Campervans – even the self-build and preloved – aren’t affordable for many people. But there are ways to live a more mobile life. Alana Hurd has invented a new start for herself that combines travel, raising money for charity and doing one of the things she loves most – meeting people.
“It all started because I wanted to make a difference to the lives of disabled youngsters in Swaziland,” says Alana. “I worked in TV for almost eight years and then left to set up two projects.
“The first was to build a house for these youngsters in Swaziland – My Million to One. I then meandered into establishing a sort of dating agency for those with good ideas and those wanting to donate – called Plucky Us.
“When I first came up with this new idea of Mission Milly, I was in a transitional phase of my life and had no fixed home.”
Making money on the road
Strangely enough – in this increasingly online world – Alana says she’s better at raising funds in person.
“Online, I’m a bit ineffectual,” she says. “I have to meet people, be human, tap into how we can really work together. I wanted to meet thousands of people and I couldn’t do that by staying in one place. I needed a home/office on wheels.”
A van was the ideal answer. Alana had travelled in a campervan with her partner and her two small dogs, so she knew how to manage the logistics. But Alana didn’t want to bite into the donations for the non-profits, so she created a subscription scheme for sponsor companies and Milly, her beautiful blue campervan, would earn her keep as a stall and coffee shop.
Alana now promotes and sells the sponsor companies’ products from the van and hosts small events like book launches, company parties and afternoon teas.
“I hit the road at the end of November as soon as I picked up the signs for the van,” she says. “I’ve been on the move ever since, occasionally taking a couple of breaks at friends. I’ve travelled from Southend-on-Sea to London, Newcastle, Anglesey, Leeds, Brighton and Birmingham.”
Alana took out a business loan to buy the van and paid £650 extra for an Outsmart the Thief alarm, with tracking, immobiliser and even a panic button. ED: Have a look at our article on campervan and caravan security for more options too.
“I take meticulous care of Mill(y)onaire Milly to ensure she looks fantastic, no matter how many people have stopped by with mud all over their boots,” says Alana. “Rugs, throws, a lot of sweeping and tidying. It’s all worth it because Milly is a major investment.
“On the days that Milly isn’t on the road, I make sure to run the heating twice a day to keep her water from freezing and damaging the pipes.”
Alana paid another £750 for an awning to establish Milly as a stall/event – a business rather than just a means to a convenient roadtrip.
“When she’s set up as a stall, the tables come out, the van is bursting with colour and the awning sets the scene to attract the attention of potential customers,” she says. “I carry a card machine (Sum Up) with me that runs off my mobile data. I take as little cash as possible.”
The other big outlay was for a solar panel to maintain the leisure battery at optimum level. Alana uses her phone as a personal hotspot so that she has internet connection for her laptop. ED: See our article on getting online while travelling.
“I don’t cook much: lots of salad, fruit and other raw foods. The morning cup of coffee is a must though! Every cleaning product is 100% plant-based, so I can tip washing-up water down a nearby drain without worrying about harming the environment. The same goes for all of my soaps and shampoos,” says Alana.
Affordable campervan travels
“I have a super warm sleeping bag and the dogs have warm blankets to save gas overnight and run the heating on low,” she says.
“There are blinds on every window, including the windscreen and passenger windows. They block out the light, so the van still looks dark and attracts minimal attention if I’m on a residential street,” she adds. “I use the site www.filllpg.co.uk to top up gas. I don’t need to do this often, but I like to plan ahead because being without isn’t an option, especially for an event.”
Every decision about Milly came from needing her to earn her keep. The designs were an important part of that.
“They needed to draw attention, generate interest on the road and encourage people to the website. It’s an incredibly important opportunity for passive income/marketing, what with all the motorway miles.”
You can do it too
“Most people my age (mid 30s) believe that this way of life is beyond them. I wanted people to know that it is possible,” says Alana.
We’ll be reporting back on Alana’s adventures. Meanwhile, if you have any questions for her or would like to get some advice from her on making your own mobile business dreams come true, leave a comment below or drop us an email.