In the previous months, I decided to leave my life in the Netherlands. I will take a year to travel around Greece, work on this website, and (most importantly) discover myself. A dream come true! However, the architect’s salary in my previous years did not allow me to put aside a lot of money. So to save costs on accommodation, I decided to buy a van.
Why a van?
My goal for the coming year is to explore myself in a new kind of freedom. I am not familiar with being free. I have always studied and worked. Until recently, I did not even allow myself a proper holiday. However, when I got my driver’s license a couple months ago, I decided it was time to be free. I quit my job, and now I’m ready to explore being free.
The initial plan was to buy a small car and go to the places I really want to explore. However, a car means sleeping at hotels. Something too expensive to do full-time.
The first alternative was a tent. But I know myself well enough to say that this plan would have brought me back home within two months. So I thought bigger. A van. A small home on wheels that I can take everywhere with me.
Why I believe vanlife will suit me
Today, I live with my boyfriend in a big (100 m2, 1.000 SF) apartment. Before this, however, I always lived in small places, which actually suited me much better. I have ADHD, meaning cleaning and organizing is not my strong suit. The smaller the space, the less I own, and the easier it is for me to stay organized.
Besides, I know I can get homesick. Not so much to people or my actual home. Instead, after a couple of weeks abroad, I long for a place that is mine. A quiet place in which I can recharge myself.
Since a van is small and fully my own, I believe this might be the perfect option for my coming year. Besides, I have always loved building my own furniture. So the idea of transforming a van into a home got me super excited.
Searching for a van
After I decided I wanted a van life in Greece, the big search started. The budget was tight, and my knowledge was even more limited. Space-wise, I knew exactly what I wanted. But about engines and car brands, I knew absolutely nothing.
Thanks to the internet, I found some basic things to check. The age, the number of kilometers it had driven, the availability of spare parts, and the state of the tires. Not enough to make a technical decision, but the necessary knowledge to at least seem to be rational.
The search brought me to an interesting new environment. The car dealers for builders and delivery guys. Most vans I saw were complete with sawdust and dust masks. Others used to be owned by famous delivery companies like DHL and came with full branding. All of them, however, were without navigation, non-automatic, and full of bumps. And their sellers were fully confused by my remarks on space and light.
The van I wanted
Strangely, I found a van I loved, full of sawdust and bumps. An Opel Vivaro from 2013. This van is basically a box on wheels and feels quite spacious due to the (lack of) design. I couldn’t stop daydreaming about how I could live in this van, and it even passed the technical checklist I had come up with.
However, when I took the van for a test drive, things didn’t go so well. I forgot to use the clutch, hit the pavement in every turn, and had to restart the engine continuously. This left me extremely confused. I wanted this car to be a part of my Greek adventure. Nevertheless, I just didn’t want to drive it.
Time to be brave!
Until three months ago, I had never driven a car alone, but now I manage. So if I can learn how to drive a car, I can learn how to get around in my van as well. So I bought it.
The day I got my van
The scariest day of my life (so far) started by transferring 90% of my Greek preparation budget. I hate the way this works. Paying up-front for something so big and expensive, only to hope I actually take a van home with me at the end of the day. Luckily the car dealership was an honest company. When I got there, my van was waiting for me.
But then I had to take it home.
The dealer was only a 15-minute drive away. For me, however, it took 2 hours to get back. I did countless practice rounds around the store, continuously failing with the clutch and stick. Then, I had to refuel, but I had never done this before. It took me half an hour to figure things out and restart the van. Which I thought broke down, but instead I was trying to start it in the third gear. By the time I left the gas station, there was a huge line of honking cars behind me.
But. I got home! And I actually got quite good at driving by the time I reached.
I need your help!
Buying a van and taking it home is only the beginning of this story. I have to get it to Greece, a 2500-kilometer (1500 mile) journey. Besides, I have to start the conversion from builders-van to home. Quickly. Since I want to leave the first of March. Difficult questions like how I will survive the Greek summer heat, where I will go to the toilet, how I will ventilate, and how I will have electricity, need to be answered immediately. So if you have any tips on a low-budget van conversion, please leave a comment below. All tips are welcome. Needed even.
Currently I started with the walls and ceiling of the van as well as the first frames for the furniture I will build. If you want to stay updated on my journey to and through Greece, leave your email below!
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