Emily & Corey
This post was originally published on Tiny House, Tiny Footprint.
Emily & Corey are experimenting how they can blend their nomadic lifestyle with a traditional career. Together, they are sharing the ways they are redefining work while still following their passions.
They keep following what they feel, through the discomforts, risks, mysteries and the unknowns. Emily, Corey and their dog, Penny Rose, continue to live in a van because they love moving and feeling free.
Square Feet: 80
Our van is approximately 80 square feet, although we’ve never measured. That space includes the upstairs loft. We call our van “Boscha” because it's a combination of the previous owner’s name Sasha and the German parts company Bosch.
Years Living Mobile: 3.5
Our van has been home for more than three years. However, there have been a few times when circumstances called for us to get a little bit more grounded with the occasional house life. For example, while we were editing the recently released modern nomads web series, we were stationary in San Diego for a couple of months, staying in the house of a couple with whom we crossed paths. They are like soul family and we were so grateful for the opportunity to efficiently use our time working on the project. Most recently, we began 2016 house sitting in the foothills of Tahoe. We saw it as an opportunity to envision, strategize and take action for 2016. We are in a period of redefining work, and efficiently managing our energy to begin the year made the most sense.
Currently In: California
We are leaving soon for a big loop into Canada.
Make, Model, Year: 1987 VW Vanagon Westfalia
Boscha's body is considered antique, but her innards have been almost completely restored over the past few years, thanks to a company that we are partnered with called GoWesty.
Through GoWesty, we have updated all systems including new 2450 CC engine, stainless steel exhaust, cooling system, fuel delivery, wheels, tires, Fox suspension, front and rear bumper with dual swing aways and front skid plate. Although the Vanagon comes stocked with almost everything we need, we've added a 12-volt Engel fridge, auxiliary battery system including solar panel and inverter, DIY warm water shower, custom cutting board table and more.
Why did you choose this particular model?
Choosing an old VW Vanagon as home was easy. Yes they are old, and yes they can be mechanically quirky and leave us stranded on the side of a road, but there is absolutely nothing that compares to the feeling of driving or riding in one. Sometimes, you just have to follow a feeling. Plus, we like to call them the Swiss Army Knives of the RV world…compact and with everything we need. We found Boscha on Craigslist. She was in really rough shape but her foundation was strong (i.e., rust hadn’t worked its way through her, only cosmetically).
Why did you decide to travel around in a van?
We decided to live in a van after spending two months on a surf trip in Central America. We were inspired by the slower pace of life, and we realized we hadn’t explored our own vast and beautiful country yet. We were blessed to connect with Foster Huntington in Nicaragua, and he introduced the idea of living in a van to us. So upon return to the US, we researched feasibility and saw that current technology would allow us to work from anywhere as freelance website developers (a line of work that we are currently transitioning out of).
What was the process like to move into your van?
Once we bought the van, we began the process of deciding what we needed on the road. Assessing our needs versus our wants not only was freeing mentally, but also gave us some extra cash for the road. We had yard sales and sold much of our stuff on eBay and Craigslist. We could taste the freedom, so getting rid of physical stuff that no longer served us was a breeze.
As far as adjusting to van life itself, for Corey, living in a van was easy from the beginning. He’s someone who very quickly adjusts when outside of his comfort zone. I believe this is because he carries with him a strong sense of being grounded, of home within. I, on the other hand, got sick twice the first half of our first year on the road and regularly dealt with anxiety. It’s been an inner journey for us both—one filled with peeling back the layers of our psyche and unearthing our deepest limiting beliefs, doubts, fears and also longings. It hasn’t always been easy, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I am so, so grateful for the ability to write my own story in this world.
Top Go-To Items
Journal: In my journal, I record stories from the road and my personal revelations. It is where most of the more emotional and deeper posts that we share begin.
Portable Bidet: The portable bidet keeps me clean without a shower. I wash my feet, armpits, hair, face...you get the idea.
Hula Hoop: Movement on the road is imperative. In fact, I recently learned that the years of sitting ergonomically incorrect in the van and while working have negatively impacted my natural spinal curve and caused a lot of head and neck pain. Having a hula hoop around is a reminder to move every single day and to take control of my personal posture through dance, strength training and yoga, for it is far more than standing up straight. It is the quality of movement through life. The embodiment of the story we write.
What are your hobbies on and off the road?
