Two campers and a corgi


We are Joriën, Sandra, and our corgi Fudge, and we are from the Netherlands. A very flat country where, in our opinion, there isn’t much variety. So we both wanted to explore the world, starting with Europe.

(First published in Issue 3, August 2021)

We started vanlife in April 2020. We had plans to travel with our Peugeot Partner. But you couldn’t even call that a mini camper… It was a micro camper. We didn’t remove the partition, so we had very little space to sleep. This resulted in sore backs and sore knees. Unfortunately, we had to decide to buy a bigger van, and that’s where our plans started for a very hippie camper.

Joriën and Sandra from travelwildtobefree, sitting amidst wildflowers, smiling and enjoying nature in front of their colorful, hippie-themed Toyota HiAce 4x4 camper van.
Joriën and Sandra and their hippie van - @travelwildtobefree 08/2021

Due to COVID, we had lots of extra time. Sandra lost all of her assignments as a freelance florist; her main income is from the floral event industry, but everything got canceled. Joriën had already been at home for 1.5 years, starting with a burnout and a bad knee. He was in a lawsuit with his employer because his boss tried to fire him while he was recovering from knee surgery. He finally won this battle, but it took a lot of energy, and he’s still waiting for the reintegration process to start. So we really wanted to focus on something new.

We bought our Toyota HiAce 4x4 in mid-April. We did everything ourselves. The first thing we did was cut a huge hole in our roof for the pop-up roof. That was so scary, but we had the biggest and hardest part covered right away. It took us two months to complete our van. Unfortunately, we had a setback because our new camper needed to be inspected as a camper, and due to COVID, they couldn‘t do that. So we had to wait another month before we could start on our first journey.

Joriën and Sandra from travelwildtobefree, sitting happily in their colorful, hippie-themed Toyota HiAce 4x4 camper van with their corgi Fudge, in front of a stacked pile of logs.
Sandra, Joriën & Fudge with their Toyota camper van - @travelwildtobefree 08/2021

But we were so excited when our final journey came. We had seven weeks and wanted to do a huge road trip. We started in the Netherlands and drove 6000 km, crossing nine different countries. Our destination was Croatia, but we didn’t have much of a plan. We just looked for beautiful places, nice hikes, and always aimed for the quietest places. 4x4 comes in pretty handy when you’re looking for quiet places.

What we like so much about vanlife is that we see how little we need to be happy. And most of all, how much being in nature makes us happy.

We are disappointed when we need to stay overnight in a big parking lot with a lot of campers. Although we love meeting new people, and we meet lots of new people. Maybe it’s because of the looks of our van. It’s so great to get in touch with people who also love vanlife. It still amazes us how happy you can be with a beautiful spot or just finding a nice river to camp nearby. This lifestyle really makes you appreciate the smallest things even more.

We love nature the most. Our idea of traveling before vanlife was that we needed to get on an airplane to get to beautiful countries. But now we see how beautiful Europe is. It is so versatile. One time we are in the mountains in Austria, the next time we are in the beautiful hills of Tuscany. And we discovered how beautiful Slovenia and Croatia are. We wanted to see so much more. But that’s the downside of part-time vanlife: you can’t go away for that long. We try to go away as much as we can, even if it’s only a weekend.

Our plans for 2021 are to travel for at least half a year. But we are working on a steady online income first. Sandra is focusing on graphic design. She studied that 12 years ago and is taking a course to refresh her memory. And Joriën is still figuring out what he wants to do. But for him, that’s hard because he’s always been a pastry chef, so it’s hard to make a career switch, and he’s dependent on the reintegration process. And we can tell you the Netherlands has a lot of rules. So this takes time. But we still have a whole year to figure everything out.

Joriën from travelwildtobefree, sitting on a portable toilet with a roll of toilet paper, enjoying a scenic mountain view from their colorful camper van.
Taking in the views, one roll at a time - @travelwildtobefree 08/2021

After this big trip, we want to go full-time, and we probably need a bigger van to do that. So traveling for half a year is a good way to test this, but of course, we want to enjoy this hippie camper first.

About Sandra & Joriën
Joriën and Sandra, formerly known as @twocampersandacorgi, are hippie-loving adventurers from the Netherlands. Since the publication of this article, they have converted a bigger Mercedes van and have continued their travels throughout Europe and beyond.
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