We are a newly married couple who made it a goal to simplify our life and fill it with adventure, embarking on a nomadic lifestyle in a self-converted sprinter camper van before our first wedding anniversary. In April 2017, we hit the road and haven’t looked back.
As of July 2018, we have built two vans, experienced 45 states (and parts of Canada), reaching all four corners of the U.S. A big part of van life for us is about being present in the moment and trying not to plan out every next step, but we hope to complete 49 states by next Summer after our trip to Alaska.
Jess is a scientist who got frustrated with the lack of communication and outreach in medical research and now works as a consultant to help translate technical information for the public.
Read more about being a digital nomad!
Vinny is a 14 year old chihuahua who is reinvigorated by a life of adventure on the road. He loves ear scratches, ice cream and whines when it's time for bed.
Read more on traveling with pets and keeping them comfortable in vanlife.
The decision to embark on an unconventional life does not come without fear and uncertainty.
In the summer of 2016, we went backpacking in Grand Teton National Park and noticed a converted Sprinter van for sale on the side of the road. It was fully decked out, but the asking price was way outside our budget.
However, it sparked an idea inside of us that maybe we could buy a van, convert it ourselves and live in it for a fraction of what our mortgage was at the time.
Throughout the 7-day hike, we kept talking about how we could make simple living work for us. When we got back to Baltimore we started researching vans and two months later we purchased a 2013 Mercedes Sprinter and got started building.
Living in the van presents a whole new set of challenges compared to a more traditional lifestyle.
We need to make sure we have water, power, a safe place to sleep, a place to empty our toilet and most importantly some idea of where we are going that day. All of these things take up more time than if we had unlimited running water, flushing toilets and a power grid.
We often find ourselves in the middle of the afternoon wondering where the day went. Life just takes a little longer living in the van. Even with these challenges, we wouldn’t trade the freedom that living in our van provides.
Our daily routine is actually not very routine at all. Some days we wake up late while other days we set an alarm to wake up early in hopes of catching a great sunrise from somewhere like Cadillac Mountain in Maine. But wherever we are, most mornings involve snuggles, coffee and cereal.
Throughout the day, we will find interesting local destinations to explore, take pictures, sketch local architecture and field work emails. We like to cook dinner together at the end of the day then hunt for a safe place to park overnight.
Some days we drive and sometimes we stay in the same place for days. We don’t have set work hours, but Jess does take work calls or finalize projects from the road, working an average of 20 hours a week. Mike runs his own art business, so his work is never really done.
We love that everywhere we go we are at home. Every day is a new adventure and a new experience. We also enjoy the financial freedom that comes from not paying a mortgage and the emotional and physical freedom from not working the standard 40+ hour work week.
We hear this a lot and our response is that you can!
When we first started throwing around the idea of quitting our jobs and moving into a van, we were terrified of how everything would turn out and how people would react to our decision to live an unconventional life.
Work every day towards your dream. Know that it will be scary, but if it’s in your heart, you can make it happen.