Katch & Ben

Katch & Ben live a simple life in their van, a 4WD 2016 Mercedes Sprinter Sportsmobile. As full-time photographers, they travel to shoot couples and edit their photos inside their van. With so much equipment, it was important for them to choose a rig that could safely store their gear, while also giving them the comforts of a home.

TUNE IN FOR THIS PODCAST BELOW OR LISTEN ON ITUNES, SOUNDCLOUD or Google Play.

Our home is wherever we make camp. We love the life we lead and we feel super lucky that we get to do what we do.

Follow Katch & Ben of Sheep Feet

Produced by Kathleen Morton of Tiny House, Tiny Footprint.
Sound editing and music brought to you by Deni Gauthier.
Photos courtesy of Katch Silva and Ben Sasso.

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Ron

Ron is not new to vanlife. Back in 2012, he built out an 85 Vanagon and traveled the US for about eight months. He sold that van and then, for the following three years, deeply regretted that decision.
In the summer of 2016, he purchased another Vanagon with great plans for hitting the road. The first six months were wrought with issues, but finally in February, he was ready to take off again.

Square Feet: 75

A man, a van and a dog named River.

 

Make, Model, Year: Tin-Top 1985 VW Vanagon

 

This is your second journey in a van. Tell us about your first one and that van.

Ultimately, I am not sure what prompted the first van trip. I was getting restless, I suppose. I had a little SUV at the time and sold that to buy a van. I was not set on a particular make and model, but a Vanagon was on my list of possibilities. Even then I thought the Vanagon price tag would exceed my budget. But alas, Craigslist came through and put me in front of a somewhat rusty and beat up 1985 Vanagon. With very little repair time (a couple axles and tune up), I would go on to live in that van for eight months, most of which was spent tooling across the US. I would push-start it an entire state to reach Oklahoma, replace a ball joint in South Carolina and camp in a Walmart parking lot in eastern Oregon while waiting to swap out that one last axle. All in all, I would say it did amazing.

 

Why did you decide to leave vanlife the first time?

I thought I wanted to come back and settle into something, maybe nothing in particular. For some reason I thought Portland held some life plan for me. At the time, I thought I couldn’t just keep doing this…this was meant to be a vacation, not a lifestyle. When I was in that Walmart parking lot mentioned above, I realized I wasn’t that excited for it to be over. I had taken months heading east and only weeks heading back west. I was in a huge rush to get back “home.” But there in that parking lot for three days, I found myself sort of disappointed to be home, or close there to.

I wasn’t ready for the adventure of vanlife to come to an end.

 

And why go back?

It seems that when living in a van, every day is an adventure. Whether it is the seemingly constant problem solving or the simple act of moving about freely, every day somehow seems more…more something. Honestly, I am not even sure what the word would be.

I found that I felt more alive, more in tune with the world and more scared as well as more elated. There is a wild feeling about it.

Not knowing where you might sleep on a given night or what the next day may bring or anything about how the day or night is going to go. I missed that.

You seem to really like VWs. Why not a different vehicle?

Simply put, the community. While there is a big vanlife community out there, and more connected now than ever, the Vanagon community is a tight knit one filled with some of the most kind and interesting folks. Even those outside the community love a VW van. I have folks all across the US, simply because it was a VW Vanagon. I love looking over at a car when they pass by and seeing someone smiling and waving back - —I don’t think that happens to the Econoline. Just this past month I went camping with eight other vanagons, brought together by their simple love for the vehicle. Then I would stop and have lunch with a friend in San Luis Obispo, her heading south and I north, and I ended up turning around and working with her in San Juan Capistrano for the past four weeks, where I am currently sitting and writing this. Like the others, I came to know her simply due to the fact that we both have a VW van.

 

What are some of the challenges to owning an older vehicle and a VW?

This is the flipside to all the good previously stated. These machines are or can be a total handful. My first van—while rusty and beat up—ran great for the most part. This one, I spent three times as much on—purchase price wise—and had the transmission fail a month in and then the engine needed to be swapped just a couple months after that. They are classic cars at this point, and the wiring and mechanical parts get pretty well worn and seemingly every part is slowly needing replaced. Thank goodness for places like GoWesty that still sell all the little and big parts that these vans need.

 

Where do you usually sleep on the road?

I love to sleep in the woods. But sadly, despite what Instagram sometimes portrays about vanlife, it doesn’t always happen like that. I boondock, I pay for campgrounds and I stay with friends and family. Probably my favorite place to sleep on the road is in a driveway of a stranger I met through Couchsurfing (CS). I used it a lot back in 2012 and I am using it again now. I love rolling into an unknown town and having someone there. The CS community, like the vanlife one, is amazing.

These people always seem to have interesting stories of their travels, and it’s like having a friend living in the town who already knows the place and wants to show you around. I love it.

 

How do you sustain this lifestyle?

Two fold. One, I work as a photographer. I do some work from the road, but the majority comes from shooting weddings during the summer back in Portland. I also work 10-15 hours a week doing web development for a market research company. That job is what really spearheaded the first trip. I was working from home or a coffee shop every day, and I realized that if I can work remotely, then I can work from anywhere.

 

What's a typical day like for you?

It varies, but more often than not, I get up fairly early and find a coffee shop. Despite being completely independent power-wise, I find that I get more done when I post up at a coffee shop and work. I like to get my work done early, as I seem to be able to concentrate more at that time.

As the day progresses, I prefer to be off exploring the area and what it has to offer.

 

What's been your most memorable experience from the road?

