GET TO KNOW: Kaye Sutcliffe my van life
Yoga teacher, transformational life coach and inspiring digital nomad Kaye Sutcliffe has turned her back on the corporate lifestyle. Firstly, she sold her possessions and moved into a van called Eileen, and, in November, she left the wintry skies of the UK behind her and went on a road trip, chasing the sunshine down to south-west Portugal.
First of all, tell us a little bit about yourself (age, where you’re from, what you did before taking off on your road trip, etc)
Hey I’m Kaye, northern lass from Manchester – 46 who spent 20+ years in the corporate world, originally hopping from admin to admin job until I taught myself HTML and then hit a career in Digital Marketing. Working my way up the ladder, but also knowing that there was something more to life for me than the 9-5 and sitting at a desk all day. When I was 28 I set off on my first solo adventure, backpacking around the world – South East Asia, Australia and South America for 12 months. I then came back to the UK with confidence and a sense of self that I was then able to climb the ladder at big companies across numerous sectors, Finance, FMCG, Travel, Exhibitions and Tech. In 2016 I moved away from being employed to take the risk and became a contractor for about 5 years whilst I lived in London. When I turned 40 – I moved back to Manchester, my contract role came to an end, I ended up waitressing to get by – going from £500 a day to minimum wage but feeling freer and happier with no pressure. After finding Kundalini Yoga in London, something called me to go on the Kundalini Yoga Teacher training, but it was more for personal development not to become a teacher but the yoga wisdom was so profound that I felt a need to share this and started teaching.
You’re a Kundalini yoga, mantra and meditation teacher, Sekhem healer and qualified transformational life coach. How did you find yourself taking this path and have you always worked in this field?
The first time I took a Kundalini Yoga class was at Triyoga in London, I hadn’t experienced a yoga class like it before. I had my hands up in the air, chanting (not knowing the words) but really losing myself in the moment. When I came out I had to bike through Battersea Park back home and I felt like I was flying! It was like my soul was remembering – I had never experienced a yoga high like it before! After experiencing more workshops and going to regular Kundalini Yoga classes in London, I knew this was the style of Yoga that I got the most out of – it removes stagnant energy in the body and FAST! In 2018 I moved up to Manchester and was unable to find another Marketing role. I kept looking for Yoga Teacher Training to go on a self discovery journey, my body was shot, i was feeling down emotionally, mentally and spiritually – I broke out in acne all over my face. This was due to working hard in London and partying even harder – London was eating me up, and so I was internally – self-sabotaging. So I moved back home to ground myself. After 10 months of intense training, I wanted to share all this knowledge and started to teach a regular class in Manchester. I’d had a dream a year before about me having a double decker bus, named Yoga on the Move which was a mobile yoga studio (which I’m still pursuing), so I named myself @yogaonthemove.
In lockdown, I taught online, and it was an amazing time for me to really develop my own regular daily practice without the 9-5 getting in the way, as I had found a 4 day a week contract role and was lucky enough to have that during lockdown too.
Lots of chanting and meditation made me realise my initial dream about my van and after 9 months of sitting on the idea. I found Eileen (my 1994 VW Motorhome) and set off in June 2021!
Life coaching and Sekhem healing came within the last couple of years as I found that trying to teach yoga whilst on the move was pretty difficult so I had to keep dipping back into the corporate world to get money together – I realised I didn’t want to carry on doing that so I became a Transformational Life Coach, trained by Marisa Peer helping people to be free from self sabotage, procrastination, feeling stuck and overwhelmed and able to achieve what they truly desire in life with ease – after all that’s exactly. Within my self discovery journey, I have gone down a more spiritual route and finding all things esoteric and energy based is very interesting to me – after all, we are all energy!
“Van life led me to personal growth and I empower others
on their self discovery journey.”
on their self discovery journey.”
Did you travel around the UK or did you have a base?
Yes, I travel all around the UK – mainly festival to festival, retreat to retreat around the UK. Visiting friends and family that I have dotted all over the UK – getting my washing done at my mums – lol.
Have you worked overseas before?
No, I haven’t worked overseas, just travelled. Now I’m a digital nomad. I really give you the freedom to work from anywhere.
Have you always practised yoga/what got you into it?
It was in my mid 20’s when I tried yoga and my practice was very much more off than on – sometimes weekly, then slipping to fortnightly or very ad hoc, especially when I lived in London. After heavy alcohol fueled weekends, something would always pull me back to the mat to retreat. It was my safe space, my time to go inwards, I craved solace and peace as London’s noise was too loud for me at times.
What inspired you to go on a life-changing adventure like this?
I had to change – my body was screaming at me. My face had broken out in acne at the age of 40. Having flawless skin all my life, I never had to wear foundation and going from that beautiful gift to having to cover up the sore redness was just heartbreaking. It was a sign for me that I was overdoing it and not speaking to myself kindly at all – our bodies are far more intelligent than we are!
Did you have a contingency plan, in case this didn’t work out?
Not at all, the motto I’ve had since I went travelling was – “If it doesn’t work out, I can always go back home.”
