There is a point in everyone’s life when they decide what they want to be. This probably brings back memories of dressing up as doctors or astronauts and aspiring to be something your parents would be proud of.
My husband, Joey, and I both had these experiences. I wanted to be a veterinarian and Joey was set on being Spiderman. We changed our minds about a million times before graduating high school, as most kids do.
When the real world came knocking on our door, we had no clue what was right for us. We set out into the world with dreams of having a good job, a nice house, and eventually a family.
Travel was not a priority, and I had never even heard of van life!
We had no idea what awaited us.
When Joey proposed to me, we immediately started planning a wedding for the following year. It was every little girl’s dream to have the perfect wedding, surrounded by friends and family, and it was finally my turn.
We worked up a budget and set a date. Then we started the guest list. Before I knew it, I had written down every extended family member we had by obligation, and our budget was left in the dust.
No one ever tells you that planning your wedding will be stressful, potentially hurtful to family members, and hell on your mental health. Two months into planning, and we threw the rule book out the window.
We decided to elope. We took our budget and divided it by half and started planning a cross country road trip. It had always been a dream of ours to travel, and we had toyed with the idea of van camping across the country. Getting married was as good a time as any as far as we were concerned.
We wanted to see everything we could while being as frugal as possible, so we borrowed a family members minivan and converted it into a mini camper. Complete with a bed, fans, and string lights. See the conversion here!
Van life is defined as an alternative lifestyle where individuals convert a vehicle into a home in order to travel frugally for extended periods of time.
Because of van life, we visited 13 states and saw more of the world than we ever thought possible. We saw Crater Lake in Oregon, The Grand Canyon, Tent Rocks in New Mexico, Red Canyon in Colorado, and tons of other vast natural landscapes along the way.
We landed in Crescent City, California in the Redwood Forest where we were married. The only witnesses were the officiant and our photographer.
The two weeks it took to cross the country and return home felt like a dream. We learned more about ourselves and each other than we ever would have by staying home. We bonded over the most beautiful sights in the country and gained an innate appreciation for nature.
After we returned, we went back to work and began saving for a home. We played the role of business professionals and attempted to settle into our American dream, but everything had changed.
We were not happy. There was clearly something missing, but I couldn’t put my finger on what exactly it was.
We went on our road trip to see the country and everything it has to offer, but we never thought that it wouldn’t be enough. Surprisingly, we found ourselves daydreaming about the open road and all of the things there were left to see. We couldn’t focus on work, and we were increasingly restless.
I’ll admit that my husband initially suggested Vanlife, and I turned it down. He was an avid follower of the community through social media and had seen people successfully transition to life on the road.
Choosing Van Life
I felt that we would lose all of our professional gains by traveling full time, and I couldn’t imagine living a life outside of societal norms.
We contemplated the idea of fulltime travel for months before finally deciding that it was the best choice for us. We had to reframe our idea of success and tailor it to our needs and aspirations.
I soon discovered the pursuit of our personal happiness didn’t look anything like the desk job we were working out of obligation and haven’t looked back since.
We used the money that we had saved for buying a house and bought a Mercedes Sprinter van instead. Since then we have been in the process of converting it into a tiny home on wheels.
The process is a long one, but we get closer every weekend. When our van is finished it will have a sink, oven, stove, mini-fridge, composting toilet, outdoor shower, a bed, solar power, and plenty of storage space!
We still work our fulltime jobs in order to save the money needed to travel for at least a year. We plan to be on the road by the beginning of 2020 and have hopes of gaining revenue to sustain our van life journey for much longer!
Making this decision has opened us up to a world of alternative living. We have built a community of vanlifers on YouTube, Instagram, and our blog!
In fact, we want to prove that alternative lifestyles are viable and beneficial to those who feel drawn to them. We hope to spread our message of finding personal happiness through our journey, whether that happiness is on four wheels or not.