In Pictures: Family’s inspirational ‘van life’ adventure

The family pictured with their camper van shortly before setting out on their adventure in July, 2017.
The family pictured with their camper van shortly before setting out on their adventure in July, 2017.

A father who quit his job for an adventure around the world with his family is sharing his story of life on the road.

Billinghay man Tom Middleton, his wife Gemma, and their sons Max and Harry joined the ‘vanlife’ movement when they set out in their 29 year-old camper van in July, 2017.

In that time, they have travelled through Europe, visiting several countries including Germany, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia and Greece.

Their adventures have taken them across landscapes both treacherous and beautiful - experiencing various cultures, weather conditions and learning to be self-sufficient.

“The best thing about our travels has been the people we have met,” said Tom, 38. “People everywhere have been so nice. In Georgia we had people insisting we came back to their homes for food. We stayed with one family for six days - these people were so generous with what little they had, it was truly humbling.”

Life on the road wasn’t always easy - with the camper van breaking down several times - including one night in Georgia where temperatures reached -18C.

The beautiful, but icy, landscape of Georgia.

The beautiful, but icy, landscape of Georgia.

Tom also admits their van interior sometimes felt ‘very small’ for a family of four.

“We know most people who post their #vanlife stories online only include images of glorious landscapes and how great things are, but we have always tried to keep things real and show it how it is. It’s not a holiday, it is just life - with all its ups and downs.”

While they have given up the home comforts to embrace life on the road, they have not entirely sacrificed modern technology as the family still makes use of mobile phones, a lap-top, camera and sat-nav - all of which are charged up with solar panels.

“We have a sat-nav - but it’s worthless in most of the places we ventured to,” said Tom, “So we’ve been relying on offline maps on our phones.”

The couple decided to set out on their adventure after seeing people close to them diagnosed with cancer, making them realise that ‘life is short’.

“We just felt that if we didn’t do it now, we may never get the chance to,” said Tom.

He and Gemma both left behind jobs of 20 years to join the ‘van life’, renting out their family home in Surrey where they now live.

“We decided one night we were going to do this - and seven weeks later we were on our way,” said Tom, who has named their adventure ‘Resfeber’ a Swedish word meaning ‘wanderlust’ or travel fever.

The family are currently back in the UK for a few weeks while they apply for visas to Russia - which they plan to travel to in May. They visited Tom’s parents in Billinghay last week.

Former Lafford High School pupil Tom added: “Growing up in the countryside of Billinghay played a huge part in me wanting to travel. I was always outdoors doing things like fishing and making rafts. It’s something that not many of us, even children, get a chance to do nowadays.”

Tom said he drew inspiration from another UK family who travelled the world in their camper van. “Jed, Louise and their son Isaac were a real inspiration for us, and they also provided sponsorship for our own adventure so they deserve a mention,” he concluded.

To see what inspired Tom, visit their website campervanculture.com.

For more photos and updates from Tom and his family’s adventure visit their ‘Resfeber’ travel website.