Kim + Nash

I met up with Kim & Nash at one of my favorite breakfast spots in Denver when they were passing through a few months ago. We jumped right into conversation about the places we've visited and our adventurous lifestyles. Soon we were already planning a way to cross paths in the coming months.
If you met them too, you'd get a serious case of wanderlust. They have spent the past three years exploring the US by bus and international countries by foot.

Square Feet: 80

Make, Model, Year: Volkswagen, Type 2 Riviera Top, 1978

Does it have a name?

Originally we wanted to call him Mr. Louis, but when we bought him he was so rusted on the outside that we ended up calling him Rusty. Even now, though we just painted him, he is still our Rusty.

Where did you find your van?

During our 5-month long Southeast Asian adventure, we knew we weren’t ready to settle for the ordinary life. We had the choice of either moving back into a tiny apartment in San Francisco and working a 9-to-5 job to be able to afford our rent and daily expenses, or get a tiny home on wheels. We decided on the latter. Settling wasn’t on our list and working more than living didn’t seem very appealing either. So we started perusing the Internet for an old VW bus to call home. After a few months of combing Craigslist, we came upon the one, down in Ojai, California.

The rest is history.

Why did you choose it?

I am a dreamer. I think it is just in my DNA. Ever since I was little, one of my biggest dreams was to one day live in an old school VW bus. I had mentioned it a few times in the past, but we will never forget the moment when it became reality. We were sitting in our apartment in Phuket, Thailand, talking about what we were going to do with our lives and I said, “Let’s move into a VW bus,” and Nash didn’t have to think twice.

Honestly, we chose this particular 1978 pop top because it was the only one in our price range, close enough in proximity to where we would land and that was still available once we returned from Southeast Asia. Though we bought this bus with a hole in the roof, a rusted exterior, a terrible engine (we were such amateurs) for way too much money, after two years we can still say we never regret moving in. He has become part of who we are, and he is one of the few places where we truly feel home.

Some look at our van and simply see a VW bus, but to us, we see a van with his own character, personality and the possibility of endless adventure.

How did you two meet?

I came as an au pair from Germany to San Francisco, and when I met Nash it simply clicked. I will never forget the moment when I opened the door to my friend’s car and saw Nash sitting quietly in the back, with a big fat grin on his face. He had me at hello. It still baffles me that though there are billions of people on this earth, I am married to someone that was born on the other side of the ocean blue. But what is even crazier is the backstory. When I first came to the States I was paired with a family in New York. However, I ended up applying for a rematch because they were in the middle of a divorce, the family situation was a disaster and I was treated so badly as a result. My area director told me that the chances of getting a new family in the middle of the year were pretty small, and to get one on the other side of America (i.e., San Francisco) was pretty much impossible. Her words left me super bummed; I couldn’t believe that this had to happen to me. Then during my last days in New York I met a guy who, when I found a new family in San Francisco, was going to be there a couple weeks after my rematch. He introduced me to all his friends in San Francisco and that lead me to Nash. I mean what are the chances.

This taught me that even when things go wrong or not as planned they can blossom into something even more beautiful. For me that was meeting Nash.

Which one of you had the idea to hit the road?

We both are nomads at heart, but our itch to travel is pretty much a direct result of our 4-year long-distance relationship. Instead of just visiting each other in our home countries we decided to meet up in different foreign lands and explore them together.

There is nothing more meaningful than creating lifelong memories as a couple and experiencing destinations together for the first time.

What have you learned about each other from traveling?

It is hard to narrow down and pinpoint specific aspects. I think the beauty of traveling together is being able to share an experience which later turns into a beautiful memory we can both cherish forever. I will never forget the spark in his eyes when we crawled up a Pagoda in Myanmar to watch the sunrise over Bagan, or the smiles of pure excitement as we meandered through herds of elephants in Tanzania.

Traveling has shown us how different we are, but how beautiful we balance each other out.

We have seen each other at the best and at the worst, and when things go south we have learned that it is important to put our energy towards problem solving rather than blaming each other for what could have or should have done differently.

How do you find alone time or do you not need it?

To be honest we don’t ever seek out alone time. Our 4-year distance relationship gave us enough time alone that we are still making up for all those days apart. Till now, we have yet to get enough of each other. The main reason for being inseparable is the desire to have someone as passionate, weird and exciting by your side to share it with. Going on a walk alone and spotting a fox is awesome but going on a walk and spotting a fox with your favorite person in the world is a whole other level.

