Volkswagen Lt 35 – a 4×4 was the plan but destiny send them „Leni“ the hippie camper
Roman & Ioana from switzerland are two explorers who enjoy freedom and living life to the fullest. After a long search for 4×4 they came across Leni, a Volkswagen LT 35 old bus and they knew it was the one for them.
Quick facts about your vehicle Volkswagen LT 35:
- car manufacturer: Volkswagen LT 35
- year of construction: Year 1990
- seats: 5 seater
- weight of vehicle: 3.5 tons
- kilometers: 170000km
- cylinder capacity: 6cylinder
- engine: 92 HP
- consumption at 100km: Average 15l per 100km
- driving license Driving licence class B
- top speed: Downhill with wind in our favour 110km/h
- motor fuel: Diesel
- price: 20000 CHF
- costs of repair per year: Early service 600CHF
- costs of repair per year: Insurance 700CHF
- vehicle taxes: Taxes 120CHF
So tell us a bit about you and tell us – what made you want to start vanlife?
We are Roman & Ioana, two explorers who enjoy freedom and living life to the fullest. We’ve met in Switzerland back in 2014 and immediately discovered that the biggest thing we have in common is our dream to travel the world and not being tight up to a place.
While most of people prefer stability and having specific plans for the future, we enjoy taking risks and not knowing what tomorrow will bring us. And so we started researching the different ways of travelling to understand what is the best option for us.
It didn’t take long to become obsessed about the idea of an endless road trip and the van life movement. We took the first step by buying a trailer to go with our SUV in the Summer of 2017.
It was a great option for the Summer but we quickly understood a van would give us much more flexibility and space. In November 2017 we bought our current Volkswagen bus Leni and started restoring it to our needs.
It is now a fully off-grid hippie camper-van and our tiny home on wheels while we started exploring Europe. Last summer 18.08.18 we got married and of course our wedding vehicle was Leni who got as much attention as we did.
Why did you choose the Volkswagen Lt 35 as your home on wheels?
Actually we were looking to get a 4×4 and at least 150hp van which is just few years old, planning to convert it into a motorhome ourselves.
But after a long search with no success we came across Leni, a Volkswagen old bus, rear wheel drive and already built into a camper van. Nothing as we initially thought of but from the very first moment we knew it was the one for us.
Love at first sight you may say. The first owners converted it by themselves back in 1991. It was very well maintained compared to all the other vehicles we have previously seen and the same day we decided to buy it.
So, if not your Volkswagen Lt 35, what model would you choose if you could and why?
We think Leni is perfect for the two of us. If later on our family will grow bigger, probably a self converted Mercedes Unimog or a similar truck would be great. Roman likes driving trucks and we could explore even more remote places with such a vehicle.
It also comes with extra space, load capacity, and safety feeling.
Did you work on your vehicle yourself or did you get a carpenter for the interior?
As we mentioned before Leni was converted by its first owners back in 1991. After purchasing it we did started adjusting for our needs. We started by building an inside shower and installing a cassette toilet as for us these were top priority.
Afterwards we installed two roof ventilators, a 200Ah Lithium LifePo4 battery and 460w solar panels. We also rebuilt the Bicycle rack and converted the bunk beds in the back into a storage space.
Would you change something about your vehicle when it comes to the interior if you could turn back time?
There is not much we would change about Leni. Maybe a bigger sink in the kitchen would be great.
But if we would have to build a motorhome from scratch then the heater, stove, and water heater, would run from diesel as a safer and more comfortable option than LPG gas.
How long did you work on your Volkswagen Lt 35 before you started your trip?
It took us about a month to build the shower/toilet room and for small repairing in a service. The rest of adjustments we did while on the road.
What do your friends and family say about your lifestyle?
There’s always a mix of opinions. We heard things like “That’s such a cool idea, you guys are crazy” or “You’re doing what???”. Most of our friends and family are happy for us and encourage our decisions.
Which countries did you travel to with your Volkswagen Lt 35?
So far Leni has brought us to 11 countries: Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, France, Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Romania.
How long are you on the road and – do you live in your Volkswagen Lt 35 fulltime?
In February it will be one year since we started our full time van life journey.
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 for sure, thus we transformed Leni into a completely off grid motorhome. We love staying in remote places with amazing landscape sceneries without the noise and crowd of a campsite.
Or sometimes we enjoy waking up in a new city and explore it in the early morning when the sun rises, before all busy madness begins.
We do stay in campgrounds sometimes to do laundry or just because they are located in very nice and convenient places.
How do you shower?
We have an inside and an outside shower. We prefer the outside one in the summertime.
How do you cook?
When the weather allows us we grill and make bonfires. Otherwise we are using our cute small kitchen inside.
Tell us – what makes travelling and living in a van such a great experience?
Once we started this journey we realised how little we need to be happy. Vanlife is closely tight to the idea of minimalism and for us it was a relief to get rid of all the unnecessary stuff and stop the impulse buying.
It has brought us closer to nature by pushing us to spend most of our time outdoors and also to being more aware of our consumption and waste. Travelling with a van allows us to be spontaneous and discover places while we are on the road without always having a destination in mind.
Also, as everything we need is inside the van, we can decide to do the things we love at any time. We often go paddle boarding, cycling, rollerblading or hiking without having had this planned in advance.
And perhaps the best thing is the surprise factor – what view we will have outside our window today, what new people and stories we are coming across…
How much money do you spend in a month (roughly)?
Our monthly expenses depend a lot on the country we are at. For example our expenses in Switzerland are twice or sometimes three times higher than what we spend in other countries like Latvia or Romania.
It also depends on how much we are driving each month and what time of the year it is. In Summertime our 70l LPG tank lasts for three months and in Wintertime it is barely enough for two weeks.
Our average monthly bill is around 2k CHF which increases in winter time.
What tips would you give new vanlifers?
For those of you who are just putting together the idea and don’t have a van yet we would suggest buying a second hand one or try renting for a week or two to experiment and understand exactly your needs.
For some people an average size van is sometimes too big and for others it may be way too small. Some people are totally fine without a shower and toilet inside while others can’t imagine to live without them.
It is just a matter of experimenting and finding the right balance between comfort and practicality for yourself. As for the best tip we can give is to just go ahead a try it. Don’t try to answer the million questions you might have beforehand.
Like everything else, the best is to learn by doing. If this is what you wish to do, take the first steps towards your dream and don’t let any fear drag you back.
Do you sometimes make new friends on the road/meet other vanlifers?
In the last year we have met so many travellers on the road and with some of them we became good friends. It’s so nice to meet same minded people, to share tips and great locations or just great stories gathered from the road.
What are your future plans when it comes to traveling/living in your Volkswagen Lt 35?
After almost one year of traveling we are now back in Switzerland to save up money and prepare for the next big journey.
We have some ideas in mind like shipping Leni to USA and start exploring North and South America but we will see where the wheels will bring us.
Best wishes! Roman & Ioana from the instagram accounts @riexploring and @lenihippiebus. You can find their blog here.