Trans herbalist loses everything they own after tiny van home is stolen and burned

A picture of Nate in front of their van

A trans herbalist has lost everything they own after the van they lived in was cruelly stolen and set on fire.

Nate, 30, was living in Scotland in September 2021 when they decided with their partner at the time to get a camper van and travel together.

However the relationship didn’t work out, so Nate – who had previously lived on a boat – took on the van themselves, pouring all of their savings into it, and making it their home.

“Everything I had went into the van, I went to zero,” they told PinkNews.

“It was like, this is how I’m doing it now, on the road and travelling and living off-grid. That’s the dream.”

After moving into their van, Nate began studying at Devon-based Betonica school of herbal medicine, with the aim of making “herbal medicine more accessible to trans people”.

“For the first time in my life I could see a future,” they said.

“I’ve found this purpose through a lot of personal growth and want to support my community in the way I know how – through the healing power of plants.”

Nate sits in their van and smiles

Nate is training as a herbalist to help the trans community. (Supplied)

But less that two months after Nate began their four-year medical herbalism course, their life was turned upside down.

They had decided to stay with their parents in Hertfordshire for a couple of nights ahead of a weekend of practical classes for their course. They’d been having a difficult time and needed some extra support.

On 31 October, they parked their van among other campers in a “little woodland carpark” where they had stayed overnight before. On 2 November, Nate returned to their van to prepare for their weekend of classes, but “it just wasn’t there”.

“I was just completely in shock,” they recalled.

“At first I was confused. I didn’t understand, did I definitely leave it there? Maybe somebody moved it. I couldn’t believe it, I was really confused.

“I stumbled back, panicking, to my parents’ house. It was just like the worst kind of shock. I mean, somebody had taken my home. It was too much to understand.”

A view of the countryside from Nate's van

Nate dreamed of travelling and living off-grid. (Supplied)

Nate’s parents held them as they sobbed, before helping them report the theft to the police, and asking around the local area for information.

The police placed Nate’s van on the stolen vehicles list and number plate recognition system, but Nate says their home is “just another stolen vehicle”.

They continued: “This doesn’t happen to people that live in houses. You might get burgled or something, but your house is still there.”

Nate has been left “heartbroken” and trying to come to terms with rebuilding their life, having lost everything from their school equipment, to precious and irreplaceable items.

“The stuff that was most upsetting is what can’t be replaced,” they said.

“What I’ve been crying about the most is my teddy, who I’ve had since I was two. Everybody has one of those things. My favourite things are things that people have given me, that mean something.

“I keep laying awake at night, replaying everything that was in there and I keep remembering other things. Like a necklace that my friend gave me. I’m into wood-carving, and an axe that my parents got me was in there.

“This summer was my first Trans Pride, and a friend of mine took a Polaroid of me. That was in the van. I’ve got a picture of the picture, but that’s not the same thing.

“I try not to be materialistic, but they’re special things.”

A polaroid of Nate standing in the sun at trans pride

The polaroid of Nate at their first Trans Pride was lost. (Supplied)

Nate says they have struggled both with police and with their insurance company because there is “no protocol for dealing with this situation”.

“They don’t seem to understand that I was living in it,” they said. “I doesn’t fit into their forms.”

To make a devastating situation even worse, they had been saving up money to replace the locks on their van, after finding out skeleton keys that can open standard locks on transit vans are available cheaply online.

“Everybody needs to know,” they said. “It opens the door and starts the engine, so you can literally drive away.”

While they say support from police has been lacking, Nate has been able to lean on their friends, family and the herbalism community.

Turning up to their herbalism seminars on little to no sleep in the days after the theft, they said they felt like “a shadow of a human trying to focus on chemistry”.

“But I was just there, and that was enough,” said Nate.

“Everyone was so supportive and giving me hugs and being so generous. Everybody wanted to help in whatever way they could.”

They said Betonica has supported them with some money from an emergency fund for students to replace their books and equipment, and teachers have gifted them clothes and a stethoscope.

Nate’s friend, who is also a herbalist, set up a crowdfunder to help them rebuild their life, and this has so far raised more than £2,000.

“It’s been overwhelming,” they said. “And I’m just so grateful for everything.”

Hertfordshire Police later received news the van had been discovered in Norfolk, having been set on fire, with the engine removed.

A Hertfordshire Police spokesperson told PinkNews: “Police are currently investigating following the theft of a van from Kings Langley. The vehicle was taken from a car park in Vicarage Lane, sometime between 7.30pm on 1 November and 7am on 2 November.

“It was later found severely damaged in Norfolk, having been set on fire.

“Enquiries are continuing at this time and anyone with information is asked to please contact police.”

Norfolk Constabulary said enquiries are ongoing.