During my first trip, when I was green to the whole vanlife experience, I stayed a week or so in Santa Cruz. I would get up early and go to the west cliff and get a good spot and hang out there for the day. My office had the best view. But my favorite moment was in a bathroom in Santa Cruz. I went in and was washing my hair in the bathroom sink, and I looked up and gazed at myself in the mirror. At that moment it really sunk in that I was homeless—or "home free" as I like to think of it—and that I was bathing in a public bathroom. While I realize this might be a low point for some folks, for me it was the realization of a dream.

I had made it, I was doing it and I was living the life I had set out to live.

 

What's it like to be a solo traveler? Do you get lonely?

The first time out I was totally alone; this time I have my dog, River. While it's not a whole lot different, as we don’t have conversations, having the dog along has been really nice. She is a terrifying theft deterrent. In the realm of love, I definitely get lonely from time to time. I, admittedly, sort of enjoy the loneliness sometimes. I like to be with it, to experience it and to just be in that moment and that state.

I would love to have someone to share in this adventure and help feed it, but I also have come to really love being on this journey alone.

Being alone allows you to truly be free to change direction on a whim, and most of all, it forces you to go out and make connections with the locals.

 

What struggles do you face living an alternative lifestyle?

Self doubt, as in, what the hell am I doing. The typical blueprint of what life is to look like is so far from this one that it can be hard to explain to those not in it. The majority of the people that I know have a house, a husband or wife, a career, etc., and here I am without any of those. By the general metric, I am really failing at this game of life—assuming that life is to have 2.5 kids and a white picket fence.

 

Has anything surprised you from your journey?

The kindness and generosity of strangers. Frequently, a Vanagon owner will come along and help another van owner. But being out on the road, I have found that it goes beyond just the other van owners.

 

Has there been a moment that confirmed, "This is why I live this way."

Every time I hear someone talk about their debt or not having enough money. When you have a big house, it is easy to get wrapped up in filling it with things. I find that living in this van and in the tiny house before this van, having a small space means only owning and buying the things that you really need or want—not the frivolous stuff. I have an annoying habit that anyone who has shopped with me has suffered through of picking something off the shelf and walking around with it for a while, and then putting it back once I decide I really don’t need it.

 

What location do you keep coming back to in your travels?

My love affair with the California coast starts around Big Sur and goes north from there.The California coastline. Maybe it’s due to that first experience with Santa Cruz, or maybe that there are tons of other VW vans along the 1 and 101. I have spent that last few weeks here in San Juan Capistrano, and I have to say, not all of California’s coast is the same. The beaches down this way are crowded and have more parking lot space than beach space. It reminds me of the Joni Mitchell lyrics “they paved paradise, and put up a parking lot.”

My love affair with the California coast starts around Big Sur and goes north from there.

 

What's next? Any news or travel plans?

To be honest, none really. My first time out I had some direction for my travels—to end up on the east coast in South Carolina and go through the south and come back through the north. I am glad I had that plan, because otherwise, I might have turned back and spent all my time in the areas that I believe to be the most beautiful (near the Rocky Mountains and west thereof). But this time, I just want to go wherever sounds interesting, looks beautiful or someone asks me to go.

I want to just be open and free to the experience.

 

Follow Ron of Continuous Camper

Produced by Kathleen Morton of Tiny House, Tiny Footprint.
Edited by Kate MacDougall.
All photos credit to Ronald Hope
.

Elise, Dom & Scout

Hello friends!

I’m Elise. My husband, Domenic, and I have done a lot of van travelling over the past two years, but just recently made the move into our van full time. She’s a 72 Westfalia Kombi van called Scout, and she has absolutely changed our lives for the better. We plan to travel right around Australia, as slowly as we can, and keep running our business while we do. We’ve started in SA and will soon head across the Nullabor to the West.

I think something that rings true for all of us who choose this lifestyle is that we are seeking an alternative way of living that allows us to strip back, and step away from, the social structures and the expectations around how we should live our lives, and instead start to live how we want to live our lives. There is something about being on the road that allows us to tap into a slower gear in how we live and think. For us it provides clarity, perspective, and an incredible sense of freedom, as well as endless opportunities to experience new things and meet new people.

On many occasions I’ve found myself laying on a rug outside the van late at night, staring up at the most awesome starry skies. It’s almost like being inside a snow globe, you can see the curve of the night sky because of how densely littered it is, right to the horizon. You need a clear night, no moon, but most importantly, to be in the middle of nowhere to experience skies like this.

The first time I experienced it I remember thinking; “these stars are always here, we just can’t see them.”

There is so much artificial light pollution in our lives and the societies we live in, that we actually miss all of THIS. Some people would go their whole lives without ever experiencing it.

This might all sound a bit random, but I kind of think that life on the road has allowed something similar to happen in our lives, on a personal level. And if you’ve experienced this too, maybe you’ll agree with me.

 

About SCOUT

We got Scout two years ago from a lovely man who purchased her back in 1972 in Germany, just after he and his wife had married. They travelled all over Europe in her, and then moved back to South Africa and took her with them. When they moved to Australia, twenty seven years ago, and couldn’t leave Scout behind, so she came too. They had children, and gave their daughters a childhood interspersed with Kombi trips and travels all over the country. This van was part of their family, well looked after and very well loved. It had been places, and seen things, he told us, that would make the most seasoned traveller envious.

When we went to look at the van, we couldn’t afford it. We had just started our winery, Down The Rabbit Hole. Starting a business from the ground up left us short on cash and time, which put the brakes on my big travel dreams. Our solution was to find an affordable van so that one night a week we could get away together, somewhere close, and travel affordably. But I couldn’t stop looking at the ad for this quite unaffordable, but beautiful, van.

