‘I met my boyfriend on holiday – we spent two days together then quit our jobs’

Marcel Popp, 33, and Vendula Zakova, 31, fell in love due to their shared passion

Freya Coombes
Jam Press
Friday 12 May 2023 04:46 BST
(Jam Press/@salty_vanventures)

A couple has revealed how they gave up their 9-5 jobs and left everything behind to travel the world in a van they built themselves – and now save almost £1,000 in bills per month.

Marcel Popp, 33, and Vendula Zakova, 31, first met while on holiday and fell in love over their shared passion for travelling.

They spent just two days together before parting ways but kept in touch, meeting two more times, with Vendula flying to New Zealand to see Marcel, before he returned the favour, going to visit her in Czech Republic.

Both feeling an intense wanderlust urge and with their romance blossoming, the duo decided to quit their jobs, Marcel as a mining engineers and Vendula as a HR manager, and travel off-grid in a van.

Now they are exploring South America on a 25,000-mile round trip – sharing the experience with their 19,000 Instagram followers.

“Most of our friends from home have settled down and are a little envious,” Vendula told NeedToKnow.co.uk.

“Marcel and I spent just two days together in Vietnam [where we met] and then parted ways.

“But then both quit our jobs and sold everything that we couldn’t fit into the van and set off around New Zealand for seven months.

“We quickly realised that we didn’t need a lot of materialistic items to live and be happy — just the essentials plus a few toys like fishing and diving gear and surfboards.”

Following their 2019 New Zealand adventure, they decided to upgrade, converting a 2003 Toyota Hiace ex-ambulance into their new home before setting off to explore the Chilean countryside.

They spent $6,000 on the van, with another $6,000 to convert it into a fully functional home which included a solar shower, a roof-top deck, a working kitchen and a 40 litre fridge.

(Jam Press/@salty_vanventures)

Vendula said: “We started our journey in Santiago de Chile, have already travelled 10,000km (6,214 miles) to the bottom of the world, Ushuaia, Argentina, and now we have our sights on the rest of South America mainly, Bolivia, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia.

“We are thinking this trip will take around a year and around 40,000km (24,854 miles).”

The couple have avoided hefty bills by relying solely on a leisure battery.

The pair estimate they previously spent $2,500 a month on rent and bills, but now only pay $600 for their fuel and $10 a month on propane, saving around $1,800 a month.

Both now work remotely, Vendula, who is from Czech Republic, as a remote HR manager, and Marcel, who is from Australia, as a van build consultant, allowing both to travel and work simultaneously.

Despite all the benefits to their nomad life, sharing a space of only 75 sq ft does place a strain on their relationship at times.

Marcel said: “When it rains for days in a row and you are stuck inside, you start to get a bit of cabin fever, usually increasing tension in the van.

“You need to get comfortable peeing in the van toilet in front of your partner, multiple times a day.

“It can get frustrating moving around a small space with two people, the other person always seems to just be in the way of what you're trying to do.

“You definitely need to come to terms and adjust to the fact you will be living with someone in very close quarters in essentially a very small room with not a lot of privacy.”

(Jam Press/@salty_vanventures)

Lack of privacy aside, the excitement of their lives compared with their previous situations is ultimately worth it for the couple.

Vendula said: “We love the minimalist life and want to continue living this way.

“With our full off-grid solar system we don’t have to pay any power bills as we charge using the sun or the alternator while driving.

“A real positive is it only takes two minutes to heat the van up in winter if you don’t like where you’re staying, or if you don’t lie your neighbours you can just leave.

“Our family are thrilled we are living life on our terms from wherever we want, although they do always want us to come home.”

The couple are now in the midst of planning their next trip, around Australia, investing in an entirely new van for their next endeavour.

And their adventure is getting plenty of exposure on social media.

In one post that has over 23,500 views, the couple show off a day in their lives, with followers flocking to comment.

One follower said: “You guys are the best! Helped us so much with our van build and were kind enough to reply to us directly for any questions we had! Best of luck to you and happy travels!”

“Love the honesty in your dream life,” commented another person.

“I want to live like this,” said Mariana.

One viewer commented: “Ahh love you guys! Enjoy the journey.”

Melissa added: “Pan fried pizza! Looks so good! Any chance you could share more about how you make this?”

Click here for their Youtube channel

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