Brit couple spend lockdown living in a transit van in Spain with two young children

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A British couple who are travelling around Europe in a modified transit van has told how being trapped in there with two young children and unable to go to the beach during lockdown has been ‘tough’.

Pete Russell, 27, originally from Long Eaton, and his wife Hannah, 25, from Bingham, decided to leave England for sunnier climates after a series of tragic events.

Having lost a child, and suffering with depression, the pair sold off their worldly possessions and spent £3,000 on an old white Mercedes Sprinter, which they modified into a living space.

With their two kids in tow – Felix, four, and Angus, three – they decided to cruise across Europe, parking up in beach car parks and living off a modest weekly budget of 60 euros.

Pete Russell, 27, originally from Long Eaton, and his wife Hannah, 25, from Bingham, and their two young children have spent lockdown living in the back of their modified Mercedes Sprinter transit van

Having lost a child, and suffering with depression, the pair sold off their worldly possessions and spent £3,000 on an old white Mercedes Sprinter

Having lost a child, and suffering with depression, the pair sold off their worldly possessions and spent £3,000 on an old white Mercedes Sprinter

Their new home was their van – 60 metres of floor space, containing a bed for themselves and their kids, a small kitchen and a portable potty in an IKEA storage box, which is their bathroom.

The family have lived this way since April last year – and have just celebrated their one year anniversary of living their life on the road.

But then their new sense of freedom started to collapse as the coronavirus hit Spain and they had to remain confined to their van for seven weeks.

Pete said: ‘Some days it was miserable in the van. We were very confined. It has been tough. 

‘The main ethos of this life is having the freedom to go where we want and when we want and having that taken away from you is quite claustrophobic.’ 

Pete and Hannah bought the van and have since converted it into a living space with a kitchen and sleeping area

Pete and Hannah bought the van and have since converted it into a living space with a kitchen and sleeping area

Pete and Hannah bought the old van and have since converted it into a living space with a kitchen and sleeping area

The couple began their journey in France, but have made their way through Spain, finally pitching up in the southern part of the country called Cabo de Gata. Pictured: their kitchen area

The couple began their journey in France, but have made their way through Spain, finally pitching up in the southern part of the country called Cabo de Gata. Pictured: their kitchen area

Pete and Hannah met each other while working as engineers at an Marks and Spencer warehouse. 

They bought a house in Bilsthorpe and raised two children, until their mental health started to decline in early 2019 after they lost a child.

Pete said: ‘We were running from our depression but it worked. I sat down one Saturday night and I said, “When was the last time we were really happy?”

‘And it was when we were in a camper van for 10 days travelling around France.

‘We knew other people that had done similar things, sold their house and gone exploring.’

The pair decided to rent out their property rather than sell, which is now their main source of income.

With their two kids in tow - Felix, four, and Angus, three - the couple decided to cruise across Europe, parking up in beach car parks and living off a modest weekly budget of 60 euros. Pictured: their beds in the van

With their two kids in tow – Felix, four, and Angus, three – the couple decided to cruise across Europe, parking up in beach car parks and living off a modest weekly budget of 60 euros. Pictured: their beds in the van

Hannah said she loves the lifestyle of living in the van and enjoys being able to watch her kids grow up

Hannah said she loves the lifestyle of living in the van and enjoys being able to watch her kids grow up

They also raised £5,000 from selling their belongings, including a gardening set.

They began their journey in France, but have made their way through Spain, finally pitching up in the southern part of the country called Cabo de Gata.

‘We are not tourists,’ Pete added. ‘We are not on holiday. We live in a van. 

‘We don’t eat out at restaurants. We eat tuna, sweetcorn, mayonnaise pasta three times a week.’

Hannah added: ‘For me it is the lifestyle of it all. I get to watch my kids grow up properly and not feel like we have to do this, that or the other. It is a lot less stressful.

‘It is really the freedom of saying, “What do you want to do today?” And the heat as well.’

Pete has been driving to the supermarket once a week to pick up essentials while his family wait on camper chairs until he arrives back. Pictured: Hannah stocks up on water

Pete has been driving to the supermarket once a week to pick up essentials while his family wait on camper chairs until he arrives back. Pictured: Hannah stocks up on water

The couple have a portable potty as their bathroom which they keep in an Ikea storage box (pictured)

The couple have a portable potty as their bathroom which they keep in an Ikea storage box (pictured)

Pete said: ‘We usually park up on beach car parks. We try and get as close to the coast to get the sea breeze – that’s our cooling system. We have the sea 20ft from our backdoor.’

He said they come across many people living the same sort of lifestyle.

Some believe they are ‘desperate or homeless’ and need free food while others are just ‘fascinated’ by the van.

‘We are not homeless. We are fortunate. But we don’t have a lot of money,’ he added.

‘Our family are supportive. They could see how poor our mental health was at the time and that we have made it work.

The family have lived this way since April last year - and have just celebrated their one year anniversary of living their life on the road

The family have lived this way since April last year – and have just celebrated their one year anniversary of living their life on the road

‘Everyone wants to know how our kids are being educated. They are not ready for normal school now. 

‘We practice counting and colouring with them – we count tunnels we go through and the colour of cars we pass. We also have a chalkboard on the inside of the backdoor.’

The couple were sat on the beach close to where their van was parked when the news came out that coronavirus had hit Spain.

They considered finding a hideaway in the wilderness, but then realised it was far more serious than they had first envisaged.

‘We did not know how the police were going to act towards people in camper vans,’ Pete said.

The couple were sat on the beach close to where their van was parked when the news came out that coronavirus had hit Spain. Pictured pre-lockdown

The couple were sat on the beach close to where their van was parked when the news came out that coronavirus had hit Spain. Pictured pre-lockdown

Pete admitted: 'Some days it was miserable in the van. We were very confined. It has been tough'

Pete admitted: ‘Some days it was miserable in the van. We were very confined. It has been tough’

‘If we left now it would be a long time before we could go back.’ 

Hannah added: ‘The kids have been absolutely brilliant. Felix has kept everyone entertained.’

The pair said the Spanish community have been very supportive and they remained on lockdown for seven weeks, unable to even go to the beach.

Pete has been driving to the supermarket once a week to pick up essentials while his family wait on camper chairs until he arrives back.

Pete said: ‘Spain has been so welcoming and they are so interested in the van. It is a camper van, but it is our home.’

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