The Shambulance Euro Adventure {part 3 – France}

Bonjour! Apologies for not posting for a month, I’m afraid I have been far too busy country-hopping, lake-spotting, and van-breaking which has prioritised over WiFi-hunting and blog-writing! We’ve been having a great adventure and want to share with you the video from our turbulent yet terrific, muddy but magnificent time in France!



I left you last time in Chinon on the Loire Valley and headed south to the lakes by Bordeaux, and lake-hunted our way across the country to Nice, catching up with old friends along the way, getting stuck in a farmers field and then eventually on to Italy.

Since then in Italy we have had our air con fixed and then broken again, went to an amazing wedding and wandered the streets of Rome and Naples, followed by Gerald leaving us for work as the Shambulance broke down and was towed away. In Croatia (van fixed!) Miyuki had her first dog beer, it rained for days and we hiked the Plitvice lakes. In Slovenia I reversed into a ditch in pitch black and drove through more and more rain and beautiful serene scenery. In Hungary we lost power and the van wouldn’t start just as Gerald flew back out to us, a new battery was bought and off to Budapest we went, where I sit now telling you of our journey.

We have continued to film along the way so keep your eyes peeled for the next installment! Off to Slovakia we go…


The Shambulance – Euro Adventure (part 2 – The Farm)

Hello, us again! I hope you enjoyed our little taster video in the last post. Lucky you, I’ve got another one for you already!

We drove From London to Chinon as the first leg of our adventure, stopping for 6 days with family and lots of wine. A lot of people ask me what it’s like at ‘The Farm’ so here’s an easy way to show you.

‘The Farm’ is a 14th century converted farmhouse encompassed by one acre of land – many people’s idea of the perfect retreat. The house’s and converted barns reveal medieval features such as solid stone walls and the stone walled garden space is the perfect spot to relax and put your feet up. With an abundance of chateaux, a warm climate and surrounded by vineyards, the city of Chinon is steeped in medieval history and the whole area is rich with culture. Situated in the heart of the Val de Loire area also known as the garden of France, Chinon is famous for some of the best value wines in France, and many delights such as goats’ cheeses and wild mushrooms.

photo chinon

If you have been inspired by our video and want to head out yourself, my brother organises many exciting retreats ranging from zen and yoga to wine tasting and art. Take a look for yourself at the website and keep an eye for new retreats for next summer on facebook.

We are currently in Italy on the 15th day of our adventure and it’s 41 degrees…send help.


Days 1 & 2 – The Shambulance Euro Adventure

The journey began. We’ve done almost 1k miles already (day 12). Every day we need to plan our route, find a bakery, take Miyuki on at least 2 long walks, drive at least 5 hours a day to meet our target (a friend’s wedding in Southern Italy), keep the van tidy, make minor improvements on everything, find a toilet/shower somewhere & remember to drive on the right-hand side of the road; that doesn’t mean to say we don’t put aside a good part of each evening to have a beer and meet new friends. What I’m trying to say is, keeping a blog on top of everything absorbs a lot of time. Neither of us are avid writers and sitting on a laptop feels like it defeats the point of what we’re doing. Alas… this blog is as much for you as it is for us. We still have a lot to share about the build itself; we’d like to show those who are interested how we built the Shambulance, but let’s face it: we’re no pros. We are, however, pretty good travelers, so let’s put build talk on hold for a while and let’s look at what we’ve been doing, starting with day 1 and 2.



At the end of day 2 we reached our family escape in Chinon and stayed there for 6 relaxing days. Keep following to see what we got up to there, as well as what followed after; Lots of bread, cheese and wine, lakes, sunsets, DRIVING and the very eventful getting stuck in the mud on day 11 for about 16 hours… Lots more adventure and hilarity to come! Bisous!


