Like most of those who got into the vanlife or tiny living movement, Nici and Max too believed they would only give it a try. They would hit the road for a few months, get the taste of the thing, and then return to their previous, “normal” life – the one that didn’t include living in less than 4.5 square meters (48.4 square feet) of living space. They have now been traveling with Ollie for more than seven months, visiting eight countries, and putting more than 10,000 km (6,214 miles) on its old odo.
Ollie started out as a 2000 Daihatsu Hijet Piaggio Porter, a former delivery van that is incredibly small by most standards and somewhat of a rarity on European roads (and even more so on U.S. ones).
In Japan, Daihatsu Hijets or similarly-sized vans are quite a popular option for micro-camping, and they go under the general name of kei campers. This one measures 3.4 meters (11.1 feet) in length, 1.4 meters in width (4.6 feet) and just 1.75 meters (5.7 feet) in height. Max is taller than Ollie.
The inside of Ollie is a wonder of organized living and multiple functionalities, as the video tour available at the bottom of the page also shows. Ollie is designed for just two occupants, so whatever amenities available on board are only for two people, down to the small bed and the fact that kitchen items are two of each.
There is no bathroom and no toilet inside Ollie, and no refrigerator but, as Nici explains, they don’t really need either of those. They have a small 10-liter (2.6-gallon) water tank, which they use for washing up and brushing their teeth, and rely mostly on public bathrooms for other stuff. When no public bathroom is available, the wilderness will do just fine. Or as Nici puts it, there’s a “shovel for when you need to be really creative with our bathroom situation.” The couple doesn’t need a refrigerator because they’re vegan, and they always eat freshly cooked meals.
This is a solution that works for them, and they go out of their way to highlight this. Inside, there’s a small living area, which includes a small pantry (accessible from the outside as well) and surprisingly spacious storage areas. The bed in the rear can be turned into a rear-facing couch, with additional storage on each side.
Ollie is strikingly small but it still has everything Nici and Max need to live comfortably on the road, from storage for cold weather clothes, to a small screen for catching up on their favorite series, and a solar panel array with a battery for charging up every device they own. More importantly, Ollie is in line with Nici and Max’s ideals of minimizing their footprint: it’s made with recycled and natural materials, and it forces them to live with just the things they need.
What is for other travelers a downside – the fact that you can’t buy or own more stuff than you need –, for Nici and Max is the biggest benefit of living in Ollie. At the end of the day, this is what downsizing is all about.