Kati & Jody

Kati & Jody and their three dogs have traveled across the country and back in a built-out Ford Transit. Kati teaches yoga and is an organic lifestyle consultant. Jody is a carpenter and handyman with a passion for horticulture and music.
They have discovered several lessons from a life on the road. One of the biggest ones has been learning how to dedicate their lives to living purposefully and consciously in honor of Earth and all its elements.

Square Feet: 31

Your life does not get better by chance. It gets better by change.
— Jim Rohn

Make, Model, Year: Ford Transit Connect XLT 2010

We found our van through Craigslist and picked it up in a small used car lot in Charlotte, North Carolina. We had a very small budget and got lucky when they liked our vision and made it almost an even trade in for our 2009 Ford Fusion.

Months Living Mobile: 7

Were there certain things you knew you needed in your van?

We knew we needed a bed, storage, cooking and kitchen supplies, some toiletries and living supplies and camping gear.

We also have three dogs, so this eliminated a lot of space compared to if it were just the two of us.

Tell us about converting it into a tiny home.

It was quite traumatic to be honest. We were in the process of purchasing a home and it didn’t pass any of the inspections to allow our financing to go through. So, with little options and a trip to Colorado already planned later that month, we threw our belongings in storage and took a little with us and set out on this epic adventure. We found and purchased the van only a week before our move-out date from our house. Then the starter had to be replaced (luckily the dealership did it for free, no questions asked). We built a lifted bed frame so that we could store all of our things beneath the bed.

This worked, but we discovered some flaws in the dimensions while traveling. When we got back east, we decided to pull the frame out and put it in storage and experiment with some more minimalist options, which proved better.

This has ultimately helped give us a clearer vision of what we can do with the interior of the van to make it the most comfortable and livable for both us and the dogs.

What's a typical day like for you?

When we're on the road, we do a lot of searching and planning for where we are going to be sleeping that night/weekend/week. Once we find a spot (sometimes just a wooded pull-off area or BLM land), we do our doggy parenting duties.

Our dogs are our children and so we have a very specific routine for them for breakfasts and dinners.

Usually we take turns with doggy duty so the other can make coffee and some food.

We eat a lot of rice and beans. We feel so energized whenever we put the two together and we often add one or the other with our eggs for a little extra metabolizing power on those mornings prepping for longer treks. Our other go-to items are eggs (because they are such a great source of protein and good fats), granola and dried fruits. I stocked up on bulk dry food supplies from our local organic market before leaving and they actually lasted us almost the whole two months on the road. We will occasionally treat ourselves to fresh produce when we are in city limits.

When boondocking, we plan our days around the dogs’ hikes because tired dogs equal good dogs.

Where have you been since you started your journey?

We went from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Burgess Falls State Park in Tennessee. Then we camped a night in Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park in Kentucky and from there we drove up through St. Louis and into Kansas making our way to Colorado to boondock with some friends outside of Denver. We stayed almost two weeks in the Denver area, visiting Red Rocks Amphitheater, Boulder and Rocky Mountain National Park.

From there, we traveled north through Fort Collins and into Wyoming. We did a lot of rest stop and roadside camping from Wyoming to Bend, Oregon.

We camped for a weekend in Sisters, Oregon, and explored some of Deschutes National Forest before boondocking with some friends in Salem, Oregon, for almost two weeks. After departing from Salem, we traveled west to Highway 101 and camped out in Coos Bay, Oregon, and along the coast, visiting the Redwoods in Crescent City, California.

From there, we explored some of Southern Oregon (Medford, Ashland and Klamath Falls) and journeyed back east through northern Nevada and back down into Utah. We ventured back east after stopping one more time in Boulder, Colorado, to house sit at a friend’s place in town. From there, we made the trek back through the Midwest and the North Carolina mountains for a Flow Arts Festival where I taught some yoga sessions. Now we are in Charlotte, taking advantage of the beautiful mountains and scenery in Appalachia.

Of all the places you've visited, which one would you settle down in?

We definitely want to get back to Bend, Oregon, or Boulder, Colorado. Those two towns really seemed to capture our hearts. Especially with the dogs, we enjoyed their wide-open spaces, abundance of trails and territory to explore and the organic and whole food options.

They seem the most like-minded communities for what we bring to the table professionally as well. We are also huge coffee connoisseurs and dubbed a couple cafes our coffee home bases for passing through and visiting again.

What's been the most memorable experience?

There are so many. And so many more to come still.

Probably our most life-changing and memorable experiences happened in Northern California with the beauty and amazing energy with the Redwoods.
In Sisters, Oregon, the stars and space scenes blew our minds every night.

Tell us about a moment that made you question vanlife.

Oh boy, do we have many! But it is all a blessing in disguise.

Every argument, obstacle and fear brings us closer together and shows us our true threshold for dealing with and overcoming tough times.

The moments where we really question vanlife are caused by our dog Apollo's behavioral and emotional issues. Apollo, as the oldest (10 years old) and male pack leader, has serious abandonment issues from being thrown in a dumpster as a puppy. This made it difficult anytime we would step away from the van—even if it was only for a moment to get water or snacks. He would cry and cry and bark and go wild.

This slowly has lessened as we get him more acclimated to van living and learn to use our packleader energies to sooth his little soul.

Has your relationship changed at all with each other?

Most definitely. Communication pathways open up and evolve when you’re together 24/7. Now, to be fair, we were already married in sociological terms prior to moving into a van. We’ve always shared a vehicle, worked at the same jobs, took college courses together and done things as a unit. I’d say vanlife has taken that concept and way of living into another direction as we were forced to really fine-tune our speaking and listening skills with one another, coming together despite disagreements for the sake of our tribe’s well-being and our own mental, physical and spiritual health.

Will you live this way forever?

No, but we enjoy the freedom it gives us. Ultimately, we would like to find a plot of land and construct a tiny, sustainable homestead and come back to it when we travel. We currently have a pretty big journey ahead of us with a lot of work just to get back on the road.

But we are hopeful and excited to continually grow and learn with the road and Mother Nature as our teacher.

What's next? Any news you want to share?

I still have a handful of 2017 calendars for sale and will showcase a Pink Floyd 'The Wall' inspired interactive art exhibit in the spring in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Also, we will be planting pollinator beds across the country to help our pollinator friends (e.g. butterflies, bees, moths) who are struggling. Our goal is to help repopulate pollinators within the next 10 years by creating gardens across North America. This project is called Hope Blossoms, and we've set up a Patreon page.

We're slowly acquiring pieces to make our van even more livable, such as adding a roof rack, roll-up mattress and portable solar chargers. We are remodeling a garage space to be our east coast base, and then we are heading back on the road in the spring to do a southwestern U.S. tour.

Only one thing is certain. Nothing is certain.

Follow Kati + Jody of Aunt Avis Adventures

Produced by Kathleen Morton of Tiny House, Tiny Footprint.
Edited by Kate MacDougall.
Photos courtesy of Kati Simon.