Embracing the Nomadic Lifestyle: An Exclusive Interview with Catarina and Gianni

We are thrilled to bring you an exclusive interview with Catarina and Gianni, an extraordinary couple who have chosen to live life on wheels. Originally from Portugal and Italy, Catarina and Gianni share how they embraced the nomadic lifestyle, the challenges they’ve faced, and the unforgettable adventures they’ve had.

From their first campervan experience to the mishaps with their beloved dog Buddha, and the devastating loss of their first home on wheels, their story is one of courage, resilience, and the pursuit of true freedom.

Get ready to be inspired by their incredible journey and the community they have found along the way.

Hi guys! Nice to meet you! Tell us a bit about yourselves: where are you from, how old are you, and when did you decide to change your lives?

We are Catarina and Gianni, and the decision to change our lives came to each of us individually, even before we met. I’m Catarina, Portuguese, born and raised in the south, I’m 28 years old and I’ve been interested in the nomadic lifestyle since I was 20. At 21, I rented a campervan for two weeks to explore this way of living, but at the time I was still living in a brick house.

Gianni is Italian, born in Belgium, where he spent most of his life. He’s 52 years old and from a young age, he traveled in campervans for work. He used to compete in boat races and traveled the world that way. Years later, he decided to buy his own campervan, which became our home. Unfortunately, it was completely destroyed in a fire caused by a short circuit.

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Why did you decide to live in a house on wheels?

We wanted the freedom to move around. We lived in our first campervan for over a year and met an amazing community during that time. When we lived in regular houses, we never felt as connected or comfortable with people as we do now with others who live this way.

After our first campervan was destroyed, we thought about what to do next. That day, almost at the same time, we both decided we wanted to keep living this lifestyle.

What was your first road trip experience in the motorhome?

I’ve already mentioned our individual early experiences, but as a couple, our first trip was during a work break. We headed towards the south of Spain, dreaming of falling asleep to the sound of the waves.

Of course, with a decision made on the fly and no real planning, we ended up on a narrow street that ended in a roundabout designed just to turn cars around, surrounded by iron posts… Within two minutes, at 10 PM, about 20 locals gathered to help us maneuver, and we ended up spending the night behind a nightclub… We barely slept, but it’s a story we love to tell.

You said you lost your first house on wheels in a fire in 2021… What happened?

Our fridge had a short circuit that started the fire. Even though we had several gas and smoke alarms, we watched our home get destroyed in just 15 minutes.

Once again, the sense of community was incredible—about 30 people came together, some risking their own lives, to try and save our home. Unfortunately, their efforts were in vain, and the only thing we were left with were the pajamas we were wearing.

Have there been any significant changes in your life as a result of this lifestyle choice?

We’ve started valuing the things that truly matter. It sounds cliché, but it’s true. Gianni had already experienced a car accident a few years ago where he technically died, but thankfully, the medical team managed to bring him back.

Going through another life-threatening situation like the fire really makes you put things into perspective. And honestly, there’s so much that just doesn’t matter at all…

Even without the fire and losing everything we owned, this lifestyle brings you into contact with people who have completely different backgrounds, experiences, and lives from yours. It opens your mind, and before you know it, you don’t recognize yourself—and you wouldn’t want it any other way.

What’s the most tiring thing to deal with or prepare for during your travels?

At first, it was making sure everything inside the campervan was secure and wouldn’t fall during the drive. One time, I had to clean up a dozen eggs that fell and cracked on the floor while Gianni kept driving because there was nowhere to stop… We laugh about it now, but it wasn’t fun at the time.

These days, we’re more aware of what needs to be moved and secured, and we do it almost automatically. The most challenging thing now is finding good spots to stay overnight and making sure the roads we plan to take don’t have weight or height restrictions.

Finally, before we leave any place, it’s essential for us to make sure it’s as clean or cleaner than we found it.

How do you choose your travel destinations and next adventures?

Since we’re based in Portugal, our trips usually end up heading towards Spain, especially for international travel. Then we look at how much time we have and what kind of adventure we’re in the mood for.

We’ve explored big cities, coastlines, and mountains. It all depends on our mood and what the weather allows us to do.

What’s your next destination and the one you dream of reaching someday?

Our next trip will be to the north of Portugal, and we’ll also swing through northern Spain before heading back. Gianni hasn’t been to the north, and I love it, so I really want to show him around. We also have some friends in northern Spain who live in campervans too, so we’d love to visit them.

The place we dream of reaching someday is Sweden. Gianni’s best friend lives there now, and we dream of traveling through all of Europe, starting from the south, taking our time until we reach Örebro, and then making the return trip through the north.

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Can you tell us a funny story that happened during one of your trips?

We’ve already shared a few in the previous questions, but on that first trip we took to the south of Spain, we had just adopted Buddha, our dog who is now 5 years old. He had just gotten his first vaccinations and ended up throwing up all over the campervan. While we were super excited about our first trip together, we were also totally frustrated having to clean the carpet for hours!

On another trip with a couple of friends, we headed to Ronda to visit the Caminito del Rey. They were driving their campervan in front of us but forgot about the size and weight difference. We ended up on a road with a 5-ton limit, while we actually weighed 16 tons. We didn’t know whether to laugh or cry!

What advice would you give to a family or someone who wants to embark on this lifestyle?

Our first piece of advice is: don’t overthink it.

Embracing this lifestyle requires some adjustments, and you should be aware of that, but it’s totally worth it. Ideally, if you can, try renting campervans of different sizes to figure out what style and size suit your needs best. But once you have a clearer idea, don’t be afraid to take the plunge. There are still people who judge and don’t understand, but we create our own happiness, and we should never put it on the back burner because of others’ opinions. Always remember, we only have one life, and it really does fly by.

A huge thank you to Catarina and Gianni for sharing their fascinating life on wheels story with us. Their experiences remind us of the importance of following our dreams and living life to the fullest.

If you enjoyed this journey through their adventures, be sure to follow them on social media to keep up with their travels. You can find Catarina and Gianni on Instagram at @lifeonwheels_pt.

Stay tuned for more exciting stories and inspiration. Safe travels to everyone!