Most of the time it is just us two, 24/7, wandering the world.

How are you funding your travels?

People write us all the time asking how we afford to travel so much. Here is the deal we are broke all the time because all the money we ever make goes straight to buying the next airfare to an unknown destination. We live in a bus and don't have any fixed expenses. Sometimes we eat only once a day cause that's really all we can afford. Once we do run out of money we either return home to work random jobs or we are lucky and our birthday rolls around just in time to keep us on the road a little bit longer.

Unfortunately, we don’t have the key to traveling 365 days a year and making money at the same time. There are so many people out there who seemed to have mastered it, but we are still as lost as everyone else.

You've been all over the world. Tell us about some of your favorite places.

Choosing our favorite places around the world is always hard to do simply because every spot is so different and beautiful in its own way. However, if we had to choose, our all-time favorite thus far was our most recent trip to Tanzania and Kenya. I can’t even put into words the feeling I had while watching elephants bathe in the rivers, cheetahs bask in the morning sun and the wildebeest and zebras start their migration back up to the north. It was absolutely mind blowing and gave my heart so much joy. Pictures can’t even begin to capture the joy in a baby elephant’s walk or the sound of a baby rhino communicating with its mom.

Safari is truly something everyone must experience once in their lifetime.

South East Asia also has a very special place in our hearts, because we lived such a carefree life there. Traveling without a plan and accepting each day as it comes can be so liberating. Both the sites that we stumbled upon and cultures we encountered left us awe-inspired.  

Last but not least we love Europe (especially during the summer). Everyone must visit Rome just to eat delicious pizza and mouthwatering gelato, frolic in the warm summer rays amongst the white cities of Santorini, explore the stunning streets of Barcelona and of course wake up before the first sun beams tickle the horizon to watch the balloons rise in Cappadocia, Turkey.

What are some of your most memorable experiences?

Our trip to Bagan, Myanmar. No words can describe the feeling of sitting in anticipation atop a stone temple, built over a 1000 years ago, waiting for an unforgettable sunrise. At 4 am that morning we crawled out of bed and peddled half asleep like mad down the pitch black streets to one of the tallest pagodas in Bagan. An hour later, the sun started to light up the early morning sky, bringing in the new day. As the sun rays started to kiss our toes and nose, the hot air balloons began to rise over the temples. At first they were only small dots in the distance, floating silently through the dawn. As they drew closer and closer, the sun rose higher and higher, outlining their beautiful shapes. Cameras clicked, oooos and aaaahs came from the congregated crowd, and magic filled the air.

What made this adventure one that we will never forget was not only the beauty of 1000s of ancient temples in Bagan, but what came after. Four days after we landed in Singapore for a quick stop over, I got really sick. She was diagnosed with dengue fever, felt very weak and had extreme pain in all of her bones. If you are not familiar with this virus there is no antidote, no medicine and nothing to cure it. We had to go to the emergency room a couple times because of the tremendous pain I experienced and my fear of dying. To this day it was probably the scariest experience we have ever faced. But with the bad comes the good. It was this experience that brought back the awareness of how precious life is and that we should pursue our dreams now, live out our passions and do what makes us really happy. This marked the day we started to seriously pursue our Nomadic lifestyle and make it to our mission for people to realize that no matter how invincible they might feel, life can be over in an instant; so make sure to spend it wisely and with no regrets.

Do you normally stay in your van or a hotel when you're traveling?

Both. Traveling the US is synonymous with vanlife.

Why pay for a space to lay your head when you can stay for free anywhere in your van?

Plus, the places we usually explore are hotel free, ruled by the wild. Once we head overseas, we do leave Rusty behind and hotels, hostels, guesthouses, couch surfing and Airbnb comes into the equation.

What kind of adventures do you normally go on?

Anywhere there is beauty. We are obsessed with lakes and waterfalls and are suckers for cultures different to our own. We travel from luxurious hotels, to hostels and to our tent when hiking to hidden waterfalls or mountain lakes. We only have one rule while adventuring—to avoid returning to the same place twice for two simple reasons.

We are afraid to overwrite or spoil our first impressions and experiences, and maybe even return home disappointed; the chances of being disappointed are higher when the first trip to an unknown destination was nothing but incredible.

The world is too big to return back to the same place, unless the amount of time spent there wasn’t enough to soak up all its beauty on the first go.

What are some of your van essentials?

