While it’s not a new concept by any means, living on the road has taken on a whole new meaning in today’s busy world. With populations ever growing, many people are buying much smaller homes, like tiny houses. Some are even going one step further than that. How about shedding the traditional dream of home ownership, regular 9-5 job and city living, for a nomadic lifestyle.
There is a rising popularity of social media, throughout all generations. This means that we are becoming more aware of how other people choose to live their lives. The tag #vanlife is a social media success, with over 1.9 million posts on Instagram alone. It’s clear the nomadic lifestyle is the zeitgeist of the 21st century. Let’s have a peek at how one couple, Jason and Emily Landis chose to do just that, living on the road in an RV.
Jason and Emily met in their hometown of Louisville. They were both taking the same philosophy class in college, and this is where they formed a close relationship. After graduation they spent a month together backpacking in Europe. Settling down in Portland, Oregon, they continued to camp and explore in their free time. After a year living together in their apartment, the time came to renew their lease. That’s when they decided that city living, was not the life for them.
“We spent all our free time camping and exploring, so we decided to make that our full-time life, rather than only doing it on our days off.”
They walked away from the traditional graduate lifestyle, of job, home and annual holidays, and instead took to the road.
And so it began:
“We got married in the forest on a camping trip and bought our van later that week. We bought the van off Craigslist for $1500 which is less than what we were paying, combined, for a month’s rent. We put maybe another $1000 into the van to make it livable, and then saved up for a month.”
They remained in Portland for another month, working hard to save up money for their new venture. It was very difficult at times, but their hard work paid off, and it was worth it in the end. Their lifestyle was frugal with no frills attached, even their mattress was from a neighbor. The climate became hot in Portland, and the van soon became just a place to sleep in.
“This was the toughest month we’ve been through together. Portland got so hot during the daytime. Once the sun came up we had to get out of the van. Emily was bartending and not getting home till 4AM in the morning. We had sleep deprivation for a month. But, we got through and it paid off, with money coming in and no outgoings on rent, internet, or energy bills.
“All our belongings were under the bed in milk crates. We were given carpeting from a neighbor.”
Determination and perseverance carried them through. They pushed on so they could achieve the lifestyle they now enjoy today.
The young couple drives a 1990 Dodge Ram B150, RV, but it’s only a place to lay their heads at night.
“We don’t live in our van, we sleep in it. We do most of our living in the forests, by the ocean, and in the mountains. Many of our days start in places more beautiful and peaceful than you could ever imagine.”
Sounds like a dream world, but it leaves us wondering how anyone can afford to live in such glorious surroundings? Their lifestyle is still frugal, but that’s a personal choice:
“We’ve found that traveling in the van, supplemented by seasonal employment, is more affordable than living in an apartment in the city,” Emily tells us. “We spend the bulk of our money on food, gas, and experiences. We cut out expenses like new clothes, furniture, energy bills. Being very frugal, and only camping in free spots, we can make one month of savings stretch for three months.”
Looking through their Instagram photo’s on #welivehere_now, you can see the incredible surroundings they find themselves in. Relaxing by a bubbling stream, or practicing yoga on a wild beach. Surrounded by mountains where Jason loves to climb. It’s not all fun and games, though. They both still work for a living. This funds their lifestyle, by doing seasonal jobs such as restaurant work. Their hope is that one day they can be completely self sufficient. For now, they’re happy with their working commitments. It leaves time for exploring and enjoying what they love to do best.
From living in an apartment, with all the usual amenities, to living in a van with none, can be a difficult transition. Jason and Emily surprised themselves, as they quickly adjusted straight into it.
“For us, the transition to this lifestyle was easy. We thought that being in a van would feel claustrophobic. Instead, we feel like we have more space than ever. When we’re not working, we explore so much of the country, that we would never have seen otherwise.”
People who live this dream, are usually quite passionate about living off grid. Seeking to be as one with nature. They feel it beats city life of being part of the everyday hustle and bustle to follow the American dream. For Emily and Jason, the best part of their lifestyle is the freedom they now have. They hated being tied down to jobs, and rent payments. It was not the life they wanted for themselves. To look at their personal assets; you would not call them wealthy in the traditional sense. They have very few material possessions. Yet, they feel rich and privileged. Their sense of achievement is rewarded by the lifestyle they lead, one that encompasses the great outdoors.
There has to be downsides, right? One would have thought that VanLife, in the middle of nowhere, could be a nerve wracking experience. Wouldn’t you worry about wild animals, prowlers, and criminals? Apparently not. It seems their greatest hassle is the wind.
“I would never have thought windy days would be my least favorite type of weather, but a van is basically a glorified tent. We can’t do much more in it than sleep and drive. Windy days shut down our entire kitchen and make staying outside all day, a no go area.”
At least in a cosy apartment you would hardly even notice the weather as you switched on the heating. That idea does not attract this young couple as they muster on, because the good days far outweigh the bad ones. Does the possibility of crime put them off, ever?
“We have never felt endangered while living in our van. We are more cautious when we’re going to be in the middle of nowhere, or far from the nearest gas station.”
Together they have travelled thousands of miles across the country. They can’t tell you exactly how many miles, because they discovered their odometer hadn’t been working properly. They do have plans to take their adventures overseas, though they might just give their VanLife a rest.
“We don’t know how long we’ll be living in our van. We don’t have any solid plans for the future, but we are planning on traveling internationally for a few months this year. We’re leaving our van with family members and will plan the next leg of our adventure closer to the time. “
As we speak, Emily and Jason found themselves in California, near the Yosemite National Park. They will stay there until their seasonal jobs end, and then it’ll be time to hit the road again. Their plan is to travel across country for a couple of months. They will make their way back to Kentucky, for a family Christmas reunion. Both recall well, their travels last December. That’s when they travelled the length of the Baja California peninsula, for 5 weeks, and it’s been their best journey yet.
We wondered how they do their laundry, and discovered a tiny secret in their answer:
“When we’re traveling, we usually stop at a laundromat once a month, when we’re driving though a city. We often rinse ourselves off in lakes and streams. Every now and then we’ll get a hotel room for the night, to enjoy the air conditioning and a warm shower.”
This is a young happy couple, who have embraced the VanLife experience to its fullest. Both would encourage anyone who was thinking of doing the same, to go for it. After all, they would tell you that they started out with a van from Craigslist, and very little else. Yet, they are still going strong. And, they are not afraid to take time off from VanLife, for short breaks. If it’s in your heart, then you should take the plunge into #vanlife, and live the dream. They did, and still do.