Laura had just started taking music classes, because Bruno gifted her a guitar, and those classes were going to take three years. So in the following three years they both also worked to save money for this trip in their Peugeot Boxer.
- car manufacturer: Peugeot
- model: Boxer
- year: 2005
- seats: 3 seats
- complete weight: around 3000 kilo’s right now
- kilometers: 143.430 km
- cyilinder capacity: 2.8
- output of the motor: no idea
- consumption at 100kms: 9L/100
- drivers license: B
- top speed: don’t know, never tried it.
- motor fuel: diesel
- price: bought it for 3500 euro
- costs of repair per year: around 4000 for repairs in about one year
- insurance: 575 euros a year
- vehicle taxes: 150 euro’s for tax per year
We met each other almost 4 years ago and instantly had a click. A few months after we got together, we already talked about how we both had the desire to travel the world.
But Laura had just started taking music classes, because Bruno gifted her a guitar, and those classes were going to take three years.
Bruno promised that he would wait for her until her school was finished, so in the following three years we both also worked to save money for this trip.
With our first van, we went on small vacations and already explored a bit of Europe. On one of those trips, we met up with friends who are climbers and we climbed with them for the first time ever.
That is where our passion for climbing started and that is why our trip now is all about climbing across Europe.
We wanted to start living in a van because we had always been looking for cheap ways to live and we feel that paying rent is a waste of money, especially if you want to be able to travel for a long time.
Also the convenience, the small comfort and the freedom that vanlife gives you, were very appealing to us.
The main reasons why we bought this Peugeot Boxer is because it was in our budget, you can stand up straight in it, it is easy to find parts and it has a roof rack!
We also love the size, it’s a good in-between: small enough to park if you are in a city but still high enough to stand up in.
Maybe a horsebox-van so we could both live in it like a tiny house when we are back in Belgium. But we are really not sure yet.
Most of the things you see on the Mamba is DIY. Bruno did the interior and painted the outside. Together with his friend Waldo he also worked on the engine and changed the front suspension.
The solar panel, battery, led lights and wiring was also done by Waldo. Another friend, Renato, always found free materials like the wood for the ceiling and the isolation!
With the help of Laura’s dad we also fitted a secondhand campervan-window in the side door. Laura made the shelves for the books and the kitchen.
Some stuff that was too hard to do ourselves, like changing the wheel bearings, timing belt and fuel pump was done by a local mechanic.
So here is a BIG, BIG thank you to all of them because otherwise this would not have been possible!
We would use better and stronger wood. We chose cheap wood, even for the floor and now the floor is getting wobbly, … oops!
Also we would have made a window in the roof and put good insulation on the ceiling.
We worked for 1 year and a half on it before we started our Europe trip. It took baby steps to come to where we are now. It was always: working, saving money for this trip, going on small trips in between to see if the van was reliable AND spending money on the conversion and repairs.
I think managing those things together was quite a challenge.
The most difficult part to fix ourselves was definitely the front suspension.
We didn’t had the specific tools for it so we went to a DIY garage in the Netherlands with the parts and had to break apart and install the parts in just three hours without having any experience with those tools.
They are all very supportive and encouraging. Even the parents who found it difficult, because we left for quite some time, support us and even admire what we do. Actually nobody has said anything negative about it so far.
The countries we visited so far are Belgium, Luxemburg, France, Switserland, Germany, Portugal, Spain and Italy. Although every country has its good and bad sides, for the moment our favorite place will be Portugal because the people there are insanely friendly.
Never have we felt more welcome as tourists than in Portugal. Also, they have more than 100 bulk stores in the country! How amazing is that! We can’t wait to go more east in springtime and discover the rest of Europe though!
We were both already concerned about the planet and followed a vegetarian diet before we met, so together we were able to make the switch to a vegan diet because we felt that vegetarianism wasn’t enough to minimize our environmental impact.
After reading the National Geographic Magazine’s issue on plastic pollution, our eyes were opened and this slowly led to the decision to cut plastic out of our lives.
All of this happened before we started traveling, so continuing to live this way while traveling was only logical to us. We believe that we have a lot of power as consumers: as demand decreases, supply also decreases. That is why we have this lifestyle.
How we do it?
It’s actually easier than you’d think! If you are vegan and refuse plastic, doing groceries takes much less time because you have much less choice.
We always bring our own bags, we make a lot of things ourselves (for example we started experimenting with baking our own bread in a pan, we make our own hummus,… ).
We look up on the internet where we can find bulkstores, we never buy plastic bottles but instead we search for fountains with potable water, we try to visit farmers markets as much as possible, we learn the words “no plastic bag please” in the local language, …
Basically, it all comes down to nothing but dedication, even if that sometimes means sacrificing things, like not buying peanut butter because the lid of the bottle is always in plastic. This is not always fun, but neither is an ocean full of plastic waste.
Our favorite places to camp are places where we can hear the birds sing, watch the stars at night and see the mountains lined out against the dark sky. We like quiet places in where we are alone or at least almost alone.
Our goal has never been to explore big cities but just to enjoy nature and off course to climb. We don’t prefer campsites because obviously we save money if we don’t sleep there and also we are perfectly fine with showering and “going to the bathroom” in the woods.
The hardest part is definitely the fear of losing the van if it ever breaks down. Cause it’s still a car and if it ever has irreparable damage or if it gets stolen, we don’t only lose our vehicle but also our home.
What’s also sometimes annoying, rather than difficult, is the fact that we rely so much on the weather. If it rains for a whole week, we just have to sit it out in this tiny space.
Cooking is also more difficult then, because we chose not to have an indoor kitchen. But off course, because we live in a house on wheels, we can always choose to search for more sunny places!
That brings us to the best part of living in a van: you get to choose where you sleep from day to day. If you don’t like a place, you just move on to another spot. The freedom that comes with this still feels refreshing.
The fact that you don’t have to pay rent is also a big advantage. Many people think that living in a van is expensive, but it is way cheaper than renting a house!
We have both been working for three years to save for this trip. We are now very conscious about our spendings, to make sure our savings last as long as possible. Laura sometimes does some busking with her hula hoop, but this has not been a great source of income so far.
We don’t work online, but if we would get the chance, we surely would consider it.
Up until now, our monthly average is €692, or €346 per person.
We write down every single thing we buy to keep track of how much we spend and every four weeks, we count everything: how much we spent on food, on gas and on other things.
The most important thing that Bruno would tell to people that want to start vanlife is to buy a decent van and to learn about basic mechanics before they start. It is very handy if you have a minor problem and you can quickly fix it yourself. It saves time and money!
The most important that Laura would tell to people is not expect that every day will be magical and adventurous and you have to be ready for this. Unexpected things will happen and sometimes you need to look for more creative solutions because you are in a foreign country.
Life goes on with all its ups and downs, even with this amount of freedom. Always search for happiness within yourself instead of searching it in new places or people.
We plan on traveling through Europe for about a year and after that we are not really sure about how we want to live, back in Belgium.
We are thinking about buying a van that is a bit bigger than our current van and converting that into a tiny house, but there is also the option of buying a cabin in the woods.
One thing is for sure, we want to keep on traveling, but we still have to figure out what will be the most convenient and most budget-friendly option.
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