Two years ago, Pete and Tay skipped class for nine months to backpack Southeast Asia. This is where they realized how naturally suited they were to the nomadic lifestyle. Collecting memories, immersing themselves in new cultures, and making lifelong friends on the road became second nature.
So after graduating college, they decided to stray away from the conventional path and buy a sprinter van, convert it into a mobile home and travel wherever roads take them. And they strive to continually live life that way: Two people driven by curiosity, pursuing the unknown like the mavericks they are.
Here's their story:
Last year we were both finishing up our business degrees and trying to balance school and work. 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. 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 own beautiful country. We also saw it as a way to encourage our entrepreneurial spirit and create a self-sustained life on the road, so we went for it.
Freedom! We can travel wherever we want and stay as long as we want. We can actually experience a new state or ecosystem instead of just driving through it. We don’t have to pay for hotels and hostels. It’s cheaper because our van gets great gas mileage (22mpg), and we can buy groceries to cook all our meals instead of eating out. The opportunity we have to see this beautiful country is by far the greatest gift of this lifestyle.
Not at all! Well, Pete had done some mild woodworking at his parent’s business before, but nothing as advanced as the things we did in the van. The conversion was such a huge learning experience. We were so lucky to have Pete’s dad and other family and friends that had a wealth of knowledge they used to help guide us. They wouldn’t do the work for us, but they were always happy to answer questions, give us their expert opinions, and help us solve problems.
As new college graduates, we didn’t have a lot of money to work with. It was important to us to do as much as physically possible on our own and we did! The only part that we sought professional help was with the electrical wiring. As much as we wanted to do this part on our own, there is so much to know about wiring 12V appliances and lights to a battery as well as installing a converter and smart isolator. The solar components are really expensive and if we screwed up, we could easily damage them. We thought it would be much safer to leave it to a professional to hook up our solar and electrical.
Besides freedom, it’s brought us amazing new friends and so many opportunities for personal growth.
Since we’ve been on the road, we’ve made deeper connections and friendships in a matter of days than we have with people we’ve known most of our lives. When you meet others on the road, you already have a lot in common. But if you don’t particularly jive with someone, you can go your own way. When you DO have a connection with people, you skip all the crap and dive deep, getting to the good stuff. There’s no need to put on a persona; you just be your true self and others do the same.
Because we don’t have permanent jobs and have more time on our hands, we have the chance to be creative about making money. Taylor has a part-time online job, but it’s not enough to sustain this life. We don’t want to live off of savings so we are continually pursuing new projects that we are passionate about to hopefully start earning an income. That’s why we wrote our Conversion eBook! We wanted to give something of value back to the vanlife community and help others who plan on going through the conversion process themselves.
That’s an easy one! Even though it wasn’t funny at the time, it’s funny now.
On Valentine’s Day, which is also Snoop’s birthday, Snoop was sprayed by a skunk. It was at about 10:30pm at night and we didn’t know the gate code to the campsite we were at so we couldn’t drive to town to buy ingredients for an odor-neutralizing soap. All we could do was bring Snoop into a shower stall and wash him with regular dog shampoo and dish soap. If your dog has ever been sprayed before, you know this does absolutely nothing for the smell. We couldn’t leave him outside, so we had to go to sleep as usual with him sleeping at our feet.
The next morning we woke up to the most rancid stench we’ve ever smelled. We went to the grocery story as soon as it opened, made the soap, and brought poor Snoop back into the shower stall. He was washed a total of six times. Poor birthday boy. Then the rest of the day consisted of washing every fabric in our home at a laundromat and airing out the van. It was a Valentine’s Day for the books!
Snoop is the chillest, 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.
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, 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.
For the most part, we love everything about our van: it’s spacious, cozy, and everything is multifunctional. There are only a couple things we would consider changing.
The first is that we would probably put in a fixed stove in the kitchen with a larger propane tank. Right now we use a Coleman two burner camp stove which works great, but the small propane cans add up to be much more expensive than what it would be to simply fill up a larger tank. At the same time, we love that we have the option to cook outside when it’s nice out!
The other thing would be to make room for a composting toilet. We have a small, 2.6 gallon Dometic Portable Toilet and it works well for us. It’s small enough to hide away and not once have we been able to smell it. But because it’s so small, we have a "no number two" rule and when we’re boon docking for a few weeks, it would be nice to do that in the comfort of our own home!
If you want to learn exactly how Pete and Tay converted a van into their traveling home, check out their new eBook - Conversion!
Let’s start things off with a small bit of advice. Start using your travel journal before your trip.
Seriously, you’ll realise how important it is, when you are looking back at your adventures, to record even the slightest bit of planning to ensure that your trips have meaning and purpose.
Before all the memories and ticket stubs begin to flood the pages of your journal, make a list of things you want to see, food you want to try, or dedicate a page to language phrases you can use on the daily.
Fresh out of university after four years studying ecology, zoology and conservation genetics, I was well and truly ready for an adventure.
I wanted to book a plane ticket, pack my bags and head out the door as soon as possible.
But two things were stopping me. Firstly, money. Spending four years studying doesn’t mean you’re exactly raking in the cash. Secondly, when I got back and started looking for jobs, what would an employer think of a recent lengthy, self-indulgent holiday?
Then a solution came to me:
Why not combine some adventurous traveling with work experience?
In THE POWER OF MYTH by Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers (1988), Campbell states that “Chief Seattle was one of the last spokesmen of the Paleolithic moral order. In about 1852, the United States Government inquired about buying the tribal lands for the arriving people of the United States.”
“The President in Washington sends word he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky? The land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?”
- Chief Seattle