Meet the rad mom who rented a van to visit her vanlife son
Us Indies are real road trip lovers, which is why we tend to look at the vanlife with rose-coloured glasses. To us, it’s mostly glorious sunsets, open country roads, evergreen pine forests, and carefree Millennials behind the wheel. How does that kind of thinking fare with your mom, though? More importantly, what would your mom say if you decided to get a van and drive off into the sunset?
When we heard of Dutch mom Jolanda and her husband Ruud renting an Indie van to visit their van-living son, we were super keen to hear what Jolanda thought of her son’s life and her own vanlife experience. Here’s what she had to say:
Hoi Jolanda, how were the holidays?
We had a blast!
We’re happy to hear that. You told us in your review that you visited your van-living son and daughter-in-law. What do you think of your son’s decision to live the way he does?
We actually encouraged him to go do it. Our son is a free spirit. He loves the outdoors and even had an education in outdoors sports. This society exerts a huge amount of pressure on us; that’s nothing for him.
When we were young, we wanted to travel the world as our son does, but we didn’t have the courage to make the jump. Our generation was taught to settle down, buy a house, get kids. The Millennials look at life differently, so we tell our son to chase his dreams. You only live once, so do what makes you happy–as long as you can fend for yourself, you should be fine.
A lot of people have an image of the vanlife being all about chasing the sun and being on a permanent holiday. What did the vanlife mean to you before you saw your son living it?
Honestly, I really didn’t think much of it. I always thought it was something you do when you’re retired, because it’s older folks you often see in campervans. Personally, I didn’t like it because I thought, yuk, then I still have to cook, do the dishes, and make my own bed. I don’t want to do those things when I’m on holiday. As a matter of fact, I don’t want to have to do anything! I didn’t see why young people would choose the vanlife. Don’t they go backpacking, with a rucksack and little tent?
What are your thoughts on the vanlife now?
This was my first time renting a van. Before that, I just didn’t like the idea of it. Boy, has that changed! I only had a single gas burner to cook with and less space, doing the dishes was harder, but since you don’t experience any societal pressure and, instead, get a taste of freedom, you don’t mind doing any of it. In fact, I loved doing chores, because I was so relaxed and you don’t have to do them, but you choose to; that’s a huge difference. The trip has really changed my perspective. I love it!
I actually noticed that a lot of younger people live this kind of life, with little means and without social pressure, but who are incredibly rich and free inside. And I saw older folks live the vanlife too.
We met a couple of retired Germans in a Fiat van, one just like yours. Robin, our son, told us that all van owners are proud of their baby, so you always get to have a look inside. When we were guided through the van, the couple told us they’d been on the road for over half a year. That’s just, wow, super inspiring. To have a taste of that life, you need to experience it first-hand.
And to see how those kids of ours are living, the places they visit, the mischief they’re up to. Taking cold showers in the mornings, they’ve gotten used to that by now. Little things like that make me so proud.
Would you be able to live that way, too?
Experiencing freedom on the road made me think so, yes. You just go wherever you please, with little means and close to nature. Ruud always had a thing for vans, though he’s a bit more reserved now. We now decided to get a campervan in the future, but first, we’d like to have another go at it with an Indie camper this summer. For both young and old this is a great way to feel what it’s like to be free and feel at home wherever you go.
It’s that freedom of the vanlife that I appreciated so much. I felt safe in the van, too--even on the road. Maybe that safety is even more important to me. It’s a comforting thought, having a home with you at all times. I did have to learn to stow away my stuff before we would start driving. I’d leave things on the counter and would then find them flying around the van at the next roundabout. The vanlife takes some getting used to--but yes, we’re getting ourselves a campervan.
Way to go! Earlier you mentioned you had similar plans when you were young. Why didn’t you make the jump?
We were young and wanted to go abroad, travel the world, but we didn’t have the guts to do so. Robin and Jennifer are doing what we had set out to do. I hugely admire and respect that. You can’t be too materialistic; you’re not going to make it if you are. You have to minimize expenses, the waste you produce, and be respectful of nature. It’s the kind of lifestyle we have to all adopt.
You strike us as a friend of nature, Jolanda. By the way, have you visited any cool places during your road trip that you’d like to share with the Indie community?
We drove our van from Malaga to El Palmar; that place is amazing. It has traces of the Flower Power era, and you meet people of all ages; young surfer dudes, people in their seventies who still live in the seventies.
My son is travelling with his girlfriend, and it felt right to be together in such unique and free-spirited place. We’re not used to that anymore. When, suddenly, the weight of societal pressure drops from your shoulders you realise you have to escape it, somehow. As soon as we can, we’re doing it, too, this life.
In the meantime, if you need a quick escape, we’re here to help you. Thanks for sharing your story, Jolanda!
Jolanda and Ruud started their trip in Malaga and drove west, along the Costa del Sol, to El Palmar.