I bought the van in 2017. It was just a regular VW T4 from 1997. I wanted to turn it into something that can move and at the same time to give me the feeling of being stuck in time – like some reclusive cabin in the mountain with no soul around. The intention was to give it a cozy atmosphere with Eastern features. The interior had to be gutted out and refurnished with wood. This is my preferred material as it gives a natural feeling of simplicity and the functionality I desired. The wood work I did by myself.
Interior. Photo by Lyubomir Ignatov
I have this idea of moving constantly.
Movement is what makes us stay younger. I want to be active and creative but outside the office, outside the cities and walls. To have the freedom of working outdoors where you can feel the wind and hear the birds.
I guess this is what actually inspires me now and this is where I belong. The van is actually the vessel which provides the independence to do my job wherever I am. As a film director and editor all I need is my laptop. And wi-fi sometimes. To make it a self-sufficient home on wheels I lifted the suspension of the van to go more off-road, put a solar panel for electricity, a tent, a diesel heater, a water tank, a shower and a big roof rack for all my stuff.
Photo by Lyubomir Ignatov
My journey began at the start of May with only one initial objective. There was a movie premiere in Helsinki I had to attend. It’s a documentary about the Solomon Islands and the effects on global warming and political issues I had the pleasure to co-produce and edit [Wantoks: Dance of Resilience in Melanesia].
But I had something else in mind so I took my skateboard and snowboard with me. So the trip evolved from a work commitment to some quality time of various leisure activities such as snowboarding in Scandinavia, surfing in the Atlantic, fly fishing in Eastern Europe and skateboarding anywhere possible. It’s good to have friends to show you around Europe.
Always having a camera is a must for me and this time I brought my VHS camcorder.
Starting my journey from Sofia to Helsinki I purposefully decided to avoid highways – to further explore the countries I passed, and also save up on some road tolls. Driving through a beautiful forest in Latvia I saw a great spot at the edge of the Gulf Of Riga, where I was thinking of spending the night with no one around. Well, plans are meant to be broken and half an hour later some other vans showed up. Surprisingly they recognized my van from some IG stories. Turns out they were building a skate-park in the nearest town and had randomly chosen the same place to spend the night. It is mind-blowing sometimes how people meet.
Next stop was Estonia where I got on the ferry to Helsinki.
Set my camp nearby city of Tallinn, Estonia
In Helsinki I met with Joonas Eloranta – one of the most creative European snowboarders. An idea popped up, so as soon as the premiere was done, we hit the road to Fonna Glacier in Norway for some summer snowboarding.
We spent 11 hours on the ferry from Finland to Sweden. Photo by Joonas Eloranta
On our way to Fonna Glacier, Norway
We stopped the van under the mountain because it was fully loaded and heavy so it was impossible to drive to the top and we had to hitchhike every day to go up and down to the glacier. The weather around those fjords is crazy, the fog up on the glacier could get you dizzy. We had hours of wind, rain, fog that we spent playing board games in a cafeteria or in the van.
Because of the clouds the solar panel on the van didn’t get enough power to even charge our phones and camera batteries.
At least there were the shapers of the snowboard park there who helped us get dry. Even so we had three good days of sun, so we managed to film a lot of footage with my VHS cam.
Joonas excited about the food after a long day of snowboarding, Norway
Pasta and veggies
Joonas, Fonna Glacier
Beside the bad weather it was a good ten days of living in the van.
Cooking pasta almost every day and fishing when I wasn’t too exhausted from snowboarding.
Me, at the end of the last day at Fonna Glacier, photo by Joonas
Then we took off to Oslo where we were hanging around with the Good Vibes Vintage Van guys before Joonas left for Helsinki.
The trip took a turn and I had to fly to NYC to film with some skateboarders who are part of the company I am working for. Well, luckly I have a friend living on Oléron island in France, not so far from Bordeaux where I could leave the van and get on the plane. Easy right?! So I drove the 2400 km for about 10 hours a day with a maximum speed of 80 km per hour through Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and France. But it was worth it. I got to witness some spectacular views.
Sunset over the Netherlands
The abrupt transition from the wilderness of the European landscapes to the craziness of New York City was a shock at first. It’s a different type of wild. This city though has its own special appeal, and the talent residing there is amazing.
I got to film with the 13 year old Jiro Platt. We did a video session under the Brooklyn Bridge at the LES Skatepark and my old VHS cam got lit from this kid’s skills. He is freaking gifted!
As we finished one of the most recognisable skateboarders of the NYC scene showed up. Keith Hardy is just unique! His energy and character is just electrifying. Because of him I got to experience NY in a very fast-paced movie-like style. We skateboarded through rush hour traffic, got lost, crashed some parties for the free beer, bumped in some local celebrities, set up fireworks in the middle of a street and basically had some decadent fun in the city! Hardy is a man with great talent and heart, absolutely true to himself. Few days went by as few hours and I got to capture some of it on my little old 35 mm cam.
View from Brooklyn Bridge
I was pushing with my skate somewhere in Manhattan and I fell.
Then I saw this and just took a quick photo.
WTC Transportation Hub
This is Keith Hardy
Keith Hardy again
Keith Hardy and Jenny
Keith Hardy with a 12-pack
Getting to my next destination wasn’t an easy task. To reach Oléron island in France I had to take planes, buses, trains, hitchhike and then push my skateboard on the main road for 5 km after I already spent 20 hours traveling.
But everything had to mellow down once I got back to Europe. It was time to go surfing and enjoy the sun and salt of those French western beaches with some other friends.
I was missing the cozy bed in the van, France
My good Bulgarian friend Beni who lives in Oléron for the season, France
Beni and Mina
Prices of fuel and food in Europe can be pricey. Planning my budget accordingly was certainly a priority. After New York I ended up with an empty gas tank and 50 dollars left. Every time I was leaving for the next place I was broke. I spent all my money to fill up the tank and buy food for the next 10 -15 days and then that was it. It was like this since the beginning. I had to work the whole time through to get some money to continue.
My working space
lunch and diner for maybe 90% of the days
Unfortunately after 49 days it was time to go back to Bulgaria. I finally got a paycheck and I had enough money to go to Switzerland where nature delivered some mind-blowing scenes.
Two days after I left from France I woke up here, Switzerland
The endless uphill drive. But it was worth it, Switzerland
Initially plans were for a solitary trip. But I ended up meeting folks all around the place. The excitement of meeting all those people made me forget about something I had in mind. Fly fishing is something I truly love. So I drove as fast as I could (80 km/h) towards Slovenia where I’d heard that there was one of the most beautiful rivers in Europe. And it really was.
Tying flies near by the Soca river, Slovenia
The Soca river, Slovenia
No matter how far I went, how high I rode, The Stinky Family is everywhere. I bumped into some ‘family members’ everywhere and these people are amazing. Maybe next time we’ll meet again somewhere on the road. Peace!
In Serbia, 20 km before the Bulgarian boarder
23 countries in total
1 VHS cam
1 Olympus m2
Started from Sofia (Bulgaria) and passed through – Romania, Serbia, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, the Nederland’s, Belgium, France, US, Switzerland, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia
Follow the adventures: @mr.tambourine.van