Through the power of the Internet, I met Crom (Boef) and Valine and found out about their amazing story. They are driving across eastern Europe ’84 Volkswagen T3 with a diesel 1.6 engine called “Box”. These three small yet meaningful letters were quickly adopted as their van name and license plate because lets face it, It really sounds cool! Valine is from The Netherlands and always had the dream to travel long-term. However, it just never seemed to happen. She moved abroad to Berlin, Germany, and went on many trips within Europe. Eventually she slowly got sucked into an office-career in Berlin. The career always felt like a temporarily thing because she knew she wanted to travel. Two years ago, she decided enough is enough! She quit her job and left for Brazil. She saved enough money for a few weeks of travel, but wanted to extend the trip as long as possible. She decided to do voluntary work in exchange for food and a place to stay in order to cover most of her living costs. During the stay at one of the places where she volunteered, Pineal Gland Iniversity, she met Crom. Since then she did not stop traveling.
Crom grew up in the jungle of Brazil, where he was raised by tribe of savages until he was 13 years old. The savage tribe where he grew up with was totally free from fear and stress. Their language did not have the word ‘no’, nor possessive pronouns. This meant Crom grew up without any restrictions and without the concept of possessions. At the age of 13, he was forced to leave the jungle and was obliged cope in a new world he felt was full of restrictions. At the age of 16, he started to travel in search of a society where he would fit in. 24 years later, he had traveled to 50 countries, and still didn’t feel like he had found a place to call home.
When Crom and Valine met in Brazil, they discovered they both shared the dream of traveling in a minivan. After Valine left, they kept in touch and 2 years later Crom came to see her in Berlin. The subject of the minivan came up again and from that moment it all went very fast. One week later they bought Box, took everything they owned, put it in the van and went on the road!
To sustain their lifestyle, Valine works as a freelance communications manager and copywriter. She is the typical digital nomad: working from every place that has WiFi and electricity. Crom is responsible for the maintenance and improvement of Box. He also offers his skills to local people or companies. He is a carpenter and 3D artist. On many occasions he has exchanged his skills for food or free stays for them both .You can see his 3D artwork here.
We’ve sent them a few questions to know more about the European van life movement!
What goals are you pursuing in your trip?
We don’t see this as a trip. We see this as our life. We are not planning to go back living in a house any time soon, maybe never! After a few days on the road we realized that this is the real deal, we are livin4wheel! We have total freedom, we can go everywhere we want, when we want and we have everything we need with us.
For now our goal is to keep improving Box. In the first weeks on the road we have fixed the kitchen area: made the water tap and fridge work. Now our next step is to get solar panels, so we can be totally off grid. Eventually we want to see the whole world with Box.
Is there a strong vanlife culture in Eastern Europe?
We have not seen vandwellers like us in Eastern Europe so far. The only other people in campers we have seen, are retired Dutch or German couples with huge white campers with satellite TV. At the moment we are in Serbia and we noticed that we are very rare here. A policeman we spoke to a few days ago even said that he never saw a campervan before in his life. However, in this part of Europe, especially in Serbia, living in a van is very easy. because wild camping and being out in nature is very common in the culture of the balkans, we can camp basically everywhere without any problem.
Can you give us 5 great spots to visit in Eastern Europe?
Our favorite place in Eastern Europe so far was a particular part of Belgrade which is called Ada. It’s an Island in the river Danube with a bridge leading to it. While the parking situation in Belgrade is very difficult, Ada Island is a green oasis of peace. You pay a fee of around 2 euros per day to enter with your car. On the island there are plenty of restaurants with wifi, lots of green space and beaches to bathe in the danube. This was our best camping experience so far: close to the city, all the facilities we need and best of all: almost free of charge!
Wolimierz is a tiny village in the south west of Poland. What is so special about this village is that it houses some interesting cultural centers. One of them is Stacja Wolimierz, an old train station that is now inhabited by an international group of people. Every summer they organize a festival there. Their neigbour, Atelier Wolimierz, organizes concerts of international artists. Just 10 minutes from Wolimierz you can go snowboarding or skiing in the town Świeradów-Zdrój.
Danube region, Croatia
The north eastern part of Croatia is much less visited by tourists than the coastal area. We came here without big expectations, but were surprised by the beautiful nature of natural reserve Kopacki Rit, by the old center of Osijek and most of all by the friendliness of the people in this region. We have been offered a lot of help, beers and even champagne here.
The region around this small town in the south of Slovakia is so full of nature. We stayed here for a month, helping out a couple who just opened a camp site. Every morning our van was surrounded by deers and we could walk in the forest for hours without meeting anyone. In the surroundings are many castles and old monastries to visit. As you can see the scenery is amazing here!
Pilgrimage routes, Hungary.
While driving around in Hungary we noticed that pilgrimage routes are a big thing there. The advantage of this is that there are many open air spots set up for the pilgrim tourists. One of these spots, near the border with Serbia was this one. Apart from the beautiful surroundings, it had a fire place, picknick benches, a dry toilet and even outlets.
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