to Australia - but it didn't halt their ambition. 

Despite feeling deflated, they decided to plunge themselves into a new adventure here in the UK, bringing 'van life' to them. 

That's where their first project - a 1984 Freight Rover Sherpa named Betty - began. 

They used their time in the first lockdown to convert the campervan, building everything themselves and taking each day as it comes.  

Toby Lane, 23, and girlfriend Abbie Clarke, have recently bought a 2004 Mercedes Vario, named Vinnie, which they are...

Toby Lane, 23, and girlfriend Abbie Clarke, have recently bought a 2004 Mercedes Vario, named Vinnie, which they are completely transforming into their own "off-grid" home. - Credit: Toby Lane and Abbie Clarke

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They picked up work in the local area to help financially, and spent all their free time transforming the campervan, after years of watching van conversion videos online. 

Now, after successfully transforming Betty and putting her up for sale, the pair have bought a rare 2004 Mercedes Vario van which they are going to turn into their own "off-grid" home. 

They stumbled across the van in their own hometown and purchased it just two days after viewing it. 

They plan to travel around the UK and Europe - once allowed - and hope to document their travels as they go. 

Toby Lane and Abbie Clark in their first lockdown project, Betty, which they are looking to sell to help fund the revamp...

Toby Lane and Abbie Clark in their first lockdown project, Betty, which they are looking to sell to help fund the revamp of Vinnie. - Credit: Toby Lane and Abbie Clark

Speaking of the dream, Toby said: "We never wanted sales jobs, but we have always wanted to travel and spend time on the roads. 

"We love the idea of being independent and living off-grid, being amongst nature. There is so much more to life and happiness is much more important than money."

So far, they have ripped the floor out of the six-metre-long Mercedes Vario van - which they named Vinnie - and plan to spend the next five months transforming it so they are ready to jet off as soon as they can. 

Toby Lane and Abbey Clarke are converting a van into their home and are planning to travel the UK a

Toby Lane and Abbie Clarke are converting a van into their home and are planning to travel the UK and Europe - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Inside they are creating a platform bed with a garage space underneath for tools and water tanks, a kitchen unit with a large seating area for friends to come and visit, a shower and a compost toilet. 

They are also installing an instant boiler, a log burner, a projector which will be hidden in the ceiling, solar panels and a roof deck which will be cladded with wood so they can sit up top.

Their long-term plan is to get a trailer licence so they can pull a food trailer behind Vinnie, earning money as they go.

Abbie said: "We love the idea of being independent. It's really exciting."

Inside Vinnie before the pair got to work.

Inside Vinnie before the pair got to work. - Credit: Abbie Clarke and Toby Lane

They said they feel very fortunate to be going on this journey, as they know not everyone is in their same shoes. But they wanted to urge people that it is possible. 

You can follow their transformation of Vinnie on their Instagram page 'Our Roaming Home' to see how they get on. 

Inside Betty, Abbie and Toby's first van renovation, which they are now looking to sell.

Inside Betty, Abbie and Toby's first van renovation, which they are now looking to sell. - Credit: Abbie Clarke and Toby Lane

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