Katja and Björn, with their lovely doggy Balthazar, decided to leave everything behind almost a year ago. And, they started their journey with their beautifully self-designed van. Appearing with the name of ‘Beelzebus’ in social media, their experience about vanlife seems remarkable.
|Name||Katja & Björn|
|Age||29 & 33|
|Job||Photographer & Carpenter|
|Hobbies / Interests||Hiking, exploring new places, renovating old vehicles, off-grid cabins, video & photo production|
|Number of Countries Visited||🌍 7 together|
|Social Media Accounts||Instagram/beelzebus|
You decided to such bold action to leave everything behind. What was your inspiration? Can you tell us about the story that how did you decide to do it eventually?
It probably was a combination of a few things. We lived on an island, which can be a bit hard since you are isolated from the rest of “civilization”. We weren’t really happy with our jobs and the place we lived at. I also think that fear that our lives were just passing is playing a big roll in this decision.
After my mother (Katja’s) suddenly passed away just at the age of 42 and then just a year later my great grandmother that I grew up with practically in the same room, I was depressed for many years. I think because my mother passed away at such a young age, it really hit me that if we don’t do things that we want to do, nobody will do it for us! I felt so bad that my mother never got a chance to travel or live her life the way she wanted to. She was in a very unhappy marriage and never did anything good for herself, only for others.
I worked at various jobs then. But, after a while found a job that I really liked so I put all my energy and soul into it. All in all, it was a demanding and tiring job. One summer I thought I started to burn out and I was counting days to my vacation. That summer Björn and I decided to get out of the island. We took our savings and went to Lofoten in Norway for a couple of weeks. We didn’t have enough money to fly, rent a car, and stay in hotels there. So we decided to go with our SUV we had back then (Lincoln Navigator), so we could take Balthazar with us. We haven’t even heard of “van-life” back then. Björn took out the back seats and built a few storage boxes instead and a bed on top of the boxes. And there it was, our first camper! That trip and being closer to nature helped me to recover a little bit and get my will to start photographing again.
We returned to our works and continued taking our SUV on shorter trips both on the island and in Norway. After that summer I worked at my job for another two years. And, eventually, I started having anxiety attacks so I had to run out of the office to somewhere I could be alone to wait until the chest pain and the feeling of fear would calm down a little bit. My eyes started twitching when I was at work, and I realized that I just had to quit, even I didn’t have any back-up plan at the moment. It felt that I could wake up one day, and my whole life had passed, I am old, and every single day had been the same.
Meanwhile, we were talking a lot about how our house cost us so much money, and we always work so much but never have anything left. So we started considering moving. We also got very excited about building an off-grid cabin somewhere on the mainland one day and become completely independent from government, society and etc. A cabin like that would decrease our monthly cost which in turn could give us an opportunity to work less and have more time for our own projects.
Björn didn’t feel good at his former job either. So we decided to move. We sold the house, we paid off all our loans but instead of settling down somewhere, we decided that we wanted to be free for a while, without a house, without any obligations, and maybe travel a bit and see, if we can find a place we’d like to settle down at.
Money is something you can always earn. In the worst-case scenario, we can always find new jobs, work for a while, take a loan, and buy a new house. But our hope is to be able to live a less stressful life and build a house with our own hands without a loan and somewhere we enjoy.
I can see that you built your caravan. Did you have a technical background or you started to learn from the beginning of your journey?
Björn is a handyman, so he can build or fix pretty much anything. He is a carpenter and an electrician by trade. He didn’t know how to weld or much about mechanics at the beginning of our journey though. But he learned to weld by himself so he could fix all the rust holes in our van, and he also learned a lot about mechanics along the way. Every time something breaks is an opportunity to learn something new. And after that part is changed we know that we don’t have to worry about it anymore (at least for a while).
How much was your initial costs like buying a caravan and decorating it? And how do you plan to finance yourself during your travels?
We were planning on spending max. 10 000€ and that’s including the purchase price (ca 4000€) and restoration/build costs, but we ended up spending about 14 000 – 15 000€ in total. We’ve had some money from our house sale that we’ve been using so far since we decided not to work and recuperate from the house and bus renovation and the house sale. It took us almost a year to finish all that, so we didn’t look for work when we started traveling. At the moment we are back on our island due to family matters, and now with this Covid-19 situation unfolding, we’ll probably be staying here and working for a while to save up some money. We are also building a web-shop and just started a YouTube channel, which is not giving us that much money, but our hope is to continue growing it. We are also going to apply for online jobs (if we can find any) at the end of the summer to be able to work on the move. But we don’t have any exact plans yet, since we don’t know if the borders will be open this year or not.
Do you see your self doing this for the rest of your life? What’s your ultimate goal like traveling the whole world with your caravan?
The ultimate goal would be, of course, to travel the whole world. Our biggest dream is to go to Canada and Alaska one day. But, after living on the road for over 8 months and now being back on the island without a house, we are also looking forward to having a property that we can call our own. We are hoping to start with buying a piece of land that we like and then slowly establishing ourselves there, building a cabin/house preferably off-grid. It is always good to have a place you can come back to or use as a base.
There may be some of our readers who will rent a caravan for the first time in their life. So what would you advise to such people about choosing the right caravan and what kind of equipment to take with them for some weeks’ journey?
I’d recommend planning out their journey as much as they can. So, they know what kind of equipment they need. There’s so much information online nowadays, it’s just to do your research. But you have to remember that plans might change, so you just have to keep an open mind. We started traveling in an SUV with a bed instead of the back seats and the first time we went above the Arctic Circle we didn’t even bring any warm clothes with us. It was summer, we thought (big mistake, by the way). But that’s the only way to get out there and learn what you need. I’d say it’s just to go for it if you are just going on a vacation, no matter what caravan you have, and that is how you will learn a lot about yourself, your needs, and what you might want from your perfect camper/caravan.
Would you consider to design and fix caravans for others for a fee?
Yes, it is a rewarding and fun, creative experience, so why not? You can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Which camera do you use for your photographs?
We have a couple of different cameras we use in different situations:
Nikon D800 & D850 for regular photography,
GoPro 6 for underwater photography,
DJI Phantom 4 Pro for aerial photography, and videos.
How many days do you stay in a destination in avarage?
It really depends on the place. From 1-2 days to 4-5. We stayed for almost a week at some places a couple of times. For example, when we had to wait for new parts for the bus or doctor appointments.
Have you ever faced with a wild animal during your journey?
Yes, we have seen raindeers, musk oxen, sea otters, eagles, and moose. We also heard wolfs howling once when we were camping in a forest in Norway. We put Balthazar in the car at once so he’d be safe. And, we’d be able to jump in the car fast if necessary.
Can you describe Balthazar with 3 words?
Kind, devoted, clumsy.
Should we expect a friend for Balthazar any soon?
Yes, we are considering getting a friend for him. 😊