Say hello to Hannah Mayer! A 27-year-old adventure, animal-lover, and inspiring solo van life traveler from Germany who after 3 years of traveling decided to settle down in Switzerland.
Hey Hannah! We are absolutely stoked by your Instagram feed. It really looks like you are living a dream life. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hej Hej! Thank you so much! I would describe myself as daring, open-minded, positive, creative and curious about the world. I grew up in Northern Germany, but my parents instilled the travel bug in me very early on, so I’ve always considered myself a global citizen. I studied hospitality management in The Netherlands and was working in hotels all over the world, but when the pandemic hit I decided to move home for the first time in 9 years. Soon after that my life started to change drastically: I bought a van, started traveling around Europe, adopted my dog Ronnie, fell in love with one of my best friends and recently moved to Switzerland to be closer to him. But I’m far from done with vanlife, because I love the freedom it gives me way too much!
Could you tell us something about yourself that you don't show in your Instagram feed?
I suppose I don’t show it too much on my Instagram feed, but I really love creating things with my hands, especially when it’s a creative task. That also means I have a million hobbies and passions, such as cooking, baking, painting, knitting, sewing, building things, gardening etc.
Besides that, I’m also a huge bookworm and love learning things. My family and friends often make jokes about me being a walking lexicon!
What is the best vs. most challenging parts of being a solo vanlife traveler?
In all honesty, the best part about being a solo (vanlife) traveler is the fact that I don’t have to make any compromises. I can fill my days exactly the way it feels right to me in that exact moment and, if I ever change my mind about the plans I made, I don’t have to explain it to anybody. I go with my own flow, which has helped me get to know myself so much better and to feel super in touch with myself.
The worst part about being a solo (vanlife) traveler is when I’m sick and there’s no-one there to support me through it. All of a sudden, when I feel at my lowest, it becomes painfully clear that I don’t have a lot of “common luxuries”, such as a hot shower, a flushing toilet, etc. At the same time, my daily tasks start to feel like an insurmountable burden, such as finding a place to park for the night or walking my dog.
What does nature mean to you?
To me, nature is the place where we all belong. It’s the source of life, well-being and good health. It’s our home. We depend on it, but we also have an important responsibility towards protecting it and all of the other creatures that call it home. Nature makes me feel whole, in awe, inspired, grateful, humbled, energised and alive, but it also makes me feel worried. Are we doing enough to preserve nature for future generations? I think about that every day.
Do you have any tips for traveling van life with a dog? Did you notice some countries being more dog-friendly than others and the opposite?
Vanlife with a dog means you have to do a lot of planning and preparation. There are many differences in how easy it is to travel with your dog, even within Europe. Overall, in my experience Central and Northern Europe are the most dog-friendly areas in Europe.
It’s crucial to carefully pack everything your dog will need during the trip, including their pet passport, leash, harness, bowl, toys, muzzle (which is required in public spaces in some countries), first aid kit, treats, etc. I would also recommend bringing more than enough food for your dog for the entire trip, so that you won’t have to change up their diet unnecessarily.
You should definitely research a few things about your intended destination:
- Does your dog have all of the relevant vaccines and treatments to enter the country? (This is especially important when traveling to a non-EU country, such as Norway)
- What will the weather be like? Traveling to hot countries in the summer months might be very unpleasant (or even dangerous) for your dog. For example, there may be moments when you’ll have to leave them in the van alone, which could get very hot very quickly.
- Are there certain rules regarding dogs in this country? Which public spaces are they allowed in? In many countries in the South of Europe dogs are not allowed in cafes, restaurants, accommodations or even beaches. Not knowing this could lead to stress and disappointment.
Is it true that you lived in five different countries? Could you tell us your favorite hiking spot in each country?
I actually just moved to my sixth country: Switzerland! So far my favourite area for hiking is the canton of Valais/ Wallis. Before living in Switzerland I lived in Germany, Canada, Thailand, The Netherlands and England, which is mainly a result of my studies and work in the hospitality industry.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t very consistent in being an outdoorsy gal throughout my life, which I sincerely regret now. I wish I would have been a more avid hiker in all of these countries. However, I’m glad that I did loads of hiking while living in Canada! There are too many great hiking spots to choose from: Whistler, Jasper NP, Banff NP, Yoho NP, Kelowna, Kootenay NP…
5 quick questions:
Never cuddle a dog or never get to travel?
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I would choose never to travel again. The love I have for Ronnie has definitely shifted my priorities and mindset!
Favorite Astrid Wild piece?
Best van life meal?
I love making a hearty stir-fry with rice, tofu and loads of veggies!
Ocean or mountains?
If I had to choose I’d have to say mountains, but I particularly love it when the oceans and mountains meet, such as on Lofoten, the Canary Islands or the Coastal Pacific Mountains north of Vancouver.
Can I tell you a secret? I just bought it: A Land Rover Defender, which I will start to convert into a camper soon. I can’t wait to go on some wild off-road adventures outside of Europe with it!
Thank you Hannah for the chat! You are truly so inspiring! Be sure to check out her Instagram to follow her renovation of her dream car. Curious about more stories of wild womens? Be sure to check out this blog post about Josefin Alvtegen, another entrepreneur and vanlifer.