The Story So Far...

Posted by Burtman on
Mar 15, 01:30.
March 15 2023, 01:30 am.

Nov 21, 00:42.
November 21 2023, 12:42 am.

Read Time: About 6 Minutes

Formative Days

As a child, I always dreamed of living in a giant RV and spending my days driving across America, taking in the sights and meeting tons of adventurous, interesting people. It came from the days I spent living in a camper van with my family, sometimes for a couple of days on a weekend getaway, sometimes for weeks, touring in Europe as traveling musicians. It was a part of my life from day one, and I always loved stopping on the road-side for a cup of tea and a sandwich, pulling into the services for a meal and a stretch, parking up on a remote beach to enjoy a summer's day. It was all priceless to me.

My first van-life experience was brought to me by VW.

As the years passed, so did the vans. The old camper was out and smaller, less problematic vans were in.

Charles, Burtdad's Austin Ital, before the paint job...

...aaand after. You decide.

Yes, we even spent nights in this little lad, Cyril, an original Mini containing three sleeping bags, a kettle and a deck of cards. Fully equipped, it was.

Fast-forward some years, and my first car resembled Charles, above. My introduction to doing it all again, but this time, as the captain of the ship. I can't explain the excitement, but I feel like I don't need to, as most people who read this are here because they already know that feeling and crave it more and more.

First van-man job: Speaker cabinets.

But there are only so many things you can do in a Ford Escort van, and pretty much all of them involve sitting on the floor or setting something up outside. Those tiny vans just get you where you're going and provide a flat surface to sleep on.

Alternative Ideas

Between then and now, I had other ideas about holidays, and did what many people do when they aren't thinking it through; I bought a caravan. Well, it was really nice inside and there was a full-sized kitchen and two double beds, a gas heater, wardrobe, hot water, and everything else you could ever want.

But caravans are tricky. They need a lot of space, you need to have a car that's heavy enough to pull them safely (go looking for MTPLM info and weight ratios, if you're interested - I won't cover them here). They need secure storage and they cost far too much money for what they really are. All in all, I didn't find much joy in the caravan owner's club, and after paying for a year's compound storage, I sold mine unused at a loss. Vans were always my thing, and I was stupid to think otherwise.

Enter Burt

So I fast-forward again, another decade or so, and several vans and caravans later, I found my 2004 Transit, which I named Burt, after Burt Ward - Batman's sidekick and gentleman of questionable relation to Batman, in the 60s TV show. Why Burt Ward? No idea, to be honest, but I always thought the name was amusing and it seemed to fit.

Shortly after acquiring Burt, I headed over to my dad's to see how we could fit him out into a livable space, and given my imminent move across the continent, we only had a few days to do it. Thus, mk1 was an exercise in minimalism.

Emigration was my first big journey, and despite the lack of creature comforts, I couldn't have been happier. Burt was reliable and the weather was glorious. Out on the road took on a new meaning after leaving the UK and discovering the Alps, St. Tropez, Tuscan scenery and so much more. Burt took the miles in his stride and I was happy as Larry from day one.

Burt on day one - an empty womb for dreams of adventure.

Fresh and clean, as Transits from eBay usually are.

Fully equipped.

Guess which side of the channel this was on.

And Then There Was 2020

Things had changed. The world was a mess. People were lying everywhere and there was only one way out. Well, that's what they said, anyway.

As a freedom advocate, I found myself wholly unable to digest that version of reality, and when I saw the tech giants interfering with everyone else's version, it became clear what was going on. That's when I started to focus on bringing all my ideas and experiences together as a way of showing others what they could do if they took back control of their lives.

First, I had to take back control of my own, though, and I started by ending my relationships with those tech giants who had already begun censoring me and some of my clients, as well. So, I set up Open Road Media, a small, private hosting platform, and started migrating a small number of web hosting clients to it, so I could provide their services directly.

With Open Road performant and stable, I turned my efforts to my biggest project, yet.

Enter Burtman

Did you see what I did there?
After talking about my ideas for this website, which were enthusiastically received by many, I began sketching out plans for a new van-life platform that would tie my interests to a meaningful body of content that others would find useful and engaging. Typically, it had to include a streak of sarcasm and a hefty dose of reality - things go wrong and I was going to share those mistakes along with my successes, because people need to see that everyone else's life and projects are not Instagram-perfect. And when mistakes happen, there are ways to fix them.

With the idea solidified, I set about building a whimsical character for all of the above, giving myself the moniker "Burtman", as the newly-mythical driving force of Burt, the 20-year-old Transit from Leeds.

And Then, Quite By Surprise... Enter Byron

Well, this was a turnout. You see, I've always loved dogs, and had greatly enjoyed fostering homeless dogs in the UK before coming to Czech Republic, where I've spent a good amount of time, by this point. But life gets in the way of the best ideas and strongest wants, sometimes, and having a dog just didn't seem like a good idea. That was until a couple of years ago, when it just seemed right, all of a sudden.

The world being the way it is, as soon as it felt right, along came the abandoned pup, complete with puppy eyes and a range of unavoidably cute features. It was on a weekend trip in the south of the country that a little brown-and-white lad turned up, quite out of the blue, and made himself at home in my arms.

Literally. Byron, before he was Byron, on the day he found his place.

With no choice in the matter, home is where he went, and he was dubbed Byron, after a fictional dog found in similar circumstances in a town called Byron Wood. And there was you, thinking you knew where his name came from...

And That Brings Us Here

After a long summer of van building and a long winter of coding, was launched just in time for Burt's birthday (according to his documents). The site is still in active development, as it will be for the foreseeable future, as I continue to add features and content dreamed up and collected over the days of my life spent as a traveler, photographer and programmer.

I sincerely hope you enjoy getting involved in, as it grows into what I hope will be a major resource for van-lifers, travelers and off-grid enthusiasts over the coming years, and as I freely share all my learning and experiences in all of those areas with anyone who cares to listen.

It is with great effort and a passion for adventure and discovery, that all of this will continue, and it is with your support that I can afford to do it. Let's build this place and help each other to enjoy our lives just a little more than before.

Your new favorite internet van guy,

Special thanks to Burtdad for the old photos and for getting me excited about van world from the very beginning.

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