Despite getting offers for what he was asking, Peter told us he was only selling the van because of all the memories attached to it, as he had just lost his wife. He asked us what we could afford. We told him we meant no offence, but we could afford about half of his asking price. He told us that he would give us the van for that price on one condition, we had to promise him we would have adventures. With many tears, we promised him we would.

And so we began to explore Australia in Scout, and quickly fell in love with life on the road and the simplicity it offered. Little trips turned into big trips, and it wasn’t long before we decided to pack up and get rid of as much as possible and move into the van full time.

We’re excited for what this year will bring, but today we’re parked with a nice view, the water is boiling for another cuppa, and life is good.

You can follow along with our travels at:

@elisecook

And our blog:

WANDERING HOME BLOG

@downtherabbitholewines

I’ll be an Australian contributor for Vanlife Diaries this year, so I look forward to chatting with and hopefully meeting some of you :) Feel free to get in touch and say hey!

 

Bradley & David

Bradley & David met each other on a road trip and became fast friends. While they were driving through Oregon, they talked about converting a school bus. So they bought one for $6,000, and with zero mechanical or construction experience, they spent around $300 and installed flooring and added a bed frame to the interior.

What started as a plan for two people soon became a plan for four. They both recently got engaged, so now the two couples are traveling together in 80 square feet.

Square Feet: 80

On a quest to build the perfect adventure vehicle as we visit 59 national parks.

Make, Model, Year: 2000 GMC 3500 Shorty

Why a bus?

I actually bought a VW Bus first and started that conversion, but soon realized it was too small for what we wanted. With two couples and all our photography/videography equipment, the VW was just too small. We decided on a short bus because it was bigger but still fits inside a parking spot.

The short school bus is easy to maneuver, which has been a huge bonus.

Where did you find it?

We found the bus on KSL.com. It's kind of like Craigslist, but just for Utah.

Walk us through the conversion process.

We started by tearing out the seats, laying down laminate flooring and framing the sides. That's about it so far on the inside.

Because of the nature of our trips, keeping the inside of the bus very modular has been beneficial. We are able to rearrange it in order to fit more gear and people.

A few weeks ago, we finally painted the outside white.

Next on our list is to build a roof rack/deck. We want a place to add more storage, but also where we can sleep and watch the stars. On the inside, we will be framing in a bed at the back of the bus and will include a loft/shelf for more storage above the bed. One of the features I'm most excited about will be the roof water supply that we will incorporate into the rack. It will be perfect for washing dishes and taking quick showers. Also on our timeline is building in solar.

How did you know where to start?

I guess we really didn't. I think we figured that we wanted all the seats out first so we just got after it.

For not doing a whole lot of research beforehand, I am pretty impressed with what we have been able to do ourselves.

How did you two meet?

We met on a west coast road trip in two VW buses and have been best friends ever since.

What do you two bring to this trip both individually and together?

It is basically the four of us now. David and I recently got engaged, so our fiancées will be traveling with us as well.

David is the fearless one. He pushes the boundaries of what we do in all of our adventures. I would say I am more of the wet blanket, which I think makes us a good fit. He gets me out of my comfort zone. We both have different eyes for photography—David leads in photography. I would say I am also the camp chef for us all.

What's the goal with this trip?

We have made it a goal to get out on some sort of trip every weekend. And we have done pretty well so far.

Ultimately, we want to gain experiences and see the world. The both of us have traveled the world, and we appreciate getting out of our comfort zones, learning about new people and cultures, and just seeing the world outside of our little reality of Provo, Utah.

How are you funding it?

Everything so far has been out of our own pockets. We hope to take on some brand sponsorships to help get more of the technical work done.

How do you two do together in a small space? How do you find alone time?

I would say really well. We have spent so much time together on road trips this far and haven't gotten sick of each other. We often have deep conversations and have similar taste in music, so trips never get boring.

Most of our trips involve being in the outdoors.

We are constantly outside on hikes and find alone time out in nature.

What do you miss about life before? Does the bus have any limitations?

I think since we are constantly moving, there are times when I miss a sense of home. With every weekend being a new trip, it's easy to get tired of constantly moving. Sasquatch currently doesn't have a toilet, and I think our fiancées are tired of that.

Why live in a bus? What are the benefits?

We love the minimalist mindset. I have been able to sort my life into needs and wants easier. It's kind of refreshing being on the road with only the bare essentials. We also love all the people and friendships we have made on the road. The cost of living is definitely cheaper.

But I think the best benefit is the overall freedom.

We can pack up and go wherever the hell we want.

Is this your forever home?

I think eventually that is the plan. I can see us traveling with the weather and trying to stay in places with warmer temperatures.

What's next?

We are at Coachella and would love to meet up with any other vanlifers there.

Tell us where you’re going; tell us where you’re headed. I’m off on an adventure.

Follow Bradley & David of Sasquatch the Bus

Produced by Kathleen Morton of Tiny House, Tiny Footprint.
Edited by Kate MacDougall.
All photos credit to Bradley Davis.

Blue Moon: Romania

Vanlife Diaries from Romania!

@bluemoonthevan

Viktoria - 26, Fashion and Design student, Vienna based, puppy lover

Michael - 28, law degree, sports student, van owner, sports addicted

Austrians by passport and earthlings by heart.

To cut a long story short: we bought a van and started to live our dream.

Michael finished his law studies in Graz/Austria and bought a van. Bluemoon is a VW California T4, 1999 with a pop up tent for sleeping, a gas cooker, a fridge and a water tank - it has all the essentials for a happy vanlife. To make it a little bit cozier we changed the colors of the cabinets, bought a rug, a plant and some stuff for cooking. But usually we like to have less stuff and having more space for things we love.

