WE’VE all, at some point in our lives, thought about what it would be like to live life on the road. 

Leaving our never-ending routine of paying our bills and the 9 to 5 for an adventure – travelling across the country and world with a job that feeds into it, rather than feeding off of us. 

This is exactly what Amy O’Brien, 29, from Somerset, and her boyfriend Tom Ward, 36, from Surrey, did – and they’re thriving. 

Their story begins back in 2018. Tom ran a pub and hotel a year of travelling and knew that he needed to make some changes to the staff. 

“Amy had been on my radar through friends and I asked her to join me in the job,” Tom explained, adding that he eventually bumped her up to Assistant Manager. 

Due to the nature of their work, the pair were often mistaken for a couple. But it wasn’t until nine months in that their working relationship turned romantic. 


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“Two weeks before the first Covid-19 lockdown, we quit,” they told The Sun’s Fabulous in an exclusive interview. 

Tom explained that prior to his job working at the pub, he had built a van in New Zealand and travelled the country. When he returned to the UK, he had every intention of going back to that lifestyle. 

When he mentioned this idea to Amy, she was completely for it and within weeks they bought their first van together with the £15,000 they had saved up between them. 

“The first van cost us £3,200, it was quite an old van,” Amy shared. “It cost another £3,000 to renovate it. In total, we spent about £7,500 on the van and the renovation, plus the insurance and tax.”

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The couple, who are known as @vanmonkeys across social media, took the van to the Pyrenees, a mountain range that separates the Iberian Peninsula from the rest of Europe between Spain and France. 

They called the trip “amazing”, adding that there was a sense of freedom, where they were able to enjoy their surroundings and the “simpler way of life”. 

“It was dramatically different to what we were doing every day,” Tom said. “Running a very busy pub-hotel was strenuous on us. Being able to travel and see things was really quite special.” 

The pair then sold that van for £12,500, which means they made a profit of £5,000 through their renovation work. 

They used the money plus an additional £3,500 to buy and renovate their next van. 

At the time, they were still living in a house they rented and working while saving money for an extended trip to Europe.

Unfortunately, they couldn’t make this journey due to the coronavirus pandemic and government restrictions making it impossible to travel abroad. 

Two weeks before the first Covid-19 lockdown, we quit

“So we decided to sell that van and buy a bigger one to live in. We built this one for £16,000 and sold it for £25,000, making another chunk of profit,” they told us. “It really helped that everyone was building vans at the time.” 

They bought their third van for £13,750, but overall, they spent £30,000 with the renovations on it. And this is the one they currently live in today. 

If you’re wondering how much they were able to cut down on costs thanks to this new lifestyle, the answer is over half. 

Before embarking on their van journey, Tom was renting, paying bills, spending money on food and social activities – and all of that cost him roughly £1,175 per month.

Meanwhile, Amy was luckily not paying bills and only sending her parents £400 a month. Her only other real expense was food, which was £300. In total, her lifestyle cost around £700 a month. 

But when they moved in together, into their home on wheels, their lifestyle drastically changed, and in turn, so did their outgoings. 

“Our most expensive thing now is fuel, but it can be a variable. It really depends on how far you want to travel and it’s really easy to budget it,” Amy explained, adding that they spend roughly £200 on fuel a month currently. “If you want to drive all the way through Europe and end up in Spain, obviously it’s going to be incredibly expensive. But if you’re willing and want to stay in a place for a while, then the cost is reduced.” 

The one thing that can get more expensive is their food costs. Amy said they spend about £150 on a monthly meat box and top up on fresh fruit and vegetables throughout. In total, they spend roughly £300 between them for this. 

“Our sources of food have changed,” Tom said. “We’re not in the supermarket every other day. We buy things from various places like farms to get fresh ingredients.” 

Amy continued: “We can’t afford to have any waste, really. When we cleared out the cupboards to move in here, it was like, ‘Oh my god, there’s so much food in here, this is ridiculous’. 

“Now we mainly eat fresh food, so our fridge is usually jam packed.” 

Then there’s miscellaneous costs, such as their phone bills, internet, and going to the gym… These, in total, cost around £100. 

Gas, on the other hand, costs about £60 (think heatings, hobs and hot water), while socialising with pals tends to be around £60. 


  • The couple bought their first van in 2020. Together with the renovations, insurance and tax, it cost them £7,500.
  • They sold this for £12,500, making a profit of £5,000.
  • Tom and Amy bought their second van and renovated it for £16,000.
  • They sold this for £25,000, making another healthy chunk of profit.
  • Their third van cost them £30,000 in total to buy and renovate. They currently live in this van with dog, Frankie.

“When you’re travelling around on the road, you generally socialise with the other people who are in their vans too,” Amy shared. “And it’s normally sort of outside around a campfire. So it’s not very expensive when it comes to socialising.”

Based on their before and after spending responsibilities and habits, they’ve managed to cut down their monthly expenditure from £1,875 to roughly £810. 

A common misconception about the couple, however, is that they don’t work or pay tax. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Amy said the couple get accused of being "scroungers", adding: "They say, ‘Oh, you’ll be begging the government for help soon. What happens when you want a family, this isn’t sustainable, blah, blah, blah’”. 

“We worked very hard for our money and we have to pay our taxes or we’d be in a lot of trouble,” Tom went on. 

Tom and Amy’s main jobs are as photographers. The pair travel around and work for businesses on a long-term basis by providing social media content in the form of photography and videos. 

“We also do weddings and engagements… A bit of everything,” Amy explained.

Tom continued: “Commercial photography is our main source. Amy is very good at social media and created quite a good platform for us, where we can showcase what we can do. Through that, we’ve had companies contact us.”

They mainly help small businesses, where they do their best to impart knowledge and teach them how to do their social media in a cheap way. 

“With a cheap lighting set-up they can make really great content with a really easy strategy. So they can do it all themselves,” Amy said. “A lot of small businesses don’t have the budget to hire someone full time. So we lend our skills to help them  do it all themselves.” 

Their secondary business, however, is helping others renovate their vans. 

“It wasn’t something that we really planned on doing. We just got approached by a couple of friends last year,” Amy shared, explaining how it got started. “Then we did one for Tom’s cousin.” 

On average, they renovate one van a year within roughly a month and they charge £250 a day to do it all. Together with their photography, the pair are able to save 20 percent of their monthly income. 

So what are their plans for the future?

The couple are gearing up to take their trip to Europe finally. They’re slowly saving up the money to take a break and enjoy life on the road abroad. 

“If we could have six months worth of living for next year, that would be beneficial,” Tom said. “We’d like to save £8,000, which will be our Europe fund.” 

When it comes to starting a family, the pair are firmly set on building one made of animals. They got their first dog Frankie from Bosnia as they explained: “We rescued her”. 

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Amy and Tom don’t rule out ever moving back into a house, but at the moment they’re happy with their lives as it is. 

To follow Amy and Tom’s journey with their furry friend Frankie in their van, follow them on TikTok, Facebook and Instagram. Or, to hire them, check out their website https://www.vanmonkeys.com/ 

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