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In the Far East: Marleen and Roderick’s Odyssey – Part 2.

A van beneath a starry sky

In 2016, Marleen and Roderick gave up their house and have been zigzagging through Asia ever since. The second part shows how the Dutch couple discover their happiness on a roundabout route.

Journey number two – all in.

After their first journey through Asia in 2010, the next adventure was only a matter of time. In April 2016, after a five year wait, the second big journey began – naturally in their now 35-year-old Mercedes-Benz 508 D. But one thing was different this time: “We have given up our home. We left our house behind, sold most of our property and store the rest in my brother’s attic,” explains Marleen. For around three years, they have been living a nomadic life, roaming through Asia. “Our curiosity about this beautiful planet inspired us to put aside our doubts, get into our van and travel again,” she says. Naturally, deciding on a course like this has its own difficulties. Things occasionally or rarely go as planned. The couple is often confronted with this truth. Sometimes you just have to accept things the way they happen: even though they absolutely wanted to explore both countries, they were unable to enter both Nepal and Tibet.

Minimalist living.

Despite some minor complications, Marleen and Roderick are happy about their decision to escape from the system. “It is understandable that many people think that they do not have time or cannot simply give up their job. In a way, they are caught in the system. In our society, it is perfectly normal for the standard of living and our fixed costs to grow with our income. This is an eternal spiral,” says the 37-year-old. Marleen and Roderick began avoiding this vicious cycle while they were still students. They kept their spending to a minimum, did not take out a mortgage, place little value on material things and do not have children. The underlying idea: to be as free as possible, to go everywhere whenever they feel the desire. The couple believes that living in smaller communities and closer to nature is the true way to live. Because people in smaller communities take care of each other and work together. Money becomes a secondary issue.

A man bathing in a lake

Part of the vanlife is washing in a lake on occasion. Not for everyone.

Travelling as digital nomads.

But travelling without any money is difficult. That is why the couple work on diverse projects while travelling. As digital nomads, they cooperate with a number of companies. Marleen primarily does writing work, authoring newsletters or blog posts for companies. Roderick provides marketing coaching via Skype. But most of all, the couple enjoy working with NGOs. While travelling, they work as visual storytellers and visit the organisations’ projects to tell the stories of the people who benefit from the project with their pictures, videos and texts. This way, they also see places where tourists never go. You can follow their stories in detail on their blog, Circumbendibus.

The Circumbendibus blog.

In their blog, Marleen and Roderick want to share two major points that they have learned thanks to vanlife:

  1. The world is a place full of warm and wonderful people. “If you follow the news then you quickly become pessimistic and distrustful of other cultures. Through our travels, we have discovered exactly the opposite. In countries like Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and India, which often receive negative coverage, we experienced unbelievable hospitality,” says Marleen.
  2. The Earth is a beautiful place. The couple use the blog to tell the stories of people who, like them, live close to nature. The blog serves as a platform to share techniques, attitudes and experiences and is a source of inspiration for everyone who feels that same urge that drives Marleen and Roderick.

An endless journey?

Marleen and Roderick learn something new every day – believe that they have become more positive people. “We now have more trust in everything – trust in people, trust in their good nature, trust in ourselves and in our future.” That sense of excitement accompanies the couple wherever they go. “We are wanderers. We are constantly searching for something. On our last journey we finally accepted that.” Now it looks like the couple will remain on the road in their van. They are currently in Japan and are planning to travel to little-known places in Asia. The scenery, cultures and the great food – this part of the world has a magnetic attraction for them. But every journey eventually comes to an end. They already have a vision for that day: close to nature, their own small home, always open for a new adventure.

5 tips from Marleen and Roderick for everyone interested in living an alternative lifestyle:

  1. A modest approach: You do not need a 4×4 truck if you want to travel the world. The 35-year-old Mercedes-Benz 508 D is reliable and easy to maintain thanks to its simple components. Money is better used for travelling than for an expensive vehicle.
  2. Timing: There is never a perfect moment to live the lifestyle of your dreams.
  3. Doubts: If you have doubts, you simply have to dare to take the first step! The doubts and worries disappear bit by bit.
  4. Questions: You should think about why you long for a simpler life or a long journey. Perhaps out of a wish for more time to be yourself? Because you are interested in discovering new people and cultures? You can integrate these ideas into your life now.
  5. Realism: Vanlife seems very romantic (especially on Instagram). But it involves a lot of hard work. The hashtag #realvanlife really needs to be introduced to capture the daily challenges and difficulties like the lack of a shower, for example. This life is not for everybody.

Two people standing next to a van, watching the sunset

Marleen and Roderick know that every journey eventually comes to an end. But at the moment, that day still seems far away.

A group of people sitting on the ground, illuminated by an oil lamp

The very best thing about travelling for the couple: constantly meeting new people from different cultures.

A group of women smiling into the camera

As visual storytellers for NGOs, the Dutch couple tells the stories of people who are supported by the organisations.

Two men at the open rear door of a van

In their blog, Marleen and Roderick not only talk about vanlife but, above all, the people they encounter.

The shown conversions were carried out by independent third parties. The suppliers and conversions were not checked by Mercedes-Benz. In this respect, these illustrations do not represent an assessment of the supplier and/or conversions by Mercedes-Benz.

Photos: Roderick Polak

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