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Van Life with Tow-along Storage

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Roman & Ioana are based in Switzerland, and they love the freedom that living and working on the road provides them. They purchased a 1990 Volkswagen van that had been converted and did some major renovations to make it work for modern full-time vanlife.

They tow along a storage trailer which allows them to keep all their gear and bikes safely stored away and keeps the van itself more open. The fiberglass roof lets them have a bed that’s out of the way from the living area, and they added a bathroom to the back of the van. We had the opportunity to interview them, and you can read their story below!

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Switzerland-Based Couple’s VW Transporter Van Life with Tow-along Storage

Large Transporter Volkswagen and Tiny house 2

Images via @riexploring

Van life appealed to us for several reasons. Firstly, it offered significant cost savings by eliminating rent payments and minimizing living expenses.

Additionally, the freedom it brings to travel wherever and whenever we want. We both love road trips but have never been great at planning them in advance. This lifestyle allows us to be spontaneous and hit the road without worrying about expensive last-minute accommodations. Plus, always sleeping in the comfort of our own bed enhances our travel experience tenfold. In countries like France, where dining out can be challenging due to strict kitchen schedules, having our kitchen with us has been a game-changer.

Large Transporter Volkswagen and Tiny house 3

Images via @riexploring

Furthermore, having all our hobbies and possessions with us at all times eliminates the need to plan what to take along.

Since we work remotely, having a steady office space with us wherever we go has been invaluable.

Last but not least, the prospect of meeting like-minded people on the road and forming new friendships has been definitely one of the top reasons.

Large Transporter Volkswagen and Tiny house 45

Images via @riexploring

We opted to purchase a self-built camper van from its original owners, who bought a cargo van in 1990 and transformed it into a camper. Despite its nearly 30-year age, it remained in excellent condition with very low mileage, having been primarily used for vacations.

Upon acquiring it, the van lacked a bathroom and featured a layout reminiscent of the ’90s. Additionally, it lacked modern amenities such as a power inverter and lithium battery.

Large Transporter Volkswagen and Tiny house 81

Images via @riexploring

So we undertook a substantial renovation project, prioritizing the reuse of materials wherever possible. For instance, we repurposed the old wardrobe door into a second table, installed on a laguna leg, among other creative solutions.

Large Transporter Volkswagen and Tiny house 44

Images via @riexploring

Our renovations included constructing a new kitchen, refurbishing all seats, building a bathroom and new wardrobes, installing large solar panels and a robust electricity system, fitting a roof vent, incorporating security cameras, and even constructing a trailer from scratch to store all our hobbies, like motorcycles and bicycles.

We also repainted it and modified the engine to enhance its performance.

Large Transporter Volkswagen and Tiny house 4

Images via @riexploring

One standout feature of our van is the custom-built aluminum alcove, which offers a spacious bed while preserving living space, unlike a fixed bed at the rear of the van.

The van itself is also quite unique, being one of the very first Large Transporter Volkswagen vans. This model holds historical significance in the evolution of cargo and camper vans, and its design reflects the ingenuity and craftsmanship of its time.

Large Transporter Volkswagen and Tiny house 5

Images via @riexploring/

The combination of the vintage Volkswagen chassis and the innovative alcove design creates a charming and functional living space that sets our van apart from the rest.

Additionally, we’ve integrated versatile furniture and storage solutions that can be rearranged to accommodate our evolving needs and activities, further enhancing the uniqueness and customization of our mobile home. For instance, we have two tables: one that drops down and another that swivels, providing added flexibility and convenience.

Large Transporter Volkswagen and Tiny house 33

Images via @riexploring

We’ve found several ways to support ourselves financially while living on the road.

Ioana has a full-time job in data science, primarily from home, leveraging the flexibility of remote work while maintaining a steady income.

Large Transporter Volkswagen and Tiny house

Images via @riexploring

Meanwhile, Roman is a content creator, utilizing his skills and creativity to generate an income online. Whether through blogging, photography, videography, and social media, Roman’s content creation endeavors provide a means of financial support while on the road.

Together, our diverse skill sets and remote work opportunities enable us to sustain our van life adventures while pursuing our passions and interests.

Large Transporter Volkswagen and Tiny house 83

Images via @riexploring

Van life has had a profound impact on our lives, mostly for the better. It has allowed us to break free from the constraints of conventional living and embrace a more adventurous and spontaneous lifestyle.

We’ve discovered the joy of living simply and in harmony with nature, appreciating the beauty of each moment and the freedom to go wherever the road takes us.

Large Transporter Volkswagen and Tiny house 87

Images via @riexploring

However, it’s not without its challenges. Living in a confined space requires patience, communication, and compromise, and there are times when we miss the comforts of a traditional home.

Yet, the rewards of van life far outweigh the difficulties.

One of the biggest challenges of van life is adjusting to the constant change and uncertainty.

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Images via @riexploring

While the freedom to travel is exhilarating, it can also be exhausting to constantly be on the move, search for service areas (eg. to refill water) and adapt to new environments.

Additionally, living in a small space requires careful organization and constant cleaning, else it gets messy and chaotic in no time.

It’s a lifestyle that demands flexibility, resilience, and a willingness to embrace the unexpected.

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Images via @riexploring

Above all, van life has strengthened our bond as a couple, fostering a profound connection and shared purpose as we navigate this unconventional journey together. They say that couples who travel together, stay together, and we wholeheartedly agree.

Large Transporter Volkswagen and Tiny house 89

Images via @riexploring

For those intrigued by the idea of van life, we suggest approaching it with an open mind and a sense of adventure. While it’s important to plan and prepare, don’t hesitate to dive in and begin the journey – you’ll learn and adjust as you go. Flexibility and embracing the unexpected are also crucial.

Since your van serves as your home, prioritize regular maintenance and servicing to ensure it remains in good technical condition and minimize any breakdowns during your travels.

Communication and compromise are key, especially when it comes to sharing a small space with a partner. And don’t forget to savor the journey and appreciate the little moments along the way. Van life is a unique and transformative experience, and the memories you’ll make on the road will last a lifetime.

Large Transporter Volkswagen and Tiny house 90

Images via @riexploring

VIDEO TOUR: Our Self-Built Van is Something Else! Van Tour

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Our big thanks to Roman and Iona for sharing! 🙏

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Natalie C. McKee

Natalie C. McKee is a contributor for Tiny House Talk and the Tiny House Newsletter. She's a wife, and mama of three little kids. She and her family are homesteaders with sheep, goats, chickens, ducks and quail on their happy little acre.

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