Advertising and Editorial Photographer Liam Arthur is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this photo essay. From his project ‘Timmo Lives In a Van‘. To see Liam’s body of work click on any image.
Many of us have dreamed of dropping everything. Walking away into the world and leaving the shackles of our jobs, mortgages and daily ties behind.
Often we simply transfer our perceived weights from one place to another in the hope a new frontier will soften their sharp edges.
Some however choose a new way entirely, literally leaving everything behind, and going out into the wilds of the world with few of the conveniences that we associate with modern western life.
Timmo is one of these people, leaving behind his building job in Cornwall and heading into Europe to live in his van, following sunshine and waves and a desire to experience the world as it is, and not vacuum packed by travel agents or liked by Facebook.
So what are the realities of living on your own, in a van with little income, and no responsibility but also no security. Have we got it wrong sitting in the comforts of our modern capitalist utopia or do we simply not appreciate how good we have it?
Me and Tim grew up together as step brothers in a small Cornish fishing village surfing and skating our days away. Later I moved to London to pursue a career in photography, Tim took an all together different route. I used to sit in my small rented flat in London wondering and dreaming what it would be like to wake up by the sea again every day, with no worries and no pressures. No tube lines and no rent to pay. I longed for my only worry to be what the swell and wind was doing, and where to sit and watch the sun go down on another perfect day.
In this series of pictures I lived with Tim in his van for a week in Fuerteventura, a small volcanic landmass in the Canary Islands. Tim had been slowly moving through Europe, following the warmth of the sun, and steadily moving south along the coast ahead of the approaching European winter.
Cold nights in a van are hard, warmth can be found through covers, and the occasional fire, but the condensation slowly seeps in to everything leaving clothes and materials damp. Facilities are hard to find in the remote areas where many of the waves are, and a morning routine often includes finding a secluded spot to go to the toilet, sometimes the only option is to swim out to sea and tread water for a while.
There are times when there is no better life. Tim liked to drive so that bit was easy. Days were spent surfing in the sunshine and warm waters, nights were spent meeting other travelers, parties, friends.
The waves were amazing beautiful turquoise lighting monster-like things that would appear and disappear just like that filling you with joy and leaving you exhausted in the best possible way. Rolling hills full of vineyards bathed in warm sun would roll by in countryside that let you pass through its enchanting landscape like you were part of its story. Fish for dinner, fresh pastries for breakfast, life as it was meant to be lived.
Then there are the times when there are no waves and no companions.
Days spent on your own in a small van with only your thoughts and a guitar. Music is therapy but sometimes nothing can drown the sounds of the doubts in your mind, or cover the loneliness when you haven’t had a conversation with another human for weeks.
With money tight food becomes a monotonous routine cooked on a small stove top in the van. The smell of cooking long since becoming part of the fabric of the small space. You can never be too far from a tap and you quickly learn where the free and accessible ones are.
We are all creatures of curiosity and most of us share a drive to live and experience the wonders that our beautiful world provides. Yes we live in a bubble, and the bubble is made of responsibilities that at times limit our freedom of experience, but the bubble can also protect us, not just from the world outside but also ourselves. There is no right way to live your life, dreams and fantasies often provide us with an escape from the storyboards of our lives, but reality is always waiting, and a fantasy is just that.
Tim spent the best part of three years in the van, and the adjustment in coming back to the structure of a quickly changing world was hard, the decision to do things differently or live outside the accepted structure is a tough one, and one that is becoming harder as the world closes in around us and expands outwards through technology.
‘People ask me why I came back, and to be honest I don’t know – something inside always tells you to come back I suppose’ Timmo
If giving everything up for a simpler life outside of accepted norms is something that appeals to you remember that not all the grass is greener, you should be prepared for some of the best and hardest times of your life. But as someone once said ‘life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
By Liam Arthur