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On the road with Ourvanquest:
Making life in the van family-friendly.

A man and a woman with a child in their arms are posing in front of a white Sprinter

Gianna and Jake didn't plan for life in a van. Today the family lives and loves their everyday life in their Mercedes-Benz Sprinter named VANessa.

Everything is right – and yet so wrong.

For Gianna and Jake from Florida, everything worked out like a normal life. They got married, had a daughter, bought a house, cars, and a lot of “stuff.” Jake worked as a cook to finance this lifestyle and had to make do with two vacations a year. “We did everything right – and yet it felt so wrong,” Gianna remembers. The young parents sat down together and pondered about the life of their dreams: Extensive family time, seeing more of their country – America, not being tied to just one place – especially not for the next 30 years. “We realized that we had all these things that we enjoyed so little,” says Gianna. Her dream was not to remain just a dream: The mission “vanlife” was born.

Sprinter with an open rear door on a beach

Sufficient family time and discovering new places: Gianna and Jake fulfilled their dream.

Perfect home: A Mercedes-Benz
Sprinter named VANessa.

After a long period of thought and restructuring, Gianna and Jake sold everything; the house, the cars, and all their possessions. Jake quit his job, and the two took the plunge into self-employment – Jake as a distributor of a pharmaceutical oil and Gianna as a blogger. In July 2018, they bought a Sprinter 170″ WB 2500, built in 2011 – and called it VANessa. “The complete craftsmanship provided by Mercedes-Benz and numerous comments from other vanlifers persuaded us to buy the brand,” recalls Gianna. Since the goal was to live full-time in the van, they upgraded their Sprinter accordingly.

A van conversion with efficient use of space.

Plumbing, electrical and window construction was followed by wood and insulation work inside the vehicle. For her two-year-old daughter Luna, the two commissioned custom-made items; a made-to-measure bed, a built-in toy box, and a fitted pyjama container near the bed. “Everything we planned for the interior of the van has a job to do,” said Gianna. This is the most efficient way to use the space. For the conversion, they hired a motorhome company to do the preliminary work. They left the interior to Gianna’s uncle, an experienced master carpenter. After a total of eight months, the time had finally come: The family was ready for the open roads of America.

  • A toddler stands in an empty Sprinter
  • The still unclad insulation inside the Sprinter
  • A toddler in a Sprinter furnished with wood
  • A woman and a man with a child in their arms are standing in front of a Sprinter at the roadside

Ultimate tips from van lifer to van lifer.

The small family from Florida has been on the road in America since March 2019. “Van life has taught us what we need in life and what we don’t,” said Gianna. This is often a lot less than you think. Here are some tips and tricks that make van life easier for them:

  • Get inspiration from others: The van life community is very big and often the answer to personal questions can be found in one of the many forums.
  • Adapt your cooking habits: Buy less in exchange more fresh food. One-pot dishes avoids mountains of washing up.
  • Create storage facilities: Gianna and Jake decided against an open dining corner and instead opted for more storage space. Their motto: Make everything disappear that you don’t want to see all the time.
  • Traveling with small children on board: A manageable selection of toys is usually enough, with lots of snacks on the way and outdoor activity options (such as a scooter).
  • Practice patience: Less space means more room for friction. Mutual respect is the be-all and end-all.

Sprinter at sunset

It’s the little things that make you happy, Gianna and Jake agree.

Trust the process.

Jake and Gianna still see themselves on the road in five years’ time, somewhere on the highways of America, hopefully with another child on board. Until then, they live in the here and now and enjoy what the present has to offer – an ideal that many aspire to throughout their lives. Why does this work so well for them? They trust in the process and are convinced that every challenge will make them smarter, stronger, and better prepared for the future. That’s why they didn’t give up when they sold their house later than expected. ” You always have to see what stands between you and your goal,” explains Gianna. Often these are just vain reasons. Her motto: “Dream big and run the whole race.”

Interior view of the kitchen

Gianna and Jake are committed to maximizing the space.

A man and a woman with a toddler in her arms are standing in front of the side door

The family of three is always ready to experience new adventures.

The sprinter with an open door parked in front of a beach

Resting at beautiful sites like these give them the energy they need.

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: Gianna & Jake Bachowski

More Links to explore: Ourvanquest – @Instagram, @YouTube


Regardless of what job you have to tackle – the Sprinter will make your day-to-day tasks easier. And even if those tasks are weighty ones, together, you’ll move mountains. Thanks to a host of different variants and over 600 optional features, the Sprinter can meet a wide variety of requirements.

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