Van Life – dwelling and travelling South Africa in a mo…

‘Moreover seeing new locations that we’ve by no means been to, for me, the largest revelation has been the individuals. I imply, you all the time know that South Africans are fairly pleasant, however the precise expertise has blown me away. Individuals invited us to remain over without spending a dime, any individual provided us gasoline and we went and crammed up by them; one girl saved bringing us biscuits,” says Sonja van Niekerk. “And it was like that throughout, not simply in a single place. It’s superb how form persons are,” her husband, Reinholdt van Niekerk, provides.

Come August 2022, the couple and their 4 youngsters between the ages of eight and three could have been dwelling and travelling of their double-decker bus for 2 years. Each former lecturers, they’d all the time cherished travelling, and in 2019, after the delivery of their twins, the youngest of their 4 youngsters, Sonja started to fret that they wouldn’t be capable to journey like they used to. After watching a programme that includes individuals who had transformed a bus right into a cell dwelling and used it to dwell and journey in, “I stated to Reinholdt, we should always do this, and he jokingly stated that if I can discover a bus then we will do it”. It didn’t take lengthy for Sonja to just do that.

She searched on-line and located an outdated double-decker bus on the market, and over the following 13 months they started working fixing it up with the assistance of a mechanic. By August 2020, as lockdown restrictions eased, they’d closed up the preschool she owned, put their home up for lease, and hit the highway of their new dwelling. 

“Our first plan was merely to get out of Gauteng as a result of we have been apprehensive that we’d have one other lockdown. So we simply went to Ventersdorp and from there we have been planning on heading in the direction of the coast. However that plan additionally modified on account of circumstances. We rapidly learnt to not make plans, particularly not too far forward,” says Sonja. 

“Issues got here up and we couldn’t go this fashion or we couldn’t discover a place to remain. So then we’d discover different locations in different areas; individuals would supply for us to go and park on their farms. So we went with the movement,” Reinholdt provides. 

The Van Niekerk childrens’ play space on the bus. Picture: Louis Botha Images
The kitchen area on the Van Niekerk bus. Van life
The kitchen space on the Van Niekerk bus. Picture: Louis Botha Images

Often the household spends one to a few months in a single place earlier than transferring on. Sonja continues to show on-line, and so they each spend time home-schooling their children whereas displaying them components of the nation they may not have seen had they stayed put in Gauteng. In the intervening time, they haven’t any plans to cease travelling, though they’re contemplating downsizing to a smaller extra manageable automobile, and parking the double-decker someplace and renting it out as lodging by means of Airbnb.

Michael Monk and Acacia Denison, a younger couple from East London, have been on the highway for six months, travelling and dealing across the nation, and so they too haven’t any plans to cease anytime quickly. “We might be persevering with for a number of years to come back,” says Monk. He studied cinematography and video modifying; Denison studied pictures, and the pair now work on movie tasks and create content material for his or her YouTube channel whereas on the highway in “Yeti the van”, their refurbished Fiat Ducato. Along with the YouTube channel, in addition they doc their travels on their yeti.the.van Instagram account.

Acacia Denison and Michael Monk’s ‘Yeti the Van’. Picture: Instagra/@yeti.the.van

“We bought the van as a very empty shell and we spent one full month engaged on the inside each single day. From seven within the morning till 5 within the night. We put in our home windows and did all of the woodwork. And we had no prior constructing expertise,” says Denison. Over the second month, Monk bought engaged on the engine. Bar the plumbing and electrical wiring, the couple says they did about 95% of the refurbishment themselves over about two months. 

In March 2022, in addition they hosted the inaugural Van Life Competition in Chintsa on the Jap Cape’s Wild Coast. Realising that their chosen way of life may make socialising and forming new bonds a problem, they created the competition as a chance to deliver collectively different individuals on the highway. “Our preliminary idea was to organise a option to meet like-minded people who find themselves additionally travelling in a van. Then it sort of grew to become a complete competition with music and leisure. I’d say that’s how we met 5 to 10 of our closest pals proper now,” says Monk.

Comparatively long-term van life, in addition to the work and time it takes to refurbish a automobile’s inside, won’t be the suitable match for everybody hoping to see the nation whereas dwelling on the highway. Over the previous two years, Sarah and Marek have been travelling domestically and overseas, and doing a whole lot of backpacking. Shortly after returning to South Africa in February 2022, they determined to attempt travelling by van. 

“Van life; you see it in every single place today and it’s develop into increasingly common. We have been all the time pondering to ourselves, ‘would we take pleasure in it?’, and we thought let’s give it a attempt to see,” says Sarah. They determined to rent a van that had already been refurbished and launched into a 10-day journey across the nation, which they documented on their YouTube channel.  

Cash, web, security, restricted house: the sensible aspect of van life

The Van Niekerks purchased their double-decker bus for R35,000 and spent about one other R100,000 over the next 12 months fixing it up earlier than they may name it dwelling. Monk and Denison, then again, purchased their Fiat Ducato for R150,000 and spent a further R30,000 to get it prepared for the highway. Comparatively, Sarah and Marek’s employed van was a contact costlier. On the time of reserving, it was £108 (R1,846 at present change charges) per day. Nonetheless, it was totally fitted, with just a few extras thrown in. 

Sarah and Marek take within the view at a campsite subsequent to their employed van. Picture: Instagram/ @sarahandmarek

“Once we rented the van, we introduced all our personal bedding and cutlery and all of that stuff. However then after we bought there, we realised that the van got here with all of that already; it had every thing, even towels and pillows. After all, you may deliver your personal stuff, however when you don’t wish to, at the very least all of that’s offered,” says Sarah. 

