A home on wheels: Meet the Cypriot van-travelling couple
Imagine packing up your house to go on a trip and taking it with you. It would have to be a tiny house, a home on the road and for one adventurous couple, their travelling van is exactly that for them. A tiny home on wheels. One they resort to often, leaving the city and their daily routine behind to explore Cyprusâ€ remote landscapes.
Christiana, a freelance graphic designer and her partner Stefanos Ioannou, a logistics imports and exports employee, bought a van last year and have been heading for the hills ever since, whenever their jobs allow them a break. We spoke to them about van life, covid restrictions and dreaming big.
Hey Christina and Stefanos, when did you start travelling with your van and how did the idea come about?
It all started in April 2019 when we were coming back to Limassol (our hometown in Cyprus) from a two-day camping trip up in the mountains. On the way back, we found a Toyota Hiace minibus right outside of an after-school learning center. It was up for sale and we were really excited about the idea of owning one and transforming it into a camper, so without a lot of hesitation we bought it! We wanted a Hiace because of its size and of course, bulletproof engine! We needed it to be small because here in Cyprus there are a lot of small villages with very narrow streets and dirt roads and really tight parking spots!
How often do you take the van and go on a road trip?
We go on road trips almost every weekend and any other day that we are not working! Road trips do not necessarily mean we spend the night in every location. We love to hike, explore small private beaches, discover hidden trails deep in the forest and enjoy panoramic views of our island. Cyprus is a small country, but there are so many places to see and so many to do!
The nature of my work [Stefanos]does not allow us spending more time with the van, but this makes us appreciate more the free time we have!
What is it about travelling with a van that you love?
We love everything! We love the fact that you can take your tiny â€˜â€houseâ€â€ with you in amazing locations where you can spend the day next to a beautiful beach cooking, relaxing, sleeping or just having a cup of coffee, a beer or really do whatever you want!
Have you taken your van on a journey outside Cyprus?
We did not take the van on any journey outside Cyprus yet. Recently, Cyprus announced that the long-awaited ferry connection with Greece is expected to begin in the summer of 2021.Â Hopefully, we are hoping on taking the van to new adventures!
Has the van allowed you to see any untrodden spots in Cyprus?
Having a home on wheels, you get the chance to park in remote locations, wake up early and take full advantage of the morning, exploring the surroundings! We are lucky enough to have discovered a few beautiful untrodden spots but the truth is Cyprus is full of rough off-road trails which can only be used with 4WD vehicles [our van in only rear-wheel drive] so we are somehow limited using the van in specific areas. This is why we sometimes, park the van and continue on foot! One of our future plans is buying a four-wheel-drive van so that we have more adventures off-grid!
What did it take to transform the van into a tiny, mobile home?
After a lot of failed attempts, we managed to convert our van into a tiny home! We started out with just a fixed bed which we built using old wood planks and slowly figured it all out – how to install a sink, all the electrics, cabinets, insulated walls and floor etc. We spent a lot of months working on the build, had our ups and downs but loved every second of it! We were just so excited!
Have you faced any challenges travelling with it?
Travelling with a van has its challenges! I would say the parking of the van is a small challenge we face every time we go somewhere! Even though Cyprus is a pretty safe country to live, there is always this small fear of spending the night somewhere isolated or remote. Fortunately, we never had any problems or experienced anything unusual so we donâ€t really think about it too much anymore! Another challenge is the fact that the van is a rear-wheel drive so we have to be careful going off-grid and not getting stuck! Again, not a really big problem, but is something we always have in mind when we go off-roading! Small daily challenges like parking in tight spots and driving slowly [not by option] is something we experience all the time but donâ€t really mind anymore!
Currently, not able to travel much due to corona measures in Cyprus, are you repurposing this time in any way?
Due to corona measures in Cyprus, we can say that our travels were affected to a certain degree but not to the point where we stopped having fun! We still continue enjoying the simple things like having a coffee next to the beach or go on a small hike within our local district lockdown borders. We still go on small trips and do stuff but the thing that really affected us is that we are not allowed to camp because of the daily curfew. Hopefully, soon things will go back to normal!
What advice what you give to anyone seeking to join the van-travelling life?
We created our profile on Instagram [@vanDwellers.cy] in order to inspire more people from Cyprus to give this kind of lifestyle a chance and get to know their home country a little better because there are so many things to see despite the small size of the island.
We made a lot of friends (national and international) having the same dreams and ideas and it is so amazing to see that there are so many people out there having fun and enjoying life like we are!
To all those who are seeking to join this kind of lifestyle, I say if you can dream it you can definitely do it! We wanted a campervan for ages but we always thought that the idea was silly and a project like this was impossible to achieve. In the end, we gave it a try and just followed our hearts! The difficult part is not converting the van but converting yourself into something you really want to be!