“As we travel, our thinking evolves.”
05.10.2021 | Travels
Daan Zuijderwijk is a Dutch artist and photographer, who specialises in night landscape photography. His mission is to explore the qualities of landscapes across Europe. In 2017, he started out on a journey with his partner Maaike Vergouwe and their three daughters in a tiny mobile home to find inspiring places for Daan’s works – and to live close to nature as a family. Their two Load 75 bikes come in handy for their daily trips.
In 2017, the Zuijderwijk-Vergouwe family – Daan, Maaike and their three daughters, Fenna, Alba and Isolde – set off on their travels in a truck that took 9 months to rebuild as a tiny mobile home. They spent the summer in Italy and the winter in Scandinavia. The following year, they took a trip around Ireland and the UK. On their return from this trip, they sold their tiny home and bought a yacht and sailed to the Baltic Sea.
“We worked and lived in some of Europe’s most beautiful landscapes,” Daan recalls about their first years of travel. “We made friends all over Europe.” Returning to their former home in densely populated Amsterdam became harder every time.
A new beginning.
Eventually, 5-year-old Isolde’s seasickness forced them to sell the boat and build another tiny mobile home. “One of the things we came up with was local transport. We always carry bikes with us; we even did on the yacht. But the landscapes in which we try to live are not usually the most bike-friendly regions, so we decided to check out E-Bikes to extend our range.”
When still living on the yacht, one day they landed in Cuxhaven and came across the bike shop Rad & Tour, a local Riese & Müller sales partner. Daan recalls: “We were impressed by the Multicharger and decided to check it out back in the Netherlands.” But he had also seen some enthusiastic reviews of the Load from bike shop owners and was curious to test ride it. Their local dealer, 33 tweewielers, had one available and Daan was eager to try it out.
Two Loads on the back of a mobile home.
“What a great bike. I instantly fell in love with the long wheelbase and the kids loved the view from the cargo box”, he explains. “We wanted to be able to take the whole family – and Nan, our dog, too. So we needed two bikes. From the moment, we got them, we never stopped using them.”
Over the following weeks, Daan came up with a design that allowed them to transport two Loads upright on the back of their truck.
» We charge the bikes with our solar panels because we have enough capacity to live fully off-grid. The idea of parking somewhere amazing and using the bikes for local transport really works. «
In 2020, with their all-new set-up, the adventurous family set off to tour around Northern Europe, visiting the beautiful countryside of Norway and Sweden.
They were on their way from Oslo to Jotunheimen National Park, which means “Home of the Giants” in Norwegian. The landscape there is breathtakingly beautiful, the mountains are rugged, and the fields are beautiful, full of flowers.
The family found a nice spot to park. From the bus they had a view of the Bitihorn mountain. Early in the morning, they got on their bikes and rode to the nearby starting point to trek to the top. “Over four hours later, from the top of the Bitihorn, we had a view of our tiny house at the foot of the mountain,” Maaike says.
From their newfound home, it was only 15 kilometres to a small village where they could do their weekly shopping. It was a beautiful bike ride, effortlessly whizzing down on the way to the shop and plodding back up the road, carrying the dog, the children and the groceries.
“One day we were surrounded by a small herd of cows,” Maaike recalls. “They let us pet them. A little later, the owners, Bjorn and Erica, showed up on our doorstep to inspect the herd. We got talking and before we knew it, we were invited to dinner.”
The family stayed there for three weeks. “It was an ideal place, which actually had everything going for it: beautiful nature, challenging environment, social contacts and the perfect workplace.”
During the winter, they spent three months at different locations in Sweden, mainly in Swedish Lapland. The days were filled with getting up early in the morning to drive the cold out of the house, collecting wood during the day, melting snow and going on ski trips. The ultimate basic life.
The temperatures ranged from -10˚C to -18˚C during the day and at night the temperature dropped to an average of -24˚C to lows of -34˚C.
“Fenna, Alba and Isolde spent the whole winter sleeping up on the roof in their pop-up tent”, says Maaike. “We insulated it on the inside and put a cover over the outside and they were absolutely ok. They did not freeze at all.”
The Zuijderwijk-Vergouwes found a snow-free spot right next to a herd of reindeer and the family soon met the owners, Magnus and his father Åke. “They were quite pleased that we had parked on their territory,” Daan explains, “as we also could keep an eye on their reindeer herd. As long as we were there, the reindeer would keep away from the nearby road.“
In the days and weeks that followed, Magnus transported his 1500 reindeer in a large trailer as far as the truck would go, 200 each load. Then he had to take them further on into the mountains with a snowmobile. Daan, Maaike and their daughters had the opportunity to join Magnus on his trip.
“For us, this impenetrable moonscape, which was also Magnus’s home, was an experience we will never forget,” Maaike remembers. “We were so close to the reindeer and led them to a place where total silence prevails, far from human contact.”
The sun then started to gain strength and the roads were cleared of snow. This was the moment they had been waiting for all winter: finally, Daan and his family could get back on their bikes and feel the cold wind rushing through their hair.
The time had come to move on.
The vast region of Gotland includes conifer and hardwood forests, long beaches, impressive stalactite caves and rock formations. Daan, the artist, was longing to explore it all.
They arrived there in May, spring kicked in and summer followed closely after. “We enjoyed the spoils of nature,” Maaike recalls. “It was beautiful, simply watching the trees sprouting green leaves again and the flowers starting to bloom.”
The family found various spots all over the island, where they would stay for a longer period of time. They parked the truck and lived and worked at each place for a few weeks.
“Small country roads with not too much traffic made Gotland the perfect cycling island. Once a week, we packed up the whole family – two girls on one Load and one girl and the dog on the other – and went for groceries,” Maaike says.
And just like the truck, the family’s mobile home, the family on two cargo bikes became quite an attraction on the island.
“One location has definitely become one of our favourite spots so far,” Daan recalls. “It was on the east coast of Gotland, quite rough, rocky territory. There was a forest nearby that provided us with firewood and was home to all kinds of flowers and animals. We enjoyed our off-grid life to the full. The beautiful weather charged our batteries every day. We took lots of educational nature trips with our girls and went on long bike rides.”
Daan set up his workspace just 50 metres away from the truck. And things just came together, living and working at a beautiful and inspiring place in nature.