Heartbroken woman gives up home and flogs majority of possessions to live in old minibus after fiance dumped her
A jilted woman has found a new lease of life after her fiancé dumped her – by giving up her home, flogging her possessions and living in an old minibus.
After the relationship with her fiancé of two and a half years ended last September devastated Danu Stratton-Kent decided it was the perfect time to rebuild her life and follow her dream.
The 40 year old adopted a minimalist lifestyle, packed up and rented out her flat and invested in a cheap micro camper which she upgraded to a £5,000 17-seater minibus in June.
Now the leadership trainer has a handful of possessions which she takes with her on the road, holding down a regular job and saving money by housesitting – and claims she’s never been happier.
Danu from Exeter, Devon, said: “I was engaged to be married to a man I met in my late thirties.
“We lost two pregnancies together and this took the shine off our relationship.
“I began to notice that being child free wasn’t something I particularly minded as my forties loomed close.
“I felt like I had so many other dreams still to fulfil, having spent several years after graduating with chronic ME and not being able to pursue my interests.
“We spoke about buying a van to travel in at weekends and holidays, but the dream was mine not his. He went along with it more to humour me.
“I agreed to marry him because I believed that was what I should be doing by my age – marrying, having children, doing up the flat and settling down – but I felt like I was burying my hopes and dreams.
“He then left me, completely unexpectedly in September last year.
“After the initial shock I spiralled into depression and anxiety but then I began to rebuild my ‘new normal’ with a determination never ever to compromise my values again.
“His leaving me was what I needed to effect meaningful change in my life and I am endlessly grateful to him for helping me see that.”
Danu, who owns a £120,000 ex-council flat and a tiny Skoda Citigo, started researching how to live frugally and became interested in the concept of minimalism.
It embraces the idea that you only own and buy things that you love, value and appreciate.
In October she started to sell and donate her belongings leaving her with a capsule wardrobe, a few toiletries and some essential food items which she keeps in a small storage unit.
Danu said: “My friend and I hired a van and drove it to the tip where we emptied everything I had been carrying around with me since leaving home – exercise books, journals, school year books – they all went to the dump.
“DVDs went to charity and my library of thousands of books went to Book-Cycle.
“I felt guilty at first but then felt this amazing sense of relief.
“It became very clear to me that experience was worth more than things and that there was no way I was going to let stuff prevent me from living this life with as much purpose as I can.
“Someone told me ‘everything you want is on the other side of fear’ so now I’m not letting my fears hold me back.”
Before moving into a van Danu tried to see if she could live in her car having read a remark about it in a blog post.
Danu said: “I did worry what people would think but I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
“On December 27 I looked at my Skoda Citigo and thought ‘I wonder if I can sleep in this?’
“I made a bed base out of plywood, took out the cars seats, insulated the car with silver bubble wrap, and threw in a thermal duvet.
“I took out a flask of tea and slept in my car outside my house while most people were still eating turkey sandwiches and drinking Baileys. It cost me about £20 to kit it out.
“I messaged my friends as I lay in the car – some were amused and others were celebratory.
“It was lovely being supported by my friends who thought I was brave and adventurous when it could have appeared from the outside like I was having a mini break down.
“I slept fairly well and was as warm as toast but realised I’d need a bit more room if I was going to do this properly so I started hunting for a cheap micro camper.
“I became obsessed with ‘van life’ on Twitter and YouTube and adored looking at how people live in their beautifully-kitted out vans, some of them still working office jobs, and others working from their laptop as they travel.
“My first live-in vehicle was a £1,200 Toyota Previa, which I bought in January just before my 40th birthday.
“I spent about £70 kitting it out with a single bed and storage for clothes, and rented my flat out to a tenant, moving out of my home on March 1 – the day when the snow descended.
“I didn’t let it defeat me because I was so determined to make it work.
“Now I base myself at a friend’s house but I’ve stayed there fewer than five nights since March.
“Soon after I looked into housesitting, something I’d done when I was younger.
