Summer in the Alps, Mareen and Daniel were listening to the soothing sound of the water around them. They were lying on a large boulder in the middle of a clear, babbling stream. The sun was glistening on the water and the day was warm. An idyllic moment and the beginning of a marriage with lots of adventures, because right here Daniel asked his girlfriend Mareen to marry him. A perfect moment in the middle of nature that would change their lives. It could hardly be better for the young couple from Herford near Bielefeld, Germany.
Both are in their early 30s and, at first glance, they are a quite normal couple, following the usual routine: she is a trained automobile salesperson, he is an orthopedic technician, but they have found their own passion to escape everyday life: since 2012, the young couple explores extraordinary places with their Mercedes -Benz MB 100.
Travel guides are taboo for Mareen and Daniel. They prefer to drift, to be close to nature and make the unknown known. Freedom and independence – that is what the young couple is striving for. And this is not found on paths that have already been trampled by many others. The Mercedes-Benz MB 100 is the only constant. A home away from home.
MYVAN: What does it mean to you to travel in a van?
Mareen: you always see the same things in a hotel, you are bound to fixed times and locations. A hotel holiday has nothing adventurous and involves no surprises. In a van, however, you are independent and free. You can stay at the most beautiful places. You break out of everyday life, switch off your mobile phone and decide for yourself. Every single moment is perceived more consciously, because you know that a new surprise can be waiting around every corner. And despite all the changeableness, we always have a home away from home with our MB 100. The result of a journey in our MB 100 is always a van full of memories and new contacts with like-minded people, who we met in remote places, and with whom we have shared important experiences.
MYVAN: What drives you on a journey?
Daniel: Spirit and curiosity.
MYVAN: What does traveling give you personally?
Daniel: When we’re on the road, we get into the essentials. We realize how little you need to be happy. This changes your outlook on things and we get a fresh look at life.
MYVAN: How does a travel day work with you?
Mareen: Our journey in the van is characterized by relaxation and deceleration. Daniel is the first to get up, drink an espresso, and put the kettle on for me. I always open the door to our van, which we call ‘Cutter’, and we awake slowly while enjoying the view of nature outside. We usually eat outside the van to be close to nature. A 12V warm water shower on the vehicle is also part of the morning ritual. Afterwards, our daily schedule starts: a brief look at the map to see where we are. Depending on our mood, we either stay longer where we are or decide to continue on. We like to drive on small side streets, this way we have discovered the most amazing places. Then once we arrive at a new place, we go hiking, swimming, or we just read, listen to music or lie in our hammocks. And as soon as the darkness comes upon us, we end the day with a camp fire.
With our cutter we are free and easy: We have the freedom to travel anywhere in the world.
MYVAN: How do you choose your destinations?
Mareen: Most of the time, we get tips from like-minded people, who we meet on the road. Once we have defined a rough idea, we just go for it. We let ourselves drift and enjoy the moment. With our cutter we are free and easy: We have the freedom to travel anywhere in the world.
MYVAN: Where to next?
Daniel: In autumn, we are planning to go to Denmark to hang out. Scandinavia is our favorite travel destination. Norway and Sweden inspire us again and again. At some point we would like to travel with our Cutter to Iceland and Russia – Africa too interests us a great deal.
MYVAN: What was your best experience so far?
Mareen: In September we were on the way to Dalsnibba in Norway. At a short stop we met some Germans with whom we came into conversation. We found out that northern lights had been predicted for that night. So we stayed in the parking lot and prepared for the spectacle. But the weather was not on our side: the sky closed in and thick fog blocked the sky. Disappointed, most of the travelers broke up again, but we made ourselves comfortable in our Cutter and prepared for the night – until suddenly someone knocked on the door: another traveler pointed out to us that not only the stars were out in their splendor. What awaited us outside was indescribable: the heavens danced in their brightest colors – the northern lights! We were standing in the cold for about six hours, staring at the sky. We have never seen anything like it; the lights drew us under their spell. This shared experience has deeply connected us with the other viewers; it is something we are not likely to forget.
Photos: Daniel Barral, Mareen Henke