When Elise first spotted #vanlife on Instagram in 2015 – she was hooked.
She knew that it was the lifestyle she wanted a piece of, so she tirelessly scrolled through websites searching for the van of her dreams, which also met her budget.
“I would scroll through sale ads online much in the same way one dreams about winning the lottery,
“Most of the vintage VW vans for sale in South Australia read along the lines of “great family van, starts sometimes…” or “moves when in neutral”.
Elise’s husband, Domenic, 29 was well aware of his wife’s fascination with a home-on-wheels. however he was a self-confessed workaholic who could spend up to 12 hours a day building up his winery business – so a life on the road was not one which appealed to him.
But it wasn’t long until Elise came across “Scout” the Kombi van listed online.
“While these vans sounded like a great time as soon as I saw the ad for “‘Scout” I had to calm my racing heart.”
The description read: “A Westfalia campervan in beautiful condition, no rust, a V6 Holden engine that has her running like a dream and strong enough to tow a caravan, a completely original interior, and one owner since the year she was made in 1972.”
However there was a problem – the van was listed for $39,500 – way above the couples price range.
“I somehow convinced Dom to come and look with me – just to look. He repeated about twenty five times on the way there that I should by no means get my hopes up, as this van was way out of our budget, completely impossible and off the cards,” she said.
The couple met with Mr Von Maltzhan, the owner of Scout, and the three shared stories about their adventures and Elise spoke about her dreams for the future.
Dutch-South African Maltzhan bought the van brand new in 1972 and had been the owner ever since.
He bought the van shortly after marrying his wife in Germany and the pair continued to travel across Europe before taking the van to South Africa where they lived for many years.
Twenty-five years ago the couple moved to Australia to start a family – bringing Scout with them.
“He told us it had been places and seen things that would make the most seasoned traveller envious.
“We left, grateful to have met Peter and his beautiful van, but unable to put an offer in.”
Elise was disheartened, but a week later Mr Von Matzhan called the couple and asked them to visit him again.
“We drove there, with Dom again tenderly telling me not to get my hopes up, we couldn’t afford it right now, and please not to start crying again.”
Mr Von Maltzhan told the couple that he had received two offers on the van at the original asking price.
“My heart sank. Why were we here?” thought Elise.
“He told us that both the offers where from men who were collectors. His van would sit in a shed, collecting dust, or on display, or perhaps even have some work done to spruce her up.
“He asked us, in all seriousness, what we could afford. While I sat at the table silently, my heart racing, Dom said to Peter that he meant no offence, but the most we could spend was around half of what he was asking.”
That is when the seller revealed the true reason for letting go of his beloved van.
“His wife, with whom he’d shared every van experience, had recently passed away.
“Peter’s daughters, now adults, had finally agreed and understood why he couldn’t bear to keep the van. Too many memories held within it, and the time had come.
“He told us that the idea of the Kombi going to a young married couple, beginning their lives together, just like he and his wife when they bought it together back in ’72, meant so much more to him.
“With tears in his eyes he told us he would accept our offer, but only on one condition.
“I told him we would do anything. He said, “You have to promise me you’ll have adventures and when you have your own children you have to take them on many, many adventures”,” Elise said.
The couple agreed and the peach van was theirs for just $19,500.
At first the couple planned to travel part time alongside running their winery, Down The Rabbit Hole.
But one day Dom realised he could do all of his work on the road and said “let’s do this full-time.”
So the couple sold their home and now live with the bare necessities whilst travelling all over Australia – they have one frying pan, two cups, two bowls and two sets of cutlery.
They have a sink and a stove – but for the next year they have no permanent toilet – but this doesn’t scare them.
“We did this knowing we weren’t going to have a toilet or shower for the next year or two,” Elise said.
“We try to swim everyday, even if it’s cold, and use the beach showers and every couple of days we pay for hot showers at local swimming pools and caravan parks.
“People see that as a downside and while the public showers can be gross, it makes me realise the freedom we have.”
Since their journey began Elise has documented the couples life on Instagram and now an 76,000 followers keep up with the couples idyllic life.
“I love capturing images that tell a story, a moment in time that takes you back, or is beautiful or inspiring,” Elise explained
Life on the road means the couple have limited access to technology and admit despite not having a television, they’re never bored.
“Having the option to sit on the couch at home and watch TV — I love that feeling — but it all blurs into a monotonous week,” she said.
“Now we will watch the sunset, read a book, play cards, and we find the van is a people magnet and we always have people coming over to chat. We’ve become really open.”
There have been bumps in the road whilst the couple have been travelling but they say nothing bad could ever overshadow the positives this lifestyle has given to them.
“I can’t say I’ve ever sat behind the wheel of our Kombi without feeling an overwhelming sense of happiness. Hand to heart it happens every time.
“It’s not just that people stop and smile at me as we drive leisurely by, or that she brings a sense of freedom reminiscent of a Bob Marley number, or that every time I pass a fellow Kombi owner there are friendly waves exchanged, or that she’s made life a constant holiday… it’s not even the fact that the big bay window provides a fantastic view of whatever we’re passing.
“It’s because the day we drove her home, she became part of our little family,” said Elise.