Did you have a practice run before making the move or did you just go for it?
I just went for it – I’m a massive risk taker, that is something I pride myself on. Although I do it and then worry about it once I’ve done it!! Everything is figureoutable – I’m very adaptable and a firm believer that if you take a risk, the Universe will catch you. There was a quote in my yoga teacher’s kitchen which said “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Also, I don’t know if any of you have heard about Human Design, it’s another modality similar to Astrology that defines your makeup. I’m a Manifesting Generator 6/2 – we live many lives in one – I get bored quite easily and always want to better myself and try new things. I’m a total “yes” person.
When did you start your adventure and did you time it to avoid a British winter?
This year I started my winter adventure on 7 November and totally did it to avoid the British winter. Last year, I housesat in Trowbridge and studied, the house was cold and I didn’t know anyone in the area, so it was perfect to hermit away and get my head down. After travelling Spain and Mexico the year before I swore to myself that I wouldn’t spend another Winter whilst living in the van in the UK. So off I went, Portsmouth to Bilabo and travelled down through NW Spain to Portugal and because of the stupid Brexit rule, I’m off to Morocco at the end of Jan to chase the sun and extend my stay out of the UK until it gets warmer.
Is the better weather a major benefit of living in Portugal now?
Abso-bloody-lutely! It gets cold in the evening, around 10 degrees, sometimes a little rainy but mainly sunny. I’m on the beach most mornings doing my practice, sea swimming, hiking and living outdoors.
Was it easy to make the move, now that the UK is out of the European Union and was there any red tape you had to negotiate your way through?
I’m working within the Schengen rules. As soon as you enter any country within the Schengen area, your 90-day clock starts. I will have 2 weeks left of my 90 days, so moving to Morocco and if I want to travel back before the 180 days, then I have 2 weeks left to travel through Europe back home without any penalties! Such a palava!
Have you had any experience of the van life before this?
When I was in Australia me and 4 other girls hired a van up the east coast – now that was an experience! And me and my ex hired a wicked campervan whilst travelling Oz for around the same length of time too – so a little experience of vanlife.
Tell us a little bit about the van which is now your home and your mode of transport? Does she have a name?
So she’s called Eileen and was actually named by the guy who I bought it off, as he bought it from a cockney dude. So she’s named after Dexys Midnight Runners son, “Come on Eileen” and I often sing this when we’re going up a hill! She’s a 1994 VW T4 Transporter – Motorhome style. At first I envisaged one of these new converted transit vans, but she’s perfect, it feels like an actual home – I don’t have to put away the bed every night and there’s quite a bit of storage for everything that I had to downsize to. Everyone who stays in Eileen absolutely loves her – she has such a magical vibe, so cosy, welcoming and homely.
Is it easy living in a small space?
Yeah, you get used to it – it gets really messy really quickly but then it’s all tidied away within minutes. Everything has to have its own place and put away!
What did you do to prepare for your trip?
Everything I own is with me in the van, apart from a couple of boxes and a suitcase at my mums. I made sure Eileen was all good to travel, got a service done beforehand, new tyres and all good to go!
How do you slim down a house/apartment full of belongings to what you can travel with in your van?
That was a tough job, I’d collected so much stuff over the years, I did actually find it very therapeutic getting rid of ‘stuff’. I did the whole Marie Kondon thing and it’s amazing the emotional attachment that we have to possessions, letting things go really frees up emotional space. I originally put all my furniture from my apartment into storage for 12 months – just in case! Then I decided to sell all of it and luckily I sold it as a job lot rather than bit by bit. Clothes, I sold on vinted and have the bare minimum but still a nice selection of the beautiful clothes I’ve collected over the years plus I have to think about all seasons too. Shoes were an issue – I think I had collected nearly 100 pairs at one point, so they all went to charity or sold.
Were you frightened at all about taking this journey you are on?
No – maybe a little uncertain and finding my feet initially. But I don’t bring that energy into the van, I know I’m protected. Every time I’ve broken down, people appear out of nowhere to help, plus everyone LOVES Eileen.
What do family and friends think about it?
I get ‘inspiring’ a lot and that I’m a nutter, lol. I had to ask my family and this is what they’ve said: “She’s brave, courageous, an inspiration and encouraging others to live out of their comfort zone. Fearless to travel on her own and she owns it. She’s a lot more at peace and has changed her complete outlook on life and really helps others through living a life of compassion and non-judgement. She now has more time and energy to live the life how she wants – being fluid.”
What was the journey down to Portugal like? How long did it take and where did you stop en route?
After arriving in Bilbao, Northern Spain, I took the coastal route via Austurias, Galicia which was STUNNING! I love the ocean and hug the coastline as much as possible to practise on the beach and sea swim most days.
I then dropped into the national park in Portugal, down to Porto, Lisbon – loads of little towns all the way down south – Nazare to try and see the big surf but it’s not quite the season before residing in Lagos to rest for a little while before I make my journey through spain and onto Morocco.