Our roadtrip started in Austria, we crossed Italy, enjoyed the ocean along the Cote d’ azur, drove down the west coast of France, and along the north shore of Spain. We made it to the west coast of Portugal and at the end to the Algarve. The trip was about surfing, eating, drinking, about having time for things we love and about working less and living more.

In September 2016 Viktoria studied at the UAD (Universitatea de arte si design) in Cluj-Napoca so I started the Romania roadtrip with Viktoria’s cousin and her boyfriend from Austria, through Hungary to Romania. We picked up Viktoria in Cluj and visited the Salina Turda which was absolutely beautiful!  Sibiu, Brasov, Transfagarasan road, Prahova. On the way we did a lot of hiking and we enjoyed the wild nature of Romania.

We were so lucky to had the chance to drive the Transfagarasan pass road. By far the greatest experience. We enjoyed some calm days at the Balea Lac in the snowed covered mountains, did sunrise hikes, made many dog friends and tasted the world famous Tsuika (best snaps in the world) ;)

We cannot put in words how warm hearted and friendly romanian people are (at least those we have met). On the one side seeing so many poor people and so much poverty on the country side broke our hearts. On the other side we cannot believe how welcoming the romanians are - overwhelmed by there mentality, culture and way of life.

Wild nature - perfect for hikers, climbers and campers. To experience Romania in fall with the changing leaves was breathtaking. As Austrians we are definitely  spoiled but nothing compares to the color change of the leaves in Romania.

Old cities - Sighisoara, Sibiu, Brasov.

Warm hearted people - we couldnt get enough from talking to locals. Well they talked romanian to us and we didnt understand (haha) but we definitely felt the love.

For vanlifers and campers Romania has everything you need: wild nature, camping spots everywhere, helpful people, delicious food - even vegetarians won’t starve ;)

The roads are bumpy and it will take you quite a time to reach from one city to the next. But take your time and soak up every second of this beautiful country.

We are hungry for adventure, for new countries, cultures and people. Traveling is our passion, it’s what we live for and we can do best. Ist’ not always easy to be stucked on 7m^2, not understand what the people are trying to tell you, to get lost in the dark, to get stuck in the snow or to have a broken van in the middle of nowhere but let us tell you - its definitely worth it.

Start living your dream, start today - do not wait for tomorrow, next week or the best moment. Life is short - start living

If you are interested in our travel adventures make sure to follow us by clicking the button below:

DSC_0589.jpg

 

 

 

 

Pete & Taylor

Pete's motto is "life is short" and Taylor has a tattoo on her arm that reads "simple" in Thai. Together, with their sidekick Snoop, they are living on the road in an old airport shuttle bus that they transformed into a cozy traveling home. Living in and exploring nature’s beauty all over the world, connecting with people from all walks of life, immersing themselves in new cultures and playing music with strangers are a few of the reasons they chose to live in a van.

They moved into Pete’s parent’s house after graduation, working full time at their family business during the day and converting the van from the second they punched out until they went to bed. They did this for five months before the van conversion was complete and they were ready to hit the road.

Square Feet: 80

Two people driven by curiosity, pursuing the unknown like the mavericks we are.

How did you two meet?

We met in college in Wisconsin. We wish we could say that our eyes locked from across the library when we were studying for finals, but let’s be real.

We met in a college dive bar and bonded over our mutual love of tequila and Blink 182.

What was life like before vanlife?

We were both finishing up our business degrees and trying to balance school and work. I was working at a dog boarding and daycare facility, and Pete was serving at a bar/restaurant/music venue. With graduation approaching, neither of us were keen on the idea of getting entry-level marketing jobs and beginning our glorious ascent up the corporate ladder.

We had taken time off of school to travel Southeast Asia and we fell in love with the nomadic lifestyle.

Why did you choose vanlife?

We came across the vanlife community and the idea felt so right to us. We could live a nomadic lifestyle and get to see more of our beautiful country; so we made major moves. We moved into Pete’s parent’s house after graduation, working full time at their family business during the day and converting the van from the second we punched out until we went to bed. We did this for five months before the van conversion was complete.

Months Living on the Road: 4

We are still somewhat newbies at vanlife. We’ve been on the road for four months and are still figuring out this whole lifestyle.

We’ve loved our time on the road so far and are so happy we made the decision to live this way.

Make, Model, Year: 2004 Dodge Sprinter

We named our van Sonder (“Ders” for short). He is a 2004 Dodge Sprinter 3500 with a Mercedes diesel engine. He has a 170” wheelbase, meaning he’s the extra long Sprinter.

How did you find it?

We found our van where you find anything else that is pure gold: Craigslist. We bought it with only 194,000 miles on the odometer from a really nice guy who was selling his business and no longer needed the van. We scored an awesome deal, because the outside was covered in colorful vinyl that a previous owner had put on. It was really hard to get off and made the van look absolutely ridiculous.

What was your budget?

We didn’t have a specific budget when we started. All we knew was that—as recent college grads—we wanted to do it as inexpensively as possible. This meant that we outsourced very little and did almost every part of the conversion ourselves, and we learned a lot from it.

Did you have any design considerations for your build out?

We wanted the design to be simple and efficient.

We knew we wanted a bed that could be put into benches to maximize the space we had and to have ample storage space. We also knew that we wanted a simple kitchen setup and to use as little energy as possible.

Take us on a tour inside the van.

