How this Couple Built Their Home on Wheels & Travel Through Europe
Today we’re having Róisín Purkis on to talk about how her and Roki were able to travel across Europe by building their home on wheels. I honestly LOVE her photos and story so I’m excited for you to read this. 🙂
You can also follow along with her and Roki and their journey here on Instagram.
The Adhoc Advanture – A Tale of How We Built Our Very First Home on Wheels.
By Róisín Purkis
Hi there, we’re Róisín and Roki. In twenty days we turned an old van into our tiny home full of love and drove from Ireland to Switzerland with multiple ad-hoc stops along the way. Here is how it all started!
Both Roki and I love to travel, meet new people, experience new cultures and take things at a slow pace. We prefer to breathe in our surroundings, stop at every curiosity and seek out adventures as we visit new places. We aren’t too fussed about luxuries and enjoy the outdoors. I knew that van-life would suit us perfectly but still had Roki to convince.
This time last year, after months of dropping hints I finally wore him down! Having spotted a white Ford Transit for sale I persuaded him one evening after work to go and take a look. The van needed a lot of work… a bin lid covered a hole in the roof where a window used to be. Wiring spliced with sellotape stuck out from every direction. Large palm tree stickers covered patches of rust on the outside and the smell of damp upholstery, beer spills and cigarette smoke were pretty intense. Perhaps it was our naivety, the decent selling price or our unwavering optimism but somewhere in this dingy old minibus, we both saw potential.
Soon after, the minibus was ours and we brought it home to the West Coast of Ireland. We planned to start the renovation in May once Roki returned from a ski season in Austria and I had finished an architecture placement in Belfast. Our intention was to leisurely fix-up the minibus and then head from the Emerald Isle to adventure across Europe before concluding the trip in Switzerland where I was due to start a Masters.
Along with the plans of the whole world, ours were put on hold due to the pandemic. Roki got stuck in Spain for a while and I ate my lunch in the van’s cabin every day, dreaming of what it could be, but promising not to start the project without him.
We were eventually reunited in July and after two weeks of quarantine, decided that the lull of restrictions at the end of phase one was our window of opportunity. We booked a ferry that left Ireland in 20 days and devised a mission plan: get this minibus ready, packed with our belongings and start the unpredictable journey to Switzerland.
Step one of the renovation was to completely strip the minibus’s rear living space. We removed the one remaining bus seat, tore out the kitchen, old sofas and curtains. Next, we insulated and boarded over half of the windows, this provided some privacy and extra wall space for cabinets. Storage and clever fold-away systems are the heart of every tiny home design. With my background in architecture, I made a simple 3D model and planned how to use every squared centimeter of the space.
Another aspect of designing a home on wheels is that similar to ship furniture, everything needs to be fixed and unmovable. That lesson was confirmed a few weeks later when taking a sharp corner in the English countryside and hearing an almighty crash as our plant pot slid across the countertop and broke into five pieces on the floor. All cabinet doors need stiff hinges or toggles to hold them closed, decoration needs to be anchored to the wall and water barrels, though heavy can in fact tip over (again something we learnt on the road)!
For the interior, we decided to go with a ‘wood cabin’ ‘beach breeze’ vibe, sticking to pine panelling and timber surfaces. The materials and colours we chose, give the minibus a relaxed environment and the natural scent of pine is amazing!
Having a passion for sustainability, we re-used as much of the original van material as possible, including a lot of the structural wood, the solar panels, cooking hob, sink and water pump. Other bits of timber such as old pallets were reclaimed, sanded down and turned into cupboard doors while a few select pieces such as the bed slats came from an old oak futon that we purchased second hand.
We began this renovation confidently thinking we knew it all but very quickly realized we knew nothing! It was our first time working together on such a project and with the tight deadline of 20 days, there were many a strong words thrown in each others direction. Slowly but surely we began to see our ideas materialize, each morning we woke and got straight to work often well into the night. After countless trips to the hardware store, many a conversation with handy uncles, endless splinters, paint splashes, tubes of TEK-7, Youtube tutorials, cans of beer, slices of pizza, hugging, laughing, singing and shouting we were delighted with the outcome. A tiny home, where we could cook, sleep and entertain, with space for our climbing gear, kayak and fishing rod. For us, this was the dream!
Writing this first blog post from our small apartment in Lucerne, I look back on our summer adventure and can’t quite believe that we pulled it off. How we traveled amid a pandemic and what we learnt along the way? Well, that’s a whole other story.