Why Portugal? Is it a country that you knew before and do you speak Portuguese?
I’ve travelled on holiday as a kid and have visited Lagos 3 times previously where I currently am and have stayed here for about a month over Christmas and NY after the 1000 mile drive down the coast, it’s a beautiful place to hang out and coast around SW Portugal. I speak a tiny bit of Portuguese, hello, thank you – to be respectful.
Tell us about your average day
I wake up, meditate, journal – head to the beach practice yoga, sea swim. Go to the local cafe, work on my business – social media, email marketing etc… Take client calls in the afternoon, hike – watch sunset. I love helping people, I was once stuck in a rut with self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviour and it’s so rewarding to help others go through this process – I’ve been there, I totally get it and can relate. Plus the transformation process has been phenomenal for my clients. Most evenings, I catch up with friends and family on the phone or meet up with new friends. Every day is slightly different and 90% of the time I say yes to everything that comes my way to really adventure into the unknown.
Are you happier for going on such a life-changing adventure?
For sure! I was never one for routine and I always bent the rules, so this life suits me perfectly. I didn’t realise how much of a connection I would establish with nature. After living full time in nature for nearly 3 years, I sleep much better, I live an outdoor lifestyle, I feel a lot more in sync with the cycles of life, hibernating in winter, living fully in summer etc
Do you miss your life in the UK at all?
There is something really special about the UK, the sense of humour we have, the music scene, fashion – these qualities are slightly different when you’re travelling but I get to meet so many different people from across many countries that I wouldn’t have met if I didn’t travel. Plus I live in the UK throughout the summer, so I get the best of both worlds.
How easy was it to move your work life from the UK to Portugal?
The majority of my work is online, so you can pretty much work from anywhere, when I stay in places long enough to integrate more with the community – I will host an event. This is what I’m doing here in Lagos next week.
Did you know anyone there, before you set off?
No, I didn’t know anyone before I set off. I knew that a few other friends who have vans were also setting off escaping the UK winter so I have met up with them and travelled a couple of destinations together. Plus a friend of mine wanted to visit Porto, she came over for the weekend which was so much fun! And another celebrated Christmas with me in Lagos, it’s been great to have my mates come and stay with me and Eileen.
How easy has it been to meet new people?
It’s pretty easy on the road to hermit yourself away, so I often park near other vanlifers and we get chatting or here in Lagos there is a big digital nomad scene. I’ve been to a couple of the meetups which is a great opportunity to meet like minded people. There is a huge digital nomad community all over the world now, so I tap into this throughout my journey.
Are the people friendly and welcoming where you are?
The Portuguese are really friendly that I’ve met. I park where other vans park and everyone I’ve met travelling in vans are so open and lovely. It’s a real community on the road of like-minded free spirits.
Do you stay static in one place or do you move around?
I knew that I wanted to get to Lagos and celebrate Christmas and New Year – the journey from Bilbao to Lagos was around 1000 miles so it’s been really lovely to stay kinda stationary for a month. On the route down, I’d stay in a place a night, maybe 2 – I genuinely feel into how I’m feeling on the day – where I want to go and follow what my heart is telling me.
How long will you stay in Portugal or is it a permanent move?
I have to leave mid-Jan because of the Brexit rule! I’m leaving 2 weeks at the end of my current 90 days, travelling to Morocco to follow the sunshine!
If not, where next?
I’ve never been to Morocco and a lot of people try and put the fear in, saying “Is it safe there for a woman travelling on her own.” I feel safety is all about your own perception of how safe you feel within yourself. My and Eileen feel totally safe. Yes, I will probably have to be a little more vigilant but I’m pretty streetwise now, my intuition is fierce and I don’t bring that energy of fear – as you really do attract what you put out there.
Is it the van life for you now, or do you think you’ll move back into bricks and mortar one day?
I’m feeling the call to be a little more stable during the summer when I’m in the UK to stay in one place rather than travel so much – I’d like to find a community van campsite or maybe a some kind of house-sit situation, where you look after someone’s house whilst they’re away this year. Let’s see what arises, I’m pretty much open to whatever comes my way.
Do you have any tips for anyone thinking of doing something similar?
Just do it! “I’d rather regret the things I have done, rather than regret the things I haven’t done.” We can take life far too seriously sometimes, it’s just a massive game. Learn to play the game of freedom, be more childlike and have lots of fun and adventures, life shoots by not to.
Anything else you’d like to tell us?
I turned my whole life around in my 40’s, it’s never too late to make that change, take the risk, try something new. Life is short and you’re the star of your own movie – make it a movie that you would love to sit down and watch with a big bowl of popcorn in your later years. I’m the lead actress walking down the red carpet!
Kaye’s mission is to help people be free from self sabotage, procrastination, feeling stuck and overwhelmed and able to achieve what they truly desire in life with ease. Through coaching processes, kundalini yoga and mindfulness techniques, she helps people rewire patterns in their mind that hold them back from being their true selves and supports them in opening the door to a life they have always dreamed about and help them really shine a light on what they truly want.