A change of scenery and getting back to nature can do wonders for our mental health. But what if you could build a life which allowed you to explore new places every day, while maintaining the stability of your office job?
That's just what Liam Chester, an accountancy firm director from North Lanarkshire, did when he transformed a camper van into an amazing home-meets-office on wheels. He was inspired to change his life after reaching serious burnout a few years ago.
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"After spending three years working obsessively on my business around 80 hours a week ,the overwork and stress began to show," he told Yahoo from his van (currently parked in The Lake District).
"Physically and mentally I was exhausted and in 2019 had a burnout, for want of a better word. I couldn’t switch off, couldn’t sleep, had anxiety attacks and totally couldn’t function. I was forced to take time off and seek medical attention."
It was a turning point, and Liam began working on balancing work with his personal life and prioritising his mental health. Initially, Liam and his partner Lauren began by prioritising weekend walks and trips - but then the plan to get a van and work on the road was born.
When they first bought their camper van it had nothing inside, so the couple insulated it with foam and recycled plastic before laying wood on the ceiling and floor. They then connected the van to electrics, and they use a mixture of multiple battery packs and a hybrid inverter which takes power from solar panels on the roof.
The van now looks fresh and bright, pimped-out with two workstations, a kitchen, a shower, a chemical toilet and a diesel heater. But renovating the vehicle wasn't always easy, especially when they had to cut their own windows into the van's sides.
"The van build was tricky at times and a big learning curve," he said. "Cutting holes for the windows in a brand new van was scary - and the electrics and tech side of things was quite a lot to learn! Fortunately my dad used to be an electrician, so he gave me lots of tips."
Most important, perhaps, for a 'digital nomad' is the Wi-Fi system - which uses a router connected to an antenna on the van's roof that links up to satellites, giving the couple 4G data even in the most remote of places.
While the couple have kept their main home, they have also worked remotely from the van in Arran, the Cairngorms, the Aberdeenshire Coast, Moray and the Scottish Borders - and the effect on Liam's mental health has been transformative.
"It gives me the ability to more easily switch off from work and escape into nature right on my doorstep every day," he explained.
"It allows me the chance to recharge. Often we stop working, go for a walk and call into a country pub and we’re surrounded by people on holiday so it almost makes us feel like we are too - instantly we forgot work and focus on our down time."
While not everyone will be able to create their own roaming office, Liam - who has now also started up mental health charity The Sounding Board, to help 16 to 24-year-olds start their own businesses - suggests carving out any time you can afford to get out there, especially if you're newly working from home.
"Go for a walk at lunch, go for a run, ride your bike, go to the gym or head out for a beer after work. Whatever you enjoy doing," he said.
"Switching off, slowing down and enjoying the simple things gives a great opportunity to change your mindset and wind down. And leave your devices at home."
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