One year ago, I far from imagined that I would be now living in a fantastic classic Mercedes-Benz van from 1979, blue and white like a cloud in the sky.
I had recently moved to Lisbon and was working for a startup specialized in artificial intelligence. As a young expatriate originally from Northern Europe and living in sunny Portugal, I was feeling pretty happy with my life. I was sharing a large apartment with two friends, blooming at work, and discovering new passions.
I had everything I wanted, but I was still hearing that little voice in my heart of hearts whispering that this presumed social perfection wasn’t really for me. Too predictable, maybe? Yes, now, I can definitely say that back then, there weren’t probably enough surprises on my way.
But on a normal day in March, that ‘perfect life’ felt apart. I was sent home, together with my colleagues, for sanitary reasons. That now infamous COVID had spread over the world. Like everyone else, I had to find a new rhythm and new activities to spend my time confined, and working from home wasn’t working very well for me.
I liked to be around my colleagues, chat with them in the morning, have real life meetings, be able to express my stress or relief out loud, and feel that I’m surrounded and shouldered by my team sitting right next to me. Working from home looked boring to me, but, luckily, it didn’t last for long.
One month after being sent home, the company laid off almost 50% of their employees, myself included. As all my comfort zone suddenly vanished, I had no job to pay my bills, and I was isolated from my friends and my family still in my home country. I could have freaked out, and I did, but again it didn’t last for long.
My boyfriend had the idea to buy a van and travel through Europe. We had met recently, and I was secretly dreaming he would ask me to join him. That night, when he asked me to leave with him and go a never-ending van trip, far away from all the confusion, I didn’t even have to think twice. I just said, “Yes, I’m in.” And that’s how it all started.
Finding our camper van
From then on, we started searching for our perfect tiny home on wheels. At the dawn of summer, in the middle of a pandemic and right after the months of confinement, we were not the only ones dreaming about the far, far away and secondhand vans were selling like hotcakes.
After three months of frenetic search, we eventually found our lucky van on the southern coastline of Portugal, Algarve. We remodeled it so to pimp the interior with a colorful and wooden interior to make it feel like home.
In August 2020, we were ready to leave. We had no destination, no schedule, no deadline, but it didn’t really matter. All we wanted was to go far from the cities and rediscover life our own way.
We have been now traveling and living in our van, named Céu (which means ‘sky’ in Portuguese) for 6 months and I honestly never thought it would be as good and healing as it is.
Living in a van is learning to live simply and genuinely, it’s rediscovering the frugal use of water and electricity, it’s being in contact with nature 24/7, it’s remembering there are stars above our heads every single night, it’s feeling the sun shining on our faces from the early morning, and it’s learning to be slow in a society that teaches us to be fast, because everything in a van takes more time.
We started rediscovering Portugal, especially the Northern region and then crossed the border to reach the southern region of Spain, Andalusia, before winter. Since then, we have parked our home on wheels on different grounds, beaches, woods, cities, etc…
Why we love being vanlifers
Wherever we go it feels good, but the luxury of having our window open on a mountain or the ocean is priceless. From right in the morning, you know that today is gonna be a good day, whether you choose to do some work, accomplish a mission (in the van life jargon, it means filling the water, empty grey water, get some gas, food, or do any task essential to your van life) or just chill, feeling the power of nature in your back inspiring peace and joy.
To whoever has the dream of van life and is postponing it for future times, don’t. Now is always the right time and the van life is truly worth it.
It was just a dream, it became our reality. We only wanted to travel, we now want to live that way. We were thinking of becoming vanlifers for months, but why not for years?
To more dreams, stories, and new open windows!
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