THE BEST INSIDE TIPS FOR LIVING ON THE ROAD IN A VAN

Life on the road in a van, inside tips

In September of 2018, Dutch couple Kim and Sebas bought a Van and transformed it into a house on wheels. They shipped it to Colombia and travelled through South America for 12 months. It was a life-changing experience. Have you always dreamed about taking a sabbatical and travel the world? Then 2021 might be the perfect year to transform your dreams into reality.

Currently, the pandemic has put everyones life on hold. However, it has also allowed us all to take a step back, get a fresh perspective and consider our ways. For those of you who are wondering if travelling the world in a Van is for you, here are some useful inside tips!

Familie Labrie travels in a van
Family Labrie with their son Ziggy and dog

Travelling with a camper or van gives you reasonable flexibility, even during the pandemic

Dream Big

Imagine driving through an amazing landscape for hours on end. Your favourite tune is playing, your feet dangling out the window, and as long as there are roads and gas in the tank, nobody is stopping you. You’re free as a bird.

Kim in South America
Nothing compares to the freedom you experience from traveling the world

So, where do you see this taking place? What part of the globe do you want to visit? In essence we say; dream big. Why not? Obviously, Covid influences your choice of destination, but travelling with a camper  or van gives you reasonable flexibility. You can stay off-grid and really limit your interaction with others. Just make sure you are comfortable with the medical situation of your country of choice. You might be surprised how comfortable and rejuvenating this way of travelling actually is. If you are not sure, rent a Van first and have a feel for yourself

Get your timing right..

Once you have decided where your sabbatical will take place, check the best time to do what you want to do. This sounds like stating the obvious, but we met quite a few people on the road who missed out on dream locations. They had to stay put at one location as the rain season prevented them from moving forward. Or how about getting stuck in a snowstorm on a high mountain pass, not being aware of the time needed to travel from A to B. This will be an adventure in itself and probably one of your most popular stories when you return home. But if you are a smooth sailor, planning is no luxury. Its always smart to check the seasons, so you know what to expect.

Travel the world in a van
Our vanlife in a nutshell

On the road with your dream Van

An awesome part of your preparation is figuring out what type of campervan you fancy. The choices are endless! Please take enough time to marvel over what is out there. It will not only get your blood pumping; it will give a better understanding of your options. After all, it’s gonna be your house for a while, so it’s good to know what you need to be comfortable.

vanlife, dream van

Buy or build your own van?

Are you gonna buy an already existing campervan or build your own? If you are a mechanic, carpenter or handyman, creating your own motorhome is very doable. However, if you’re not and working a full-time job, then building your own house on wheels might not be for you. In our case we decided to do it and loved it. We build a lovely house on wheels by trail and error. But behold, it did not save us money, and it took a year to finish. The sense of accomplishment was incredible though, so if you are up for it… GO!

perfect van

If you do get tempted to build one yourself, have a look at bynomads.nl. If you prefer someone else to do it for you, have a look at www.toffecampers.nl

This is how we got our perfect van

We wanted that everlasting engine that can be repaired anywhere in the world with minimal means. After many hours online, we found our brilliant car dealer Martijn. He sold us an old sturdy Mercedes. With its high ceiling and old school look, it was love at first sight. It was supposed to serve as an army ambulance but never did. It is an indestructible tank in great condition and little mileage. We had Martijn remove a wall, put in a window, a bench for 2 and some amazing shock absorbers. For all of this, we paid €12.500,- . 


On the road with our amazing van

It cost us another €12.500,- to transform it into our off-grid house on wheels. For example, solar panels with a quick rechargeable battery, a strong fridge that can withstand long drives on very bumpy roads. Next to that, we needed a bit of professional help, especially to get all the electrical work done. Additionally, we also decided it should be as lightweight as possible, not wanting to spend time and money getting a Campervan drivers licence. At first a great idea, but in the end, we are not sure if saving money was the best motivation. It all adds up quickly. But then again, you probably will only do this once, and it was worth every penny.

Getting to your dream location

Before you consider buying or building a motorhome, consider whether you will need to ship it to another continent. We could write a whole essay on the subject, but for now, let’s focus on your first steps and most overlooked point. If you do want to know more, please don’t hesitate to drop us a line.

Travelling by van in South America
Parking at the most amazing spots

Tips for shipping your Van abroad

  1. Choose a trustworthy shipping company. Have a look at Sea Bridge, Sea Trade or get in touch with Martin at IVVS UK. He made sure we sailed through the whole process.
  2. Reserve a spot well in advance.
  3. Be aware it takes about 4 to 6 weeks to get your Van to your dream destination.
  4. Does your Van fit into a container? If so, you could share it with another car. Maybe someone you know. A great option if you have to watch your budget.
  5. If your van does not fit into a container, you will have to ship: Roll on Roll off. When shipping RO-RO, you will have to think about properly prepping your Van. There is a chance stuff might get stolen or damaged. Many little things can be done to minimize the risk. Ask around and get yourself well informed.
  6. Stupid questions do not exist. Never hesitate to ask around. Whenever we could not find an answer, we dropped a line on our favourite Facebook page called: Overlanding South & Central America. Even if you don’t plan on going to South & Central America, the people on this page are very supportive.

Vanlife, starry sky

There are quite some benefits when you do buy your Van in your home town and ship it. Being able to decorate and organizing your Van according to your wishes is a huge plus. Sending it on its way with everything on board that you need was a no brainer for us. It might not be the cheapest option, but we never regretted the choice.

Buy your Van at the destination

Suppose you don’t want to ship. You can buy a van at your travel destination. But make sure you are allowed to buy and sell again as a non-resident. Again there are many possibilities. Just reserve enough time for your research. Talk to people who’ve done it already. They always love to give a helping hand. The Vanlife community vibe is inspiring. Their willingness to help you accomplish a dream is heartwarming. If this article feeds your hunger to go and live this type of dream, then let nothing stop you!

Labrie
Happy campers

All in all, our South American trip turned our world upside down. During those 12 months, we had all the time in the world to figure out what we want out of life. Although our lives in the Netherlands was great, it became abundantly clear that we had very little desire to get back to it. As we speak, we are organizing a second trip. It sounds Yolo, and it is. You only live once, and trips like this make it possible to see what else it is out there. It’s not easy to uproot your life; it ain’t a cheap way of travelling, but if you feel that itch, go for it. Free your mind, get a new perspective and decide what you want to do with your life…

Love,

Kim & Sebas

*Traveling is in this families blood. Last year they came back from South America and decided to stick to a nomadic lifestyle and then corona happened. So in the meantime they’re exploring the Netherlands. Always on the look out for heartwarming places…Follow them on Instagram!

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