In spring 2020 the time has come and we have started our personal van life adventure. For six months it should cross Northern and Eastern Europe.
Couple, dog, Bulli – is that okay?
Crew: Mario and Sina, Chihuahua Twiggy little dog and of course our Bulli, whom we lovingly named Dorphine. In the months leading up to the trip, we redeveloped and expanded Dorphine with great passion, electrified it a bit and turned it into a very comfortable home to our liking.
Not a lot of goodies but everything on board you need or, better, we thought we needed. We’ve had relatively little camping experience so far. Sure, when we were younger, we went on vacation with a tent, but together in this constellation, and then on a six-month trip? Well, it could be exciting. Did we really live our dream for six months, or would life in a van turn out to be a nightmare at all?
Predictable: Yes, it turned out to be our great happiness. In just over a year since our return, we were able to review what we had experienced in peace. We have developed deep gratitude for this special time.
The life of a van in Bulli: 7 square meters of happiness
We were also asked many times how it was in such a small space, constantly together and which … Advice for other couples had. Indeed, over time we came to one insight or the other.
The key success factor is certainly the fact that both partners share the dream of simple, minimalist journeys. However, other features – which we didn’t really have on the radar before – are also very helpful in (experiencing) a relaxing time together.
For example, there is a topic security on the way. After the first nights of free standing, it turned out that we both had a similar and relatively low need for safety. And so we both felt just as comfortable in a forest or lake in Sweden as in a parking lot in Romania.
Ours too temperature sensitivity Fortunately, he was very close. Neither of us bothered sleeping in the Bulli with a cozy, thick blanket, even when it was below freezing without permanently installed auxiliary heating, yet a good mood started the day.
This doesn’t mean you have to share as many traits as possible to have a fantastic time together. Nevertheless, we believe there is a healthy intersection similar interests and especially mutual not very high expectations are at least very valuable.
Misfortunes and accidents
But no matter how balanced you are and how well you organize your life together – sooner or later you will meet on such a journey unplanned challenges. Be it small, like rainy weather for a few days, or bigger in the form of bankruptcies, bad luck and breakdowns. Yes, they are going, that’s for sure.
It hit us for the first time in Sweden, in the north of the country. It should only be a short stop on the side of the road … fatal, because as soon as we drove into an inconspicuous and slightly uphill forest driveway, Dorphine was stuck in very soft and muddy ground and could not go forward or backward.
Even after more than an hour of physical exertion, we couldn’t free Dorphine with our on-board resources. However, instead of blaming each other, we took it as a sporting challenge and we were even able to laugh at ourselves and misfortune. As not only Dorphine had clean tracks, we also got a good mud wrap. To the rescue we had a walk down the street to the luckily only inhabited house of an elderly couple and their small tractor.
And as life goes on, it shouldn’t be our only one fault to be. After walking around Stockholm, Dorphine suddenly didn’t want to start anymore. After a short search, the culprit was found, the 12-volt starter plug broke.
In Slovenia, after a very unsuccessful turning maneuver, we were more than badly stuck on the slope. In Slovakia, we almost lost the exhaust, one of the rear brakes made the worst noise, and in Estonia and Norway, both tires on the drive axle took their toll after driving more than 20,000 kilometers. These things are just part of it, and as is often the case in life, the question is what will you make of it and what will you learn.
We always approached these challenges together and saw them as valuable aspects of the vanlife adventure. Thanks to artistry and good teamwork we were able to help ourselves with many things. And if not, as is sometimes the case in Sweden or Slovenia, we are always very happy to help and hospitality Experienced. Fun fact: the exhaust system, which was already welded in Germany and repaired again in a workshop in Slovenia, only lasted more than 15,000 kilometers with cable ties.
Everyday life in a van
From slightly larger challenges to smaller ones. After all, there are also such everyday things in motion house van to do. Pour out and fill with water, move the bed and suddenly the dishes no longer wash off as if by magic. Just like at home, we’ve mastered the mobile household together and never neglected to have fun. And so our morning ritual of shaking the bed and then airing it out ended with a fun pillow fight.
Also well practiced sharing tasks they can work little miracles in such a small space as not to get in each other’s way. For example, in the morning, one of them set about wiping the condensed moisture from the windows, while the other was already making coffee.
Tip: Document your trip
We would like to give advice to all those who plan to go on a longer than normal vacation a tip to do so in one form or another document. We decided to blog the trip and review and write down our shared experiences each evening. It was a really fun ritual and in retrospect it turned out to be very happy.
Because especially with this type and time of travel, so many patters impressions and experiences such that you cannot keep them all. And now, in retrospect, being able to go back and remember the little things is just great. Then we still realize how wonderful our time was and what we were allowed to experience.
After six months of living together in a van, we can say that we had a great time. The key discovery was that you don’t need much to be happy. Since we both need harmony and we didn’t have excessive expectations of each other, living together in a small space worked great and we didn’t miss the opportunity to avoid each other for a day or two.
Of course, we also discovered new sides to each other and to each other, but thanks to our positive outlook on life, we never quarreled. Finally, such an experience creates a special bond. An imitation is strongly recommended.