NIKOS & GEORGIA: THE PIN PROJECT
By Paul Strubell of Dirt Orcas – 1/23/18
For the sixty first installment in our ongoing interview series here at Dirt Orcas, we are thrilled to speak with Nikos and Georgia from the Pin Project.
Travelling full time for the past five year to a variety of continents with a few different vehicles, Nikos and Georgia are making the most of their time.
Their website, https://thepinproject.eu/ is a beautiful collection of their many stops and a window into the way they approach life on the road. There are amazing photo galleries, advice on how to play the game, and many more things there to help you plan your own trip as well as follow along with their journey.
You can also follow Nikos on Instagram through @writersretreatgreece or Georgia @traveleatingbygeorgia
They are now in the process of releasing their book, Traveliving – A Romantic & Practical Guide. The Book consists of 320 pages, lots of photos & stories from our travels and tons of practical information about vehicle selection & setup, trip paperwork, transportation, budget planning, money saving and making ideas, packing lists, route planning, etc. All make up a great reading that we hope will motivate people to start getting prepared for their own epic adventure, will add some value, and will provide with some food for thought. You can order the eBook or hard copy here on their website.
I have received a copy of the book already and am very pleased with what I have read so far. The forward is done by our good friend Elsebie Olivier from Piki Piki Overland Blog. You can check out the interview we did with them here.
While many people would call the travels of Nikos and Georgia the adventure of a lifetime, to me it seems more like their lives are the adventure. That mindset is much more interesting to me.
Check out the interview below and make sure you check out the book as well.
What do you consider to be your place of work?
Primarily, we love to work locally. This is the best way to meet the locals and experience the way they live as well as interact with foreigners (like us). So far, we have done paid jobs, work exchanges or volunteering assignments in Ghana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Canada, Mexico and Ecuador. Friendship, sympathy, love and kindness from the local people always make our day. Plus we have so many friends (and opportunities to go back anytime) around the globe.
Recently, we created TRAVELIVING, our first travel book, literally on the road. We finished and started writing in México, editing in Guatemala and Nicaragua and eventually publishing of the eBook in Colombia and the hard copy in Greece. So, we hope to create also some income from this.
In general, we prefer to work locally and experience first hand what a country has to offer to the visitor but we are also keen on projects like publishing a book, creating a podcast or designing a website on the road.
Tell me about your vehicles. What do you call them?
In Africa, we used to drive a 2003 Suzuki Grand Vitara TurboDiesel 2000cc. The last three years, we explore the Americas in a self-converted 2009 Toyota Hiace D4D 2500cc camper van.
The name of the little Suzuki was “Zikos” and comes from the name of a very famous actor starring in an old Greek comedy.
The name of the Toyota van is “Hara” (which means “Joy” in English language) and literally defines how we feel when we are driving it around the world.
What other vehicles did you consider and what made you ultimately pull the trigger on the one you bought?
In Africa, we used to own a 4×4 along with a Maggiolina roof-top tent for two years. For the second leg of our trip, we decided to opt for a camper van which basically allows for “stealth camping” literally everywhere.
The TOYOTA brand guarantees a relative peace of mind (there is no such a thing as a reliable vehicle; all will fail at some point) as well as an extensive network of workshops, service centers and –the most important- parts & spares availability more than any other car maker worldwide.
The conversion we did from a cargo to a camper van has been designed by us and so allows having everything in place. Super handy, ergonomic and adjustable. It is way more convenient as well as cost effective to drive around the world in a camper van than a 4×4 with a roof top tent and that was the main reason to make this selection. Plus, you can always get a 4WD version of a Mercedes Sprinter or a VW bus for those who love to go off-the-beaten track.
Extensive analysis with costs breakdown and comparisons about the two different setups can be found in our book.
Most important though, is not the means of transportation and the type of vehicle but the decision to travel. This is why you meet people circumnavigating the globe on bicycles, motorbikes, tuk-tuk, vespa, mopeds, or just a backpack!
Have you made any upgrades or changes to it?
