Meet the couple who are celebrating 2 years of non-stop travel in Europe, saving a lot of money and creating more experiences, freedom and happiness.
“Our quality of life is so much higher than our expectations led us to believe was possible.”
We’re always inspired by other travellers and their adventures. Armando Costantino and Melony Candea from Westfalia Digital Nomads have been travelling Europe by van since August 2012 after realising a static life wasn’t for them. At least 20 countries and 40.000 km later, they don’t regret a thing.
To show you a day in the life of a nonconventional couple, we interviewed Armando (A) and Melony (M).
StoryV: Thank you very much for the time in this interview. We’ve read your story, it sounds amazing.
Almost 2 years living in a van? When is the anniversary and how do you feel?
A: If I remember correctly, the anniversary should be some time at the end of August, so we are pretty close. First trip from Prague, where we bought Mork, picking up Mel in Brno and driving all night to Bulgaria. Now I’m writing from a beautiful lake just outside Kaunas in Lithuania, I feel at home and happy.
M: It was pretty much 2 years ago. That he asked me, then called me crazy for saying ‘Yes.’ Ha. I’m writing this from our van, in the middle of nowhere in Lithuania next to a gorgeous lake. Mork (our minivan) really is part of the family now; can’t believe we’ll soon be celebrating 2 years with him.
You both make a living online, right? Could you describe what your average day is like?
A: Waking up, usually early, sometimes even at 4 or 5, depends on the light outside. Actually, when we almost finish our working day, some people are just waking up. Coffee for sure, at least 2 mugs and depending on the day we share our plans: some days I have to edit some footage for a client, some days I go out with my bike to record footage of a time lapse for our own projects, related to our website and some days, like today, I spend my time fishing. Every day is really different and it’s not simple to make it average.
M: My days depend on the week. I have regular clients that I work for (writing blogs, reviews or posting on FB) and I also freelance- that work completely varies from week to week. I can be overloaded some weeks, working 14-hour days, and other weeks I’m scrounging for work on sites. Feast or famine, as they say.
What do you love about being digital nomads?
A: For sure the freedom we have. Not being part of a system that uses you, but just living our lives in harmony with ourselves and others. Seeing places, meeting new people and making new discoveries.
M: I love the freedom. We get to go with our gut for any job, and get to choose. The same goes for travel. Some places just didn’t feel right and we had the option to just go to find someplace better.
What do you not love so much about it?
A: Pretty much nothing
M: I suppose the lack of security and missing family and friends. But then again, my family and friends are super supportive and we get to make new friends all of the time. I’m lucky to have Armando to balance the in-betweens.
Which countries has “Mork” taken you to?
A: Mork’s taken us to at least to 20 countries in Europe, but as I used to say it’s not about the number of countries, but the unique experience we had in each of them.
M: He’s taken us to some very special places. Meteora, Greece. Sicily. Italy with my Aunties. The upper coast of France. Most recently, Auschwitz, which affected us both and should be seen by everyone. Honestly, right now I’m really enjoying Lithuania. Grin.
Could you share your top 5 places for a good work/travel balance? Why?
A: Our jobs really don’t depend so much on the location itself, so we travel where we want to travel by choice and after, when on location we find a way to do our jobs. For sure we have places that we really liked as Sicily, or Meteora in Greece, a beautiful experience in Romania. Mostly what make the difference is the people we meet during our travels.
M: I’d have to say we don’t have one- or 5- special places to work, but if we had to settle in Europe somewhere it’d be simple: Berlin. Goodness, the best of all worlds, artsy, open, friendly, affordable- and fantastic WiFi.
Internet! How do you manage to connect every day? Could you share some tips and costs?
A: It’s pretty simple: we bought for almost 50 euros a WiFi device from Huawei. In each country we just need to buy a data sim card, usually around 12/15 euros for 10 GB. This allows us to check our email, social media, to post on our website and such. If we need to download\upload big files, with a quick research we can find bar or a cafe with WiFi.
M: The Huawei portable has made our lives so much easier. Especially for me and my writing, doing research and posting. Back in the day, we drove through places scouring for something remotely resembling connectability. Armando’s files are much larger than mine, so we do still look for cafes. It’s just less hassle.
How often do you move from place to place and what inspires you to move?
A: We are slow travelers. We started two years ago living in Istanbul for almost 3 months, but that was too much. Now our travels depend on our budget and on places we want to visit. We choose when to travel and where.
M: I’m fairly easy going, but Armando gets restless from time to time. I think he’s got his own internal ‘gotta go now’ clock. Ha. Sometimes we’re inspired from the research I do before we get to a country; other times it’s from a local recommendation.
What are your tips on finding a place to park and stay overnight?
A: We prefer for sure the countryside, but we also had many experiences in big cities like Amsterdam, Paris and Berlin. I think we’ve accumulated experience to find the right place where to park and spend the night. Usually near water, a lake or a river. A park nearby is also very friendly.
M: Aargh. Parking is sometimes a pain. The bane, you might say, of our travels. We’ve lived and learned- one of the best things is that we can park almost anywhere. Our caravan is considered a car, not a motor home, so that helps loads. Asking locals for quiet areas is also really useful.
How often do you pay for accommodation, if ever?
A: I don’t think we’ve ever paid for accomodation. Many times we trade for it: a video for a camping website, or a hostel or B&B. We get in exchange electricity, WiFi and a room we can use for the toilet and shower, but anyway we sleep inside Mork, as we like it.
M: We’ve paid for campsites maybe once a year, as a treat. Otherwise it’s trading on our skills (I’ve written reviews, for example, but Armando’s videos seem to be the best leverage). We’re extremely self-sufficient: our bed, office, kitchen/stove/cupboard/refridgerator and closet are all in the van.
How often do you cook your own food? Could you share some favourite recipes?
A: We usually eat and cook in Mork every day, we like homemade food. Sometimes of course we grab something outside, pizza for example, as we do not have an oven or something special like a kebab. Best recipes: mine (cause we both cook) is Spaghetti Bolognese, Mel loves it so much.
M: It’s been an adjustment cooking on a two-burner stove top, for sure. I’d say some of the best recipes are adapted to our now-circs, like Irish stew.
Any tips you’d like to share?
A: Full of tips actually, but the interview will be so long. I can say I love my life as a DN and the freedom that it gives me. I found my way.
M: For the ladies out there: make finding a close toilet a priority first. Ha. You don’t want to wait until you really need one to go looking. For couples, patience is a virtue. Give each other space when you can. Gents, drive carefully (over 90% of travelers like us have man driving). I guess that’s it.
StoryV: Thank you very much once again.
Recommended reading: Van Living by Choice: We’re Not Homeless
Find out more about the adventures of Armando Costantino, Melony Candea and Mork on their website: westfaliadigitalnomads.com
Do you or a friend plan to travel in Europe? Does van living sound interesting to you? We’d love read your comments!
Please share this interview with you friend(s)! Thank you.