When you walk in through our beautiful shuttle doors (Sonder was a San Diego airport shuttle bus in his first life), you’ll see our walnut and plywood kitchen unit equipped with a stainless steel sink with a hand-pump faucet, cupboards that hold our water jugs, food and cooking supplies and a pullout maple cutting board. Next to the kitchen is an end table that holds our toiletries and hides the porta-potty. Next to that, you’ll find our music center, which is where our guitar, ukulele, foot tambourine, harmonica and cow bell live. On the other side of the van is our walnut and plywood dresser. We each have three drawers and a cupboard to store our clothes. We also have our own shelves for personal belongings that sit above the bed/benches.

The benches have denim cushions and comfy throw pillows, and their backrests stack on a ledge in the center to make one, giant bed for all three of us to snuggle on.

Do you have an off-the-grid setup?

Yes we do. Our van runs completely off of our two 100-watt solar panels that are mounted on the roof. We have a 160 Ah AGM battery that lives under one of the benches, and it holds enough energy to power our refrigerator, fan/vent, coffee maker and other devices.

How do you sustain this lifestyle?

Money is probably a sensitive subject for a lot of vanlifers. Because it’s still early in our life on the road, we are living mostly off money we have saved right now. I have a part-time job reviewing papers for an online tutoring company, but it doesn’t bring in a substantial amount of money. We don’t want to live off of our savings though. One reason we chose this lifestyle is that we want to make a living on the road and sustain this life; this isn’t just a trip for us. We have a lot of things we are working really hard toward that can generate an income in the long term, such as driving traffic to our blog and getting involved with some music projects. So right now, we have to hustle and find side gigs that will fund us in the short term.

What are your van essentials?

Guitar & Ukulele: Music is a passion of ours and we would go crazy without them.

Road Atlas: We try to travel old school and use an atlas instead of GPS. It’s so much more fun to figure out the best route ourselves rather than listening to a device.

Baby Wipes: Sometimes you don’t have the luxury of showering every day, or every three days for that matter. A hobo shower is better than no shower.

Towels: We don’t have waterproof floors and our dog, Snoop’s, water bowl seems to be a magnet for Pete’s feet.

Tell us a little about your musical background.

I was raised in a musical family and loved singing songs with my dad while he played guitar. I wanted to be able to sing songs for people on my own, so I learned how to play guitar in middle school. In college, I learned how to play ukulele, which is what I usually play when we jam in the van, given that we only have one guitar on hand.

Pete grew up watching his older brother, Jim, play in bands and write songs, which sparked his love for music. He played in a band in high school as well, playing drums, guitar, and singing lead vocals.

What inspires the music you play?

It’s such a blessing to share a passion with the one you love. We have our own interests, but music brings us closer. We play covers of all kinds of music and songs that Pete writes. I have given writing a shot, but I'm better at collaborating with others. Pete is the writer in this duo, and his songs are absolutely beautiful. They’re inspired by travel, nature and the simple things in life. We even plan on recording some original songs on the road.

Where have you been in your travels? Any favorite places?

We’ve spent most of our time in California, in Arizona and on the Florida coast, but we’ve driven through Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico as well.

It’s always tough to choose favorite places, but we’ve been in Southern California for a while and love it down here, especially Joshua Tree National Park.

Tell us about your adventure dog, Snoop.

Where do we even start? Every dog owner thinks they have the greatest dog in the world, but if every dog owner could meet Snoop, they might change their mind. Snoop is the chilliest, most loving and loyal dog we’ve ever met. He needs to be on our laps at all times, even when we’re driving, and he’s almost 90 lbs.

All he wants in life is to lay in the sun and love unconditionally. He’s absolutely amazing.

Are there limitations to traveling with a furry friend?

We are lucky he is so chill because it makes it easier for us when we have to leave him for a few hours. The biggest obstacle is making sure the van is a comfortable temperature when we go on hikes or grocery shop or any other time he’s left alone. We wish we could take him on long hikes with us, but he’s 9 years old now and suffers from arthritis. He loves long walks on nice, flat trails, and we always make sure he gets at least one a day. Aside from his walks, he’s outside almost all day every day and is rarely ever on a leash. Snoop loves the van life.

How do you create alone time being in such a small space together?

We have personal interests that allow us to have time to ourselves. Pete will go out for a surf for a few hours. I will do yoga or go for a run. We take turns going on walks with Snoop. Sometimes just doing our own thing and not working on Always the Road stuff together gives us a little time for ourselves, even if we’re both in the van.

How do you find community?

We’ve made some great friendships on the road. When you meet people living the same lifestyle as you, you automatically have something in common. If you don’t jive with someone, you go about doing your own thing. But if you make connections with people, they aren’t surface level.

You never know how long you’ll get to hang out with people that you meet on the road, so you cut the crap and are just real with each other. There’s no reason to put on an act. You just show them your real self and they do the same, making deeper connections with people in shorter time.

Those are the types of friendship we value, and life on the road has led us to connect with a lot of amazing people.

What are some of the more difficult parts of this lifestyle?

One of the toughest aspects of this lifestyle is finances. We are always searching for migrant and remote creative work, but as of right now, the only steady income we have is from my tutoring job. We both did a pretty good job saving up prior to our departure, which is comforting, but we’re hoping that the hard work we’re putting into other bigger projects will pay off in the long run and we will be able to live more comfortably.

Snoop is a senior dog and suffers from arthritis. We love going on long, challenging hikes that Snoop can't handle, so we have to leave him in the van. Although we make sure he’s comfortable, we always feel guilty. If it’s too hot or too cold, we do not go.

