I had dreamed about living and travelling in a van for many years before actually buying a camper. There was always a restlessness in myself, a craving to be free. The standard system didn’t make me feel at home. I knew inside that there was more to life, more than society leads us to see. Finding the full potential of my life was a goal, not just to study to get a job and settle down. That’s why I decided to pack up my things and move into a camper after graduating.
Hey, my name is Fien, originally from the Netherlands. I am 26 years old, and 2 years ago I graduated as a visual artist. Right after that, I bought my first car ever; a retro Mitsubishi camper from 1987. By now I have lived in multiple vans and travelled through many different countries, both alone and with other people. I am currently living in a very cute self-built Renault Trafic from 1991 which I am completely in love with.
I feel that I have always been somewhat free-spirited, and enjoy doing things my own way while trying to look at the world from a different perspective. The best way to describe me is a playful, outgoing, and positive-minded, person. My life is creative and adventurous, and I’m definitely the sort to be caring for others. One of the things I love most is being submerged in nature, along with reading, writing and videography. Recently, I started skating and surfing which has been a slow process, but an exciting activity that I am stoked with.
How Did This Van Life Begin?
After a four-month trip down the coast of Europe with my boyfriend and cat, I felt that I couldn’t go back to a 9 to 5 life anymore. So I did what felt right and bought a new van. Together with Carlo from SurfShackVans, we build it into a home on wheels in only a few weeks. I am super grateful that he was able to turn the drawings I made into a reality. Without him, I don’t know if I would have finished the van in any reasonable amount of time. Thankfully, my dream van has become my home, giving me a comfortable base to visit many beautiful places!
The Van for My Life on the Road
My favourite thing about this van is probably how silly the front looks. I have always had a thing for older vans that have a funky look! Besides that, the size of my van is perfect. It is tiny and cute, but big enough to live in and tall enough to stand comfortably. The cozy and authentic look really makes it feel homely for me. The interior is mostly made from wood and bamboo which gives it a very natural look and I’ve mainly used warm, earthy colours to decorate.
Another great bonus is the number of windows which can easily let the light in by rolling up the curtains. I always wake up happy when the sun is shining through the yellow curtains creating a real summer feeling. In many ways, walking into my van is like a throwback to the 70s.
Escaping the Standard Society
Last summer I returned to the Netherlands for 6 months. Going back to paying rent and working a fixed job really made me feel out of place. I tried to keep a familiar, nourishing flow as I had on the road but quickly noticed that I was being sucked back towards an old routine that didn’t make me happy. I already had planned to escape the Dutch winter again, but after a while, I found out that I didn’t feel at peace being back “home” anymore. This was when I decided to give up my rent and move into my new van again.
Now, I’ve been travelling alone for the past 6 months, and I can say that I feel in every fibre that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be. I really feel at home on the road and this lifestyle is giving me so
much more joy and fulfilment than I could ever ask for.
What Is It Like Living and Travelling in a Van?
Living in a van means living according to a natural rhythm. I wake up with the sun shining through the curtains, and when the sun is setting I notice myself getting tired. I never have to set an alarm clock anymore and I decide for myself what I want to do each day. There’s no pressure, no rush, and no one telling me how productive I should be through the day. Instead, there’s room to feel and think, to read and write, to make art and dance while enjoying my life! There is time for play and adventure, to explore and connect with other travellers.
Mostly, I love how easily we travellers can create these temporary communities together, at almost every place that we gather. I feel so in tune with myself and I love being surrounded by people who also decided to live life on their own terms and follow their dreams!
Van Life on Van Lifes Terms
Of course, van life isn’t always rainbows and sunshine. You have to get used to not having all the comfort of a regular home. Activities like filling up the water tanks, emptying the toilet, doing the laundry or even charging the camera can take up a lot of time. Sometimes, I find myself driving for more than half an hour to get those things done. Another thing that can become difficult is groceries. In the Netherlands, I would be excited to fo the groceries, to find and try all of the vegan products. Unfortunately, this is not a common luxury in the South of Europe. Luckily, there are enough options still, and all at a more affordable price.
By now, I can say that I am used to this lifestyle and it has all become much less bothersome, but in the beginning, I was sometimes missing these things if I’m honest. The only thing I still miss is my best friends of course, but luckily they visit me occasionally and when I am back in the Netherlands I know that it feels like I haven’t been gone at all. I am so grateful for the people in my life that support me in doing what makes me happy, even if they are living a completely different lifestyle.
Inevitable Vehicle Troubles
For me, one of the worst things about van life is car troubles, and I’ve had my fair share of that already. On almost every trip that I’ve gone on, I’ve had to call roadside assistance. Last year when I was travelling, we got into a whirlwind of car trouble. We had to be towed about 7 times and were stuck in hotels for almost three weeks before eventually flying home. It’s quite difficult when the place you live in can break down anytime with everything that you own inside. Through these times, I always try to keep a positive mindset and remember that in the end, it will be okay!
Just make sure that you’re well prepared, get good insurance and don’t forget to read the fine print. Be aware of what rights you have, and always be prepared to stand your ground. I’ve learned pretty quickly not to let people walk over me, especially those who are supposed to help. For example, Going to the mechanics’ garage can often feel like a joke. In some regions, it can feel like they don’t take you seriously, and it’s important to be assertive and direct in what you want, especially as a woman travelling alone.
