Here at Lonely Planet, we were struck this year by the amount of travellers going off on marvellous escapades in their converted vans. While travelling, sleeping and, in some cases, working from a van wouldn’t be for everyone, 2017 was definitely the year of the Van Traveller. Adventurers took to roads around the worlds in their vans in droves, some accompanied by children and pets. Here is a round-up of some of our favourite van stories from this year.
Reservations agent Yvette Morrissey (28) was so fed up of living from payday to payday, she left her job and life in New Zealand to move more than 7500 miles away to live a sustainable life from the back of a van. Yvette, also known as the Wayfaring Kiwi, moved to Canada in November 2016 and currently lives in Banff, Alberta, where she holds down a full-time job. In her spare time, she hits the road in her Ford E150 to explore the local area. When we spoke to Yvette, she was planning to road trip to Toronto, visiting national parks on her way. Next summer, she plans to take her van life to the UK, before possibly moving back home to New Zealand, buying and refurbishing another van to live in there.
Married couple Breanne Acio (30) and Lacey Mayer (28) from California bought a 2016 Ford Transit 250 high-roof van, and spent three months converting it into their ideal home at a cost of $10,000. When they talked to us, they had clocked up 10,000 miles as they travelled through Los Angeles, San Francisco, Arcata, Oregon, Portland and Seattle, among others. Breanne and Lacey converted the van themselves but had some help from close relatives. They were planning to take more weekend trips and day trips to beaches in and around San Diego and LA as well as attending Descend on Bend, a yearly van-life gathering in Bend, Oregon. They also hoped to travel to Baja for a winter break with friends.
An adventurous Dutch couple told us about living the dream of travelling around the world with their pet dogs in a 32-year-old Volkswagen motorhome, while working as digital nomads. Jeroen Bosman (33), who runs a creative agency, and freelance journalist Hedwig Wiebes (31) left Amsterdam in October 2016 to set off on the trip. They sold their house and almost all of their belongings, and were travelling around Europe in their van, nicknamed ‘Chewie,’ with their dogs, Tommie and Olaf, when we spoke to them. They had plans of travelling to Morocco, the UK, Ireland. Spain and France.
Earlier this year, we caught up with a couple of young travellers who are journeying around North America in a converted van and documenting the experience through incredible photographs, giving a glimpse into the true beauty of the continent. Capturing everything from the deep valleys of Utah’s Zion National Park and relaxing in a hammock in Yosemite National Park, 29-year-old photographer Jess Bonde, originally from Tasmania, has been photographing his experiences with girlfriend Lova from the start. The pair have been travelling together and seeing the world for the past two years, spending months on a ski season in Canada before travelling along the coast and down to the Grand Canyon.
An Australian couple who enjoyed following other people living in converted vans on social media told us that they decided to give it a go and get out on the road themselves. Rebecca Winther and Gary Swift bought an ex-postal delivery van and set about making it into a cosy studio apartment-on-wheels to undertake a road trip of a lifetime. The pair from Victoria insulated the van, built a bed frame, kitchen cupboards, a sink and worktop. They also installed solar panels, lighting and a television, although they had no carpentry or building experience when they started.
Ever felt like leaving the world of the nine-to-five behind and just hitting the road with your best friend? Well one intrepid traveller made that wanderlust dream a reality, leaving her job and converting a van for herself and her dog Odie to explore the world. Marina Piro did all of the conversion work on the van (whose name is Pam), despite having no past technical experience. This inspired her to start her own blog called Pam the Van, which features handy tips as well as reviews of campervan products. When we spoke to Marina, she and Odie had visited England and France, as well as taking a short trip to Germany and Italy. The next destinations on their list included Spain and Portugal.
Doting dad and talent manager from Los Angeles, Sean Elliot, takes his two young daughters on adventures in their converted van that they built together. Divorced dad Sean wanted to create a lifetime of memories with his daughters Paige (10) and Quinn (7) when he saw them at weekends, so he bought a 2016 4×4 Mercedes Sprinter at Easter and refurbished the interior with input from the girls. “I wanted this to be something the three of us truly did together,” he told us earlier this year. The family have clocked up thousands of miles and travelled through the beaches and mountains of South California, Utah, Sun Valley, Idaho and Nevada among others.
An adventurous Norwegian couple, Birk Haaland (27) and Sara Teigen (26) , decided to pack up their life into a small van so they could travel and surf whenever they liked, after Birk had been ill. They converted their 2007 Volkswagen Crafter van from an empty shell into a cosy home, and were surfing their way around Europe in their house on wheels when Lonely Planet spoke to them. They had travelled through Denmark, Sweden and the north of Norway and down the coast line back to Stavanger, and had countless weekend trips in the beautiful area in Rogaland. They plan their trips based on the forecast of the waves so they can surf, and at the time of interview, were planning to work their way around Europe.
A young couple from Wisconsin are living what sounds like an idyllic life, travelling around the US in a converted van with their adored American Staffordshire Terrier, Snoop. Pete Thuli (24) and Taylor Bucher (23) spent US$5000 converting their Dodge Sprinter van into a fully functional home, complete with a kitchen and all-in-one living room and bedroom. When we caught up with them, Pete, Taylor and Snoop had already clocked up 7000 miles and have travelled through 12 states to the West Coast in pursuit of warm weather. They say that life on the road is simple as they only travel with the objects they need, eat food they’ve cooked themselves and use alternative energy sources to live sustainably.
Adventurous duo, Sabrina and Jimmy Horel from Montclair, California and Brittany, France respectively, were experienced backpackers, but decided they wanted to explore the world further using their own transport, while running their digital editing business. After they got married, they bought a blue 1973 VW Bus that they had travelled more than 30,000 miles in, when they spoke to Lonely Planet. The happy couple had travelled with their dogs through California, Florida, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Louisiana, Montana and Wyoming, as well as Texas, Alabama, Utah, and Nevada. They also went to British Colombia and Alberta in Canada. They were planning at that point to head to New York next, taking the long route so they could see everything in between, including Tennessee and Georgia.