Corey and I share the passions of storytelling and movement. Corey’s main love is mountain biking, and mine is dancing. Together, we share love for surfing, yoga, photography, videography and writing.
How do you fund your travels?
Work is evolving for us. Corey has worked as a mountain biking guide, on a television show set, in a bike shop, in a wood shop and on a farm. The majority of the money we’ve generated, however, has come from a large website development contract that funded perhaps 90% of our travels. It was wonderful because it helped us get on the road, but at the same time was very stressful and I realized it is not what I desire to do. Since then, I’ve explored my own personal balance of doing and being, and my relationship to concepts like work and money. The vision we hold now is to make our passions—what we love—our work. This involves photography, videography, storytelling and movement in nature.
Recently I landed a freelance writing gig in the health and wellness segment, which is very much in alignment with my passion of storytelling. I truly believe that if we do the inner work and explore what makes us come alive, what feels good, what gives us purpose, and even what we are afraid of, our external world, including our work, shifts. This journey of redefining work takes a lot of courage because there are so many external pressures to fit in a box. But I believe it is the key to our happiness and even our connection and respect for the Earth. Work is powerful. It is what we share with the world, an extension of us.
What about healthcare and retirement benefits?
Our healthcare is provided through the marketplace but is coordinated using an amazing (and free!) service called Stride Health. They make finding a health plan so easy. And we love them because they understand the challenges traveling freelancers face in today’s world.
As far as retirement, the first item on our list that will benefit our future financially is to get me out of college debt. I am one of the many with exorbitant student debt. This year, I am setting a personal goal of paying 50% of all income I generate towards my debt. This is scary, especially as a freelancer, but I feel it will help me shift my perspective on work by signaling to myself that I believe in my ability to make money and that I see my value in this world.
Where do you park?
But we also stealth camp in cities when we happen to find ourselves in one. Sometimes we stay in friends’ driveways or at a campground.
Where do you shower?
We bathe in rivers, use our DIY solar heated shower and occasionally get clean at friends’ houses and campgrounds. Often, we don’t shower. On our loop through British Columbia this past fall, we didn’t officially shower for more than a month. Thankfully, we carry with us a portable bidet, and spent many nights heating water and cleaning ourselves under the stars.
Favorite Place to Visit: Sedona, Arizona
We love Sedona for its beauty and top-notch mountain biking. But gosh, every place is different, and insane beauty is everywhere.
What has been the most rewarding thing about living in a van?
Alongside the feeling of empowerment, we are equally grateful for our connection to community. Time and time again, we are filled with appreciation and love for the sincerity and passion we feel when we meet people as a result of van life. We share this lifestyle to inspire and teach others about alternative lifestyles. But the truth is that every single person teaches us something and reminds us to stay open. People are really, really good at heart.
What has been the most challenging?
The most challenging thing on the road for us has been staying grounded and balanced from a wellbeing perspective. Things like making sure we get quality sleep, eating real nourishing food, taking appropriate supplements, minimizing the time spent driving and sitting, moving every single day and managing our time have helped us.
What's it like maintaining relationships in a small space?
It’s challenging. We see each other as sacred mirrors. If we hit a speed bump within, it is reflected through the other person.
What is your advice to others who want to live small or work remotely?
If you desire it, do it. Commit. There may always be fear, doubt and stories within you that will rob you of your vitality, happiness and desires. This is the predator that lurks in all of our psyches, keeping us from creatively achieving our wildest dreams. It’s our responsibility to contain the predator so we can fully live. So commit, and then wisely plan. Learn to assess your needs versus your wants, and be on a budget. This enables flexibility to adapt to the different tides of income that many freelancers face, especially on the road. Stay open to growth.
Do you plan to go back to your previous way of living?
Never. One day, we might have a tiny home (a home base), but we will always be explorers and embrace van life in some way. I will never again live a life based on what is externally expected of me.
What's next? Any news you want to share?
In December, we released the crowd-funded modern nomads web series. It is receiving phenomenal reviews on our YouTube channel, and we recommend watching it if you’re interested in a nomadic/tiny home life. It features 12 modern nomad interviews, from individuals to couples and even families. We are still so incredibly inspired by the people we met as a result of this project.
What’s next for us is continuing down the road we are on—open minded and open hearted, and sharing it along the way. My intention this year is to share our journey more openly, expressing ourselves and our passions fully.