The Suzuki Grand Vitara has been extensively upgraded to deal with the African roads. We installed new coil springs & shocks (MAD & KYB), a 10.000lbs Smittybilt winch with synthetic rope (that we never made any use) and a snorkel. Besides that, we removed the rear seats and we built a furniture to accommodate our stuff, travel gear and camping equipment.
The only thing we did with the Toyota van was to install heavy duty coil springs (CS Germany). Plus, the installation of solar panels, storage facility, a 10KG gas bottle, fridge and bedding.
What is your favorite part about it living/working out of your vehicle?
With the van, we can park & sleep literally everywhere. But the best part is that we can cook almost everything we want on our stove-top burners. In general, we are fully autonomous from all aspects and this gives a great sense of freedom!
What is your least favorite part about it?
We could say the breakdowns we had with the Suzuki in Africa but even those moments always turned up to be the highlights of the road trip because of the interaction we had with the locals and their eagerness to help us.
Sleeping in the van when outside is 30 degrees Celsius hot is definitely a challenging -if not brutal- part of living in a van but next time, we will be better prepared to deal with the heat in Yucatan Peninsula 😉
How many miles have you put on your vehicle?
We have done 46.000 km (≈28.500 miles) with the Suzuki in Africa and almost 65.000 km (≈40.500 miles) with the van.
What is the best place you have taken it?
The Namib Desert in Namibia, the Atlas mountains in Morocco, the rainforests in Guinea, the numerous safaris in southern Africa, the Sahara desert in Sudan & Egypt, the Alaskan Highway in Canada and the Dalton Highway in Alaska, the El Salvadorian coast & the Northern Andes in Peru are some of the highlights of the road trip itself and if you ask Zikos or Hara, we are sure they would feel fortunate.
Is there just one?
Favorite road you’ve driven?
Alaska Highway from Grande Cache, Alberta to Fairbanks, Alaska.
In one word, what describes your approach to life?
If you could give a person one piece of advice when thinking about living from a vehicle, what would you tell them?
Think for the long term and adjust your lifestyle, your vehicle and your way of thinking to this. The real catch of the freedom you enjoy when you live from a vehicle is its complete demystification.
Be aware of the reflections and be prepared to move when you want to stay and stay when you have to move. Don’t forget to have a partner with. Best things in life must be shared; otherwise it’s not fun!
It takes a special kind of person to recognize that the journey, not the destination, is the point of life. Travelers know this. Was there a point in your life where you became conscious that you were those people?
Yes. We have been robbed in South Africa and they took literally everything. No passport, no cash, no debit cards, no laptop, no hard drives, no photos! We had to stay and work in the same place for four months basically waiting for new passports in order to carry on travelling.
The journey changed completely as well as the reason WHY we were travelling. We are blessed that this happened in our first 6 months of traveliving.
After 5+ years on the road, we still consider this moment one of the highlights -and best life lessons- in our travel life. Besides that, moments like this contributed heavily on traveliving, our current travel lifestyle.
You have found a strong place in the community of travelers. What values do you think your home or family instilled in you, that you take on the road?
Be honest, humble and remain silent. And know how to cook!!!
I admire your outside the box approach to career and home. Do you see yourselves as people who took a leap of faith to live in an unconventional way or do you think it kind of just happened?
In our case, we think that it was more a matter of luck than a plan we had beforehand. Best things in life happen by accident! We can only appreciate what the road teaches us everyday and what the local people we meet, are willing to share with us.
Where do you want to go next?
The last three years we are heading south from Canada to Patagonia. We are currently in Lima and we have plans to explore south Peru, Brazil & Bolivia in 2018.
After 5+ years on the road, we just published TRAVELIVING, our first travel book and we are in the process of publishing TRAVELEATING, our second one with recipes from around the world as well as easily prepared camping food. Both available as hard copies and eBooks.
In general, we are trying to balance travel related stuff like our publications, online jobs like guest posts in travel websites or websites & graphic design with locally sourced income in tourism and hospitality industry in the countries we travelive. We come from a country with a great culture on hospitality and a tourism product of the highest quality but we are always keen on learning & sharing new stuff.