Couple save 40K living in a VAN in Scotland with no power or water

Couple reveal they’ve saved £40K towards building their dream home by living in a VAN in the Scottish Highlands with no water, heating or electricity – and plan to keep going for another 18 months

  • Jane Holmes, 34, and husband Stephen, 37, live and work out of a Volkswagen LT
  • Their home on wheels cost £2,000 is parked just outside the town of Fort William
  • It’s furnished with a bed, sofa, cupboards and a portable toilet which they empty
  •  They aim to save £60K to build their dream three-bedroom stone house
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A couple who saved £40,000 towards building their dream home by living in a van parked in the Scottish Highlands claim they have ‘never been happier’.

Marketing manager Jane Holmes, 34, and her mountaineering instructor husband Stephen, 37, began living on the open road 18 months ago and both work out of their 14-year-old long wheel base Volkswagen LT, parked just outside the town of Fort William.

Their home on wheels, which they share with their Siberian Husky Goose, is kitted out with a bed, sofa and cupboards, along with an oven and portable toilet which they can empty – but no shower or heating.

They hope their drastic cost-saving venture will enable them to save up enough money to buy a plot of land in the Highlands to build their dream three-bedroom stone house – and they insist they miss nothing from their former life.


Over time the brave pair have learned to adapt to life in the van, which cost £2,000. They keep warm in winter using a wood burner


The couple live and work out of their Volkswagen LT and claim they’ve never been happier

Jane, who works five days a week for a London-based tech company, said: ‘There was a lot of toing and froing before we decided to go and live in the van, while we considered what other people might think, as we knew there would be a stigma around it.

‘We know it is unorthodox. We live in a world where everyone is trying to keep up with the Joneses, but we are the makers of our own destiny and we thought, why shouldn’t we? It makes total sense.’

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Jane admitted it was difficult at first, especially having no water, electricity or gas, meaning they can’t turn the heating on after a wet day. Whenever they need to shower, they visit a local gym whenever they needed to shower.

But over time they’ve learned to adapt to life in the van, which cost £2,000, and Jane said they now feel like they have everything they’ve ever needed.

‘I live in a place with stunning views, I have my health and my loving partner, and the ability to fit my working life around what works for me,’ she explained.

‘What more could you want?’


Jane, Stephen and Goose the dog lived entirely off-grid for the first nine months, the pair braved the northern winter by keeping warm using a wood burner, showering at local gyms and powering up with rechargeable batteries




The cramped van is furnished with a bed, sofa and cupboards, along with an oven and portable toilet which they can empty – but no shower or heating


Jane and Stephen Holmes ditched their rented house to live in a van parked in the Highlands of Scotland

After meeting 12 years earlier through Jane’s sister Joanne, 39, an adviser for BT, when Stephen was in the Royal Marines, the couple had their first taste of living in a van when they went on a four-month road trip around Europe in a Citroen Relay in 2013.

Jane, who had been working remotely from home in the couple’s rented house in Dundee, Angus, explained: ‘Steve and I both have the travel bug in us and had planned to do this trip for a while.

‘I handed in my notice to my boss, but to my surprise he turned around and said, ‘Why do you need to quit? You could just work on the road?”


Having lived in their van since April 2017, the couple have saved two thirds of their £60,000 target, with which they plan to buy enough land in the Highlands to build a three-bedroom house from stone


The van is currently parked at a holiday park outside Fort William, with the couple braving the chilly Scottish weather without central heating

And so she did, working two or three days a week while travelling through France, Spain and Portugal, using a portable Wi-Fi router to keep connected with her colleagues in the UK.

She continued: ‘Having that flexibility with work made me realise that this was something you could do, and you didn’t have to necessarily be shackled to one place.

‘That was what really planted the seed for everything that was to come.’

Returning home in December 2013, the couple moved to a £550 per month rented house in Fort William in early 2014 to be closer to the Highlands, where Stephen runs mountaineering excursions, and then tied the knot in November 2016.

But despite both working full-time, they calculated that it would take years of saving in order to buy the home of their own that they so desired, after renting for years.

‘Mortgages and deposits cost so much and it became clear after we married that we’d have to really tighten our belts if we wanted any chance of buying a house,’ said Jane.

‘Then it occurred to us both that we could get around the problem by going to live in a van.


Stephen runs mountaineering excursions in the Highlands while Jane works remotely as a marketing and communications manager

‘We had done it before on our trip in Europe and knew that it worked for us, so we thought, ‘What’s stopping us from doing it again?”

Packing up their belongings in April 2017, they bought a van big enough to fit a double bed in and headed to the Highlands.

Explaining the situation to her boss at Cloudbooking, a meeting room booking platform, Jane was able to continue working in the same capacity as marketing and communications manager, despite living in a home with no access to water, electricity or gas.

She said: ‘In the 21st century, it doesn’t always make sense for everyone to be based in the same place when it’s just as easy for people to work remotely with all the technologies we have today.


Jane admitted a lot of friends and family thought they were mad at first, but now they accept it as being a rational choice

‘I’m very lucky to have a boss who understands that and who gets that employee wellbeing is the most important element if someone is going to do a job well.’

Living entirely off-grid for the first nine months, the pair braved the northern winter by keeping warm using a wood burner, showering at local gyms and powering up with rechargeable batteries. 

They provided around a fortnight of electricity, before the couple had to charge them again at friends’ houses. 


The couple had their first taste of living in a van when they went on a four-month road trip around Europe in a Citroen Relay in 2013


During the trip, Jane worked two or three days a week while travelling through France, Spain and Portugal, using a portable Wi-Fi router to keep connected with her colleagues in the UK

But when in February 2018 they stopped off at a holiday park a mile outside Fort William and were then offered a more permanent location by the park’s owners for £200 per month, they decided to stay put, giving them access to the site’s electricity and washing facilities. 

Based there for almost a year now, they have saved two thirds of their £60,000 target, with which they plan to buy enough land in the Highlands to build a three-bedroom house from stone.

‘It isn’t something that we would have been able to do otherwise at all,’ said Jane, who estimates that they will probably be living in the van for another 18 months, to save the remaining £20,000.


The couple have made their van as cosy as they can and expect they’ll live in there for another 18 months

‘A lot of our friends and family thought we were mad at first, but then when you actually explain to people why it is that we made the decision, they start to understand and accept it as being a rational choice.

‘In the summer we will be going to France for a two-month holiday, something we’d never have been able to do if we’d been skimping and saving in rented accommodation.

‘You can’t spend your whole time saving up your money because life is short and it’s there to be enjoyed.’

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