‘The bravest and the hardest decision in our life was to actually listen to our heart and do what we want to do, do what we love. It took us quite some time to really go for it but if we can do it, everyone else can.’
Hi, we’re Toni (32) & Franzi (33) from Germany and we both worked in management positions for 5 years before we quit our jobs at the end of 2016 and decide to convert a 26-year-old VW LT28 transporter into a cozy home on wheels, with less than 0 experience!
SOME DATA ABOUT YOUR VAN:
· MODEL: VW LT28
· YEAR: 1991
· KILOMETRES: Around 237,000kms from which we drove around 10,000kms
WHY DID YOU DECIDE ON THIS VAN MODEL?
In the beginning, we wanted to get us an old Mercedes (207D or 307D), the ones which have a strong engine, a nice shape and which have less electrical stuff in it (basically the same as all the older models), but we could not find a proper one fitting our needs. So one day Toni was checking Ebay and by chance found this VW LT 28, which looked decent on the pictures (no clear rust, etc.) and well taken care of. So we went there to check it out and it was love at first sight. The most important for us was that we could both stand up straight in the van and this one delivered. It also had big letters outside on it, saying ‘Quality products’ in German, so this was a good sign for us. The guy selling it was also wearing an overall with letters from a customer of Franzi’s former employer, which we took as a good sign too. So, in the end, it was more like a trusting your gut decision.
HOW MUCH TIME AND MONEY TOOK YOUR CONVERSION? WHAT WAS THE HARDEST PART?
It took us 117 days, without counting in the weekends & some other free days, because we just really needed a break once in a while. We started at the end of January 2017 (right after our wedding) and on July 27 we officially hit the road.
The van itself cost 2400€ and overall, with all the material we used, the solar system, the furniture we made etc, we spent another 10.000€. It could have been much less, but this is our first conversion, so… 🙂
Because we had absolutely no knowledge at all about converting a van, we really needed to make research about everything, mainly on the internet. It took us some time to figure all this out, so this was hard & frustrating! On the other hand, for the conversion itself, we would say that the hardest part was getting the electricity ready because we really wanted to do it right and it can be dangerous if you connect any cable in a wrong way, so this was very difficult to us.
Painting the van on our own was hard as well, not only because it is already very difficult, but rather because you have to be very careful and precise with the preparation, like sanding, priming, cleaning, etc. before painting the van, otherwise you might ruin the color…
WHICH ELECTRICAL SYSTEM DO YOU HAVE?
-Solar panels (2x 140W)
-Triple loader from Votronic to charge our 280Ah solar battery (based on lead plates) from BSA
WOULD YOU CHANGE ANYTHING FROM YOUR VAN?
After having been on the road for a while now, we would reconsider getting a bigger freshwater tank. Right now we’ve got 6x 20L tanks & have to change them all the time, which can be a hassle sometimes! Also getting a much bigger grey water tank and installing it under the van. Our 20L grey water tank is definitely too small, it fills up very quickly. Also, it’s not convenient to have it right next to the fresh water tank under our sink… It completely filled up once and it’s not easy to always get it out & get rid of the water, without having the grey water splashing all over the floor…
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR VAN?
Franzi: the bed & the bookshelf
Toni: the bed & the electricity to charge all our equipment.
We don’t have an apartment nor a house to go back to, so yes, unless we are visiting our families in Germany, we live in our Mister Wombat full-time.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TRAVELING BY VAN?
At first, we wanted to start traveling by backpack, but then one day saw a video on YouTube (the channel’s name is TravelRunPlay) about a girl who traveled the Panamericana in a VW T3. It was so inspiring! To be flexible, to park your ‘home’ wherever you want, just going wherever you want without having any real plans…that really got us! After that we saw and heard many more stories about people converting, living and traveling in their vans so we took a look at ourselves and said ‘if they can do it, we can do it as well!’
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE VAN?
We stopped making plans because they change all the time. It’s much easier, less stressful and funnier to just go with the flow and let life guide your way.
In the beginning, we wanted to travel to Iceland & Norway and afterward ship our van to South-America, but in the end, we ended up going South to Italy, then shipping our van to Greece and exploring the Peloponnese Peninsula, which was the best thing ever. So you see, it totally went another way…
THE BEST AND WORST PART ABOUT VAN DWELLING? DO YOU HAVE ANY STORY TO TELL?
Toni: freedom, the flexibility to go wherever you want, as long as your van takes you there and the driving itself, I just love it!
Franzi: To see so many different places, getting to know so many different and beautiful people, to hear their stories and understand, at the end of the day, that there’s no ‘I’, that we are all one and that we all just want to be happy. That’s definitely something that living in a van has taught us.
Toni: refilling your van’s diesel tank and the costs related to that! Driving with water would definitely be a plus :D!
