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In the far East: Marleen and Roderick’s Odyssey – Part 1.

Two people jumping into the air next to a van

Taking the roundabout road to happiness – That is the motto of the Dutch couple, Marleen and Roderick. In 2010, they set out on their first long tour through Asia and in 2016 they ultimately gave up their house and have been travelling through the continent of the rising sun ever since.

Wanderlust to the East.

Circumbendibus is Latin. In English it means a diversion to arrive at a destination or to tell a story. Marleen and Roderick from the Netherlands rarely take the usual route from A to B and this term describes them perfectly. With their Mercedes-Benz 508 D, they have been zigzagging through Asia since 2016. A backpacking tour in Thailand, Laos and China in 2008 awakened their wanderlust together with a longing for more nature. On rented motorbikes they discovered places never mentioned in travel guides. Meeting people and their inspiring attitudes towards life led Roderick to a decision: “We are coming back here – with our own vehicle.”

A couple looks out of the window of their van

Marleen and Roderick never heard of the term vanlife. Making the perfect challenge for them.

Life on four wheels.

But is it even possible to make such a long journey in a van? For Marleen and Roderick, the answer to this question was as far away as Asia itself. It is the year 2008 and the term “vanlife” was almost unknown. “We didn’t know anyone from our circle of acquaintances who had ever done something like this,” reminisces the 36-year-old. This began extensive research to find the ideal vehicle. In the same year they were set to head back to Asia, they struck gold. A Mercedes-Benz 508 D – their best investment ever. “Our van stands for freedom, opportunities and experiences,” explains Marleen. The former army ambulance was perfect for their future travel plans: solid, compact and robust.

An old van drives through a dusty valley

After the Asian tour is before the Asian tour. But they still needed a financial cushion.

Mechanic working on a van

Marleen and Roderick’s motto: every bit of extra effort with the conversion pays off. This only saves stress later on.

The project should not be underestimated.

Marleen and Roderick decided to transform the van into their future house on wheels. Although the van was already 30 years old, it had only clocked up 40,000 kilometres and was in perfect condition. As absolute amateurs, they expected the conversion to take around three weeks. But the van was not finished until nine months later. A project like this should not be underestimated!

But the sweat and effort truly paid off: Even today, nine years later, the van still runs perfectly. In addition to the basic conversions (gas, electricity, water lines), the Dutch couple also equipped the 508 D with wooden furniture, a large roof rack, a solar electricity system, a water filter system and heating. The roof rack not only provides extra space for fuel and spare tyres, it can also be used as a sundeck.

Van adventure #1.

Journey number one began in 2010. The route took them from the Netherlands eastward to Asia. The couple had not really thought out a plan. “We simply wanted to get on the road and see how far it would take us,” remembers Marleen. They ended up travelling from Europe to Greece and then through Turkey and Iran to Pakistan. This first trip was a breath-taking experience for the couple. “In the end we arrived in India and planned on spending a month there,” explains Marleen. One month became five. Eventually, they had to head back home because their financial reserves were exhausted. But now they had caught the travelling bug. The next journey had to be further, bigger and longer. The plan: work for three years and save and then see where the roads in the Far East take them.

We love the simplicity of life when we are travelling in our van – a new adventure could await us every day.

The long preparation to a great adventure.

Alongside his work as biomedical technician, Roderick also began working as a photographer. India inspired him to take up this profession. Marleen explains enthusiastically: “Roderick is a talented observer and sees things from different perspectives. His lens captures pictures that tell a story.” Roderick is also the dreamer in the relationship. He had the idea for the adventurous journey. In contrast, Marleen’s talent is making order out of chaos. The freelance consultant knows how to get where she is headed, even if it takes a roundabout route. The three-year buffer phase became five and gave them enough time to prepare for their upcoming journey. And they could barely wait.

Marleen at the table in the Sprinter with the sunset in the background

After their first journey in the van, Marleen and Roderick were addicted.

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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