Can Be an Emotional Rollercoaster
Of course, there’s also the emotional side to living and travelling in a van. First of all, it can be difficult in different cultural environments, where it becomes extra important to follow my gut feeling. Many aspects of modern society are made to keep us small and are often uninspiring, this can make it difficult to take a step out of your comfort zone. I made the mistake of waiting for friends to join my dreams before buying a van. If I had continued with this, I may have waited forever. I didn’t know if I could do all of this on my own, but now I’m glad that I did and wish I had done it sooner.
Even though I love being on the road, having all of this time available comes with its own struggles. A while ago I didn’t have any purpose or goal, I had nowhere that I wanted or needed to be and that often left me feeling lost. It is amazing to have so much freedom, but I think sometimes a bit of structure can also be nice throughout the day. It is in our nature, after all, to crave a sense of purpose, and a goal.
Growth Through Confrontation
There’s also the struggle of being confronted by thoughts when there is so much time to think. I’ve noticed that my emotions can often be more amplified while travelling. I don’t think that I’ve been this high on life before… In fact, I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve teared up because of overwhelming happiness or a heightened feeling of freedom.
It is interesting to see how this nomadic lifestyle can become confronting, just being with myself or feeling my reaction to new and uncomfortable situations. To be honest, I can definitely say that I feel so much more in touch with my own being now. I feel like this is the purest and most raw way of experiencing life, and that’s something that I will be forever grateful for, to have created this for myself!
Working Remotely While Travelling in a Van
To sustain this travel lifestyle, I began looking for ways to work remotely, to allow myself to travel and earn money at the same time without being dependent on a location. 1.5 years ago I decided to invest in myself and my future and joined an online mastermind. In this online community, I’ve been guided by my mentors to create a life full of freedom.
In just a few months I learned step by step how to go from a 9-5 job to working online without any special skills. I’ve learned that it is possible to create an offer around any soft skill or passion that I could imagine. I’ve found it so valuable to be able to create a business around my lifestyle, rather than basing my lifestyle around a business.
Learning Through an Online Community
In this online community, I have met so many like-minded people from all over the world. It’s so incredibly valuable to be surrounded by people who have similar goals. As mentioned before, it can be so difficult to take a leap of faith and dive into the unknown. Being in this community motivates and inspires me every day to keep dreaming big, it reminds me that everything is possible if I am willing to start doing, and stop doubting myself!
A mastermind is basically a group of like-minded people, guided by mentors. This includes people with all kinds of different skills who advise, inspire and support each other. The group I am in focuses on working online and creating a life full of freedom by starting a business or having a service online. In our group, we hold each other accountable and are actively supporting each other’s growth, both personally and in business. The training is focused on three overarching themes, mindset, finding a niche and crafting the offers.
How does this make an income?
During this process of learning, I found out that I wanted as much freedom as possible and not too many responsibilities. This is why I chose to mainly work as a high-ticket affiliate marketer. I work on a commission basis which means the more I work, the more I earn, but if I don’t feel like working I don’t have to. Practically, I am socializing and networking a lot, something that doesn’t really feel like working, so basically the perfect job for me!
Sometimes I also do a bit of work as a virtual assistant. For me, this means answering messages for people on social media, but some partnerships may have different agreements. The pro about this work is that it gives a more stable income, but of course, also more responsibility.
Why Is Remote Work So Ideal?
Besides making a lot of new friends, I’ve also managed to gain many partnerships, both directly and indirectly with the mastermind. So now I am working together with business owners that I resonate with, and who I can be my authentic self with.
The pros of having an online service are that I can work whenever I feel inspired and motivated. I can also follow my own natural rhythm. I can work from anywhere I want and instead of draining my savings to travel, I can actually save up money for future dreams. One day I hope to buy a piece of land and create a sense of community. A year ago I didn’t expect that I would be living the life that I always dreamed of, sometimes I really have to pinch myself to check that it’s true.
When I started my online journey, my goal was to earn enough to travel around and possibly save a bit of money while on the road. This way, I wouldn’t return to the Netherlands with an empty bank account. I actually can’t believe it myself, but I can say that I definitely reached that goal and I am living the life that I’ve always dreamed of.
Words of Advice
If I have any advice for people who are considering van life, travelling alone, or doing whatever it is that makes you happy, I would have to say… go for it! Do you know that feeling of wishing you started something sooner than you did? Or hoping that you were bold enough to take a chance? I can tell you that when I finally started listening to my gut and following my dreams everything quickly fell into place.
Things that were scary, quickly and naturally dissolved, allowing me to see that I am capable of so much more than I previously thought. If you are looking for ways to create an online income, you may be surprised by how many opportunities are around. Begin by surrounding yourself with people who are already living the life you want, and start connecting with others and learning from their journey.
Reach Out for Help
If after reading this, you still have any questions regarding van life, solo travelling or working remotely, you can always reach out to me through Instagram. I really hope to inspire other adventurous people to follow their dreams and show them that this lifestyle can really be possible.
If you are overwhelmed by the idea of building a van alone, I would really recommend reaching out to Carlo at @surfshackvans. He may be able to help you out. For me, he was willing to assist with the things that I was not comfortable doing while allowing me to help out where possible. Especially if you like surfing, and want to fit all of your surfboards into a van, he’s your guy!
Find Her Here
Website: Vrij Eigenwijs
Instagram: Fien Onderwater
If you enjoyed reading this post, then you may be interested in checking our blog pages. We have covered a range of topics about Van Life, Van Build, Van Travel, and our Van Buddies, where we share our experiences from living in a campervan for the past two years. You can follow us on Instagram or Facebook to stay up to date with our latest posts and to take a closer look into our daily lives.