Converting an Ambulance into a Campervan

Two and a half weeks and we start our travels and this blog will transform into an adventure story with instagram worthy photos so do keep following if that’s of interest to you! For now though, we need to talk a bit more about the build…

gerald and van

When you are starting a campervan conversion with no previous experience in design, electronics, carpentry, insulation, gas and many many other things, it’s can be pretty daunting! Over the space of around 8 months we have gone from owning a disabled transport vehicle to a home. Looking back, we have learnt so much and would do a lot differently, but we are also really proud of what we have achieved with our only knowledge coming from online forums and YouTube videos! The reason we want to share our knowledge is to show that a well trained monkey can do what we did.

My advice to anyone about to start converting is to plan, plan and plan before doing anything. Once you know the vehicle and preferably have bought it, get inside and learn everything you can about it. Measure it, draw pictures, write notes and if you want start designing on Tinkercad (more details on that in a previous post).

We knew electrics really should be one of the first things you do, so that you can neatly hide all the wires behind the walls. Unfortunately at the time I couldn’t wrap my head around something to do with the electrics, which scared me off doing it first.. I needed to learn more. Along the way I have had several people claim they also can’t clear this ‘speed-bump’, but once you understand it, it becomes quite simple; and ever since I got it, I have been addicting to adding more electrical bits (Including an extractor fan made from a PC fan which I’d like to share with you if I do it some day). I will write a separate post about electrics soon.

We have utilised lots of clever ‘multi-storage’ areas. Like the sink and hob which when not being used, is covered with a thick blanket to protect the glass cover. This provides ample space to put things which are just laying around for later. The dining table has the ability to come off it’s wall attachment and lay flat of the chairs which it borders, providing loads of dumping space for clothes and bigger items; including your bums if you wanted to make a semi-comfortable sofa. 

We started off pulling the walls down and insulating behind them. We did this by using foil backed bubble wrap which we found on Ebay, and then filling in between with recycled plastic insulation from B&Q. We were also blocking in 4 windows as they ran down the whole side of the vehicle and limited us on our storage options. We started doing this with blackout/tinting film but it was a disaster! I’m not surprised people pay to get this done because we were doing a terrible job. So we thought we would try using black fabric instead. We taped it down and pushed the insulation over it, then screwed down some plywood on top before folding the walls back up. Luckily this worked and to this day we have no condensation in those windows which was our worry.

miyuki on seat

Next we applied the fake grey wood lino walls which you can see above. We bought something similar to this but it was much cheaper, so shop around. Ebay is your friend! We bought something similar for the floor but in blue and grey. We tried to stick the walls on but they didn’t hold well so we ended up having to screw it in at the top. We also managed to tuck it up under the ceiling which was really useful as it was pretty heavy and hard to do even with 2 of us.

So we had our insulation and walls done! Although it was still an empty vehicle. So we took out the masking tape and started marking off areas where the bed or kitchen could be, and moving the 2 passenger seats around in the runners to find the best place for them and the table. It was also useful using some cardboard boxes in those areas to get an idea of how much space you will have.

Now I did document all of this in photos, but sadly lost them all which I am gutted about. The furthest I can go back is when we started putting in the floor in February, but everything before that, you will just have to believe me!

I won’t go on any longer and will share the rest in the next post, where you will start to see some photos! I will explain how we built the bed frame and how the rest of the conversion started to take shape. For now, thanks for reading and feel free to ask any questions if you would like any more detail. Counting down the days until we leave for France! Thanks so much for reading, I promise it will get more interesting!



Designing the interior of our Campervan on Tinkercad

Hey, I want to start by thanking everyone who has started following our page! Less than 4 weeks now until we start our adventure. Until then I want to share with you some of the details of our build. In the last post I explained why we chose an ambulance to convert, and today I wanted to share an awesome little website that helped us with our design and ideas!

So Tinkercad is a free website that makes 3D design really simple for people who have never done it before. It’s a brilliant website for beginners or those who can’t afford the more expensive and detailed versions of CAD.

