Meggie and Naan have always been attracted to two things: Living outdoors – and the simplicity and beauty of nature. As often as possible, the Dutch couple went on excursions. The trips were always too short for them in the end. As soon as they were on their way home, the two of them were already longing for the world beyond: Where to go next? What could be more beautiful than falling asleep under a starry sky and being woken up by the sound of the sea the next morning? Enthused by this idea, they thought about how they could make this dream come true. The answer was quickly found: Curiously enough, in an old fire engine. More specifically, in a Mercedes-Benz 508 D, which they quickly transformed into their own personal home. When the right moment came, they left their house- and have been travelling through Europe and beyond with the vintage vehicle ever since. They report about their travels on their blog Five Loves Eight – the name is of course deliberately chosen: Based on their 508 D.
MYVAN: What gave you the idea of moving into a van and exploring the world together?
Naan: We wanted to explore a different way of living, out of the Dutch standard. We thought if we would live simpler, we needed less money and could have more free time. When Meggie’s contract as a teacher ended, we felt this was the moment to go.
MYVAN: Why did you choose to travel in a van? What’s so special about your 508 D?
Naan: It’s a guarantee for the unexpected. Every day brings something new to learn: You learn to trust your fellows. You learn to trust yourself. It’s a challenge to live together in only 10 square meters. You get to know each other really well, good and bad, and it’s hard to take a break or have any distance. That’s why we wanted a slightly larger vehicle. Something that looked cool, with some nostalgia – but at the same time strong enough to take us off the beaten path. And then we saw the Mercedes-Benz 508 D and we knew this was the van for our next trip.
MYVAN: On your blog Five Loves Eight you share your experiences with the world. Naan, you describe yourself as a “storyteller” – what constitutes a good story for you?
Naan: I am naturally curious about how things work and actively explore the world, because I like the new and unseen. To give it purpose, I share the things I find and hope someone will learn from it.
MYVAN: And what role do you play in your blog and travel, Meggie?
Meggie: I take a lot of pictures and put some of them on our Instagram/Facebook page, to keep everyone back home informed. I decorate our van with things I make, I keep our plants alive and happy and my most favorite thing to do is making videos. I think it’s a nice way of getting a look into our life and it’s a great way for us to look back at our adventures.
MYVAN: Were there any setbacks that made you doubt?
Naan: I think it’s impossible to travel without failures. Things never go according to plan. Our van is more than 30 years old, so there is some maintenance necessary along the road. The two batteries slowly died in the first weeks on the road, so we had some troubles starting the engine in remote areas.
MYVAN: How did you deal with these situations, possibly even in a foreign country?
Naan: Every country or even district you go to has its own grammar. Is this a safe place? Are the people open to travelers or even willing to help out? We were often able to experience how friendly and helpful people can be when in need. Sometimes we find ourselves in places that are harder to decipher, but we always manage to find a place, water, food and gasoline to keep us running.
Naan and Meggie are no longer the only van nomads these days. More and more people are turning their lives upside down, moving into a van and traveling around the world. Why, is very clear to Naan. Here are three main reasons:
1. You have to work long hours to achieve a certain standard of living, but for many people this standard is too high to be sustainable. In addition, the media tells us that it will never be good enough.
2. The concept of “buying a house with a mortgage” does not work for everyone. For some time now, pioneers have been exploring various intelligent living concepts, such as container buildings or mobile houses.
3. The Internet enables people to share their visions and show how they can continue to make money on the road. You see that it works for them and you are inspired.
MYVAN: Do you have a funny story about the road that you want to tell?
Naan: There are so many of them. For example, when our car battery was flat, an old fisherman just gave us the keys to his car to drive to the nearest town to buy a new one. He did not even know our names. He kept fishing undisturbed until we were back, and then checked the wiring for us after we installed the new battery.
Meggie: Once we lent a spoon to someone and thought we’d never see it again. Thousand kilometers south of our last encounter, we met the borrower on a remote beach, without any pre-arrangement at all.