Going slow but at the same time being able to rapidly change plans and drive another way.
As a child, Finnish entrepreneur and vanlife enthusiast, Maria Vanonen traveled all over with her grandfather who built his first van in the 1970s. Maria would sleep in the back of the van as they roamed from sight to sight, instilling in her love for adventure and a lifelong desire for the simplicity of mobile living. When it comes to making her own vanlife adventuress, Maria started by taking a trip to New Zealand ten years ago. She slept in a station wagon with her surfboard on the roof so she could wake up on the beach and catch the best waves without obstacles or hotel fees. This allowed her to live in the moment and spend more time making memories than making plans.
Now, she travels with her beloved jack russell terrier, Yoda, in their own DIY camper van that Maria has affectionately dubbed Urho. Everything she needs fits perfectly in the small space of the rebuilt 1995 Mercedes 308D van, which first enjoyed a career as a German mail delivery van. Two years ago, Maria sold most of her possessions and began working nonstop to transform Urho into a fully functioning cabin on wheels with the help of family and friends, online tutorials, and a lot of hard work. The final step was a coat of light blue paint to make Urho complete. The vanlife lifestyle is about staying close to nature and getting to feel fully immersed in one’s surroundings. Essential to the journey is the right equipment to make every trip safe and smooth so the only concern Maria has is where to go next. For a space so small but mighty, the gear needs to be compact, lightweight, and reliable for off-grid adventures.
For any mobile lifestyle, keeping food cold and fresh is a daily challenge. Coolers need constant attention to keep food dry and ice can be hard to come by when camping in remote locations. Standard portable refrigerators are more suited for a dorm room than for the great outdoors and Maria found that most could not keep up with her needs in the summertime. For this reason, Maria chose the Dometic Coolmatic CRX 80S, a 78 liter compressor refrigerator with a stainless steel design. It runs quiet and offers temperature control in any environment. The fridge can hold enough food to keep Maria supplied for two weeks and also has an optional 7.5 liters of freezer space when needed. This was the first of a long line of Dometic products that have been used to make Urho the perfect home on the go.
When living in a small space, air flow can go a long way in temperature control. Urho stays cool and fresh with air circulated by the Dometic Fantastic Vent 3350. A powerful but quiet fan moves air in and out of the cabin and seals tight when not in use. “I love the sauna, but not when our van turns into one,” Maria said, explaining that the Fantastic Vent keeps the cabin cool on hot and stuffy days and nights. The vent, in combination with a Dometic S4 sliding hinge window, helps Maria keep fresh, cool air flowing through the Urho whenever necessary. Traveling via land takes a lot more time, but being able to take any path, change directions, and detour to all the sights along the way is not available in any other type of travel. Maria enjoys the freedom of being able to take any road in front of her and knowing that she has everything she might need along the way. Her Dometic Sinepower DSP 2012 keeps her gear running and powers up any tool or device she could possibly need.
She says, “With the Dometic inverter, we can run all of our appliances smoothly from the 1000 watt blender to the lock saw (there is always something to build!) and, of course, charge our laptops, phones and cameras.” Having a dedicated 230 volt AC that will support devices up to 2000 watts secured to and powered by the vehicle’s battery can also save on other precious resources. There is no need to waste gas in order to boil water, Maria just plugs in her Dometic kettle and she has hot water in no time. Also, with integrated protection from overheating or circuit overload, she never has to worry. Maria is always on the move, in life and in Urho! She is an influencer, a photographer, and she has her own business selling clothing and accessories made from sustainable and ecologically responsible materials, VAI-KØ. With Yoda by her side, she is able to take off for as long as she wants, whenever she wants simply by climbing into Urho and discovering new places to park and enjoy.