Josy & Nathen - Responsible Vanlife
We’re Josy and Nathen, founders of Responsible Vanlife & Wildfeet Productions. We wanted to tell you this story in brief, but it’s really not an option. The last year has been a whirlwind of activity that has taken us from vanlife in Europe to refugee camps in Algeria and now to New Zealand.
We’re in the process of creating a life-changing documentary and two months ago set the stage for a new online community space for all vanlifers to engage in the conversation about sustainability in our community. A year and a half ago we didn’t even know each other existed. It’s amazing how fast dreams can formulate when life is in flow. One night in June, 2018 we found each other at a mutual friends house in Lisbon, Portugal after volunteering at nearby permaculture communities. We’d brushed shoulders a number of times in our communities, but never had the chance to speak. It seemed like the universe was sending us a sign. That night in Lisbon was one to remember, Josy barefoot in the streets, me peddling passersby to join me in sliding down the stairs. Then I poured tequila onto an open wound on Josy’s foot and she bit my finger. It seemed right. She moved into the van the next day. There is a lot more to this part of the story, but let’s move on .
We both came from very different backgrounds. I had spent the majority of my childhood living on a canal boat in England, backpacking along the west coast of India and road tripping through France. With a quick calculation it turns out I have only been living 4 years out of my 26, in a house. After spending 3 years studying Earth sciences at University College London and racking up a huge debt, I was just about fed up of renting shitty flats. So I did a two week driving crash course and bought a 1987 Ford Transit Autohome the week after. A few months after that, I moved in full time and have been living in vans or out of my backpack for the last 5 years. Just like when Josy bit my finger, it felt right. For Josy, vanlife became a thing when we met in Lisbon, as she likes to say the result of her manifestion of a man in a van. She wasn’t brought up as a traveller, but her passion for exploring, experiencing and creating change matches my own. She grew up in Denmark, attended Waldorf school and spent most of her spare time around horses. At the age of 16 her life changed radically, after a near-death experience and surviving two brain tumour surgeries. How she perceived the world changed drastically after that. She knew she was destined for greater things, so dropped out of school and left Denmark leaving the traditional system once and for all. She went to England to practise equine therapy and then on to California for work on a wild horse sanctuary. None of this was really planned, but she just trusted that life would show her the way. And so it did.
When we met, both of us already had a taste for adventure and there was no doubt we wanted to continue travelling the world. Not only that, but we wanted to use our creative skills to make positive change in the world. Five months after we got together, we were invited to join a permaculture project in the refugee camps in Algeria as a film crew. Thats when Wildfeet was conceived! We started shooting footage for our first feature length documentary about the Western Sahara refugee crisis and this mission has taken us to the other side of the world, to New Zealand. We can’t talk about why right now, but this is going to make a very special documentary! If you want to learn a bit more about this check out our website www.deserteddocumentary.com
For us vanlife is the best option for travelling responsibly. Since being in New Zealand we have picked up Eddy, a 1991 Toyota Hiace. He was broken and badly converted when we got him, but we saw he still had some life in him. We found a nice mechanic who could fix him up and would let us use his workshop for 10 days. We set about our conversion with the aim of creating the smallest environmental and economic impact, by applying the 12 principles of permaculture. By the end of the 10 days we had a comfortable living space which we created for just NZ$20! Now we have the possibility to slowly travel from North to South New Zealand, while implementing a zero-waste vegan lifestyle. We’re also planting native trees along the way to offset our carbon footprint from travelling. It ain’t the perfect solution, but we are thinking about the future.
What does that future hold? I think that’s the question on the tip of everyones tongue right now. We’re seeing environmental destruction and social collapse on a scale never experienced in my lifetime. It’s pretty worrying, but we are hopeful. As responsible members of the vanlife community, we feel so empowered by other vanlifers stepping up and making conscious choices for people and planet. Sadly we also experience many who are not. Having the choice to lead a life other than the one we are born into is a massive privilege, which only a small minority of the human population has. That’s pretty awesome for us, but if we have the power to choose our way of life, we also have the power to lead it responsibly. That means all of us, collectively rising up and showing the world how it’s done!
Thats why we decided to launch Responsible Vanlife! We want to encourage the vanlife community to become more resilient, more inclusive, more aware and most of all more responsible. And we’re not just talking about picking up litter or reducing meat consumption; these are absolutely necessary choices, but we have to go deeper. Where is vanlife going to be in 20 or 30 years? What is the state of the planet going to be like? We have the choice to create our future. Two months ago we launched the instagram page, where we share daily inspiration to living responsibly on the road. We’re getting so many great responses and we are ready to take it further! We have a whole load of ideas to implement that will help the vanlife community grow together and thrive! Right now it’s just us, but we are preparing to grow our team in the next few weeks. So if you want to get involved, be sure to drop us a message! Other than that, we’ll be enjoying New Zealand until May next year, working on our documentary, living in Eddy and taking it easy. This is absolutely the best life for us right now, seeing the world, creating change and taking our home with us! Who knows where we would have been if it wasn’t for that fateful night in Lisbon… Follow along with Nathan & Josy’s adventures and awesome community work by clicking the buttons below.