2020 was a tough year for Joriën Attema, 35, and florist Sandra Attema, 33.
Joriën lost his job as a pastry chef following time off for a knee surgery, while Sandra’s income from her floristry business completely dried up due to Covid-19.
Plus, the stress of life in a pandemic put an immense strain on the couple’s relationship.
They came up with an unconentional remedy: buying a van and setting off on an adventure.
This wasn’t an out of the ordinary idea for the pair.
Joriën and Sandra got married in 2014, and spent their marriage travelling all around Europe.
During a trip to the Le Marche region of eastern Italy in 2019, the couple came across a Volkswagen minivan that some holidaymakers had converted into a campervan.
On their return journey from Italy, the married couple fantasised about converting their own tiny van into something similar.
When they returned to Holland, that’s exactly what the couple did, spending three weeks turning their tiny Peugeot Partner minivan into a mobile home before setting on weekend trips across the country – along with their corgi Fudge.
But after the difficulty of Covid, the pair realised they wanted to take things further.
With their minivan being way too, well, mini, they spent £3,500 on a much larger Toyota HiAce, then set about transforming this into a home they could actually travel and live in full-time.
In total, this cost £7,500, including the cost of the van, £1,250 on a pop-up roof, £1,250 on electronics, £400 on a heater, £600 on a bed, £200 on paint, and £300 for general maintenance work.
Sandra used her artistic skills to paint the van’s exterior and turn it into their dream home on wheels.
In the summer of 2020, the couple hit the road, travelling all across Europe, visiting Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Switzerland and France.
Over the course of the seven week trip, the couple were able to rekindle their romantic relationship.
They ended up loving the trip so much that they plan to move into the van full-time later on this year, and credit van life with saving their relationship.
‘It’s amazing how happy you can be with less stuff and less stress,’ said Joriën.
‘Simple things like finding fresh water or even going out at night for a pee and getting amazed by the milky way are just magical.
‘Like everybody we are facing problems, especially these days, but we try to enjoy life as much as possible.
‘We had some relationship problems before our trip, but it has really brought us back together.
‘When you’re having an argument and it’s raining you can’t just go to another room or storm off.
‘Living in our van has really brought back the passion in our marriage.
‘We’ve loved this lifestyle so much that we decided we want to do it full-time.’
Of course, van life isn’t all plain-sailing.
Finding places to camp for free legally or, failing that, inconspicuously can be difficult, especially when your van is as colourful as theirs.
The couple have run into difficulties in the past, having been robbed during a stay in Croatia and on another occasion having woken up to a drunk man trying to break into their van.
However, they hope that living a simple life full of adventure and laughter will remedy many of the problems they have faced over the past twelve months and continue to strengthen their marriage.
They’re now sharing their adventures on a YouTube channel, Two Campers And A Corgi.
‘In our opinion laughing, having fun and embracing the little things is the best remedy for a lot of problems,’ said Joriën.
‘We have a fair few hurdles to overcome, like, how the heck are we going to earn money whilst both working in a van, but Sandra has amazing graphic design skills, so we will make it work.
‘Society has lots of expectations about how you should live your life – whether that’s working a forty hour week, getting married, buying a house or having kids.
‘We want to be able to forget about all of that and be able to be “home” every place we stay.’
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