Perhaps you see photos of people traveling and living in their vehicles and think, well, heck, they have everything all figured out. But often, that lifestyle came about only after reaching a point of no return in their regular, workaday lives. Such is the case with Sofie Aldinio and Colin Boyd. Aldinio, a photographer/filmmaker and Boyd, a former competitive snowboarder turned desk jockey at a creative agency, were unhappy with sedentary life and it was straining their family existence. So, they dipped into their savings and bought an old van, with the goal of driving from their Maine home to Aldinio’s native Argentina. They support themselves with income from properties they shrewdly purchased in Maine, through their creative work, and by documenting their travels via their website, Afueravida. They’re a family of four touring, discovering, boldly figuring things out as they go after jettisoning the call of regular life. Also, their van is rad. We talked to Boyd about their process.
Year, Make, Model?
1978 Mercedes 508D—German Command and Control Vehicle
Does the vehicle have a name?
How did you get it?
After deciding to drive from Maine to Argentina, we searched for a vehicle in our budget and found there wasn’t much for us. Ready to give it up, I found myself driving down a private backroad of the Maine coast on the way back from a photoshoot when I saw this hot orange rig blur past my rearview. I stopped immediately and ran over to the house that this beast was parked in front of. I knocked on the door, and asked for a van tour, which was enthusiastically granted. About 15 minutes into it, I asked how much and the owner laughed acknowledging that this was his dream wagon. I then shared our family dream to take off to South America, using the time to bond and build a new vision for our life together. He’d already received over a dozen offers on it in the year he had owned it but none had the vision we had. Yet, within three days, we had a deal, we closed six weeks later, and moved into the empty van a mere four hours after I pulled into my driveway as our house was on Airbnb to assist in paying for it!
How have you modified it?
We stripped it completely leaving just the generator shed, the Espar diesel heater, and the original communications panel. Oh and the 30-foot aerial mast. And the functional blue lights and sirens. Then we built it out for our family by adding a lower bunk/playroom for the boys, an Airhead Composting Toilet, Sliding Norcold 42 fridge, wardrobe, queen bed, custom drawer bank and table, electric heated floor, 35 gallons of freshwater storage, road shower, Van Tech roof rack, solar panels, and a 100 AH Battleborn Battery.
You do all that work yourselves?
I was blessed to have mentors in all the bigger components and friends of friends who gave me their best rates to educate me, get my hands dirty, and ensure a top-notch job. The key areas were the carpentry, rewiring the display panel, and the custom roof rack for the solar.
How many states/countries has your rig visited?
I think we are on 32 states. And she’s also been to Nova Scotia and Vancouver in Canada. We plan to drive to South America over the next couple of years.
What are some of the craziest or most complicated off-road repairs you’ve had to make?
Last week we were stuck for a couple of days with an overheating engine. It’s a simple fix—just pulling the thermostat—but being a newb, it took me two days of running around in a borrowed car to auto stores, getting the wrong size thermostat, and draining the radiator multiple times to realize if I had just pulled the therm we would have been off in about 20 minutes.
Oh and then there was the time when we were a week away from leaving and had already moved out of our home and the van just stopped. Fortunately, we were staying with my parents “for a week” to finish a few key jobs. That turned into a month needing to convert the 24-volt start system into 12 volts. This was a blessing in disguise as I was able to participate in the replacement which was critical months later when we blew up the starter in South Carolina. Wondering why it took a month? Well, I met a fella who helped me take on the panel and wiring job which was a huge effort. Together with all the other loose ends we had converting our “normal life” into a nomadic one, we were fortunate to have another month to get it together before cutting the cord. A month later, we broke down again for five days, but I replaced the starter myself along with the clutch slave cylinder and we were off. For a total beginner, I was quite chuffed at the time.
Any issues with traveling as a family?
Going from working a full-time job, managing two properties, launching the AFuera Video business, and building out a van while being a full-time dad, was shocking. I thought I would have all this time to pursue projects, launch our podcast, build our business, and to surf my ass back in shape. But from day one, it was all hands on deck from wake up to bedtime.
Now we’ve found our rhythm and found ways to make space for each other to work almost every day. We’ve also learned to slow down and spend at least a week in an area to lower our fuel costs and create more structure for us and the kids.
When they get sick, or we’re in challenging climates things get difficult, but I would not say we’ve had any issues. For us, it’s been a wonderful opportunity to rebuild a cracking relationship and see how our strength is passed through onto our boys. At the same time I know this is not going to last forever and I know the feeling of going to the office from 9-5, so I am savoring the moments. Even the bowl of yogurt thrown onto the clean pile of laundry, washing load after load of cloth diapers at random laundry mats, and the beauty and suffering of this lifestyle. It is something that has completely reformed our outlook on the world and I feel so rejuvenated when I think of what we have accomplished and set up for the road ahead.
You can follow their travels here.