Two Expert Vanlifers Throw Down Rules For Traveling Abroad In A Van

Life & Culture Writer
03.20.18

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If there’s one thing we love around these parts, it’s people living the vanlife. Sometimes we call them vagabonds. Other times, they are the mad ones. But, above all, they are inspirations, because rather than indulging their wanderlust on occasion, they have built their whole lives around it. And, they have some seriously sweet rides. We haven’t met a single vanlifer whose rig didn’t make us want to hop on Craigslist and look for a large vehicle to convert into our own little home on wheels. But, if you aren’t quite ready to jump feet first into life on the road, you can dip a toe in the refreshing waters of the lifestyle when you travel.

We spoke with Cees Cornelis and Madison Elizabeth about the lessons they learned traveling abroad in a van, and they gave us a number of pro-tips that will help you make the most of living in a van while you explore a foreign locale.

First a little background, Cees and Madison starte their van life adventure in 2016, two years after Cees proposed to Madison in Yosemite National Park. The pair were committed adventurers from the jump and nothing felt more natural than exploring the world with each other. In 2016, the 100 year anniversary of our country’s National Parks, the pair hit the road in a renovated 1989 Mini Toyota Motorhome with the aim of hitting every national park in the country. Not only did they do it, Madison was pregnant with their son Theo for 40 of the park stops.

After reaching their goal, the soon-to-be-trio was supposed to return to the normie daily grind, but the draw of van (or motorhome) living was too great, and they just kept living on the road.

Recently, the family traveled to Iceland, where they continued that badass vanlife while exploring the country. When we discovered this, we knew we had to get their insight on adventuring abroad in a van. The couple were kind enough to speak with us and offer up warnings and suggestions that will help anyone thinking about forgoing a hotel or Airbnb for a mobile home base.

Read on, and consider it for your next adventure.

RULE 1: Pack Light

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Cees: One of the main things we were thinking of as we’re heading to Iceland was the fact that we were going to be in a van in the cold, so we didn’t have room for a ten-piece luggage set full of warm gear. We really had to focus on our layers, what was going to keep us warm and let us adventure and live halfway outside this van and in these wild places. ‘

Madison: We focused on making sure we packed very minimally and packed the best gear. And making sure that Theo was going to be warm enough. That was definitely part of my main concern, making sure we were all warm enough. All the baby gear and taking a lot of stuff over there wasn’t really a huge deal because we were able to keep it really minimal and it made living in a van super easy and —

Cees: And we’re used to that. We’re used to living on the road, packing small.

Madison: I think anyone can do it, as long as they’re willing to try a more minimal lifestyle and go for it. It really wasn’t a big deal.

Cees: Yeah, I actually put together a little blog post on our blog about how to pack minimal for winter in Iceland, and I just really focused on layers. So, I had one set of every individual layer. I had my face layer, an insulating layer, and then a waterproof, windproof layer, and that’s pretty much it.

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