33 years, from Riga, Latvia 

“I don’t have an apartment anymore, all my stuff is in my van. I call it my ‘wannabe van’.”

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Kristiana – Praia Do Beliche, Portugal
33 years, from Riga, Latvia

Kristiana had no intention of living in the van. In October 2021, she came to Lisbon to do her second Master’s degree in pharmaceutical engineering. She quickly realized that it was not what she had imagined and dropped out after the first semester. Since January, she has been travelling around Portugal in her little van. It is a bit improvised. In Latvia, she bought the van for short weekend trips to the sea to go surfing, but didn’t intend to live in it full time. She drove all the way from Latvia to Portugal with all her belongings in it to start her studies. Currently, she no longer has a flat.

After completing her first Master’s degree in pharmaceutical sciences, Kristiana worked in the pharmaceutical industry for many years. Her plan to do a second Master’s in Lisbon was just an excuse to be able to live abroad. An opportunity to escape the daily grind. A nine-to-five job, five days a week, with only four weeks’ holiday a year — it felt like a death sentence to her. A catalyst to change her old life was the outbreak of the Corona epidemic. It made her depressed to realize that her life was no different before the lockdown than during it. It hadn’t changed at all. For her, the best thing about being in a van is having everything she needs in one place. Her van is small and doesn’t look like a van where anyone lives. That’s why she never has problems finding a place to sleep. The police usually overlook her.

Presently, Kristiana feels a little lost. She lives off her savings. In August, after eight months in the van, she has to go back to Latvia for the main inspection of her car. The uncertainty of what to expect and what job she would like to work in then scares her a little. She knows she wants to avoid getting back on the hamster wheel of a nine-to-five job. Kristiana is trying to find a way to maintain her current lifestyle, to find a job where she can work remotely. Unfortunately, this is rather ­unusual in the ­pharmaceutical industry.