A peek into a Life in White, with Laura Martinez and Gabriel Mojon.
Briefly, explain the Life in White project and how you made the transition to your current lifestyle?
Life in White was born from two passionate - if not obsessed - snowboarders and outdoors, nature and mountain lovers, Gabriel and Laura. Laura is a passionate photographer and snowboarder and putting these two passions together was a really natural step. We never planned Life in White as it is right now. It took shape naturally. We started sharing our experiences and adventures and people liked it so this gave us the motivation to keep on showing what we do. It hasn’t been a big change for us, the lifestyle we have nowadays. We have always travelled and the snow has always been an epicentre of our life. In my case, the campervan lifestyle is something I’ve been doing for a long long time and will keep doing it as long as my body stands it!
Where have you been so far this winter? Where are you now?
After a crazy last year when we spent almost seven months traveling (Japan, Iceland and South America), this winter season we decided to take it easy and stay at home in Tirol enjoying the amazing resorts and terrain that we have around while we finish our new van and prepare the next adventures for spring and summer. Living on the road is hard and you need some time at home to work on the material that we have produced so far and get ready for the next challenges.
Are there any resorts or locations that you’ve set your sights on that you’ll be able to visit in the coming months?
Last year we went to Iceland, but it was a short trip and we fell in love with that island in the middle of the north Atlantic. So we are planning to go there with our new van by the end of the season. The ferry also stops one day in the Faroe Islands and it’s a place that I’ve always wanted to visit. This trip it’s going to be mainly a split board trip and we will try to do the whole tour around the island looking for the best mountains to ride. After this trip, we plan to go back to South America for the summer. The Andes range is so massive that you would need a lifetime to explore ‘em, and you would only get to know 10% of it!
You travelled 14,000 miles in a Volkswagen T2 - how did you go about camper-ising it to your needs? Did you have to leave it behind?
Well, the van was in pretty good shape. We found it in Brazil, with the help of a good friend, Camilo. Then we stayed around 10 days at his place with his lovely family to customise it all with recycled furniture that Camilo found on the streets. We had to adapt ‘em to fit the interior of the van, but I have to admit that we were pretty lucky with the whole project and the result. For being kind of a temporary vehicle, it was really good!
Well, that’s one of the reasons for not selling it - that was the original plan. Instead, we left it in Chile at a friend's place so we can enjoy it again next summer!! But this time, there is something that we’ll take over from Europe, an auxiliary heating system (Webasto), cause it was really cold inside the van, and not only during the night. The main problem was driving since it’s a Brazilian vehicle and has no heating system at all!
What is the model of the new van that will go to Iceland? Where did you find it?
Our new van is a VW T5 4motion long version, it’s not as cool as it was our old Mitsubishi Space Gear 4x4 but since we make long distances and spend a long time in our van we needed a newer a bigger vehicle!
We bought in Germany and have customised it all by ourselves. One really great feature is that this bigger and younger brother of our VW T2 that we have in South America has an auxiliary heating system, so we won’t freeze our asses up there in Iceland!!
What’s the one piece of kit you couldn’t go without?
In my case (Gabriel) I would say my long johns. Actually, I don’t even know if I have any skin underneath ‘em anymore! Last year I calculated I wore them more than 9 months! But don’t worry I have like 10 pairs!
Laura has a lot of different gadgets she can’t live without but one thing she always had with her, especially on the South America trip, was the hot water bag. And I have to admit that I became also a huge fan of it on that trip!
Any advice for fellow riders who are tempted by, and might want to emulate your lifestyle?
My first advice would be to get hooked on some other activity that doesn’t depend that much on the weather because it can drive ya as crazy as we are! Just kidding! You have to love the van life, especially in winter time. It is not for everybody. It’s like everything in life, with its pros and cons.
The pros are thousand; I would say that when we are on a trip in our van is when I really feel free. We stop wherever we want. We wake up with the best views. We are the first in the lift on a powder day (if we manage to wake up early enough, 'cause a lot of times we sleep by the lift and I have to admit that we are not in the first chair!) Something that I really hate is carrying my luggage, packing and unpacking it and it’s something that you don’t have to do when you travel in your camper. Most of the time I wouldn’t change my van for any hotel room or apartment. Maybe one thing we miss is some space for stretching, but you manage to find indoor pools or hot springs where you can spend the evening after a good powder day, relax your muscles and stretch. In Japan it is so easy because there are hot springs (Onsens) everywhere, It is one of the best places to travel in a camper!
Laura, how do you deal with the challenges of analogue photography (processing/scanning etc) while living on the road?
I keep all the film with extreme care and when we go back home I process and scan everything. I wish I could do everything analogue but especially nowadays that everything has to be shown right now or one day later you cannot only shoot in analog…. I also take digital pictures, especially for action.
The problem with keeping all my film and waiting until I get home to process ‘em is that you can lose them or get robbed. Actually on our last day in Chile, just when we left the van at our friends and took a bus for the first time on the whole trip, a guy got in our bus and took the first bag he saw. It could have been my camera bag, but it was Gabriel's bag. We lost a lot of really important stuff, including his computer, money and our passports, but not the rolls! How did we manage to get new passports in less than five hours? This is another story!
How did you dry your stuff?
In the new van and in Japan (with auxiliary heating) it’s pretty easy to dry your stuff because, with the heating on, the van is an oven! In our VW T2 we really struggled with the problem of drying our gear, but you always find a way to do it - stay longer in the cafeteria of the ski resort after riding or leaving our wet stuff there while cooking in the van, finding the instructors room for drying their gear, hoping that it’s pretty much always open all night. Or when exploring mountains with no facilities, just praying for our clothes to dry miraculously, but that never works out!
OK, we gotta hear the rest of your previous story. How did you manage to get passports in 5 hours!?!?
We got robbed in Chile and it was a really weird situation. We were very unlucky with the whole thing. It wasn’t because we left our stuff unattended - we suspect there was a plot behind it... But after three months in South America without any incident or a big problem, we cannot complain that much. What we lost, it was just things that money can buy (computer, phone, hard drives, money, etc., etc.) and some memories, because I lost my hard drives with my whole life photos on it (my mistake to carry it and not having a backup at home).
The worst problem was our passports. We were on our way to take a 40-hour bus ride from Santiago de Chile to Florianopolis, Brazil and it was our only chance to get there and take our flight back to Europe. So from Chillan (the place we got robbed) to Santiago, a 5 hours bus ride, we contacted our embassy, convinced them to wait for us (including the ambassador, who had to sign the new passports in our presence), scanned our IDs with the smartphone we had left, contacted the Spanish police to validate our identities, filled out several forms that they were sending us via email…
Thanks to modern technology we managed to do all this while on the bus, so when we arrived at the embassy everything was pretty much ready! We’ll be forever grateful to the ambassador and his secretary. Muchas gracias!!!!
Where can everyone keep up with the latest of your travels?
On our Facebook and Instagram @life.in.white and on our website www.lifeinwhite.com