Hello, my name is Gerfried. I’ve been traveling by camper van since I was four years old. It’s been over three decades now. Today I’m on the road with my wife, Olya, who also caught the camper van virus. Here we would like to introduce ourselves briefly and say a few words about our entry into camper van travel.
- Comes from Graz, Austria, and has “always” been on the road in a camper van.
- Professionally started as a software engineer, then moved to middle management in the area of e-learning & certification of a warehouse logistics equipment manufacturer.
- After 10 years of large corporations and professional trips around the world, he now runs an online marketing agency and occasionally works as a photographer / videographer .
- Lived in France for a year
- In his free time frequently found on a racing bike, mountain bike or windsurfing. He’s still practicing kitesurfing. Always carries a camera, and at least one book (preferably several!). Coffee fan, with a large espresso machine at home, who has to accept compromises in this regard while travelling. The camper van is the preferred way of traveling in leisure time.
- Well-traveled: Born in Kiev, grew up in Toronto, been living in Austria for over a decade.
- Professionally active as a technical editor. (Makes sure that users can operate their products).
- Loves to knit and does it almost all the time. An avid reader (who loves audiobooks, so that she can knit at the same time).
- On board on (almost) all the camping van travels. Occasionally takes photos, leaves WoMoGuide to Gerfried for now. Likes to contribute to quality checks. “Noooo, you can’t write it like this!”.
Gerfried’s childhood memories of camper van travel
My early vacation memories include weeks of incredibly relaxed beach vacations in Greece in the 80s (which was very tolerant towards wild campers at the time). These alternated with extensive camping trips to almost all European countries.
On the motor block of a VW LT
At the time, my favorite travel position was right on the engine block of my parents’ VW LT camper van (at the front between the front seats). So I got up close and personal with every kilometer of the journey, and soon became active in support (at least that’s how I saw it as an 8-year-old) by interpreting maps. At that time, I was allowed to turn the steering wheel for the first time under Dad’s supervision (on remote gravel paths). At that time I hardly knew campsites, motorhome holidays were still really connected with unlimited freedom.
As a teenager in a camper
When I was a teenager, my parents’ thirst for adventure finally waned a bit and I first experienced campsite holidays. I had to get used to that!
As a child who had learned to entertain himself with catching and grilling fish from streams and building kites from Greek plastic tablecloths and reeds, I couldn’t do anything with the animation offerings on Croatian campsites.
Time and again I successfully lobbied for “cool” camper van trips. These trips were only “cool” when they were far away, for as long as possible, and to countries that were as unknown as possible.
The end of camper van travels – for now
It was only when the state of Austria prevented me from traveling for months for the purpose of national defense that my camper van travel time as a fellow traveler came to an end. One or the other time I was still involved – but student city trips and camping in tents were given temporary priority.
The first camping travels on our own
When I met Olya, I found someone interested in camper van travel. Now the parents’ motorhome was being borrowed time to time. The van had meanwhile given way to a second generation of alcove vehicle, and as campervan travelers at age 20 and 25, we were in a sense an attraction on campsites. The desire to practice this type of travel more often was soon there, but the student budget did not allow this plan to be implemented for the time being. After all, there was a lot of time for research.
On the road with car and tent
After joining the workforce, we spent a few holidays with the car and tent, but realized quickly that our preferred way of travelling was much too laborious with a car and a tent. On Corsica, for example, we packed up our tent in the morning, were out and about all day, ate lunch standing at a parking lot, only to build up our tent at the next camping pitch. Even though pumping up the air mattress all the time was a great fitness program, one thing was clear: we need a camper van.
First camping van
I was already away for five weeks on a business trip in Mexico as my dad sent me a message: “T3 Westfalia Joker for sale, discovered in a barn. Probably gone by the time you return”. Well, not with me.
The first, own, camping van
Olya was sent first to view it and take pictures – and she was convinced quickly. In the middle of a handover test at a customer in Mexico I get a message: “I’m sitting on the bed, dangling my legs off the back. Imagining which beach we could be doing this at”. A friend took care of the technical check, which also ended well: “Either you buy it – or I will!“. Myself, I spent every free minute with research of possible weaknesses and experiences online. My first camper van purchase was being organised via internet. One banking transfer later, a VW Westfalia Joker was our first camper van – and I still had to wait three long weeks for an intercontinental flight home.
Sprucing up an oldtimer VW
Our vehicle, built in 82 and already 30 years old, needed sprucing up after my return, resulting in weeks of work. The T3 was optically perfect, but we wanted it to be a little more modern. New curtains and seat covers were sewn, wallpaper removed, a new coat of paint applied inside, the gas system renewed, a waste water tank and ultra-modern LED lighting system installed, and the engine was given an additional oil cooler. In the end, our jewel was ready for the first trip – which was mastered brilliantly. Three weeks in Greece are still one of our most exciting holiday memories.
We need more space!
The Bulli had one problem, however: there was not enough space. We were on the road with the indestructible bus for two seasons, but then we had to admit that I had an impractical hobby: windsurfing is probably one of the most material-intensive sports. In the T3, this meant that the interior was packed to the top. If we wanted to get to the fridge on the road, either Olya had to perform acrobatic contortions, or one had to push the whole “clutter” outside in a parking lot, get a water bottle, and then load everything up again and lash it down. Overnight stays while traveling were not very relaxing – I kept one eye open, watching the expensive equipment that had to “wait” next to the bus without being secured.
So we finally upgraded to a Pössl Duett L. Finally we had enough space. Windsurfing material on the roof, bikes on the rear, and us in “luxury” inside. From spring to winter, we were on the road many weekends and almost every vacation – the camper van was always ready to go.
2018: A camping van buying year
In 2018 we sold the Pössl and started looking for a new camper van. It should be more spacious, potentially suitable for families, with increased comfort, and more self-sufficiency. The choice fell to a Knaus Boxlife 630ME, which we should receive in June 2018. That finally turned into August, and we started our first trip with the new camper almost immediately.
2020: Europe trip?
2020 was to be a year of great changes. On the one hand we take a break, on the other hand we are reorganizing ourselves privately and professionally. And of course that calls for a trip around Europe!
Unfortunately, at the most inopportune time, Corona intervened, and our plans were seriously mixed up. Nevertheless, we are still working flat out on WoMoGuide, and at some point we will get travelling again!
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There are many who are interested in camper van travel, but only a few actually spend their vacations in a camper van.
Anyone who hasn’t yet traveled with a camper van cannot know the many things that only emerge from experience. Purchasing a camper van is of course difficult, and presents itself as an almost insurmountable hurdle of research and potential for errors.
At some point, when I was explaining the same “camping basics” over and over again, I thought to myself: “You should write that down”. A few years have passed since this thought, but now it is finally happening: The WoMoGuide offers
- Information for beginners
- Buying guide for newbies and old hands
- Structured decision helpers
If there are any topics that haven’t been discussed, please let me know!
“somebody has to write this camping know-how down” Gerfried, ca. 2013
More about the WomoGuide book project here
Why the Name “WoMoGuide?” Well, WoMo is short for “Wohnmobil”, the German word for camper van. And this is a guide about camper vans. Why the .de domain ending? Well, our initial target group was the entire German speaking camper van community in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. When we started Womoguide.de, we wouldn’t have believed that the project would grow so big to justify an English version!