  • Nikon D610 with a wide angle and telephoto
  • IKEA king-sized down comforter (extra warm) from IKEA
  • BioLite campstove and flashlights
  • Mizu stainless water and thermos bottles
  • Sperry hiking boots

Was there a moment that made you question this lifestyle?

Yes. Though living on the road is becoming a popular alternative to the norm, the pressure to conform still looms over us. The moments when these thoughts become extra heavy are during the bad breakdowns. We have broken down quite a number of times in the past, but it wasn’t until recently when we seriously considered selling old Rusty and figuring life out from there. This particular breakdown was the worst yet. Usually we are able to tinker around and get him going again, but this time we were really stuck. We had just gotten him repaired and were out on a little day trip to a hot springs in Northern New Mexico. After a relaxing soak, we came back to the car to find that it didn’t start. This really hit us hard. After a fat towing bill and luckily only minor repairs, Rusty was back in commission.

In the heat of the moment we do question our lifestyle, but as time rolls on we come to our senses. Traveling is the only expense that makes us richer. It is about the beauty of experiencing different cultures, places and languages that feed our curiosity.

Money comes and goes but experiences last a lifetime.

Why live this way? And will you live this way forever?

Living on the road has brought a lot of perspective into our lives. Our biggest life lessons came from packing up and permanently moving into Rusty. It is quite surprising how little you need to survive and how consumerism has influenced our sedentary lives. Having only a 5-gallon water jug on board you start to appreciate every drop. For about a year we drove around the West Coast of the US chasing beautiful spots, picking up hitchhikers, sharing stories, meeting the nicest people during our break downs, all while being in love and carefree. The purpose of traveling to us is so much deeper than just exploring unknown destinations. For us it's about the freedom to express ourselves, do what we love, wake up surrounded by nature and to live without the pressure of having to prove ourselves to our surroundings.

Traveling will always be a part of our lives, but living a somewhat sedentary life is on the horizon. This idea of having a space of your own to come home to is starting to sound more and more appealing every year.

What's next?

We are currently in Yellowstone replenishing our very empty bank account. We will be here for the next 6 months working and of course exploring our surroundings. After that we are home free with no plans except to get back to Europe to visit my parents for Christmas and then who knows maybe Japan, India, Finland or all three.

I’m sure I will find more places to cross off our adventure list.

Follow Kim & Nash of The Nomadic People

Produced by Kathleen Morton.
Edited by Kate MacDougall.
All photos credit to Kim & Nash Finley.

Karrie Hayward

Karrie Hayward

Harriet the 1997 Toyota Hiace

I first met Karrie at the May 2017 Vanlife Gathering in Cudgen, New South Wales. She wandered onto the makeshift stage, guitar at the ready, and crooned out her song “Gypsies”.

The song was a befitting introduction to what would be a beautiful buzz of vanlife culture – out in the open, under the stars, dancing it out, and mellowing by the fire, discussing all that is magic in this simple life.

Karrie is 19, a musician from Mackay, and she’s been living and cruising in her 1997 Toyota, Harriet the Hiace (or sometimes, Harriet the Chariot) since mid-last 2016.

“When I bought Harriet she was a run down postie vehicle, and so dad and I made some adjustments – fitting her out with all the essentials.”

“She did come with a few issues and dents, but I think that all adds to her character.”

Taking on an older van was a challenge to begin with. All she wanted to do was get on the road, but passing the roadworthy took time.

“It was a bit of a hassle getting Harriet ready for the road. But as soon as I did, I decided to move from Mackay to Brisbane to pursue my music.”

First time on the road

With a wild mind and not many expectations, Karrie took her time heading to Brisbane; meandering through some of Australia’s Eastern towns Bowen, Yeppoon, Hervey Bay, and Gympie among them - and playing gigs along the way.

“I feel like today, mainstream society is telling us that once we leave school, what we’re ‘supposed’ to do is go to uni, get a ‘real’ job, buy a house, and work life away.”

“But I like that I’m on a different path. It might be the road less travelled for some, but it’s where I want to be, and life’s too short not to go my own way.

“In saying that, I didn’t have much of a plan – for work, or where I might live if I wanted to be in one place for a little bit.”

 “I lived in the van for the most part, but I also crashed in friends’ backyards and couch surfed.”

“Because I was gigging too, I was driving Harriet between the Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, Toowoomba, Boonah, the Gold Coast, and Byron.

“It was hectic at times but I wouldn’t change a thing. I learnt so much along the way – about myself and the road.”