Pete has Crohn’s disease and receives treatment in the form of infusions. Right now he has them done every eight weeks in Madison, Wisconsin, and unfortunately, it's extremely difficult to have it done in other hospitals due to insurance and liability issues. So until another treatment comes along, every eight weeks we either have to all drive back, or Pete has to fly back by himself.

Will you always live this way?

We don’t plan on living this way forever, but we do plan on living this way as long as it feels right for us and we can sustain it.

If we’re just estimating though, we hope to live on the road for at least a couple years.

Any news?

We released a conversion book that details our build out from start to finish to help others who want to convert a van/RV/bus/etc. The beginning of the conversion process is all about searching for information, and this part was so stressful for us. We wanted to write a book to help minimize the information search by having the most helpful, detailed information.

We’re so excited to give back to the vanlife and tiny house community and help others that are interested in converting a vehicle to live a similar lifestyle.

Follow Pete & Taylor of Always the Road

Produced by Kathleen Morton of Tiny House, Tiny Footprint.
Edited by Kate MacDougall.
All photos credit to Pete Thuli.

Soph & Aaron AUSTRALIA

                               

    The Decision to            Wander 

                                                       

Over a year ago we were driving through the streets of Manly when Aaron asked whether I would ever want to travel around Australia long term instead of just two weeks here and there.

I’d never really thought about it, but how could I say no. A couple of days later, Aaron was researching different vans and what would suit us best.

We ended up with our safe haven, the Mercedes Sprinter Van- MWB.

We could not of survived the trip without having our high roof, it prevented many arguments and sore backs as well as giving us loads of storage.

Aaron had just finished studying before the trip began while I was still in the middle of my course,

so I opted for studying by distance and learning from the road for the next 5 months.

Being a Picean, we chose to travel around the coastline of QLD, NSW and VIC and had everything needed for our little home to function, bar the toilet.

We spent our days dependent on mother nature. Rainy days were filled with seasons of suits, burning popcorn and water colouring as we tried to discover our creative side.

Every other day was spent at the beach, collecting shells, searching for nearby waterfalls and rock pools and exploring the town.

Learning Curve

We learnt so much about each other being squished into our little home.

I learnt that Aaron can be a little impatient, a perfectionist and is a fussy eater.

I did learn quite a bit about myself too; you can’t talk to me when the temperature is over 30 degrees, I haven't showered in more than a few days and I am a control freak.

 

On a positive note, we learnt we could be together every day for 5 months without wanting to leave the other at a petrol station!

We love to spend our days in crystal clear water and we both enjoy spending the day with that free ocean view…. unbeatable.

We both want to explore the rest of Australia and what it has to offer.

We don't want to have a routine life, spending our years working a 9-5 job trying to earn as much $ as we can just to take ourselves on a holiday for 5 days and then it be over.

We want to go wandering the world in our little van.

When and if the time comes to be big adults, we have the ability to go away for weekend trips to continue our exploring.

Until then, we will be planning our next road trip for WA and SA.

The Build 

Aaron kept most of the receipts from the build to help give people an idea of how much a build similar to ours would cost.

 

Electrical:

100-amp deep cycle batteries x2

Red Arc Controller

1000-watt A/C inverter

Caravan charger

Cable

150-watt solar panels x2

Total $1985.30

 

Main Build:

7 mm Structural CD plywood for roof & walls

19 mm Structural CD plywood for floor

12 mm Structural CD plywood for drawers, cupboards, pantry, shelves, bedframe

Vinyl flooring (Colour: Lifestyle Timber Clear)

Insulation (Brand: EARTHWOOL – R2.0)

Marine carpet (Colour: Top Deck Grey)

Kitchen bench top

Drawer Slide (Brand: King slide)

Barrel bolt locks (Brand: Zenith)

Screws – stainless steel

Hinges (Brand: Prestige)

Total $2309.07

 

Other:

2 - burner (HOB) sink combo

Vertical slide window

Roof top fan / air vent

70 Litre water tank (Fiamma)

12 volt water pump (SHURflo) DON’T RECOMMEND - pump turns on when not in use at 15 sec. intervals

Copper tap

Engel fridge

Total $1640.68

11.jpg

Produced by Sam Peterson- VANLIFE Australia sammyjsalamanda
Photos & Story courtesy of Soph and Aaron.

Kyle

Growing up, Kyle and his family hit the lowest of lows moving in and out of homeless shelters and standing in line at food and clothing banks. It led to frequently moving, attending 14 different schools, becoming one of the worst kids in the school district and finally dropping out after being told by teachers that he'll "most likely end up flipping burgers, in jail, or dead."

Discovering art and creative expression saved his life and put him on a path towards carving his own path and ultimately creating positive impact around him. Tune in on this podcast as we talk with Kyle about his path from being homeless to home free.

TUNE IN FOR THIS PODCAST BELOW OR LISTEN ON ITUNES, SOUNDCLOUD OR GOOGLE PLAY.

Follow Kyle & his dog Bean and their adventures

Produced by Kathleen Morton of Tiny House, Tiny Footprint.
Sound editing and music brought to you by Deni Gauthier.
Photos courtesy of Kyle Kesterson, Justin Fricke and Kathleen Morton.

 

BROUGHT TO YOU BY OUR FRIENDS AT

Kristen

Kristen has been living in her Sprinter van since August. Working with a builder, Kristen designed her van to have a near queen sized bed, a bathroom with a shower and a full galley with a 2-burner gas stove.
Three years ago, she started a blog called Bearfoot Theory named after the Grateful Dead dancing bear tattoo she has on her right foot. On her blog, she encourages others that it’s never too late to get outdoors by sharing resources to help people get started.

