Life On The Road: @samsroadtrips

Leslie CarvittoMarch 19, 2019

Life On The Road: @samsroadtrips

Michel and Brenda are the proud parents of Sam, a bright red, 37-year-old Mercedes van. In the summer months, the couple work long hours running their cozy guesthouse in Sweden. So when winter comes along, they hop in Sam – with their adorable shiba inu dog in tow – in search of warm weather and spontaneous days of adventure.

Hear more about where their travels have taken them so far, what #vanlife items they can’t live without, and follow along on their next adventure @samsroadtrips

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from and where are you going?  

“We are Michel and Brenda Muys and we are currently traveling through Europe and Morocco in a 37-year-old Mercedes van called Sam.

We’ve always had a strong desire to travel and see the world. This urge made us leave Holland in 2006, looking for new adventures in Sweden in a town called Arvika, with our two children Esther and Rik, then 8 and 6 years old. For two years we spent all our time renovating a stately old school into a cozy guesthouse, which today offers 33 beds.

In Holland we were both self-employed – Michel as a building engineer that ran a construction company specializing in renovation and remodeling and Brenda as a graphic designer that worked with websites and printed matter.”


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A post shared by Sams roadtrips (@samsroadtrips) on Feb 6, 2019 at 2:31am PST

What was your main desire for buying a van and hitting the road?

“The past 12 years we have been living life to the fullest. During the summer months, our days are filled with guiding our outdoor activities, preparing meals in our restaurant, making our guests feel at home — it’s a 24/7 job. Realizing time keeps rushing by, we decided it was time to slow down, enjoy life, and head out on an adventure again. Life moves pretty fast and if you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.

In August 2017, we bought this lovely old Mercedes truck and refurbished it into our new home on wheels. The renovation took approximately 3 months and in December 2017 we traveled through Spain for 6 weeks, tested our van and got a taste of new freedom. Our kids followed along during their 3-week Christmas holidays.


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A post shared by Sams roadtrips (@samsroadtrips) on Sep 16, 2018 at 12:58pm PDT

This winter, we decided to close our guesthouse for 6 months and go traveling throughout Europe and Morocco. Both of our kids left home in September because of their studies so traveling was the best option to avoid the empty nests at home.”

How long have you been on the road?

“We visited a lot countries in the last few months; we started in Sweden and from there we took the ferry to Estonia, then went through Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czechia, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, Spain and we are currently in Morocco.

We left Sweden at the end of September 2018 and have been traveling now for 5 months. The past months we covered over 18.500 km!”


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A post shared by Sams roadtrips (@samsroadtrips) on Oct 7, 2018 at 8:31am PDT

What kind of vehicle are you traveling in and why did you choose it?

“We travel in a 37-year-old Mercedes 613 van, which is actually a truck because of its heavy build.

We chose the Mercedes 613 because of the powerful engine (it has a 130 hp engine and that is the strongest one Mercedes gave to those type of vans).

It has air brakes which are great as the van is allowed to weigh 6500 kg, but still under the 7500 kg which for us was a plus. Above this weight, you have much more restrictions in smaller cities.

The engine of the 613 series is incredibly strong and trustable and easy to maintain.


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A post shared by Sams roadtrips (@samsroadtrips) on Oct 22, 2018 at 1:16pm PDT

We like the way it sticks out between al the regular campervans you see nowadays too. We think the look of the Mercedes van is pretty cool and we noticed that we are not the only ones. We got a lot of thumbs up and appreciating smiles on our way through Europe.

It seems like a lot of people know this van is from almost forgotten times and it brings back good memories.”

Was it nerve wracking driving around the small roads of Europe? 

“Italy was our longest stay up until now. We traveled this country for 6 weeks. The biggest challenge were the nice and tiny villages, which are not always easy to pass with a big truck like ours. Sometimes we didn’t have more than a few inches at each side to pass a street, leaving a big traffic jam of irritated Italian motorists behind. But we just kept smiling and at the end we were used to it and we even received some thumbs up when we finally managed our way through.


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A post shared by Sams roadtrips (@samsroadtrips) on Oct 14, 2018 at 8:15am PDT

The ‘green zones’ can also be a challenge in a lot of bigger cities. We were not allowed to drive with our van because of its age and emissions. Most of the times we parked outside these zones and used our folding bikes to come in, which gave us some nice extra exercise as well.”

What kind of renovations did you make?

“Some of the body parts, like all the wheel arches and doors needed to be welded and fixed. This was one of the biggest costs we had with the van, but we knew this from the beginning and bought the van for the right price.

Michel’s skills as a building engineer certainly came in handy while converting the van. The van was already converted into a camper in the beginning of the 90s, but there was only a steady bed for one person only. So we converted the back part to a double bed with a garage space underneath. We repainted almost everything from the inside to the outside.


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A post shared by Sams roadtrips (@samsroadtrips) on Oct 13, 2018 at 1:47am PDT

We also renewed the plumbing and water drains, changed all the water taps and made some changes in the gas heating system. The gas heating was not working as we liked because it took too long to warm up the van and we wanted a system which we also could use safely while we were driving. We placed a diesel heater under need the bench and made a connection directly on the fuel line of the van. So now we have a warm van whenever we need it.