By way of month-to-month expenditure whereas on the highway, that too differs relying on the travellers’ wants and selections. “I’d undoubtedly say it’s cheaper, less expensive,” says Sonja, evaluating their month-to-month diesel and campsite prices with what they may spend on lease or a bond. On common, they spend about R2,000 per thirty days on campsites, as a result of they pay a diminished long-stay payment. Additionally they have a gas-powered geyser in addition to photo voltaic panels on the bus, so that they sometimes don’t plug into the campsites’ electrical energy, which saves cash. Gasoline prices about R2,000 per thirty days. “It’s roughly a complete of R4,000 a month, whereas a home would simply price greater than double that.”  

For Monk and Denison, they’ve discovered their month-to-month spend to be corresponding to the price of dwelling in a single place. “I’d say it’s fairly related, but it surely additionally will depend on the way you journey. As an example, final month we have been hopping round campsites – we’d keep three or 4 nights after which transfer on to a different campsite for 2 nights. That turns into a bit expensive. Now we’ve determined to take a month off and do a whole lot of modifying, so we bought a month’s cross for a campsite which labored out lots cheaper, like a 3rd of the worth. It actually does rely on the way you journey. For us, we mainly take our lease cash and put that in the direction of campsites,” explains Monk. 

Web connection on the highway, nevertheless, requires a bit extra planning, particularly for Monk and Denison, whose work requires the switch of huge media information. “There are undoubtedly connection points, particularly the best way we journey. We are inclined to search for essentially the most distant and most stunning campsites. I’d say round 60% of the time you get to a web site and there isn’t a lot sign, or there isn’t any. However increasingly campsites now realise that it [is necessary], so that they’ll have Wi-Fi at reception or the entire campsite could have Wi-Fi. We additionally attempt to work round it. If we now have a giant job arising we’ll go to a extra city-type campsite the place there’s higher sign, or we’ll obtain every thing earlier than we go into the mountains,” he provides. 

The Van Niekerks maintain a router with a Vodacom SIM card on their bus, which retains them principally linked, and that “works fairly properly. However having stated that, Reinholdt usually walks with a stick and a Wi-Fi modem on the follow attempt to discover the strongest sign. It’s a bit difficult. I do know of somebody who travels and so they all the time look beforehand the place the most effective spots are to go and camp with the suitable connection. However we don’t actually have that luxurious as a result of the bus is so massive; if somebody says we will park at their place, we go there after which we make do with the web connection,” explains Sonja. 

So far as crime and security is worried, it hasn’t been a difficulty for the household of six over the previous two years, bar one time when their bikes have been virtually stolen. “We discovered our bicycles within the tree, so that they weren’t even stolen. They wished to steal them, however they bought caught someway. And that was the largest factor that’s occurred. Moreover that, the bus broke down in a very poor neighborhood, and a bit of lady advised me, ‘auntie, you higher transfer that trailer as a result of somebody’s gonna steal your bicycles’. However even then, the individuals simply saved coming to go to us and checking on us. There have been individuals with a lot lower than us who saved bringing us issues like cool drinks. There have been actually no issues,” she provides.

Monk and Denison haven’t had any incidents both of their six months of journey across the nation. “Security is a common concern round the entire world, so that you’ve simply bought to bear in mind. If we don’t really feel secure at a campsite, we’ll typically spend one evening and go away the next day,” says Monk. “And most campsites have 24-hour safety,” Denison provides. 

On the subject of making do with the restricted house, Sonja emphasises the significance of being comparatively organised: “I believe it’s crucial to have the ability to be versatile. However the one factor I believe that it’s best to know learn how to do fairly properly is to pack your stuff, as a result of a tiny house means you want higher organisation.” However, Monk factors that restricted house means much less cleansing up: “We’re not essentially the most organised individuals ourselves. However there’s all the time a option to make it work. All the things has its place and if the van will get messy, it takes a couple of minutes to scrub up and it’s all good once more. That’s one of many perks, that there isn’t a complete home to scrub up.” 

Whereas longer-term van-lifers just like the Van Niekerks, Monk and Denison have adopted a extra versatile outlook when planning their routes and locations, for these doing shorter journeys Sarah and Marek advocate tight planning. Says Marek: “Plan the place you’re going to be staying each evening. Just remember to have a tenting spot, or you’ve someplace that you could park, as a result of that’ll take a whole lot of stress out of day by day. Make it possible for if you should get to the outlets that you just get there on time. We’ve been to locations the place every thing was closed by the point we bought there, so we couldn’t get water and different necessities. So pre-planning is essential to a great expertise.” 

To van or to not van

“Earlier than we launched into this journey, we did a whole lot of analysis and spoke to lots of people about dwelling in a van. And we had lots of people saying to us that it’s not doable. We’ve discovered it to be 100% doable, and it must be on many individuals’s bucket lists. We additionally attempt to do it as cheaply as doable. I’ve had many feedback on my social media saying it’s a wealthy individual’s way of life, or that it’s too costly to journey like this, or individuals saying that I’m dwelling off my dad and mom’ cash and all that stuff. However that’s not the case, and I really feel like it is rather a lot doable to do that in a budget-friendly manner,” says Monk.

Reinholdt agrees: “Simply chunk the bullet. Take small steps. You’ll be able to even begin with a small van and convert it. I’ve seen individuals with transformed VW Kombis and so they’re proud of them.” 

“I additionally suppose lots of people take a look at movies from abroad and so they suppose that their construct needs to be as fancy as that. It’s your house, what does it matter? So, so far as you’re going to maintain the prices low, see what yow will discover on YouTube. We did a whole lot of the issues ourselves, together with our composting rest room, and it saved us some huge cash,” Sonja provides. DM/ML

In case you missed it, additionally learn Exploring Cederberg’s Nomadland within the final quarantine machine

Exploring Cederberg’s Nomadland within the final quarantine machine


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