It’s been four years since Katch (28) and Ben (29) ran into each other at a photography conference in California. Even then, both of them earned their money as photographers. They enjoyed being on the road. And both liked life in the great outdoors. That’s why a year ago the two Americans decided to buy a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter – and henceforth live in their camper van.
MYVAN: What was your biggest motivation for a van life?
Ben: We had two big motivations. The first was to be able to see friends more often who we didn’t usually get to see. Living and traveling in our van allows us to spend long periods of time in different states without having to pay for a hotel, or crash at friend’s houses. We have close friends all over the states and it’s been amazing to get to basically live in their town for weeks or months at a time, seeing the people we love.
MYVAN: And the second reason?
Katch: Life in the great outdoors and being on the road. The Sprinter allows us not only to be outdoors every now and then, but also to live in nature. Wherever we camp, we are at home. I’m a rock climber, and sometimes taking climb trips was a hassle, packing up the car with everything you need, taking long drives out and back, etc. We love spending time in nature, and van life allows us to not only visit nature, but live in it permanently.
The plan was in place, but how should it be implemented? How can you deal with everyday life in a van? How should the two photographers work in the future and how should the van be equipped? Katch and Ben didn’t rush into anything. They meticulously researched which van best suited their requirements – namely to be a cozy apartment, mobile office and flexible means of transport at the same time. The result: the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. They appreciate their travel van above all for its reliability, flexibility and spaciousness.
Sometimes people forget to think about certain small details.
MYVAN:What were your biggest doubts and worries before moving into the van – did some of them come true?
Katch: We weren’t worried about much, because we’ve always been very minimal easy-going people, and we’re not bothered by much. The only one thing I thought would be an adjustment was not having frequent showers, because I love my hot showers! But we’ve been lucky enough to have friends almost everywhere we go, friends who let us use their showers and park in their driveways.
MYVAN:What advice would you give someone who wants to buy a van?
Ben: Think about every aspect of your lifestyle and how it will be affected by van life. Sometimes people forget to think about certain small details.
MYVAN: For example?
Katch: How will I make my morning coffee every day, or where will I keep my dirty laundry. Do you like to cook? Do you like alone time? How will all this change for you once you’re sharing a tiny space with someone? Think about every aspect and plan ahead for all the small things!
However, in order to use the Sprinter as a mobile home, they needed some individual adaptations to their vehicle. So they left their 4WD 2016 Sprinter to the “pros”, as Katch says: the bodybuilder Sportsmobile. The result impressed the two of them fully. It was incredibly fun to work with the Sportsmobile van experts. They mastered the difficult balancing act of making the van both aesthetically pleasing and practical,” says Ben.
MYVAN: Take us with you in your van life. What are your days like?
Katch: Our life changes month to month pretty often, because of my job. I’m a wedding photographer, and I shoot weddings all over the states, mostly in the western half of the United States. So we might be spending one whole month shooting constantly in the San Francisco area, and the following month taking a long break to drive up the coast slowly to visit friends in Portland or Washington.
What do Katch and Ben no longer want to do without in their van? The answer is surprising: the solar modules on their Sprinter. The photovoltaic systems supply the couple with electricity for everyday life and work. “We couldn’t do most of it without these modules,” says Katch. Because the two photographers are increasingly on the move in social media, another must-have: the smartphone hotspot to get on the internet. For Katch, a camping stove and a barbecue are also essential. “I love sitting outside, cooking and eating,” she says.
MYVAN: How has your life changed in concrete terms?
Katch: Of course, not every day is waking up to gorgeous backdrops and living a simple life, but we get a lot more of those days than we used to. Sometimes it means sleeping in a truck stop, having gas station coffee in the morning and driving all day. But for the most part we get to enjoy the simple life we really wanted.
MYVAN: What are your anecdotes from living in a van?
Our heater broke on one of our trips to Utah. It was winter and well below freezing outside, and while we have camped in weather this cold before, it wasn’t ideal. We only had two more days left in Utah, so we posted on Instagram saying that our heater broke and that we’d love a place to crash for two nights, and we had several people open up their homes for us that week. It was pretty amazing to see how kind complete strangers can be when you’re in need.
MYVAN: That sounds as nice as it is exhausting. Have you ever been through tough times and your life in the van has gotten on your nerves?
Katch: The Utah story of the failed heating system was probably our lowest point so far. And yet we have never reached this point, who knows, maybe one day we’ll be there. Originally our plan was to move into the Sprinter for one year. We cracked this – and it’s still fun. That’s probably why we’ll be hanging on for another year…
MYVAN: You’re an avowed nature lover and you’ve already been around in your Sprinter. What place do you love most in the USA?
Katch: My favorite place so far is Badlands National Park. We had a couple of weeks off before my season started so we decided to drive to South Dakota and stay in the Badlands, and it was beautiful and completely empty. I really hate crowds in national parks, so this was ideal!
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