A typical day

A typical day for Karrie sees her waking up with the sun - early for a musician - she says.

More often than not, there’s a beachside view outside, but always, a wide-open sky.

She brings her camp stove outside and heats up a kettle of water to make coffee. I imagine it tastes a little more delicious, more invigorating, perched roadside listening to the waves/ the morning birdsong / the secret peace-of-mind that comes with waking up in a new and unfamiliar place, as people go about their own morning rituals.

Karrie punches in the next destination into her GPS. As she drives away she spills some hot coffee – “happens ALL the time!” she says. But it doesn’t worry her, because she’s got the open road ahead.

“I usually get lost when I have somewhere to be!”

“If I’m playing a gig near the beach I like to make time before to get down to the water. I’ll sit on a sand bar and watch people surf and kite surf – it’s pretty intriguing.”

“Otherwise, I love to skateboard, so sometimes I find a cool path to roll on.”

Sustaining the vanlife

Karrie says the vanlife works for her. Plus, her music career beckons for it anyway – having to drive from town to town to play. But on the side, for now, she’s taken on a day job in Brisbane – music therapy in childcare – that keeps her closer to the one place.

“Most people assume that living the vanlife as a muso means I’ve got a sustainable income, but while it is, at the moment I’m focusing on putting that back into the business of recording new music.”

“So my music therapy work helps cover the daily stuff like food and fuel, and I love it.”

That said, Karrie reckons she’s got the buzz to travel around Australia playing music, so that might be on the cards sooner rather than later.

Young girl, old van

Because Harriet is a little older, most of the problems Karrie has experienced on the road revolve around that.

“As a young girl travelling solo, I’ve definitely met a few weirdos along the way, but mostly, challenges on the road have involved old Harriet – she does have her days!”

“The battery has died twice, break lights have stopped working, she does a weird stall-y thing, and well, the ‘speedo’ isn’t quite accurate.” (Super inaccurate!).

That hasn’t – and probably won’t – be fixed, because the GPS “goes alright at telling the speed, except in tunnels.”

“And then I just wing it!”

Such is the beauty of vanlife, I think.

I muse at its simplicity, it’s fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants nature, and the community.

Fellow vanlifers

“The vanlife community is like a family. There's a place for everyone and people are so eager to hear everybody out.”

“It's a place where you can openly tell your stories - the good and the bad, the on-road and the off-road – and you just know that people get it and are looking out for you.”

Karrie says that one of the best experiences she’s had since being in the van is the Vanlife Gathering we met at in New South Wales.

“I really felt the sense of vanlife community in full force – it literally changed my life.”

“Being surrounded by so many like-minded people doing the same thing I was doing was unreal.

“There were also so many sweet musos jamming out and giving advice to each other. Everyone was down-to-earth, checking out each other’s vans and asking questions about fit-outs, travel, and locations.

“It was something special.”

Spirit towns

While she’s definitely planning to explore more of Australia by van soon, Karrie says Byron Bay has been a favourite so far.

“Byron is my spirit animal, my spirit town!”

“But I’ve honestly been to so many beautiful places along the way, it’s hard to pick any that I don’t like.

“Anything with a beach has my heart, but I recently travelled to the Glasshouse Mountains in Queensland with some fellow vanlifers I met at the Gathering and we visited some waterfalls which were definitely a highlight!”

“Who really knows what’s gonna happen tomorrow”

Next for Karrie is unknown.

“I really just want to travel everywhere. I’m hoping next year to make my way down the coast and hit up Melbourne, playing gigs along the way.”

“But I’d also love to get over to Perth because I’ve heard great things about vanlife over there.”

Follow Karrie

You can follow Karrie’s vanlife adventures on pretty much every social media outlet - Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube. Her music is available via Soundcloud and on iTunes, Spotify, and Triple J Unearthed.

Vanlife Diary written, edited & published by Jai Morton. "Jai is generally dreaming about adventures and creative pursuits, and lately, all she can think about is vanlife (until she gets her own van). She is a marketer and content writer by day, and a freelance writer for Vanlife Diaries, and TEDxBrisbane in her spare time. Otherwise, you'll find her rock climbing, or somewhere in nature. You can follow her at @sundayskin on Instagram, or read her travel meanderings and creative ponderings at https://sundayskin.wordpress.com/ "Click & follow along with Jai & her writings & adventures.

Press Play & enjoy this wonderful Singer Songwriter/Vanlifer

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:

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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

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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.

 

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