After 33 years and more than half a million kilometres in active service, the Vandoorslaert family’s Scania bus recently returned to its point of origin in Södertälje. Despite the advanced age of the bus, the Belgian family is relying on its enduring quality to take them around the world.
On board for the five-year global tour are Jean-François and Charlotte and their three children Charles, Louise and Victoria, aged 10, 9 and 1. Another treasured family member is their dog, Lily. Since July 2017, the family has visited 19 European countries and will wrap up the continent in July when they will prepare for a two-year tour of Canada and the United States.
From wrecked bus to liveable space
“When I bought the bus it was a wreck,” says Jean-François. “But I renovated the bus and built the interior into a liveable space. Everyone thought I was crazy, but it makes sense to drive an old bus since it’s simple to repair if anything fails. That wouldn’t work with a modern bus.”
The bus is a Scania K112 chassi bodybuilt by Belgian Jonckheere as its Bermuda model. “I have two Dutch language handbook volumes for 2-series Scania trucks to guide me but of course the electrics are totally different in a bus.”
Over countless kilometres along European roads, Jean-François has become accustomed to driving without modern amenities such as automated transmission and power steering. “I don’t miss these one bit, it makes you all the more careful on the road.”
A 25-square-metre ‘mobile home’
For the trip, they have forsaken their spacious six-room villa in Waterloo for just 25 square metres. As with any compact living solution, space is effectively organised to permit daily life. Bedding is at the rear and daytime space towards the front. Little Victoria even has her own small play area.
During their adventure, the family make friends on and off line and visit schools along the way. “We home-school our children but we also want to show them what schools are like in other countries. We’ve had many enriching exchanges when we and our children meet our foreign peers.”
A visit to the Scania museum
On this leg of the journey, they travelled to northern Finland, across to Norway and entered mid-Sweden before heading south to Stockholm and Södertälje. At Scania, their weather-beaten bus attracted curiosity as the family toured the Scania Museum, with the children eager to learn more about all things Scania. Jean-François explained to Charles, who is already aiming for a career in engineering, the need for many different professional skills in building trucks and buses. He reserves special praise for skilled service technicians such as Michael and Oscar, who he describes as master surgeons who help to make the family’s bus roadworthy.
As the adventure continues, the Vandoorslaert family are looking forward to many more enriching experiences and encounters. “We learn new things each day,” says Charlotte.