We are Dutch couple with a strong wanderlust to explore the world from a bird’s-eye view. Both passionate hang gliding and paragliding pilots. We have seen most of the European flying sites and some of the best sites around the world because we both competed in major competitions. Since we retired from the competitions our flying appetite is still the same, but we are looking for different ways to enjoy the sky. And although the mind is young, the body isn’t getting younger and waiting for our pensioner’s age won’t do our flying any good. So we were up for a new adventure.
How it all began?
It certainly wasn’t a eureka moment; it was a process that took several years. Firstly, there was the promise of an empty nest. Don’t get us wrong, we loved to have the children around us in our life, but hey, the time was coming fast that one after the other would spread their wings and wander off into their own wide world. Three amazing, wonderful kids with each a mind of their own. I (Daphne) had expected that the empty nest would make me feel very lonely and sad, but the regained freedom after 21 years of mothering and the knowledge that all three did well and enjoyed going their own way, did good on us.
We had been talking and fantasising for a couple of years about buying a campsite in the French Alps, an apartment building in Austria or Spain for some B&B activities, just to be able to fly more, spend more time together and yes, get out of the rat race. Every now and then one of us (usually Daphne) would spend hours on the internet searching for options to have a different way of life. Either way it had to be a manner of living where flying would be the number one activity and as we were still far from a pensioners age, it would have to generate some income as well.
In 2016 we booked a paragliding trip to Bir Biling in the north of India and had a wonderful time flying the foothills of the Himalayas and submerging in the Indian and Tibetan culture. It just struck me one morning, at breakfast, while the sun climbed above the monastery, that this was where I was supposed to be. Not just nine days, but for an indefinite period of time. Not because I had to, but because it was possible without the restriction of but 25 days of vacation time per year. It did not take a lot of time convincing Koos that travelling and flying around the world – in whatever form – was the way to go.
Time for action!
As soon as we came home, we counted our buttons (we did the math on the money), worked very hard for 6 months on our house (redecorating, painting it up and getting rid of all the ballast of 22 years of collected stuff) and put it up for sale in May 2017. In September it was sold and in November we moved into a small flat in Amsterdam to enjoy big city living. Going from a huge country house to a small flat wasn’t very difficult as the next step would be to live full time in a camper.
It was not the only thing we did; we also had to decide what would be our new home on the road. I have had a Volkswagen self-built campervan since 2000 that just wasn’t big enough when I met Daphne with three kids in 2007. So we bought the Ford Nugget campervan from Daphne’s parents in 2008 and exchanged it for a Citroen Jumper campervan in 2013.
Both the Ford and Citroen where just great to meet our needs when going on holiday for a couple of weeks in Europe every year; simple and comfortable housing that could also be moved within 5 minutes should the (flying) weather turn against us. We used to joke that when going on holiday we would decide in Luxemburg whether to turn left to the Alps or right to the Pyrenees based upon the weather forecast. Both vans surely big enough for the two of us, but not good enough to travel the world the way we wanted it.
The new camper would have to be comfortable with a sense of space, warm in winter and cool in summer, with most basic needs covered such as a bathroom, kitchen and 4×4 power to climb mountains and go off road to take us to new flying sites. We were in need off a truck strong and small enough to do the job with ample space for all our toys and that would allow us to live off the grid for at least three weeks in a row. So we spent hours on the internet on finding a suitable camper, we visited camper exhibitions (such as the one in Dusseldorf, Germany) but they were either much too big and glamorous or too small. The problem with most campers is that when you’re inside there’s no sense of outside while that is just what – to us – camping is about. The narrow door gives you a feeling of being locked up and the storage is always too small. Going bigger would be way outside our budget and therefore no option.
One day we stumbled upon tiny houses made of box trucks with a normal door at the back of the truck and straight walls, easy for making furniture. Just browsing with this concept in mind we found more and more converted box trucks and even one with a loading platform; that’s when it hit us! We would convert a box truck into a camper and the loading platform would be the extended floor, or terrace if you will, with double doors giving access to a light and open living space. Big enough to even store a 5-meter hangglider and four paragliders. We could image ourselves drinking beer on the terrace at sunset overlooking amazing landscapes!
We made floorplan after floorplan fitting all our needs into this new camper concept; what we were looking for simply did not exist yet. Meanwhile Koos did some research on how to self-built an overlander truck and searched Dutch and German websites for the perfect used truck (we will go into more detail about the truck later). After a couple of months he was fed up with browsing, put an offer in for a truck in Germany, drove off with a friend (who did have the proper driver’s license) and the next day we were the proud owners of a box truck!
It was only three weeks before we would leave on holiday, the truck was still empty and neither of us had a driver’s licence to drive our 5 tons truck! After just an amazing two weeks of studying Koos passed the theoretical exams and only 4 days before we would ride off, he passed the practical exam! In those 4 days left before our holiday we made a back door and window, installed a rear view camera, put in a table with a sink and small water container, a port a potti and stowed all our stuff, including the litter box of Mickey our cat, under a normal double bed. The small packed hang glider barely fit into the truck and the bikes blocked the way to the bed, but who cared! We rode off and turned left at Luxemburg! The adventure began!
We hope you enjoy the ride!
Daphne & Koos