Franzi: Organising stuff in the mornings. Everything must be secured before we start driving so that it does not fall off. It’s a daily must task, I don’t like it at all!
Story to tell:
One day we arrived at a free camping spot at a beach, which we found via park4night. When arriving, there was already a bunch of other big white camper vans parked there, even though there was a sign stating that ‘camping’ was not allowed. We felt very uncomfortable and actually wanted to leave straight away, but instead, we drove to the very beginning of the camper vans’ queue and just sat in the driver’s cab thinking whether we should leave or stay. Suddenly a very small boat with 3 people appeared from the ocean and we thought that those were just tourists who had visited the close-by caves… instead, they ‘parked’ their boat right in front of us (there was a small access ladder into the ocean directly in front). They looked a little bit drunk and headed straight to our van. A guy with dreadlocks knocked on Toni’s window and Toni just carefully pulled down the window. ‘Hi, we’re looking for some weed, have you got any?’ Franzi was just perplexed, laughing like ‘do we look like we’ve got any?’ and the guy with the dreadlocks replied ‘Well, you know, actually, yes!’ And everybody turned into laughter.
‘Today is your lucky day!’, Toni said. They wanted to smoke it right away, but we were shy because we did not want to disturb the other campers (they were mostly pensioners), so in the end, they invited us on their ‘real’ boat. It turned out that they had a yacht and that they were from Poland, traveling around Greece together with 10 other people. We spent the whole night dancing on the boat, laughing, talking and watching together the most beautiful sunset. It was one of the funniest experiences we’ve had while traveling so far and it showed us that sometimes the good and bad experiences are just between a matter of seconds. We wanted to leave that place straight away and it turned out that they were in delay, that they should have been more much ahead of their route/journey through Greece. So our lives just met in a matter of seconds. Just beautiful!
HOW DO YOU SHOWER AND GO TO THE TOILET?
The more you travel in a van, the more conscious you become about the limited natural resources of Mother Earth like water, energy, etc. On the other hand, you also get less sensitive when it comes to your daily hygiene tasks.
We try to take every opportunity to use a restaurant, bar, etc, to pee or poo. If there’s no bar, restaurant, or petrol station around, then nature is your best friend! If there’s no possibility to hide in the forest, we use bottles for pee & bags for poo! That’s it, so simple! 😀
FINDING SOMEWHERE TO SLEEP CAN BE TRICKY SOMETIMES. HOW DO YOU MANAGE TO FIND SPOTS TO SPEND THE NIGHT FOR FREE?
We mainly use the app ‘iOverlander’ & ‘park4night’ to find free places where somebody has already spent the night at. It works pretty well, but most of the ‘really good’ places we just find, are on advice from the local people or people we met on the road traveling like we do. We also get pretty good advice from our Instagram community, they are really the best and so inspiring!
HOW DO YOU MANAGE TO AFFORD TO LIVE ON THE ROAD?
While working 5 years we saved some money and now we’ll see how it goes or how long it will last, while at the same time, we are figuring out how we can get a new income.
WHAT’S THE HARDEST THING ABOUT WORKING
We don’t work from the van yet. Sure, we have our social media channels but we consider it more like fun and to get inspired as well as to inspire others. For ‘real work’, we guess, getting a good stable internet connection and always have enough power to charge your PC etc, it can be quite tricky sometimes.
WHICH ADVISE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE WHO’S THINKING ABOUT LIVING IN A VAN?
Go for it! It will change your life, it will change you! It’s not always easy and you might have to lower the standards (in certain ways) from which you were used to before, but it’s so rewarding and tells you so much about you and life in general! You just need to be open-hearted for it and don’t freak out when something is going another way than you had initially planned (especially with the van…)!
WHAT ABOUT PEOPLE WHO WANT TO BECOME DIGITAL NOMADS, ANY ADVICE FOR THEM?
We’re not digital nomads yet, but we would recommend them to just listen to your heart and if you’ve got an idea, just go for it, take the first step and let the rest guide you. There are always ways to make money on the road while traveling. You need to trust that what you need will come to you at the right time. Believe!
HOW DO YOU SPEND THE TIME IN THE VAN?
Cooking, reading, listening to music & podcasts, organizing stuff, cleaning, watching movies & series on Netflix, doing some Yoga once in a while (yup, it’s possible even in a tiny home like ours). That’s basically it!
IS THERE ANYTHING THAT YOU MISS ABOUT YOUR LIFE BEFORE THE VAN?
Since we’re always on the road, the biggest ‘thing’ we miss are our friends & families!
Besides that, Franzi misses her big kitchen blender (she used to use it a lot) and now has to settle with a smaller, less powerful one to make her peanut butter, smoothies, and all that other healthy stuff ready.
WHERE CAN WE FIND OUT MORE ABOUT YOU?
We’re currently working on our website under the name of ‘
DETACHABLE INDOOR SHOWER