Does your office look like this? Do you struggle in a busy office or studio to find the peace you need to actually do any work? Or perhaps you work from home where unpredictable teenagers, partners or ‘urgent’ tasks invade your privacy and take you out of ‘The Zone’?
This van is me and Vanessa Hotplate, a tiny Romahome campervan named after the cooker which sits just inside the back door. It’s my fourth and favourite van in a decade. You’ll also find a sink and toilet in there, loads of storage space and two single beds which go together to form one king-size.
But as well as all that there’s a table, a huge battery, a little gas heater and two giant windows. This means that at the drop of a hat, or even someone else’s soggy towel on the bathroom floor, I can take myself to a beautiful location, get the laptop out, and write. If I choose my location carefully, there will be no phone reception and therefore no temptation to go on Facebook or make calls that can wait. For ease of mind, my favourite close-to-home layby has enough reception for emergency texts to reach me (should the house burn down in my absence) but not enough for a chat. It also has ravens, and hillsides that change colour with the seasons.
Vanessa is sufficiently comfortable for longer trips too, including week-long solitary writing retreats. During these trips, and quite quickly, I’m completely immersed in whatever project I’m working on. In fact, it’s far easier to explore my own particular ideas and follow them to their logical conclusions (whether they turn out to be daft or workable) when the only distractions are fabulous sea views, what tea to drink next and cloud-spotting. My best companions on these trips have been birds, notably golden eagles and diving gannets, but deer and other animals, including tourists in laybys, have broken the solitude in the best kinds of ways too.
Until a couple of years ago, I was married with four step-children as well as two of my own from a previous relationship. As you can imagine, during that time solitude became extremely important, especially if any writing was to be done. Escape was imperative to my sanity. But it also became an end in itself, so productive were my campervan trips.
Of course, they haven’t all been easy. There are often technical hitches, like a leaky toilet when repair is a hundred miles away, or the leisure battery fails so I have to use caravan sites instead of going native in the wilderness. Some of the trips soon after the breakup were quite grim, or scary, and my morale unpredictable. Many of the places I find most enriching are also remote and unpopulated and being suddenly alone in the world meant my solitude in the wilds sometimes compounded a deeper sense of loneliness and despair at being suddenly single.
With perseverance, and a dose of mindfulness, I learnt to face my demons and carry on, often greatly cheered by my triumph over darkness, and above all I managed to keep on writing no matter what.
Although home life is somewhat quieter now, with adult daughters arriving and leaving as and when, I still can’t imagine life without a campervan.
Sue Reid Sexton is the author of Mavis’s Shoe and Rue End Street, two historical novels about the Clydebank Blitz of 1941 and its aftermath. Her non-fiction book, Writing on the Road: Campervan Love and the Joy of Solitude, is available now. She has a website suereidsexton.com, a blog, suereidsexton.blogspot.com, and is on FB and Twitter @SueReidSexton
The photographs of Sue with her van were taken by Jan Nimmo.