This post was originally published on Tiny House, Tiny Footprint.
Last month, Savannah & Brett began a 4,000-mile cross-country trip in their van named Jolene. Their goal: to make this trip last three months so they can spend time in the areas that they find the most influential and opportunistic.
Savannah is using this trip as a way to practice being present, to create long-lasting memories and to help those in need, especially through massage therapy. In turn, Brett wants to take as many pictures as possible, learn more about himself and others and, most importantly, make a positive impact on those who cross his path.
With their combined passions and dreams, they plan to offer their services and create connections. Every photo tells a story, and after a month, these two have several to fill their collection.
Square Feet: 80
Currently In: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Yellowstone is a wonder that is filled with the most beautiful blue hot springs, numerous geysers and a variety of wildlife.
We were lucky enough to witness a newborn elk learning to walk and graze for food alongside her mother. Interestingly enough, the mother wandered off and grazed alone, while the baby sat hidden behind the tree. The deer didn't seem at all bothered by the crowds of people as they kept on with their way.
Months Living Mobile: 1
Make, Model, Year: 2000 Volkswagen Eurovan
This particular model was found by a good friend of Brett's, whom at the time was helping him locate a passenger/camper van. Given the circumstances, it seemed like the right move. By that, I mean Brett was completely unsure of what he was looking for in terms of vehicle, size, model, etc. It just felt right. It was an automatic V6, had low mileage for its kind and decent space. It was located right outside of Austin and wasn't a far trip from our previous homes in Houston.
Did you have to do any modifications after you bought it?
Yes, we had to change a few things. Even though the passenger seats were able to fold down, we knew it was not going to be able to work. So Brett built a bed frame and a small kitchen to help utilize space.
What inspired you to go on this trip?
Brett and I had both finished our respective schooling and had been working for some time. Things felt dull, and the direction we were heading didn’t feel exciting or fruitful. So collectively, we decided to quit our jobs. And after a few months of saving and brainstorming, we decided to try to hit all the spots we wanted to see. It was certainly something we were not prepared for, but we wanted change badly, so we knew it was going to work.
What does this adventure entail for you?
Our goal is to experience and see a lot of the beautiful sceneries the western U.S. has to offer. But also, Brett and I want to step out of our comfort zones. We believe traveling means you get to experience a lot more aspects of an area, rather than just its scenery. Our goal is to get to know the people of each place we visit, how they live and how they have fun with everyday life.
How are you funding this trip?
We saved for quite awhile. This might seem like a spur of the moment trip, but it actually took a few months of planning in order to leave work and our family. The purchase of the van was critical, as well as its ability to run.
How has van life affected your relationship?
Living with someone you've never lived with previously will almost always change your relationship with that person—for better or for worse—depending on how well you can work together. Thankfully, our relationship has relied heavily on our friendship and ability to understand each other's needs.
In order to maintain a healthy and comfortable space, we have dedicated tasks that each of us do separately.
Our van is small compared to most, and the conversion has taken up the majority of available space. It’s amazing how many times we have come close to banging our heads, and every time we realize it, we just stare at each other and laugh.
Another particular hardship is Brett's height. He's 6'2" and our bed is about five feet in length. He lays diagonally across the bed so he doesn't hang off as much, which leaves very little space for me. I don't mind cuddling a little closer at night though, because most nights it gets pretty chilly and we sometimes forget to put extra layers on. It's not hard to imagine that living in such tight quarters would lead to frustrations, but through these frustrations we have been able to grow as individuals and as a couple. Understanding situations and addressing them in a cool, calm manner is essential to reducing tension and creating the warm environment that we want to live in.
How have you changed from your experience thus far?
Some of the most immediate changes we have made have been in our diet and the amount of time we spend outdoors. We eat much less now than we did in Texas. Having limited access to showers and a kitchen is something we always took for granted, until now.
Taking the time to venture out and explore our beautiful earth is very important to us. It has opened our minds and taught us to embrace what is in front of us. Not to mention, you meet so many interesting people along the way. We have met people who are doing the same thing as us, which helps keep us inspired. We have also met people who are vacationing, and even some who aren’t in the best situation and are looking for better ways to live.
Our short experience on the road has already dramatically influenced the way we view and interpret our day-to-day life. Being away from conveniences and ordinary routines has been an absolute blessing. It’s given us the opportunity to take a step back, breathe and evaluate our direction. A lot of the things we stressed over before haven’t affected or influenced our life on the road.
Name an everyday life task that isn't as easy on the road.
Organization is absolutely key to success on the road.
Cooking in a small space can become very frustrating, very quickly. We don't have much elbow space to chop fruits and veggies, let alone, eat our meals. So we have become creative in the ways we store and cook our foods. A 65-quart Engel insulated cooler keeps our eggs, milk and drinks cold for days. Our plastic Rubbermaid drawer bins stock all of our non-essential snacks and food. Our Iwatani butane grill is a life saver by cooking the majority of our meals, and its compact size is convenient.
Having a restroom at your disposal is one of those things we didn’t think about, until we didn’t have one. Let’s just say, when we are in the middle of nowhere, it becomes challenging.
We usually need a shower after going on hikes or visiting hot springs. So when our clothes begin to stink up our living quarters, we take advantage of the app Couchsurfing. Being able to use folks' washers, dryers and showers by sending one quick text is legendary. The experience has made us life-long friends and provided an affordable and easy way to complete those hygienic tasks. We try to conserve money, but sometimes we splurge on campgrounds (KOA, rest stops or state and national parks) or use our gym memberships at Planet Fitness (so worth it).
Even though we’re still in the beginning stages of our trip, we have learned a tremendous amount and look forward to what the future holds. The world is a beautiful place, and as our friend, Ferris Bueller says:
Where do you park?
We usually park at Walmarts, hotels, national park campgrounds or anywhere the National Forest Service will allow (e.g., dirt roads and free campgrounds). Our favorite spots to camp are where we know we aren’t going to be bothered. Seclusion is nice, but we also like to be around some people.
What are your hobbies?
We both enjoy photography. Brett is a professional photographer and I am pursing a career in modeling, so we try and shoot in all of the places we visit.
When we aren’t taking photos, we like to cruise on our longboards, watch movies, free dive and surf.
What is your advice to others who want to live small or hit the road?
Do it. Don’t even question the feeling.
Whatever you think is holding you back, you can manage it and still be able to travel. Plan, save and execute. The reward? The ability to be on the road, meet new people and see places that make you question the things you thought were important. It is absolutely worth every penny.
Do you plan to go back to your previous way of living?
Certainly not. Before this trip, Savannah and I were not living with each other, so we are going to entertain that idea and have set our sights on Austin for a while. We are still considering what types of jobs we would like, but it’s a little too soon to tell.
What's next? Any news you'd like to share?
We are heading toward Glacier National Park. After that, we are going to take the west coast by storm, traveling from Seattle to San Diego.
We plan to continue to make fun videos, as well as get our feet wet in the vlogging game. We would love it if you shared our videos and visited our social media sites. Get inspired.
Follow Savannah & Brett of Roam Away From Home
Produced by Kathleen Morton of Tiny House, Tiny Footprint.
Edited by Kate MacDougall.
All photos credit to Brett White.