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Posted by on Apr 20, 2015

Keeping up with the Shabelmans

It’s been a while (okay, an eternity) since we’ve written anything on the blog. This past year-plus has been full of adjustments and re-balancing after an incredible 2013 exploring the world. As many of you know, we landed back in California after our travels and have been enjoying the slow-paced life in wine country. Dave is working at a winery and I’m doing work for a university. From the outside looking in, we have a pretty ideal life. Very little stress, a dream town to live in and beautiful weather.

We’re not ones to really sit still though. While we have enjoyed a relaxing year, it has felt like something was missing. Adventure, the uncertainty of not knowing how to communicate in a different language or where we may do our laundry next…take your pick.

When we’re feeling this way, we tend to live by Dave’s motto of “do something stupid everyday.”

So, we’ve done a couple of things to challenge ourselves.

We bought a 20-year-old van with 215,000 miles on it. For those who have been following our story since New Zealand, you will likely remember our life in a camper van there and again in Australia.

Howl's Castle - our ride and home for 5 weeks in New Zealand.

Howl’s Castle – our ride and home for 5 weeks in New Zealand.

Crystal Cylinders - our van for four weeks in Australia.

Crystal Cylinders – our van for four weeks in Australia. I definitely don’t miss wearing that outfit.

Even those experiences (read here and here) couldn’t dissuade us from buying our own.

Let me introduce you to Schnappi, our 20-year old VW Eurovan. Schnappi was a bit of an impulse buy. We had been looking at older Westfalia vans for a while, but I think both of us assumed we wouldn’t really buy one. Then she came along in a Craigslist ad, and after a week of back and forth with her second owner, she was parked outside our apartment.

This one is really ours. Looking back at our other vans, this one looks rather dull on the outside!

This one is really ours. Looking back at our other vans, this one looks rather dull on the outside!

Schnappi was named by her original German owners after a popular crocodile cartoon character from their home country. You can see Schnappi in all her cartoon glory here. The song is pretty catchy.

Three trips to the mechanic and two weekend trips later, we’re officially VW camper van owners.

Less stupid, but just as daunting as owning a 20-year-old van, we enrolled in course to learn how to teach English as a foreign language.

We quickly discovered learning to teach English is no cake walk. The three-month online course, which we assumed would be a breeze, had us working Friday nights, Saturday afternoons and frantic Sunday mornings to read all the material and finish our assignments. We thought about throwing in the towel at the start of each new week so we could have our weekends back. We eventually finished the coursework, but had to also complete 20 hours of observation and teaching to receive our certificate. We had to hustle — convincing local ESL teachers to let us sit in on their classes (we were turned down more than once) and Dave cornering cellar workers at the winery asking them to come to our home to learn English.

We ultimately did finish and can officially teach English in another country. We even try to teach in our own country — our kitchen table has become a make-shift school for a few friends from Mexico. Our poor students. We spend most of our time talking about where to get the best burritos in town. They are patient with us and our fledgling teaching skills, for which we’re grateful.

If you’re reading between the lines, you’re probably figuring there are some other upcoming adventures for the Shabelmans. As one friend said, we need to retitle the blog, “Keeping up with the Shabelmans.” We’re considering it.


  1. Looking forward to June and meeting Schnappi in person! You are our adventurous one so whatever the future holds for the Shabelmans will not surprise us!

    • Schnappi is ready for you Babs!

  2. excited to see your blog back!

    • Thanks Vicky! Let’s plan to get together soon!

  3. Love the title “keeping up with the Shabelmans” and love Schnappi! You know you are always welcome for a stopover wherever we are. Can’t wait for more blog posts!

    • Cory has already said he’d babysit Schnappi if we ever need to leave her somewhere 🙂

  4. Whoohoo! Glad you are blogging again. Good update. Can’t wait to see what comes next.