Vanlife Adventure: Exploring the World with a Family of Five in a Self-Built Van


In 2017 Daan Zuijderwijk and Maaike Vergouwe embarked on a quest for a different way of living together with their three daughters Fenna, Alba and Isolde. The life they sought was one that brought them in closer proximity to nature than their previous one, with a smaller ecological footprint. The family left the Netherlands, with a tiny house on wheels, journeying across the various outbacks of Europe. This simple and flexible lifestyle did not just prove to be a good way to cope with the pandemic, it also changed their view on society in a fundamental way.

Part of the text as spoken in the video:

6 years ago we started traveling with our family. I’m an artist and I combine working as an artist with traveling as a family. When we started in 2017, there were a lot of things we wanted to explore: living closer to nature with a smaller footprint and educating the kids. In the beginning it was all new for us and now we are kind of adapted to this life and we love this nomadic lifestyle because it it’s really rewarding, it gives us a lot of time with the kids and to be around in specific beautiful places and that’s really nice.

We are a family of 5, me and my partner Maaike and together with our 3 daughters. Fenna is the oldest and there’s Alba the middle one and Isolde is the youngest Fenna is 10, Alba is almost eight and Isolde is 6 six years old, so we started traveling when she was a few months old. So this is our whole life, we’re traveling which is nice, and it all fits in the little van behind me. I built 2 Vans, so the first one I built in 2017, it was slightly larger and we traveled two years with this one, no that one and then eventually I built another one and I kind of improved it. I’ve had a lot of ideas which I wanted to improve, then I built this one, I built it within six months and this one is actually smaller than the other one, it’s lower, it’s less wide and better insulated, a better wood stove, a better battery pack and more solar panels, so we’re way better prepared for off-grid living and it really works. So we’ve been gone for a couple of years now, we’ve been all the way up to Lapland and had temperatures of -34 °C/-29°F and the car was perfect. We have a little heating system in the engine for when we start traveling in these temperatures, then you start off the heating system and the engine heats up a little bit. The insulation works really well, we used sheep wool and we used lots of second hand and recycled material, so there’s an old floor which I cut in small planks and used it on the ceiling and we used lots of old materials. It was just a white transport box and there was no feel or no atmosphere in it, so I found these old windows from a scrapyard, old windows and old doors and that brings a lot of atmosphere to the Van, that’s how I created the style and feel I wanted.

It’s our home, it’s our only house and it’s nice to be in when you’re in remote places, it’s really nice to have a place which is really comfortable and cozy and warm, so we kind of succeeded in that. This is our home, it’s always there wherever we are on the road. It’s small but we experience a large freedom just to be outside. Of course it has challenges because the space is small, so you need to take care of yourself and of the children that also mentally you have enough space to breathe, so you need to be strict to go out whenever you need for instance, but the quality of life is really good. Because we spend so much time together we really experience every moment of the children, every second and that’s a very rich life. I would say my kids, well I can see that they really enjoy the freedom of this life, so whenever we arrive at a spot, they just go out and explore and this could be a beach or a forest or a small village, they are just very curious and they just love to be part of this of this team of our family.

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