Vanlife Stories: Escaping the Smoke (Daniela & Ciaran)

Daniela and Ciaran slid into our dm's just before they moved into their unbelieveably beautiful van! They set off on their big adventure on the 19th of June and are now exploring Italy and making us very jealous that we didn't head further south! We also have some serious van envy! Head over and follow their journey in their beautiful van!

Who are you? Tell us a little bit about you and your lovely home on wheels!

We are Daniela & Ciaran and our van is a self-built Peugeot Boxer L3H2 van. We are both from London and moved back to Ciaran's family home to convert the van full-time. In total, with some blood, sweat and (a few) tears, we finished the van in 4 1/2 months.

We went into this whole building process as complete amateurs, but we were up for a challenge! We wanted to improve our DIY skills and design the van from scratch to suit our needs, whilst hoping to save a little money 💸!

Why did you choose vanlife?

We have always been interested in the tiny house movement and were originally looking to get a houseboat somewhere near London! We originally went with a houseboat as we liked the idea of being able to move your home. Then we saw a couple people doing vanlife and realised there are way more possibilities of travel with a van than a boat!

We have budgeted to travel for a year and after that, we don't know 🤷‍♀️! One of the reasons for this trip, apart from travelling around the more wilder parts of Europe & beyond, is also to explore alternative lifestyles. So watch this space, we could end up going completely left field and running an eco llama farm in rural Georgia 😂🤣!

Your conversion process

As we've already said we were complete novices, so YouTube was a complete life saver! The Restoration Couple, Greg Virgoe and The Indie Projects were amazing sources of information - breaking the van build process down step by step.

In the first few weeks of the build, we followed the Restoration Couple's videos religiously to get the basics right. They also have the same van as us, so that was really helpful!

Special mentions also to our friend, Dec, who is a set designer for movies and helped us a lot with building along the way and also Dani's dad, who helped with the plumbing as he had a plumbing night school course under this belt!

Everything else from electrics to tiling and making the soft furnishings, we did ourselves!


In terms of design, instagram was a huge source of inspiration. Our favourite van insta accounts are @slownsteadylivin, @theindieprojects, @brownandbird, and @thetravellingshed.

What are your experiences of living vanlife? Best and worst bits

We have only been living full-time vanlife for a short time now, so I'm sure we will have a lot more experiences to come! But so far, the best bit has to be feeling like you have total freedom! We love the fact that we could spend the morning on the beach and the evenings in the middle of nowhere in the mountains, if we wanted to! Also, despite constantly travelling through unfamiliar places, we can always retreat to our cosy little home on wheels.

So far the worse bit is the summer heat! We went from rainy England to the European heatwave and keeping it cool in the van has been a little tricky, particularly without any AC! Also constantly making sure the van is tidy! When there is a little mess in such a small space, it looks turned upside down.

What is your vanlife must have?

It's a bit of a luxury, but our favourite thing in the van is our water purification system. It is from General Ecology and is a separate faucet, which filters and pours safe drinking water. This means we don't have to buy any plastic water bottles (!!!) and can fill up our water tank anywhere.

Other van must haves for us are: fly nets (!), our compost loo, roof fan, solar shower and our dish drying mat (sounds silly, but helps with the mess).

What would be your vanlife do without?

I suppose our indoor table as we mainly eat outside. When we set up the table inside, it just gets in the way.

What are you doing now?

We are currently in a nature reserve in Tuscany doing a helpx for 2 weeks. Here, we are living with an Italian family helping out on their farm doing some DIY, gardening, cooking, eating and practising our Italian!

Helpx and wolfing are great experiences as you get to live with locals, experience a little bit more of the culture of a place, and really connect with people and a place rather than just passing through. Also a big plus is that we have a proper bed and shower for 2 weeks!

What is your next step?

After this, we are going to the Dolomites for some hiking and mountain air! Anything beyond that is yet to be decided and weather dependent!

What advice would you give to would be vanlifers or people thinking of living in a van?

It is important to have a real think about what you will be using the van for. Will it be only for weekends or will you be living in the van full time? Do you want to go to remote places or happy staying on main roads? Do you mind looking like a campervan or do you want to be a bit more stealth?

All these questions will determine which van you will choose and your design, and ultimately how comfortable you will feel travelling.

If you could take your van anywhere where would it be and why?

For us, it would be to the Greek islands and maybe over to Georgia! Greece offers a much slower pace of a life with beautiful islands and great food and drink - so no brainer! Ahah and Georgia offers rugged adventure!

A massive thank you for taking the time to be a part of our Vanlife Stories series.

If you liked reading about their story and journey head over to Instagram and give them a follow at @escapingthesmoke for all the details of their conversion and to follow their amazing trip around Europe!

For those reading, if you are converting or living in your van and would like to be featured you can download the questionnaire here or you can get in touch with us either through our Instagram or through our contact us page!

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