Charlotte Bradman swapped a house in landlocked Yorkshire for coastal campervan life, and never looked back. Words: Kirstie Newton.
It’s a rough old day out there. A biting wind and sharp showers blow relentlessly over Newquay’s Fistral Beach, hail swirling as if in a washing machine. But Charlotte Bradman is nice and cosy inside her silver Citroen Relay campervan, her hands around a steaming mug of rooibos tea.
It’s a neat little space, everything tucked deftly away in baskets slotted into nooks and crannies, above and below. Here and there are personal touches: a pin board studded with mementoes, and everywhere, splashes of Charlotte’s favourite colour: turquoise, the hue of the ocean on a sunnier day than this.
This minimalist lifestyle was forced upon her when she lost her home after a default on a mortgage payment. “I had to get rid of three bedrooms worth of random stuff I’d collected over the years, all things I had an emotional attachment to but which suddenly had no meaning,” she recalls. “I didn’t need them to thrive or survive – in fact, they were a noose around my neck. Getting rid of it all was so liberating.”
Faced with a radical change in circumstances, Charlotte, 40, chose to face it down. “I realised I didn’t want to engage with society’s rules and expectations,” she explains. “You have to live in a house. Work full-time. Tick all the boxes. Only then are you deemed a successful and valuable human being. I couldn’t cope with that anymore and so I opted out.
“That’s when I thought: why not just switch to the campervan permanently?”
Since the age of 25, Charlotte had enjoyed extended campervan holidays: a few weeks, a month here and there, working summer seasons in Newquay. She has now been a committed vanlifer for two years, splitting her time between the north coast and Falmouth, where she works for clothing company Seasalt as a retail assistant.
“There are no barriers to where I can go or what I can do – and Cornwall is one of the most beautiful places in the world,” she says. “And it’s the best place for cold water swimming – I’m addicted.”
Of course, there are still costs: MOT, insurance, tax, running costs which on an old van will only increase with the passing of time (Cornwall’s damp, salty air does the metalwork no favours). But there’s no mortgage or council tax to drain her monthly finances. Her main challenge: to find free parking during peak season, which can mean parking further out of town.
If you feel inspired to follow Charlotte’s lead, visit her Instagram feed – @wildwomaninthe blue has around 10,000 followers – and look out for her forthcoming book. The Happy Nomad is due for publication by Yellow Kite in hardback, audio and eBook in May 2024.