INTERVIEW | Couple left everything behind to live in a Volkswagen Van
In October of 2016 Hedwig (30) and Jeroen (33) left everything behind and started a new big adventure. After living in Amsterdam for 5,5 years they sold all their belongings, including their lovely house. Together with their two dogs, Tommie and Olaf, they decided to live in a Volkswagen Van while they explore the world.
To live in a Volkswagen Van wasn’t a difficult choice.
How did you come up with the idea of selling all your belongings and start living in a van? When did it start to feel like something you could really, really do?
We wanted our lives to be less predictable. That’s what started it. We were feeling more and more restless and with that grew the need for adventure. On the other hand, we like to have a place of our own, something to call ‘home’. Living in a van combined these two things and for us it wasn’t a difficult choice. We actually made the decision on a Friday afternoon and right that Monday after we started calling real estate agents for selling our apartment.
You sold everything you had within 3 months after making the decision. Was it easy to let go of your belongings?
We were lucky to have a place in Amsterdam we could sell within two weeks. The buyer took on some furniture, so until the last day we had a couch to sit on. When it comes to the rest of the furniture and expensive stuff such as our PlayStation, we used an online marketplace for that. Turns out: selling almost all you have is so much work and costs so much time! All the rest we either gave away or we sold it on a huge flea market. After that we only had a few boxes in one corner with the things we were going to take with us. It wasn’t very difficult for us to let go of our stuff. It turns out that we didn’t really need all that luxury anyway. At this point we almost have nothing left, but we’re still happy.
Looking back, what were the biggest struggles and what have been the easiest so far?
The biggest struggle is that almost everything is a struggle, really. Each activity takes at least three times longer, from making tea to getting clothes out of the closet. Also the two of us live right on top of each other, that’s another thing we have to deal with. We have been together for 15 years and we realize how important it is to make time for yourself and do whatever makes you happy in order to harmoniously live together. Either way: living in such a small van is a true exercise in staying calm.
The easiest has been the pure joy we get out of all the amazing places we have seen and the nice people we have met. Surely you make sacrifices, but this life you get in return is quite special. Being parked on top of a cliff and seeing the sun drop into the ocean right in front of you, after which the sky fills itself with the most amazing pink, orange and red colors, that just can’t get boring. Right?
How did your friends and family react when you told them about your exciting plans?
Everyone was really happy for us. They were as excited as they were surprised, because they hadn’t seen it coming, but hey: neither did we. We feel really lucky to be supported in the way everyone has done. Also it’s nice be not that far away. Traveling in Europe means that almost everyone has the chance to visit us!
How did you prepare yourself to this new life?
We still don’t know if there is really a way of preparing yourself for this life. You just have to undergo it. For everyone it is completely different. We tried to prepare ourselves by just imagining what would be the core belongings we need. From practical to personal and sometimes not even useful. We gathered new stuff as well, like a plastic African mat that functions as our porch and an indispensable hunting knife that we use for almost everything. Another thing that has helped us is the online community of van-lifers. Many of them share details about this kind of life you eagerly want to know when you start working on such an adventure.
Where have you been and what are your experiences so far?
We have now driven about 3500 kilometers, which is above average since we covered a lot of distance in the first two weeks. We were chasing the bit of good weather that was left in Europe. This meant we headed for Portugal and spent not even a handful of days in both France and Spain. What we’ve experienced is incredible, although we also try to live a slow paced life. We don’t want expectations to guide us. There will always be more that you miss than what you will actually see, no matter how much you travel. The only expectations we’ve had when starting this journey is about the way we live, about being free and making our own choices. That box we can totally check.
How does a day in your life look like?
It starts with something awesome: not having to turn off an alarm clock. Funnily enough we almost always awake at about 8am and hardly ever sleep in. The way the morning passes varies: from staying in bed and reading when it rains to doing yoga outside to spending forever on making an extensive breakfast to just doing nothing. The afternoons we tend to be a bit more active. We like to discover a town and when we are in the middle of nature we might take a long walk. Sometimes there are chores to be done, such as doing laundry. And sometimes there is serious work to be done. I will work on an article or interview and Jeroen will be editing one of his drone videos of the van. There’s one thing for sure in our days: we almost always get to do stuff we like, each and every day again. Loving this lifestyle to the moon and back.
Did you meet some interesting people yet?
Many! From enthusiastic surfers that can get a huge campfire going in no time to interesting hippie people that live in vans as long as they remember. They have a total different view of this world. Meeting different people was also something we looked very much forward to.
What are your travel plans for the coming weeks or months?
We think we will stay in Portugal for the holidays. We might go to Lisbon for New Year’s Eve. After that we’d love to take the boat and go to Morocco. We hear nothing but good stories about this country. Also it will be nice to experience some warm winter weather. Springtime we might spend in Spain and France, but nothing is certain. We are however keen to go to England, Scotland and Ireland and also Scandinavia.
Do you think you will ever come back to Amsterdam?
Of course! It’s one the nicest and most beautiful cities we know and many of our friends live there. On the other hand, we have no idea if we would ever want to live there again ourselves. This journey that we’re on right now asks our undivided attention and it exists just because we don’t think or worry about the future.
Have you ever thought about living in a van? Check out these inside tips and find out if it’s for you!
*All pictures in this article are by Hedwig and Jeroen.