Freedom: life in a Mercedes-Benz 508 camper van
It began with an experiment: traveling in a van for a year. Two years later, Marijke and Gijs are still living with their dog in their Mercedes-Benz 508.
Everyday life in a motorhome
A lonely beach in Portugal. Marijke comes out of the sea laughing but exhausted with her surfboard under her arm. Water drips from her brown hair while the evening sun shines behind her. A dog runs to meet her: Rwina is happy to accompany her master back home. The two of them play along the beach and climb the small steep staircase that winds its way up the cliffs. A whistle from above and Rwina rushes off ahead, she disappears from Marijke’s view. Three, two, last step – there, awaiting Marijke is a hot meal on the camping table which is giving off an enticing aroma. A dripping wetsuit is hanging above the chairs, a surfboard is leaning next to it. Behind it, Marijke’s mint-green home is parked on four wheels: her Mercedes-Benz 508, and the backdrop to all of this: an insane view of the sunset over the sea. Rwina jumps out of the van wagging her tail, followed by Gijs, who gestures laughingly for Marijke to come to the table.
Our life on the road has taught us that the easiest way to solve problems is to relinquish control.
Change of scenery thanks to a camper van
Marijke and Gijs originally lived a relatively ordinary life in Belgium. Today, however, they are fortunate enough to be able to describe situations such as the one mentioned above as their everyday life. In December 2015, the two decided to travel for a year in their Mercedes-Benz 508. “At that time we just needed a break and a change of scenery. I had the feeling that our society is obsessed with the idea that work is the ultimate goal in life. Everything revolves around production and performance. That seems irrelevant to me today,” Gijs recalls. “Our life on the road has taught us that the easiest way to solve problems is to relinquish control.” For the two of them, this means that they have certain obligations on the road. Afterwards, however, they switch off again and enjoy the moment. In a life in the van that’s easy – you get to know new people all the time and look around a lot more consciously, Marijke continues “problems that seemed to be invincible to us in the past are no longer important today.” Gijs agrees “this lifestyle is addictive,” he says and smiles with satisfaction. Even after a year of traveling, the couple no longer wanted to trade their lives for a safe and secure home. And so one year of traveling became a life in the van for an unlimited period of time.
New home on four wheels
They found their Mercedes-Benz 508 online. Originally it belonged to a family from the north of Holland, and the van had been waiting in the garage for its next adventure for 15 years – an invitation for Marijke and Gijs to finally bring the beautiful van back on the road and satisfy their desire for adventure. The couple invested over half a year in their new home with the help of friends: new parquet flooring and good insulation, cozy real wood paneling, an efficient kitchen and a comfortable bed serve as basic equipment. To take a piece of the old fixed house with them on their journey, they have installed a sofa and parts of the bed, which come from their old apartment. A highlight of the van: the original paint finish in pearl green of the 1960 Mercedes-Benz 190 SL, which was paid for by a customer as compensation for a job done by Gijs. After all this effort, the new home got a name: “Jules Verde” and the journey began for Marijke and Gijs.
On the road with Jules Verde
In addition to the incredible views in Scotland and Norway, the pair have already enjoyed France, Spain, Portugal, England, Wales, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden. They have also experienced the interesting culture of Morocco. “Every country and every place we visit has something special,” enthuses Gijs. “Therefore we can’t call it our absolute favorite country.” In Morocco, however, the couple had the most wonderful experience: when Marijke and Gijs strolled along one of Morocco’s beautiful beaches, they noticed after some time that they had been followed. A tiny puppy, emaciated and lonely, had obviously decided that he liked Marijke and Gijs. After some unsuccessful attempts to find the family of the puppy, the couple decided to give him a new home and a name: “Rwina”, which in Arabic means something like “trouble”. He quickly became a part of the family and had the chance to travel eight countries within ten months.
Mareen and Daniel are just like any normal couple. But with their converted MB 100, however, they have found their very own way to escape everyday life.
> Read more about Mareen and Daniel and their MB 100
Ultimate freedom with a mobile home
For Marijke and Gijs, happiness is now perfect: “Life in the van means ultimate freedom: no mortgage, no rent. You sleep and you are where you want to be, and you move on when the time is right,” enthuses Marijke. This makes it easy for the two of them to reduce their possessions to a minimum. The crazy thing about the whole thing is that when we work on the road, it weighs a lot more heavily – it feels like we’re earning a lot more than before,” says Gijs and smiles happily. As Marijke is a photographer and does illustrations and wallpapers, traveling even helps her work, because every day brings new inspiration. Each day is a little different. Most of the time they have a plan for how to proceed – but in most cases, it turns out to be quite different in the end. The couple also spends a lot of time outdoors, making them feel more balanced and healthy. And one thing makes them particularly happy, “there is nothing better than waking up in nature, accompanied by birdsong, the sound of breaking waves, a wild river or the crackling of rain on the roof.” Whether it will be two, three, four or more years of traveling is unclear. But that’s the beauty of life in the van for the couple, “you decide for yourself when it’s time for something new.”