The Celtic Sea beats harshly against the rocky shores of southern England, while the forests are enveloped in mysterious fog. Emily, a young British anthrozoology student, and Rob, an avid car mechanic, travel around this landscape with their Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 906. They don’t have a permanent home, as the name of their travel blog suggests: “The road is our home“. It was an evening like any other when they decided to leave their old lives behind. The plan: To sell all their belongings and trade their rented apartment for a van. A typical dropout story, right? What distinguishes Emily and Rob from many other Van Lifers, however, is their blog: Here they share all their experiences, from the purchase and conversion of the van to their travels. The result is a practical how-to-guide that provides Van Life enthusiasts with first-hand tips and tricks. Failures are also documented so that others do not have to repeat the same mistakes. Above all, they want to show that everyone can lead a life on four wheels – provided you have the patience and determination.
From the very beginning, Emily and Rob knew that their future home would be a Sprinter. Because they saw its two main strengths: Reliability and longevity. After all, converting a conventional van into a habitable home takes a lot of energy, time and money, which is why the result should be permanent. Rob did this completely on his own. Although the car enthusiast has a well-founded technical understanding for vehicles of all kinds through various jobs and hobbies. However, he lacked the know-how to integrate a home with all the trimmings into a van. Armed only with a few YouTube tutorials, Rob set to work. How could this work? “I’m not afraid to make mistakes and more importantly: I enjoy the learning process”, is his motto. It was still not an easy path. He felt particularly uneasy when he was faced with the task of cutting out the recesses for the windows in the side wall of the van. If you don’t feel up to a challenge, Rob advises you to take a step back, take a deep breath and assure yourself that with a little patience you can do it.
On the road you can also get into situations that take you to your personal limits from time to time. On their last journey in the Forest of Dean near Gloucester, Emily and Rob got stuck in the mud with their van at night. For hours Rob shoveled the ice-cold mud back and forth with his bare hands and tried in vain to get the van out of a ditch. When the situation seemed hopeless, a couple appeared out of nowhere, who finally rushed to their aid with their four-wheel drive vehicle. They also posted this story on their blog to show what can happen when you drive through the forest at night without emergency equipment. In general, you should be aware: “Things aren’t always as perfect as in the Instagram posts.
What a few years ago was limited to a comparatively small group of people now seems to be becoming a real trend. More and more people are being encouraged by blogs like “The Road is our Home” to live the Van Life dream. But where does this transition come from? Rob has a simple explanation for this: “For decades we’ve been conditioned to work a ridiculous amount of hours to buy lots of things we don’t really need and that notion is slowly beginning to change. People are beginning to realize that time is actually more important than excessive amounts of money.” And this realization is exactly what Van Life enthusiasts take with them when exploring the world. Waking up in a different place every day, meeting new people and cultures and broadening your horizons while still sleeping in your own comfortable bed every night. One inclines towards a minimalist lifestyle that can lead to new inspiration.
Travelling freely, without work-related constraints – does that sound tempting? But of course it doesn’t work without cash either. At the moment Emily and Rob are both working and live half in the van and half with their parents. Their goal: To save for a multi-year trip to Europe. So the great Van Life adventure is yet to come. And if one day they should get tired of it? Simply consider a new, larger project, such as the conversion of a bus or a boat. The two agree that their current project should not be their last. For those who have now caught the travel bug, Emily and Rob have a few tips for beginners:
The conversions shown were carried out by independent third parties. The suppliers and conversions were not checked by Mercedes-Benz. The image does not constitute an assessment of the supplier and/or the conversions by Mercedes-Benz.