Wherever we are in life there comes a time when where we live might not feel like the ‘forever home’ we thought it was and it becomes clear that moving on is an option. I think so many people get ‘stuck’ and end up living alone in a big house not ideally suited to their needs, others like Siobhan just move on and on and on and….
After suffering bereavements and a dark period in her 50s, Siobhan Daniels, 62, decided to embrace adventure. So she swapped her flat for life on the road
Siobhan Daniels is giving a virtual tour of her home. “I’ve got my gin bar,” she says, flicking on decorative lights, “an oven big enough for Christmas lunch … and a full-size shower and toilet.” The moment she walked in, she knew it was the home for her. She gave up her flat in Kent, disposed of most possessions – and moved into this two-berth Auto-Trail Tribute motorhome.
Daniels, 62, is speaking from a farm in Dorset, where she volunteers in exchange for free electric hook-up. She has recently travelled south from Scotland, where she arrived via Sussex, Herefordshire and the Brecon Beacons. Of course, everywhere now is both an arrival and a departure. “I lie here and look at the map and think: ‘Where am I? Where do I want to go?’ It’s as random as that.”
At first, she says, “I was afraid of the enormity of what I’d said I was going to do.” As a single parent, it was the kind of risk she could never have taken while raising her daughter Sammy, now 32. She began to tell people: “‘I need to go to the edge of a loch and scream’ … I really suffered with the menopause in my 50s. I lost my sense of who I was. I became anxious, weepy, angry with the world.”
At BBC South East, where she worked as a news reporter and producer, she found it hard to function. “I was pretending a life, just to get through,” she says. “You couldn’t have a difficult conversation and say ‘I’m struggling’.” Daniels felt “pushed into the back room”. Her mother and her eldest sister died in this period (she is one of eight), adding an unbearable load to her misery. “I was absolutely done. Burnt out.”
“I don’t want any woman to feel what I was made to feel,” says Daniels, who has a blog and is writing a book of tips; she gives talks to women’s groups too.
Moving into a motorhome is not the obvious response to a crisis, but Daniels has always been adaptive and adventurous. She was a nurse for nine years before getting a job as a BBC trainee at 31. In that “really dark place” in her 50s, with Sammy’s encouragement, she ran a marathon. When Sammy went to university, Daniels sold her house to fund her own gap year. In Thailand, New Zealand and Argentina, she mixed with twentysomething travellers and felt ageless.
She thinks that is where her current adventure began. “Once you start getting the seed of an idea for adventure,” she says, “that is the start of the adventure.” Now she has been on the road for two years. Her first stop in the Tribute was the Yorkshire Dales, near where she grew up. After a few months, she reached Loch Morlich in the Highlands.
“It was snowing and raining, and there was a partial moon,” she recalls. “I went to the other side of the loch and I stood there. It was a really starry night and I howled like a wolf … Then I talked to my mum, said all the things I wished I’d said to my boss, and seriously everything went away.”
Now Daniels believes that “to be ageless you have to own your age … People used to say, ‘Oh, you don’t look your age,’ and I’d say, ‘Thank you very much.’ Now, I correct people. Nicely. I say: ‘Thank you, I know you come from a good place, but can I just say that actually this is what 62 and a half looks like.’”
Daniels wants “the narrative around ageing to change. I don’t want anti-ageing,” she says. “My sister couldn’t age. It’s a privilege to age. I’ve got loads of wrinkles around my lips but that’s not a negative. I’ve earned those. I’ve lived, I’ve laughed, I’ve loved, I’ve cried.”
Of course, she misses Sammy – and a hot bath. Emptying the toilet can be a pain (though since her video of it has been watched 46,000 times on TikTok, even this chore brings a smile). “I’ve made a lifestyle choice to live with very little, to be free and to travel,” she says. “And I’ve never been happier.”