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We live and work out of a motorhome with which we discover Europe

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We live and work out of a motorhome with which we discover Europe

Amelie and Mathias expanded their van independently – and then traveled through Europe for a year. Amelie Falke & Mathias Nösel

Amelie Falke and Mathias Nösel have been touring Europe for a year in a van that they built themselves. The car cost her 16,000 euros and the conversion cost an additional 25,000 euros.

In the summer of 2021, they quit their jobs and lived on their savings for a year.

Each of them spent around 1,500 to 2,000 euros a month on gas and food. This means that your everyday costs are higher than before the trip.

I reach Amelie Falke and Mathias Nösel as they are taking a break in their van at a rest stop near Vechta. We are talking via Facetime, a truck is driving past them and in the back of the vehicle you can see that the van is fully loaded with furniture and boxes. They have just closed down a small warehouse in which they stored things from their old apartment for a year. They are on their way to Bochum to visit Amelie’s parents and put the items there.

The things were put into storage for a year after Amelie and Mathias gave up their apartment in Hamburg to take a year off. “After graduating from high school, I went to college straight away, then went to work for a PR agency for four years and quickly took on responsibility. “Last year was the right time for a break,” the 28-year-old tells us. Mathias, who is 35 years old and works as an art director, also saw the time for a break. Since Mathias is self-employed, he didn’t have to quit his job and instead didn’t take on any further projects.

“It was definitely a leap into the unknown,” Amelie remembers. The plan looked like this: buy a used van, expand it and then drive across Europe for a year. They calculated 15,000 euros for the vehicle and another 15,000 for the expansion.

Conversion costs more by 10,000 euros

But it should be significantly more expensive. The van ended up costing 16,000 euros, which was about within the budget. However, they had to spend 25,000 euros on the expansion, which they carried out from summer 2020 to 2021 – even though they installed almost everything themselves. They learned how to install the bed, stove and shower with the help of YouTube videos.

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Amelie Falke

“We were pretty proud that we managed to do that,” says Amelie and Mathias adds: “We have a sink, a shower, a dry-separating toilet, a gas hob, a 1.40 meter wide bed and an air suspension to compensate for lean angles.”

Camping hype and rising wood prices made the conversion more expensive

The fact that they spent 10,000 euros more than they had previously budgeted for was due to the camping hype during the corona pandemic. At that time, prices in the industry rose significantly. “The prices for wood also rose sharply during Corona,” says Mathias. This made the expansion significantly more expensive, as the van is lined with wood on the inside.

Cooking here uses gas. Amelie Falke

But right from the start of the trip they noticed other things that would be missing. So they installed a second battery because the only one so far didn’t last long enough on its own. With a solar system on the roof, you can now travel independently for up to five days. The stovetops are powered by gas. A five-liter bottle of gas is enough for around three months. As a camper you can get water for free almost everywhere.

“But you also have to say that it’s a kind of luxury camper that we have,” says Amelie. Many people didn’t need many things, such as hot water. “But we knew that we wouldn’t just be on the road for a few weeks, but would also be living in the van for an indefinite period of time and also working from here.”

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Costs: 1500 to 2000 euros per month for each person

The journey began in the summer a year ago. First we went to Tuscany before taking the ferry to Sardinia. Then to Barcelona and from there to Mallorca. They liked it there so much that they stayed for three months. They then went back to Germany for Christmas, where they visited their families. The last stage for the time being was a journey via Denmark to Sweden and Norway. “My highlight was definitely Scandinavia. There was a real adventure feeling in Lofoten,” remembers Mathias.

The bed is two meters long and 1.40 meters wide. Amelie Falke

But how much does it actually cost to live in a van? “We spent 1,500 to 2,000 euros a month per person. We financed ourselves through our savings,” explains Amelie. However, this includes all living expenses, gas, tolls and car insurance. The exact costs also depend heavily on which country you are currently traveling in. It was particularly expensive in Scandinavia.

High fuel prices due to war in Ukraine

The biggest cost on the trip was the gasoline, which has become significantly worse due to the sharp rise in fuel prices since February. “We’re not waiting for a high additional payment for electricity and heating,” jokes Mathias.

Amelie Falke

“I don’t think we’re saving anything by living in a van; in fact, the cost of living has increased compared to Hamburg,” explains Amelie. The two lived there in a small apartment for which they paid 850 euros rent.

In order to minimize costs, the two avoided campsites, explains Mathias: “I always liked being in the middle of the ‘prairie’ best anyway.” But they were careful not to disturb any residents and only in certain places to camp where it was actually allowed.

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Amelie and Mathias enjoyed camping in the great outdoors. Amelie Falke

“But we didn’t always just spend the night on dream beaches. “We often just stood on the street or in a McDonald’s parking lot,” says Amelie. The McDonalds parking lots would have been particularly popular because “there was always free Wi-Fi there.”

Now they want to continue working – but on the road

Another cost item was food. Cooking on two hotplates in a van works well, “but we also went out to eat a lot. For me, that’s part of it if you want to experience the culture of a country,” says Amelie. Of course, it’s much cheaper to live in a van, the two say, but with their savings they were able to afford the lifestyle on the trip.

After Amelie and Mathias have lived in a van for a year, their conclusion is almost exclusively positive. They were still missing something. “You don’t need much when traveling in a van, but what we definitely missed were our family and friends. You usually always have them around you so naturally,” says Mathias.

Nevertheless, the two of them enjoyed life in the van so much that they are not thinking about renting an apartment for the time being. Now they want to work from the road and finance their onward journey that way. However, they don’t yet know where they’re going after the stop in Bochum. Maybe to Spain or Portugal.

Disclaimer: This article first appeared on September 18, 2022. It was re-released in March 2024.

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