Square Feet: 100

Let’s get this show on the road.
— Widespread Panic

Make, Model, Year: 2016 4x4 Sprinter Cargo Van

You used to own a house and then sold it to buy this Sprinter. Why?

Previous to vanlife, I was renting an apartment in Salt Lake City and starting a travel blog called Bearfoot Theory, but I was mostly living on the road full time. My apartment in Salt Lake was a mess and served only as an expensive place to do laundry and catch up on work in between trips. All of the back and forth was burning me out, so I started to think about a mobile home base.

Wouldn’t it be cool if I could have everything I needed to live and work with me at all times?

I could wake up at the places I was photographing and blogging about without all of the headache of packing and unpacking.

That led me to a Sprinter van.

I decided to use money from a condo I sold to buy an empty 4x4 Sprinter van and hired someone to build it out for me. Once the van was complete, I moved out of my apartment. I either sold or put what I didn’t need (or couldn’t fit) into storage.

I wanted to be rent free, bill free, and I didn’t want to be tied down to any particular place.

Take us on a tour inside your home.

When I was designing the van, I had a couple of requirements. I needed a comfortable place to work, I wanted to sleep across the length of the van instead of parallel to the backdoor, and I wanted to maintain the walkway to the back of the van.

So rather than a platform bed, I put in a convertible sofa bed opposite the sliding door.

On the driver’s side of the van, I have an overhead cabinet that spans the length of the van where I store food, maps and other small stuff. My galley is in the back with a two-burner stove and a small fridge.

Behind the sliding door on the passenger side, I have storage cabinets and one of my water tanks. At the very back on the passenger side, I have a bathroom with a shower—one aspect that I’m having second thoughts about. If anyone is thinking about putting a shower in a 144” Sprinter, talk to me first. There’s so much I wish I would’ve known before deciding on a permanent shower.

As for storage, since I opted against the platform bed, I don't have a “garage” to store bigger items. So for extra storage, I installed an Aluminess roof rack on the top of my van, along with one of their storage boxes on my rear bumper.

For power, I have 180 watts of solar (plus a 120-watt portable panel), three 125 Ah 12v batteries, and a 2000-watt inverter. I have the batteries connected to the alternator so they get juiced up while I’m driving. That was one of the smartest things I’ve done, since I now show up at camp with full batteries, even if it’s cloudy out.

How do you fund your lifestyle?

Three years ago, I started Bearfoot Theory with the intention of turning it into a full-time business. I had no background in blogging or web development, but I dove in head first and taught myself the skills I needed to be successful. I’m excited to say with a ton of patience, grit, and hard work (plus a little bit of luck), I’ve somehow managed to pull it off.

Do you travel solo or with another person?

Originally my plan was to travel solo, but I met my boyfriend Ryan last year when I was in the process of having my van built. He wooed me with his amazing camp cooking skills, so I decided to shift gears and invite him along.

We traveled through Washington and Idaho together and had a blast during those first few months in the van.

Do you ever travel solo?

Prior to this van, I spent three months traveling by myself in a van all around New Zealand. I’ve always been pretty independent and outgoing, but before I left for that trip, I was a little bit afraid of getting lonely. Luckily, the way the campsites are set up there, it ended up being really easy to make new friends, and my concerns were squashed pretty quickly.

That ended up being one of the most liberating and empowering experiences of my life.

Where do you sleep on the road?

I use the app Allstays Camp & RV. It shows you all the campgrounds near you (from free dispersed BLM camping to private campgrounds).

Do you ever worry about safety?

While I’m confident in my intuition, when I’m alone, I’m definitely a little more on edge and I’m more comfortable in established campgrounds than being off the grid.

I’m also figuring out exactly what I need in the van to feel safe. When I first got the van, I bought myself a big can of bear spray, but I’m not so sure that’s the smartest weapon of choice considering I would probably end up blinding myself in the process. I also just got a Delorme InReach which allows you to send custom texts with your GPS coordinates to your contacts even when you are out of cell service.

On the flip side, traveling solo offers so many benefits that you don’t realize until you do it. It opens you up to forging new friendships. If you want company, you have to go out there and make it. It makes you more self-reliant and confident since you have to be 100% in charge of your decisions at every fork in the road. You learn how to be happy and stay busy with just yourself.

You have nothing to prove when you are traveling solo, and it’s an opportunity to let the real you out.

Tell us about your adventure dog, Charlie.

Charlie is an Australian Shepard Border Collie puppy that was a bit of an impulsive move by my boyfriend Ryan. To be perfectly honest, I was a little skeptical when I first found out he got Charlie. I love dogs, but the thing that immediately popped into my head was all of the places I wasn’t going to be able to take him, like the trails in most of national parks that I like to write about. But since that initial gut reaction, I’ve completely fallen for that little fluff ball.

He’s super smart, great off-leash and quite the cuddle monster. And he makes hiking more fun.

Are there any limitations to traveling with a dog?

As for vanlife with a dog, proper training is key, and it’s definitely going to be an adjustment with so many places off limits. At the same time, I think that opens new doors. It forces you to get a little further off the beaten path where there’s fewer people and dog restrictions don’t apply. Or in places like Zion National Park, I research doggie daycare options.

How do you find community?

If you put yourself out there on social media, it opens up the possibilities for meeting people pretty much wherever you are. Lately I’ve been experimenting by posting where I am on Instagram and seeing if anyone is around and wants to meet up for a hike or a beer. So far I'm 2 for 2.

When did you start being drawn to the outdoors?

