Kirstjane Kamdacaj, 25, and Adam Mottram, 34, are no strangers to adventure.
After meeting in Italy back in 2017, they went backpacking together around South America, where he proposed the following year, spent lockdown in a ‘borrowed house’ in the Midlands, and just completed a three-month, 4,400 mile adventure, visiting 12 countries in a 16ft by 7ft campervan.
After that epic road trip, the couple lived 1,150 miles apart – until five days ago, when bus driver Adam left his base in Staffordshire to join Kirstjane, who works in digital marketing, in Florence, Italy.
Now they hope to head back on the road later this year, with dreams of going to Greece in the van – but that will all depend on the situation with travel amid the ongoing lockdown.
Adam fell for his Albanian-born fiancée Kristjane when they met in Florence where he was working as a tour guide. He was there for a year, and says it took his entire stay to persuade her to be his girlfriend.
They then backpacked around South America, where he proposed in 2018.
Then, just before the March lockdown, Adam ‘borrowed’ a house in Stafford, Staffordshire, from a friend for over four months and Kristjane joined him – leading to several months spent hatching plans for their next big adventure.
They had planned to spend the summer of 2020 working together at a Swiss holiday resort, but the jobs fell through when Covid-19 swept through Europe, so they had to think of something else.
‘We both love travelling and knew we wanted to take a road trip together, so in June we bought a campervan and decided to take off as soon as we could,’ said Adam.
The couple bought the 1992 Renault Trafic van for £5,500 from someone who ran a garage, had the cambelt changed and spent another £500 kitting it out, so they had everything they needed to live in it for several months.
This included fitting blackout blinds to the windows, buying a small side tent to house their kitchen and another for a portable toilet.
And, with travel corridors starting to open, on July 3 they drove in the van – nicknamed ‘Flo Rider’ – to Dover to catch the ferry to Dunkirk in France.
Right from the start, the couple – who visited France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Austria, Italy, Montenegro, Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia and Kristjane’s native Albania on their road trip – decided to avoid tourist hotspots and park up off the beaten track.
They planned their 4,400-mile route to enable them to ‘wild camp’ wherever they could, with free parking.
Once they knocked on a stranger’s door in the middle of the countryside in Croatia, asking if they could park on the drive for the night, as the campsite they were heading for was closed due to Covid – and the homeowner happily agreed.
Surviving on their savings and spending around £27 a day on food and fuel between them, the whole three month trip cost around €2,500 (£2,250).
And, while some relationships would have been challenged by sharing a space of around 16ft by 7ft for three months, Adam says their South American travels prepared them well.
Explaining their decision to travel, Kristjane said: ‘Lockdown was a hard time for everyone and after our positions in Switzerland fell through, we thought, “We’ve got no jobs now and no house, so why not do something different when the restrictions lift?”
‘In lots of ways we are very different people but mostly, we are both on the same page. We learned that in South America.’
Kristjane says the campervan trip taught her how to love Adam’s faults – such as his messiness.
They loved their travels so much that, while it meant pushing back their original wedding in Tuscany, Italy, back from 2021 to 2022 in order to finance it, they now hope to travel around Greece in the van next summer.
Meanwhile, they agree that the highlight of their road trip was their visit to Albania.
For Adam, it meant connecting with Kristjane, who lived there until she and her parents relocated to Italy when she was 10, on a different level and she loved being able to show him her childhood home.
By avoiding the tourist hotspots, in every country they discovered stunning locations which are not included in the average guidebook and say their adventure really saw them ‘living the dream’.
Meanwhile, some places where they expected to find crowds, like the celebrated Croatian city of Dubrovnik – the location for King’s Landing in Game of Thrones – were deserted because of Covid-19.
‘If ever there was a time to travel across Europe without the stress of lots of traffic and tourists, this past summer was it,’ said Adam.
‘Because of the pandemic, there really weren’t that many people about which made it just the best time to travel.
‘Now Kristjane and I are back together we can’t wait to get back on the open the road – whenever that may be.’
To keep up with Adam and Kristjane’s travels, give them a follow at @contikiad and @kristjane3.
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