“I don’t get paid for it but it’s part of the sharing economy where I get accommodation in exchange for looking after the house.
“When I’m not doing that I camp out in my vehicle, which I’ve now upgraded to a large LDV Convoy van which I can cook in.”
Danu paid £5,000 for her convoy which came with insulation, a solar panel and leisure battery, a double hob and grill, a pump tap and water bottles fitted.
It also has a table, which she modified using an offcut from a tree, and a convertible sofa bed.
Danu said she loves the variety of life on the road and getting to travel while holding down a full-time job.
Housesitting allows her to stay in beautiful homes that she wouldn’t be able to afford or to look after adorable animals like cats, dogs and farm animals.
Danu said: “Moving around from pillow to pillow, shower to shower, home to home, campsite to campsite, does not faze me. I love it.
“It keeps me busy and a long way away from the woman I was last year, who couldn’t move from the sofa after a day’s work, because nothing meaningful was driving me.
“It’s my idea of the perfect lifestyle and I get to move on before life becomes monotonous, and then go on to discover another new home, new animals and new location.
“I can wash in the van if I’m not housesitting or shower at friends or the gym.
“I have a cooker and sometimes enjoy cooking proper meals in the van, but usually I eat lightly – salads, fruit and hummus.
“I don’t really have or want a routine, because I’m moving from home to home all the time, my routine changes.
“If I’m staying on a farm with several animals to feed before work, then I am up at dawn slopping around muddy fields in my slobs before transforming myself into a smart professional for work.
“If I’m sleeping out in the camper in a field, I might brew myself a coffee and sit outside on a camping chair listening to the birds before driving to the gym for a shower.”
Danu, who only passed her driving test in 2014 when she was 36, said she was worried what her friends and work colleagues would think of her unusual lifestyle.
Although a few friends struggled to understand her decision, most are very supportive.
Danu said: “When I first drove my van to work, I was very nervous of the reaction I might get but they cheered me on, told me that they would love a campervan themselves and many of them have asked me to look after their houses and animals for them.
“The ‘van life’ movement is huge. Many young people are realising that this is a more affordable lifestyle and they value experience, freedom and adventure over owning bricks and mortar. I really get that.
“I call myself a ‘middle aged traveller’. I’m not a ‘new age traveller’ or an ‘old age traveller’ because I am not a Romany Gypsy but I’m bang on middle age and am embracing my independent, child-free, spouse-free lifestyle as a semi-nomadic professional.”
Danu said the rent from the flat covers her mortgage and lease but money she would have spent on household bills is now spent on diesel and vehicle expenses – and admits she still needs to work on her budgeting.
Danu said: “The main driver for this lifestyle was to save money although it does come with costs such as driving to housesits.
“However, the freedom the lifestyle gives me is now the core reason I do it. It’s freedom, travel, nature and self-development.
“I adore waking up surrounded by nature, trees and birds, and being able to throw open my vandoors and breathe in the great outdoors.
“I have never felt too cold, too vulnerable or regretful. I’m so much busier and live far more mindfully and appreciatively than I did when I was living in my flat.
“I really believe that this lifestyle has contributed to my sustained wellbeing. Stripping life back in this way gives me a sense of actually being alive, rather than just existing.
“And when I’m housesitting I can really appreciate a hot shower.
“I would say to anyone tempted to do it go for it. Don’t let the naysayers deter you from your dreams.
“It won’t be easy but you’ll get very good at being resourceful, being brave and philosophical when things go wrong.”
Danu said she doesn’t know if she’ll ever return to having a permanent home and is not looking for a new relationship.
However if she does meet someone Danu said they’ll have to share the same values – and have their own van as she’s enjoying her own space.
Danu said: “When I get to a new housesit, I do enjoy taking over the kitchen and making a proper meal, but not enough yet to want a house of my own again.
“Whenever I think ‘hmm, my own kitchen might be nice to have’ I remind myself that having a permanent home means less discovery, less adventure.
“I never want to go back to a life of staring at my walls from the sofa too tired to put pasta on.”