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A post shared by Sams roadtrips (@samsroadtrips) on Sep 16, 2018 at 1:44pm PDT

Because we like to stay off grid a solar panel could not be missed and we placed a panel on the roof and made an extra battery for the housekeeping part in the van. The old inside lights used too much energy, so we replaced them for warm halogen lamps – this way we never run out of energy. We even made a new wooden table, fixed an outdoor antenna to bring WiFi into the iron van, and then it was ready and updated exactly like we wanted it.”


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A post shared by Sams roadtrips (@samsroadtrips) on Sep 22, 2018 at 7:13am PDT

What have been a few of your favorite locations so far?

“We’ve visited a lot countries and beautiful places the last 6 months. But our favorites so far are:

    • Rome. It’s one big open air museum. We parked on a perfect spot for free for 2 nights. Close to the park and next the zoo. It was amazing to wake early in the morning to the sounds of elephants in the middle of the city center. 


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A post shared by Sams roadtrips (@samsroadtrips) on Oct 20, 2018 at 11:59pm PDT

  • Matera. One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, this city offers spectacular views while walking in the valley cut out by the Matera Gravina, or the Matera river. (It’s essentially a deep canyon pockmarked with abandoned caves, villages and cave churches.)


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A post shared by Sams roadtrips (@samsroadtrips) on Nov 3, 2018 at 10:14am PDT

  • Zagora. This town is in the Draa river valley (in the southeastern part of Morocco). It’s a really laid back place, with friendly citizens and relaxing palm gardens to get lost in.

Have you found most locations to be dog friendly? 

“Yes, a lot of places are dog friendly. In our opinion, it depends a bit on the type of dog you bring. Our shiba inu is really well trained and a small dog which helps a lot. I don’t know if bigger dog owners have the same experience as us. What also helped is the fact that we visited a lot of big cities and countries in wintertime, which means lesser tourist and dogs are aloud on the beaches.” 


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A post shared by Sams roadtrips (@samsroadtrips) on Oct 22, 2018 at 1:32am PDT

Do you have any tips or advice for people who want to travel with their pet?

“Traveling with pets requires good preparation. Different rules apply within the European Union (EU) than when traveling with your pet outside the EU. Because dogs and cats can carry diseases such as rabies, they have to be vaccinated and for some destinations, a health certificate from the veterinarian may be required.” 

What does a typical day look like for you?

“Well we really like to take it slow while traveling. During the summer months when we are running our guest house we have a lot of working hours. Seven times a week our day starts at 7 a.m. and ends after 11 p.m. So when we are living our van life we like to take the day as it comes. When we have parked along a beach, we have an early morning walk with the dog, buy some fresh bread at a nearby bakery and during breakfast we discuss plans for the rest of the day. We take a look at the weather, check our routes and decide if it’s time to hit the road again.”


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A post shared by Sams roadtrips (@samsroadtrips) on Oct 19, 2018 at 12:44am PDT

Do you plan your route? Or travel spontaneously?

“We travel spontaneously. That’s what we like the most about vanlife. If we don’t like the place, we leave it, or if we feel good vibes we stay as long as we like. Most of the time it’s not more than 3 days because we get restless. The only thing we plan is the countries we want to visit, but even this can sometimes change along the way. A lot of things can be arranged during your travel especially when you travel in Europe.”


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A post shared by Sams roadtrips (@samsroadtrips) on Oct 27, 2018 at 3:01am PDT

What are your 5 must-have items for van life?

  • Solar panel. We like to park off-grid and solar panels make this far more easier.
  • Heater. A must have when you travel in winter. We installed a diesel heater which warms up our tiny living space in less than 20 minutes and keeps us warm while driving.
  • Power converter. Really convenient when you are off-grid and have to charge a dead laptop.
  • Duster and bin. We like a tidy van. 
  • Warm water kettle. The first thing we put on the stove each morning – can’t do without coffee or tea.


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A post shared by Sams roadtrips (@samsroadtrips) on Oct 14, 2018 at 1:27am PDT

What’s surprised you most about life on the road? What have you learned about yourself?

“What surprised us most is that we really don’t need much to be happy. Less is more! A living space of 14 square meters with some wheels underneath is enough for us. We definitely like being on the road. If we stay longer than 3 days at the same spot, we get restless. We like to see new places and learn about other cultures.

We’ve also learned that after 30 years together, our relationship is still strong. A good relationship with your travel partner is a prerequisite when you live on 14 square meters 24/7!”


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A post shared by Sams roadtrips (@samsroadtrips) on Nov 6, 2018 at 6:25am PST

Do you plan to take Sam on adventures every winter once your guesthouse is closed?

“We for sure realize it’s a luxury earning our money during the summer months by running our lively guesthouse, and spending the winter months traveling in our home on wheels. But one way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure. Who knows what tomorrow brings? You only live once, but if you do it right once is enough. So yes, we’re definitely going to take Sam on new adventures again next winter season.”


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A post shared by Sams roadtrips (@samsroadtrips) on Feb 13, 2019 at 11:39am PST

Leslie Carvitto, Outdoorsy Author

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