In these times when we are urged to put everything on pause and stay home, it’s refreshing to reminisce about better days (or months in this case), when freedom was a lifestyle, and not just a moment of extreme spoil and happiness. The Stokvis family is proof that you are the only one in charge of your fate – not your surroundings, not your spouse, not your neighbours or the society. They are proof that there is nothing that can hold you back from living the life of your dreams.
It is never too late or too early to start living the life you ever dreamt of living. All you need is a camper, your loved ones and a burning desire to escape routine and enter an unforgettable adventure.
Who is Anouska and the Stokvis family in a couple of words?
We are The Stokvisjes… Anouska, Victor, Liv, Spencer and Zebedee Stokvis (our dog). We decided to make a life changing travel experience. Not only in the places we’ve been and seen but also an internal journey. There were some things in our life that didn’t match with our vision of life. Both Vic and I worked so hard and we were always busy spending our money and “buying” time with our kids. Besides that, we weren’t aware of the small things in life. Things that really make us happy and grateful. It was always some kind of very tight schedule for us and when things turned out differently, like when one of our kids got sick, or Vic had to work over-schedule and it would get late, it gave us so much stress. “The train” never stopped.
You recently returned from the adventure of your lifetime – so far. Take us from the beginning – how did this all start, when did you make the deicision to sell everything, buy a bus/ camper and cruise around South of Europe with 2 small kids (and a dog!)? What triggered this adventure?
My dad got really sick for 6 months and he died, Spence was only 10 months old at that time. And after that, Vic got his burn-out. So we were really in for some change in our lives. My dad couldn’t be there for my 30th birthday and he was not able to see our kids growing up. Being confrontated with these things in life, I became more aware about living in the present. We don’t know what tomorrow brings and we can’t do anything about what happened before. We can only have influence on what’s now and how every second now you have a choice.
So our plan was to sell everything. Quit our jobs and buy a camper and GOOOO. So this is what we did. We just let the wind take us to a warm place and we started in Spain. No further plans. Victor is a brilliant mechanist and knows all about campers and driving them, so I was lucky!
We started our journey in Spain around Allicante. We had never camped together before, and we had no experience in living in a small house on wheels, so we decided to take it slow, easy and comfortable. We immediately made friends at the first camp, a young family with one boy and a dog and almost the same traveling plans as ours. So we started our trip together with our new camper besties.
Tell us a little about your 15 months trip… The places you have seen, the people you have met, the memorable experiences, the scary days, the funniest moments, the tears, the joy, the lessons learned…
What did your life in the camper look like – how were you – if at all – setting schedules, routines, keeping the kids on a roll?
We cruised along the Coastline of Spain, seeing so many mountains, enjoying the sea and sun. Spain is really romantic, beautiful and vast.
We drove from Crevillent to Cabo de Gata and I remember we were driving on a dirt road, and we could see the sea and mountains, the rocks and beautiful, colorful flowers and nature around us. We stopped and took pictures and told our friends how beautiful that place was and how cool the moment was. Then we drove to the nearest beach parking, had a picnic and ran to the wide beach and enjoyed being there with our fiends and the kids on the beach, feeling so free and light…. And this was only the beginning.
At the beginning we always chose paid places to spend the night in, like campsites and spent lots of money on food and drinks. But after a few months we got more used to the idea of living in a camper and wanted to experience more of the “off the grid” life.
It also took quite a long time before we could just relax and feel there’s no pressure, for example waiting in line at the shop without getting stressed.
We were able to stay as much as we wished in chill spots, most of the time near the beach and felt more relaxed about missing some nice spots. Feeling more that that was a way of life rather than a long vacation.
One of the most memorable moments of your trip?
The freedom, not only in driving wherever you want, but to choose every step of your life and as a family, that’s what is still in my mind the best experience ever. Just being aware of everything we have, the luck feel free. To feel what we need to feel in every moment and not think about what the socially acceptable behaviour is.
Opening the camper door and seeing the sun com up and the beach in front of you.. Really stunning.
It wasn’t only beautiful, fun and relaxing. As life always comes with challenges, we still had our struggles and the kids also had an opinion on things we decided. But living this close with eachother, you can’t walk away from it so we had to talk and confront each other. That worked out good for us, our relationship grew by trial and error and we feel now even stronger as a family.
The time we had to spend all our energy with our family and being with our girls all the time was so special to us. We had to take all the responsibility and do what’s right for all of us ervery step of the way. The love and attention they had during these 14 months was so bonding and felt so natural that we can only feel grateful for this decision we have made.
What did a normal day in your traveling life look like? What does a normal day in your life look like now?
We saw the whole coast of Spain and cruised all along to the border of Portugal and further to the north of Spain. We took some routes inwards on land and combined that with beach days and play days for the girls, they couldn’t get enough of the beach and all the playgrounds along the beaches. They never really complained but the girls didn’t like to walk long distances and doing too much cultural stuff. (We bribed them a lot with ice cream). Kids are extremely flexible and I experienced that through my own thinking and flow. The camper was our home, so every day we came back home and that felt safe and secure.
Now, 10 months after our traveling experience, we live our lives again in The Hague. I am self employed as a physiotherapist now. Working and spending more time with the girls. Victor is self employed too. So we are more flexible to do our own schedules around the girls.
Liv had to go to school because she’s 5 years old. That was also the main reason to come back to the Netherlands. After such a long time together it was a bit hard to get back on track with all the things that need to be done in this life. Our agenda got full very quickly (school, social stuff, sports etc.) and we had to be aware that we had to work hard to keep the chill vibes alive. We had to ask ourselves again: what do we need to feel more comfortable being anywhere in this world.
I think after this experience, I’ve learned that it’s all in me. All the answers are in me and I don’t have to travel or run for things, I just need to ask myself the right question at the right time.
Our dream is to travel a lot with the girls because the world has so much beauty to show us. We don’t have specific places. We really love traveling around with a camper and there are less limits for us, after being more experienced with traveling with a camper.
Liv and Spencer really enjoyed the time in the camper. I don’t think they will remember our trip in a lot of specific memories. When we left, Spencer was almost 2 and Liv was almost 4. So they were very young and need us as parents. The fact that we could take 100% responsibility and care of our kids and family, with a lot of attention, love and awareness. We got out of the rat race and really felt de-stressed and living more in the present. That’s what they will feel and remember while they grow older and become beautiful girls in this life.
For now it’s important for us to have a good and steady base here in The Hague. So that’s what we are working on now. In a year we will be able to buy a house again and building more up in investments for later. For this year we have planned a 3 weeks holiday in the Netherlands with friends, so no more long distance driving for us this year. 🙂