Join journey of an adventurous couple living life on the road. Wanderlust on wheels awaits as they explore the world with unbridled passion Thomas Hadinger has been living with his girlfriend Regina on their much loved Vanagon for a while but this lifestyle has not been that new to him. While it may seem really exciting, it’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. We had the pleasure to talk to them about their adventures and the challenges that this life brings along with it. Check it out below.
Thomas was born and raised in Vienna. His father was born in Lower Austria, but moved to Vienna with his family at a young age; his mother was an elementary school teacher while his father was an engineer. Thomas and his sister used to spend most of their summers and school holidays traveling in a camper, which greatly influenced his love for the outdoors.
Regina, on the other hand, grew up in a small village in Lower Austria, with both her grandparents working as farmers. Being outdoors was all she knew and loved. However, prior to meeting Thomas, she had no experience in camping.
What inspired you to choose van life as your mode of travel and lifestyle and how long have you been doing it for?
I (Thomas) have spent most of my life traveling by camper. It all started with my grandparents after World War II, when they had a small amount of money and had to choose between buying a small house or a caravan. They opted for the latter and hit the road every chance they got. My mother was raised this way and continued this travel tradition with her own children. As a family, we spent 1-2 holidays in hotels and we all hated it.
Traveling by camper has always felt the most natural to me. While my friends dreamed of fast sports cars, my first vehicle was a blue VW Vanagon (the current Edelweiss). Even during my studies, when I had hardly any money, I drove it every free weekend into nature, for mountain climbing, lake visits, or skiing. Traveling with a camper is uncomplicated. You just hit the road, and stop when you’re tired or in a beautiful area. There’s no need for extensive planning, bookings, or organization. My camper is always parked in front of my door, ready to go. Traveling with a camper means pure freedom to me. You’re unbound, flexible, and accountable to no one.
How do you manage your finances while living on the road? Any tips on budgeting and saving life or rather making enough money so you don’t have to penny pinch?
Traveling by camper can be very affordable. We spend less money while on the road than we would at home. By mainly wild camping and cooking for ourselves, we save a lot of money. We produce our own electricity (using solar panels) and cook using (cheap) gas. We primarily live off savings, but also earn some extra income through social media partnerships as well as film and photo jobs (I am a filmmaker by profession).
The choice of countries you travel to impacts your travel expenses significantly. Northern Europe entails high costs while countries such as South or Asia are comparatively cheaper in terms of food and fuel. Our expenses in countries like Turkey and Asia were only a fraction of what we would have paid in core Europe. Wildcamping is also more relaxed in these countries.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as a couple while living in a van? How do you over come them?
Living as a couple in a tiny space for an extended period is not easy, and it may not be suitable for everyone. During this lifestyle, you witness your partner at their best and at their worst. With hardly any privacy, you really get to know each other. Vanlife can magnify any problems that couples may face, but not being able to run away means that disputes are typically resolved faster than at home. Shared experiences and overcoming obstacles lead to a powerful bond. One important thing we learned is that just because you travel together, it doesn’t mean you should always do everything together. Giving each other space is essential, whether it means going out with others to a city alone or taking a day to hike, practice sports or just sit together in the van, not talking for a whole day. Although it may seem strange to some people, we found it incredibly important for our relationship.
Did you convert your van into a livable place yourself or did you get it done for you? If you did it yourself, what process did you went through to make it into a livable space? Any unique features or modifications you’ve made?
The Vanagon underwent a complete gutting and refurbishment prior to our big trip of wanderlust. Except for the engine work and paint job, we tackled everything ourselves. As former office workers, we had to teach ourselves various crafts from scratch – from woodwork and sheet metal work, to the electrical system and plumbing. It was crucial to us that the bus look great not just from outside but also from the interior. After all, it was going to be our home for two years. Additionally, it was vital that it was well-equipped for our long journey through diverse countries and at different times of the year. The key features of our expansion include a 160 Ah lithium battery system with voltage converter, so we can use normal 230V household appliances in the van. An activated carbon water filter that turns dirty water into drinking water, an outdoor shower, as well as sand sheets and a jack for self-recovery, an 85-liter ice chest with freezer compartment, and a ceiling made of 150-year-old sunburnt wood.
How do you balance work and travel while living in a van?
Maintaining a proper balance between work and travel can be a challenge, especially for content creators. However, as traveling is our way of life, we have a routine similar to anyone else, comprising of days dedicated to travel, organization, repairs, and work. Nonetheless, our activities are subject to natural conditions, and we’re reliant on sunny weather (especially with solar power) and strong cell phone network coverage to achieve productive working hours.
What are some of the unexpected benefits or positive changes you’ve experienced since embracing the van life lifestyle?
Although it may sound cheesy, we came to realize that we don’t need many things to be happy. Living the van life means having fewer material possessions but more of life’s experiences. You spend most of your time outside, surrounded by beautiful nature, and have the opportunity to meet new people every day, whether locals or fellow campers. We also learned that there’s no need to be fearful because the world is inherently a friendly place. Even after two years of full-time van life, we have yet to encounter an unpleasant experience or dicey situation. Instead, we have encountered incredible hospitality and helpfulness, particularly in the “poorer” countries many people back home warned us about constantly.
In the past, every day felt the same: the same environment, the same people, and often, we didn’t even notice the weather outside while working in the office. Now, we experience everything much more intensely. Although we still maintain some routines, the constantly changing environment of wanderlust makes it all very exciting.
Does traveling in a Van limit the places you visit and the way you make your itineraries? How does that process work for you?
On the contrary, a van enables us to visit unique and offbeat locations, unexplored by typical tourists. Additionally, it allows us to have popular spots to ourselves by camping remotely and visiting early in the morning or late in the evening when no one else is there. This is especially advantageous for me as a photographer, as the lighting is best during these periods of the day.
Can you tell us about some unique expereinces you had that you would not had it not been for your Van?
An advantage of driving an old VW bus is the small yet active VW community that exists in various countries. In every country we visited, local T2 or Vanagon drivers approached and invited us on the street or on social media. Repair work was quickly taken care of, and we often became part of the community – enjoying joint campouts, barbecues, and excursions.
As our bus is both eye-catching and charming, we are also frequently approached non-VW enthusiasts. Strangers even snap selfies with Edelweiss, leading to intriguing conversations and new friendships. Our bus acts as a genuine icebreaker.
How long do you think you would like to continue this lifestyle?
Our recent two-year-long trip, which took us from Austria to Armenia, is ending this late summer. As our travel budget has gone dry, and we need to earn some money back home. We have not yet decided where our next adventure will take us. But India and even more distant destinations have been on my mind.
What advice would you give to individuals or couples who are considering van life as a lifestyle choice?
Vanlife may appear to be breathtakingly beautiful, yet it can become incredibly exhausting. Full-time travel should not be confused with vacation as it involves a number of daily tasks. Like repairing the car, filling up water, producing electricity, searching for a campspots, emptying the toilet, shopping, washing up, cooking, and more. Which take up much more time than you would typically spend at home. Moreover, there is the ever-present need to adapt to new places, acquaintances, languages, customs, and countries. In addition to performing an ample amount of organization and paperwork for border crossings. However, vanlife is by no means an idyllic scenario of lounging on the beach all day (but of course can be sometimes), particularly if you also need to work.
I highly suggest that any couple who’s considering vanlife should first try it out for a while. Maybe by renting a camper for a few weeks. This will help you to quickly realize if it suits your lifestyle and preferences. Including aspects that you might require in your own camper. @edelweiss.on.the.road. To check out some articles about top celebrities, check out networthnexus.