“Such a parcel van from PostNL”, describes Mandy van Rijs (28) the means of transport that she bought together with her friend Bernhard (31). But there is nothing left of a van now that it has been transformed into a fully equipped camper. The family has been traveling along the west coast of Europe for a few months now. Not just the two of you, but with their few month old baby Eli. “In the Netherlands there is a bit of a taboo on traveling with a small one”, says Mandy.
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When we speak to the couple, they are just on the border of Portugal and Spain. They have been away from home since April and travel along the western European coast. “Mostly because we love surfing”, Mandy explains. They take leave until the end of August for their trip. Mandy was already entitled to leave because of her pregnancy and Bernhard took parental leave. The travel-loving couple left their owner-occupied home in Stadshagen and temporarily rents it out to others.
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From white van to converted camper
Their equipment? A Fiat Ducato L2H2, which they bought in early 2021. But little is left of that ‘PostNL parcel van’, as Mandy describes it. In a few months they refurbished their ‘Duco’. The bus was decorated from the outside and the inside was also overhauled. Everything was insulated and electricity, water and a diesel heater were connected. The couple also created a new floor and fitted kitchen cabinets. Furthermore, solar panels were installed on the roof and the family can even take a warm shower outside the camper thanks to a shower hose.
They did not do everything themselves: a handy relative came to their aid. Good, because Mandy and Bernhard are not handymen by nature. They now have almost two right hands by mainly watching YouTube videos. “You also just have to do it and be a little naive,” she says.
Traveling with a baby
At the end of April their great adventure started. Not just the two of you, but the three of you. Their son Eli was born on February 9. “We received a lot of questions beforehand about how to do that when traveling with a baby. In the Netherlands there is a bit of a taboo on traveling with a small one. But during our travels, we noticed how many people take a baby with them. It is very doable.”
The great thing about taking a baby with you is that you have a lot more time for the little one, says Mandy. “You can enjoy every moment while Eli is so young and growing up. For example, when he went to daycare, I didn’t see his first three rolls.”
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Not too hot
However, they do have to adapt a bit. “In terms of temperature, for example. We look for areas where it is not too hot. The other day it was 31 degrees somewhere and then it is too hot. You don’t want to sleep in a camper with your child.” The couple also likes long walks, as they did before in Australia and New Zealand. That is with a little more difficult. “We are adjusting our activities a bit. Then, for example, one of us can take a long walk.”
The only one left in the family is dog Yoda. “We were very sorry about that. But we wouldn’t have done him any favors if we kept traveling.”
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No top surfers
The couple currently resides in Portugal. They mainly travel along coastal areas so that they can surf there. “We also have the surf gear with us. We’re not top fans,” she says with a laugh, “but we do like it.” Besides the coastal spots, the family also wants to go to the mountains in Switzerland and Austria. And the couple would have loved to travel to Albania, ‘but you have to make choices’.
Speaking of making choices: while traveling, the couple found out that they need far less stuff than they were taking with them. “In the end we don’t even use half of it,” says Bernhard. The couple laughs: “Maybe we’ll move to a smaller house after this. But for the time being, we are in good hands in Stadshagen.”
When the family returns to the Netherlands at the end of this summer, they occasionally want to go on holiday with the camper. Their dream is to one day go away for an even longer period of time. However, they can also enjoy the small trips close to home. “With the camper you can also meet up with friends at the IJssel, while the babies sleep in the camper. Delicious.”