One man's generous gift to two newlyweds that totally changed their life.
By Greg Barton
Peter von Maltzahn loved his wife Marion, loved adventure and loved his vintage Volkswagen Westfalia Campervan.
After buying the Kombi in Germany in 1972, the pair set off on road trip after glorious road trip across Europe. They then moved to South Africa to live for several years, before finally migrating to Adelaide, South Australia, in the early 1980s and starting a family.
The adventures of Schoen
Their beloved van, which they dubbed ‘Schoen’ – German for nice – also made the long journey to Australia. The family continued their love of exploring, heading out in Schoen to discover the sights of South Australia, making wonderful family memories along the way.
After Marion died in 2009, the well-travelled Schoen went on fewer and fewer outings, before taking up a permanent position in the driveway.
With Schoen’s adventuring days seemingly over, Peter – now retired – could no longer bear to keep it.
He explained to his two daughters, who had shared many wonderful times in the family van, that after a lifetime of experiences, he would be putting Schoen up for sale.
Kombi for sale
On the other side of Adelaide, 26-year-old Elise Cook – just recently married – was daydreaming of getting away from it all with her new husband, Domenic, 29.
A travel blogger and co-owner with Domenic of a vineyard in McLaren Vale, she’d always loved the idea of the campervan life; of owning her own “happiness bus” and seeing the country from behind the wheel of a vintage Kombi.
While idly browsing online ads, as she’d done many times before, Elise spotted Peter’s listing for Schoen. “I had to calm my racing heart,” she would later write in her blog.
Going to see Schoen
Despite warning her that Schoen was well outside their budget, Domenic gave in and agreed to go and take a look. Of course Schoen was everything Elise had been dreaming of, and she fell in love at first sight. But at Peter’s $39,000 asking price, Domenic was right: it was “completely impossible and off the cards”.
Teary-eyed and with a sunken heart, the couple left. “[We were] grateful to have met Peter and his beautiful van but unable to put an offer in,” wrote Elise. “We shared with him our story, and told him of our dreams to own a van like that.”
A second look
A few days later, Elise’s phone rang. It was Peter, inviting them back for a second look. Intrigued, the young couple headed over, with Domenic once again cautioning Elise that she was not to get her hopes up.
Peter told the couple he had so far received two offers for Schoen, both of which met his asking price. The news wasn’t exactly what Elise had been hoping to hear.
Then Peter went on to say that those offers were from collectors, who would no doubt care well for Schoen – but that would likely mean her seeing the inside of a shed or workshop for her remaining years, or simply gathering dust in a display. What, Peter was interested to know, would Elise and Domenic be able to afford?
On one condition...
“While I sat at the table silently, my heart racing,” wrote Elise, “Dom said to Peter that he meant no offence, but the most we could spend was around half of what he was asking.”
Peter, holding back tears himself, told the couple that he would accept their offer … on one condition: “You must promise me you’ll have adventures,” he told them.
“And when you have your own children, you have to take them on many, many adventures.”
Scout is born
Now Schoen is out there somewhere, embarking on glorious adventures around Australia, helping Elise and Domenic create memories for themselves and for their children yet to come – with one small difference. Schoen has a new name to go with her new life.
“Peter told us that Schoen was for scouting about,” says Elise. “So that’s what we’ve called her: ‘Scout’.”
Our everyday hero
“Peter is definitely a hero for us,” says Elise. “Finding Scout and making that promise to Peter has totally changed our life.”
Follow the adventures of Elise, Dom and Scout for yourself via @elisecook on Instagram.