Vanlifers Marc & Ana have traveled, worked (and surfed) all over Europe while living in their renovated 2013 Ford Transit.
How did you first discover vanlife?
I found out about vanlife because of Ana, my girlfriend, who was super excited about it and followed a couple of vanlife accounts on Instagram.
Tell us a bit about your van
We bought a 2013 Ford Transit (L3H3) and took everything out. After that we put as much wood in it as possible haha. We made the floor a bit higher so we have storage underneath it for extra water, hiking gear and of course our surf stuff. On the roof we made a roof-rack for the surfboards and also the solar panel is there. We tried to give a cozy bohemian look and we feel super at home in it 😄.
What does your typical day look like?
We normally wake up around 06:30/07:00 and get up to convert the bed into a couch and table. Then we make breakfast; (banana/blueberry/spinach/kiwi) smoothie, homemade granola with soya-yogurt and coffee. Then while I’m doing the dishes Ana does yoga for an hour or so. Depending on the tide we go surfing for a couple of hours, if we are in the mountains we take a long hike or if we are close to a city we go sightseeing. Before or after that we study a couple of hours, I just started to learn Spanish and Ana is studying to be a Health Food Advisor. In the evening we either make dinner, play a game or some guitar or have some drinks with (vanlife) friends or people we just met. Mostly we go to bed when it’s getting dark, unless we have a little bonfire going on 😊.
What was your life like before vanlife?
It was good! I worked 5 years in Amsterdam, managing a restaurant and before that I lived 2.5 years in Switzerland working in a hotel and as a carpenter. Before that I backpacked a lot across Europe and South-America. Ana also worked in the restaurant business in Amsterdam and travelled a lot as well, in Asia for example and she walked the Camino of Santiago.
What made you decide that vanlife is right for you?
Well, we worked a little bit to much these last years that we got the feeling that that’s all there was mainly. We were looking for a better balance between working and traveling and found that in vanlife.
Where do you travel to in your van? Any places or destinations you would recommend?
So far we’ve been to: Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Switzerland, Greece, Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro, Slovenia, Austria and Germany. We very much like the Portuguese Coast for the surf, however the Swiss, Italian and Albanian Alps were amazing as well.
What has been your most memorable vanlife experience so far?
Well, I don’t know if it’s the most memorable but definitely one of the most😊. We where driving in Kosovo last year in a part of the land where is not a lot. Some houses are still damaged by the war and you can see a lot still needs to be done there. However, the local people are super friendly and happy there is peace finally. We drove into a small village where all the kids started to scream and chasing the van asking an older man if he knew where we could spend the night maybe. He invited us on his land and told us there haven’t been anyone really into the village since 12 years. More villagers where joining and we had a couple of beers when the oldest son joined as well. He was about to marry his sweetheart in three days and he invited us for the wedding. Three days later we were dancing and celebrating with 350 Kosovars as their special guests! Luckily we had some time to buy a dress for Ana and some descent clothes for me 😉.
Share your biggest vanlife fail so far?
Making a hole in the roof and didn’t use the right silicone kit to make it waterproof. We had a big leak for a couple of weeks since we couldn’t find a good hardware store 😂.
How do you make money while on the road?
In the winter season we work for four months in Switzerland which is enough for the rest of the year, but it’s not a rich life. Money wise 😉. However, in the future we hope to earn money with social media, giving Health Food consults, start a website etc. We just don’t know really how that works exactly 😊.
How much money do you save by living in a van?
The money we save in Switzerland we use for traveling and living. Somehow we spend way less money as we did back in Amsterdam and we don’t have to pay rent obviously. So I think we save a couple of 1000 euros a year.
What are some vanlife hacks you would recommend for travelers on a budget?
Go wild camping, you save so much money with it (leave the places you visited clean as you found them though). Also don’t go out eating in restaurants too much and make a clear “money overview” for every month so you know how much you can spend and what you spend it on.
Any amusing (or annoying) pre-conceptions people have about your lifestyle?
Haha well, some people say: “so, what are you doing all day then?” Which I think is funny because they probably wouldn’t ask that if we where living in a house, I mean, what are you doing all day then?
Have you ever felt unsafe while living in a van?
Yes, one time in the Balkan we were standing close to a mountain lake without any reception or wifi or whatsoever and a massive storm came over us. We had the roof leak at the time, the chairs flew into the lake and the van was shaking like crazy. But nothing happened really haha.
What’s the biggest downside to living in a van?
We do miss our friends and family back home and when something bad happens to them we are not there to support them (directly) and sometimes that makes us feel sad.
How do you meet new people while on the road?
By meeting up at places where we sleep, in the water while surfing, on the beach or through Instagram.
Do you have advice for anyone thinking about trying van life?
Well maybe, take it easy. You don’t have to see everything in one month. It’s not a holiday anymore, you’re living like this and enjoy the fact that you have all the time in the world to really experience the things. Also, buy a good van, it helps 😅.
What are 3 essential items you can’t live without while in your van?
The solar panel gives a lot of freedom as well as the “big” water tank. It gives you more days in the wild and you can go to places where there are no people or villages. And then there is our blender (🙈), we love smoothies and healthy juices so that’s probably number three.
Fave vanlife recipe?
We eat plant-based and love to make food! It’s Ana’s specialty, I would say, and she always comes up with super nice, new and healthy recipes. One of my favourites at the moment is a burrito with tomatoes, bell-pepper, avocado, jack-fruit, garlic and maybe some padrón peppers on the side.
What are you listening to lately?
We listen to a lot of Caamp, Jon & Roy, Mandolin Orange, Old Crow Medicine Show, The Kooks, Buena Vista Social Club, AfroCubism and sometimes The Rolling Stones or Dylan.
Who inspires you?
People like (Sir) David Attenborough. We are very interested (and concerned) with climate change and eating vegan. The positive, yet serious way he can tell the truth and his experience about climate change and the things we can and should do to make it better is very inspiring to us.
What are your plans for the future?
Next year we hopefully can go to Asia (probably not by van) for yoga teacher courses, diving teacher courses, surfing and backpacking.
Inspired? Follow Marc and Ana’s travels and lifestyle on Instagram @tramp.another.mile