Bart and Semora needed a change in their lifes and found Bruce, a Mercedes Benz Vario 814 DA 4×4. So now they are travelling around the world.
Quick facts about the Mercedes Vario 814 DA:
car manufacturer: Mercedes-Benz
model: Vario 814 DA 4×4 (Rosenbauer Austrian Firetruck)
year of construction: 1995
seats: 2 (+3)
weight: 6000 KG
cylinder capacity: 4
consumption at 100km: 16 liters
driving license classify: C1
top speed: 97 km/h
motor fuel: Diesel
costs of repair per year: 1000 € – 2000 €
insurance: South American Insurance for Mercosur countries (Seguros Rivadavia)
vehicle taxes: None, we unregistered the vehicle from Dutch Taxes
So tell us a bit about you first and tell us – what made you want to start vanlife?
We are Semora and Bart. We lived and worked (mainly) in Amsterdam. Our life in Amsterdam was/is very good. However, our conversations at home were very often about wanting to learn and see more of the world and do something good for our planet.
It was a dream to step out of the system, leave everything behind and travel the world. In 2018 we both felt we were ready for a new step in our lives. We were looking to buy a new house, of which one house became quite serious.
That day we both got anxious, not knowing it from each other. We both felt this was not the step we should take now.
We sat down and talked, within five minutes we both said “NO WAY! We’re not going to do this now!” We laughed, pulled out our laptops and started researching into a camper trip through South America.
We figured buying a van would be more cheap compared to renting one for a few months. This idea got totally out of control. Today we have Bruce and we are not travelling just for a few months, but already nine months and counting…
Why did you choose the Mercedes Vario 814 DA as your home on wheels?
We were actually looking for a Volkswagen LT 4×4, because we thought this model was a great fit for us. When we finally found a special one in the South-East of The Netherlands, we drove down there to have a look.
First of all, this van was above our budget, secondly we had no clue we would arrive in “beautiful vans valhalla”. This guy appeared to import used fire trucks from Germany and Austria as his hobby.
When we arrived we saw more than 40 used fire trucks, looking all brand new. We felt like children in a candy store and we noticed this big bright shiny red old fire truck. A true beauty, but way above our budget.
We left, madly in love though. We were both quiet in the car. Stopped somewhere for lunch, looked at eachother, and started laughing; “Are you serious? Are we really going to do this? If we do this, it means we have to go.
What will people say?!…” And then we bought it, just like that. Driving back to Amsterdam half in shock and half super thrilled. The rest is history 🙂
Did you work on your vehicle yourself or did you get a carpenter for the interior?
All credits go to our hero Sjoerd Willebrands. He’s the one who turned our ideas into reality. Bart and a lot of other people helped on the job. Semora did all the design and interior work.
Would you change something about your vehicle when it comes to the interior if you could turn back time?
We thought about this a lot and the answer is no. The way it is designed now, gives us a lot of kitchen space and storage. A lot of hours are spent in the kitchen, so we are very thankful to have quit a luxurious kitchen in our van.
Tell us your 3 must have camping gadgets you can’t/don’t want to live without!
Cast iron pot
Our Ninja blender
What kind of gear do you need often when it comes to repairing or fixing something on your van?
Duct Tape, screwdriver, toolkit, power glue, drilling machine
Which countries did you travel to with your vehicle?
So far: the Netherlands, Belgium, Argentina and Chile
How long are you on the road and – do you life in your Mercedes Vario 814 DA fulltime?
8 months and yes we live fulltime in our vehicle
Some people prefer overnight camping, others like wild camping in the middle of nowhere. What do you prefer and why?
Some people prefer campsites for the night, others love free camping somewhere in the middle of nowhere. What do you prefer and why? We prefer wild camping, as long as it feels safe, because there is a lot of freedom on where you want to spend the night and where you want to wake up.
Ideally we wake up surrounded by nature.
With what kind of gear do you cook and make your morning coffee?
We boil hot water in a saucepan and use a french press.
Tell us – what makes travelling and living in a van such a great experience?
The freedom you have. The definition of time and place doesn’t seem to exist. It doesn’t matter where you drive to and/or where you sleep. You’re always home. On top of that you get the opportunity to visit places you’d never go to when backpacking or whatsoever.
Simply because of the fact that there are no facilities regarding transportation and/or hospitality. It’s awesome!
How much money do you spend in a month (roughly)?
We try to maintain our budget between 1000-1500 EUR
What tips would you give new vanlifers?
Regardless of your type of vehicle, make sure you know your vehicle and treat it like your baby
Follow your own instincts
Make your own unique story
Prepare for your trip, but don’t plan a route or timeline.
Dive into local cultures and hang out with locals
Be open, humble and respectful
Do you sometimes make new friends on the road/meet other vanlifers?
Yes we do, from locals to other vanlifers. We make a lot of new friends on the road, but there are always a few who really stand out. 90% of our trip so far has been in Argentina. We have been invited to countless asado’s (Argentinian barbeques).
We love the Argentinian people and the country itself. And, to be honest, Instagram also brought us a lot of new friends, mainly other vanlifers.
What are your future plans when it comes to traveling/living in your van?
If it’s up to us, we want to drive all the way north to Alaska. However, right now we are about to enter Brazil. We have no clue how long we will travel through Brazil, but definitely see it as our “next” adventure.
We have no fixed plan. So let’s see how long we will continue to travel and where the wind will take us.
Follow Bart, Semora and the Mercedes Vario 814 DA on Instagram and their blog.
If you are interested in off-road vans like this Mercedes 814 converted 4×4, you will surely like this article about the VW T3 Syncro!