We got inside the ambulance and measured everything with a tape measure and logged it all down in our design book. Having a little book for notes, designs and receipts has been great so that’s another idea for you if you’re thinking of converting. Get one straight away! Once we had measurements we marked out the basic shape of the vehicle and interior such as wheel arches, doors, windows etc. We also marked where the floor runners are for the seats (I mentioned these in the last post) so we could test out where the seats could go in Tinkercad without having to physically do it in the ambulance every time. This was really useful. You can just see the runners in grey in the 2nd design below.

tinkercad designs

Our first few designs were pretty basic and messy as you can see. In all the designs we had a static bed in the back and this was pretty much the only thing we stuck with! The sliding door is on the front left where we have marked a grey window. In the third design we included a shower and toilet room which made things quite cramped, but we wanted to see what we could fit in. It was possible and you could cut down on storage to have it.

tinkercab final design

We started to get the hang of the software when we came up with the design above. It was almost perfect and we started working on the van with this in mind. We knew some things would change over time but we liked the basic arrangement and the seats and table being where they were. It made a lot more sense and we felt like this was the wisest use of the space we had.

tinkercad detail

Once we were a short way into our build, I came back on to Tinkercad to…have another tinker! We had decided on a bit more detail and I messed around with final ideas for the kitchen area. You will see later on that this is quite similar to what we have now, although we are not quite finished!

So if you’re trying to decide on a layout for your campervan conversion, I highly recommend this site. I also recommend getting a book and drawing and writing everything down so it’s all in one place.

Good luck if you are currently converting, otherwise thanks for reading and following our updates! Next I will be sharing with you how we started on our conversion…Insulation! Boring yet important!


Five reasons to buy an Ambulance for your Campervan Conversion

This is the first ever image we saw of our new home. We found the Renault Master Ambulance on Gumtree from a guy who had a lot of old and broken ambulances. We were really lucky that ours was only 8 years old when we purchased it on Halloween 2016.

There are many great things about buying ambulances for a campervan conversion, or even as a minibus, but here’s 5 that come to mind:

  1. They are really well looked after. Even though our vehicle was used as a disabled transport vehicle rather than an emergency ambulance, they still have to go through a lot of checks to make sure they are safe and up for the job. Therefore you are most likely going to get a vehicle which has been regularly repaired and has passed all its MOT’s. Just make sure that it isn’t being sold on due to a fault. In our case it was just a bit old (2008) as they tend to get new ones every 5-10 years.
  2. They have a track system for seating. What this means is that there are metal runners/tracks down the floor of the ambulance, behind the cab. Therefore you can quite easily release and relock the chairs into whatever position you choose, even backwards. This is the case for our vehicle (Renault Master) but may not be the case for all ambulances. This was great for us as we wanted to have seating in the rear for our dining table and extra passengers, and it gave us a variety of options for our layout design.
  3. You can easily stand up inside. Well, we can! I’m 5’5″ and You is around 5’10” and there’s still some room up there. This is great if you want a campervan for more than just the odd weekend. We have been planning a big trip and I know that I appreciate the height when cooking and changing, and wouldn’t want it any other way.
  4. The wheel base is just the right length. It takes a bit of getting used to if you have never driven a van before, but only really an issue when parking or reversing. The rest of the time you don’t notice the size so much, and it’s not overly wide. Although saying that we did manage to get the bed in widthways, it works out around 5’8″ which is perfect for me and just a bit short for You. We contemplated a shower room, and if you are thinking the same there is definitely enough space, but I will go into detail in another post why we decided not to do that and use the space in other ways.
  5. There are lots of windows! This firstly comes in handy as to officially change your vehicle into a Motor Home with the DVLA you need a window in the rear, and I’ve heard putting one in can be a bit of a pain. Secondly, the very rear windows open slightly at the top which helps with ventilation, an important part of owning a campervan. They’re really small so can be left open on hot days with little risk. Thirdly, it’s really nice to look out the window when travelling, whilst eating your breakfast and remembering where you are, rather than being shut in a little box. It makes it more homely, spacious and feel more like a camper than a van.

There are lots of other reasons why we chose this exact vehicle for our new home, which I will go into in other posts, but for now I hope this helps anyone who is considering buying an ambulance. Plus…It’s pretty cool to live in an ambulance right?