I only went on one camping trip as a kid. I was 5, and it was on Catalina Island. My dad transported all of our gear from the boat to our campsite in a little red wagon, and I now laugh when I think about what a stretch that was for my parents.

My first overnight backpacking trip was right after college. It didn’t go super smooth, but it showed me what the outdoors could offer me. I gradually started hiking more, got into better shape and eventually went on my first extended 5-day backpacking trip at age 26 in Kings Canyon.

I will say that not growing up in an outdoorsy family, the outdoors were always an intimidating place. I doubted my capabilities and didn’t really know how to get started.

And that’s part of the reason I started Bearfoot Theory, to show people that it’s never too late to get into the outdoors and to share resources to help people get their feet wet.

What's your favorite outdoor activity?

If I had to choose just one, I’d say hiking. The mental and physical benefits are huge, and there’s very few barriers to getting out there.

I love that you don’t really need any gear beyond shoes and a backpack, and no matter where you are, you can always find somewhere to take a nice walk outside.

Over the last two years, I’ve also been reintroduced to skiing, and I’m seriously having the time of my life. The last time I went skiing was 10 years ago. I was getting lapped by my friends over and over again, my goggles were so foggy I couldn’t see sh*t and my ski boots were killing me. I promised I’d never do it again. But then I moved to Utah where we have the best skiing in the country, and learning how to enjoy skiing was the only option for surviving winter. I’m still not that good, but I am confident I can get down almost any slope, and it's one of the few outdoor activities where I’m fully immersed in the moment.

I don’t take that many pictures, my phone usually dies from the cold, and I’m just out there having fun.

What story comes to mind when you think about the best moment you've had outdoors?

My best outdoor memory was watching the sunset on my last night of a 22-day backpacking trip on the John Muir Trail. I hiked that a few summers ago with one of my best friends right after quitting my 9-to-5. We watched the sunset over Guitar Lake and I thought, this is the ticket. That trip, and specifically that last sunset, helped solidify my desire and commitment to never return to a cubicle.

Has there been any challenging moments?

I went on my first solo backpacking trip in New Zealand last year. I wanted to love it. I wanted it to open up a new world of possibilities for me, but when it came down to it, I really didn’t enjoy it. On that hike, I kept losing the trail, ending up in one muddy bog after the next, and when I finally got to where I was going to camp the first night, I felt completely defeated. Luckily, the next day, right about when I was ready to give up, I ran into a 78-year-old-man named Miles on the trail and a couple of young guys from the States, and we ended up camping and hiking together before returning to the trailhead on the third day. In the end, it was a pretty positive experience, and I’m still friends with the two guys I met on the trail.

But I think I realized that solo backpacking isn’t for me.

Is vanlife your forever lifestyle?

I think I’ll be mobile for the next couple of years at least, and I know I’ll always be a minimalist to some degree. I’m not sure if it will be in the Sprinter or something else, but either way I like small.

It’s easy to clean, less errands to run, no place for clutter to collect and more time for the fun stuff.

What's next? Any news?

I’ll be attending the Overland Expo for the first time in May. This summer, I have a few big solo trips planned, including a five-week trip up to Alaska. This year I have two group trips I'm offering. The first is a hiking and camping trip in Southern Utah in May, and the second is a 10-day wilderness backpacking trip through one of the most remote national parks in Alaska.

These trips are a great opportunity for people to explore some incredible places with a cool group of people, while expanding their outdoor skill set.

Follow Kristen of Bearfoot Theory

Produced by Kathleen Morton of Tiny House, Tiny Footprint.
Edited by Kate MacDougall.
All photos credit to Kristen Bor.

Giulia, Peco & Serena: GPS

"Hi! We are three 21-year-old friends from Italy, three free spirits with a huge passion in common: travelling. GPS is composed by Giulia (G of "GPS"), Giulia called "Peco" and Serena. Giulia and Serena are attending the school of Medicine in Udine. Peco is a vet student in Padova. 

We can’t say exactly how the idea of this adventure came out. So many evenings, so many nights were spent dreaming about leaving our cities and going backpacking without a precise plan. We knew that our dream would have certainly become true, sooner or later, but we would have never imagined that it would happen so soon. Above all, not with a hippie minivan nicknamed Barone Rosso Rampante – Red Rampant Baron, BRR for friends -- to accompany but primarily to allow our adventure. BRR is an 80's westfalia van that Peco's parents bought for passion some years ago and we fell in love with it. 

So, after another year spent studying, a summer full of exams, we decided leaving for the first time. 

Where could we go? Italy. Our Country, the “Bel Paese” where we were born, where we built our lives and where we hope to stay.

The most stereotyped Country, the most desired Country from people all over the world, we have it under our feet. Mountains, seas, flat lands, hills and cities that can arise unique emotions with their history, art, perfumes, flavours and traditions, with their magic atmosphere and a welcoming spirit that has always characterized Italy and Italian people.

We decided to start with the beautiful Tuscany, the region that inspired us the most, that remained in our hearts thanks to previous travels, where we were looking forward to going back. 

This experience has been amazing thanks to the wonderful places we visited and to some people that hosted us in their campings. As a matter of fact we slept near other vanlifers and we ate barbecued vegetables, eggs, bread outside in nature. 

As all vanlifers know, during the travel there can be some problems and we really had some but we have been helped by lots of kind people we met on our way. 

Now we are studying in our cities and during the year we are only waiting for September to come, when exams will be done and it will be time to leave and explore some new places. Which will be the next?"

Follow along with our adventures http://gpsblog.wixsite.com/gpsontheroad

Thanks for sharing! Giulia, Peco & Serena