Alexandra is traveling the U.S. solo in a vintage school bus. Armed with knowledge from watching build out videos on YouTube, she tackled the conversion process almost entirely by herself.
Since leaving San Diego two months ago, she has already explored Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado. During her year-long journey, she will be visiting schools that are lacking the resources for an art program. She hopes to raise money through donations to gather supplies to donate to classrooms, along with a free art lesson.
Lara grew up overseas in Beijing and spent most of her childhood traveling the world. She had the privilege of visiting Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Australia, London, Indonesia, Mexico, Canada, Guatemala and plans to continue to add to that list. Since she spent her younger years exploring an international playground, she did not travel much of the U.S., so now she's making up for it as an adult.
I caught up with Lara to ask her about building out her van, and traveling and living on the road by herself.
Anthony & Colby, two good friends, started their adventures on opposite sides of the U.S.: Anthony on the west and Colby on the east coast. It wasn't until Anthony drove from Portland to New York that the two of them began their journey together. From there, they took their time to Colorado and now, they are back home in New England, sipping hot tea and watching the autumn foliage.
When we met these two at the van gathering in Colorado, we immediately hit it off, parking our vans in a circle together. Not only does their music make us smile, but it makes us think about why this lifestyle is challenging, yet so worthwhile.
Before Amanda turned 11, she had set foot on every continent. But for the past few months, she has been exploring one (North America) a little more in depth, traveling solo in her '97 Toyota van. Along the way, she shares illustrations to represent her current mood, experiences or locations. She also creates designs for clients and custom #atwildwoman portraits.
Life is one big experiment, and Amanda plans to experience it fully and encourages others to do the same.
Julien, originally from Quebec, grew up traveling to Maine and New Hampshire to surf. These were long road trips, and being trapped in a small car had its limitations. So he bought a van to be more comfortable. His first van was a 1989 GMC Vandura, but in April he upgraded to a 2015 Safari Condo. Even when Julien owned an apartment, he would still stay in his van, so now he lives in his van full time.
He funds his adventures through the online magazine Go-Van and partners with tourism bureaus and brands he supports. This weekend, he will be hosting a van meetup in Quebec. Be sure to check it out if you're in the area.
In March, Alyssa & Brian gave up their San Francisco apartment, quit their full-time jobs, sold their belongings and hit the road in their truck camper with all their essentials—bikes, boards, boots and beer. Since then, they have been exploring North America, from San Francisco up to Alaska, and now they are currently in Colorado.
They plan to make their way to Austin by November to complete their route, Northbound and Down.
We're here in Jace & Giddi's 2003 Dodge Sprinter van. I'm sitting at the desk, Blaize lies at my feet and Jace & Giddi are sitting together on the bed. Even with all of us there it still feels like there's enough space. And surrounding us is everything they need: A toilet, fridge, bed, workspace and tons of gear and food storage. Together, the cost of the van and the build-out was less than $10,000.
Jace & Giddi are five months into living on the road with their dog, Lotus. But soon there will be four. They are expecting a baby girl in November who will join them in their travels.
Lynelle & Matt spend a lot of time searching for gems on Craigslist. So when an ad for a 1978 retired mail van popped up, they saw it as an opportunity to turn it into a treasure. They drove down back alleys and visited the Goodwill Outlet to salvage materials for their build out. After a few months of planning and renovation, they are ready to hit the road.
They leave Sept. 1 to begin their journey of chasing 72 degrees, meeting new people and living on the road with their cat, Brain. They plan to keep living this way until the funds or the fun runs out.
Micah bought a van on Craigslist two years ago in an effort to live cheaply and travel more. He saw it as a way to pursue his creative talents: graphic design, music and photography. His Facebook page is filled with poetry and songs he's performed in his mobile home.
So far, he's spent more than a year living on the road, and he plans to continue until the van stops running or he finds a girlfriend with an apartment.
Atticus & Lina were almost halfway through their eight-month trip across America in their van when Atticus had a health crisis. They woke up in the middle of a national forest to Atticus having a seizure and rushed to the nearest hospital. They spent the next few days flying from Pensacola, FL, back to their family in California.
A week after Atticus was in the ER, he was in and out of brain surgery like a champ, having three small tumors completely removed. They have spent the past few months reminiscing on the last three months of their adventure. Atticus has had a few weeks of treatment, but the plan is to be back in the van soon to resume their journey.
Who wouldn't want to work remotely? That was Mo's thought behind finding a rig that would allow him the freedom to escape but also give him some of the luxuries of everyday life.
Mo & his girlfriend Gracie chose a Sprinter van with the intention of building it out on the weekends, but life got in the way. So they hired an architecture company to help them out. With Mo & Gracie's vision and the company's expertise, they created a tiny house that has already taken them to amazing places.
Gianna is using a van as a tiny home and an art installation. Last spring, Gianna and her friend Cheyenne transformed the van into a mobile photography gallery. They toured the west for seven weeks setting up pop-up shows in unexpected locations. The online world is saturated with photography, but they wanted to create a whole experience between the van, photos, artists and viewers.
Currently, Gianna and her partner, Andy, are splitting time between a van, school bus and house. This allows Gianna to explore her passions of photography yoga, art and hiking, either in one spot or on the road, while also having a home base to return to whenever they need to.
Last month, Savannah & Brett began a 4,000-mile cross-country trip in their van named Jolene. Their goal: to make this trip last three months so they can spend time in the areas that they find the most influential and opportunistic.
Savannah is using this trip as a way to practice being present, to create long-lasting memories and to help those in need, especially through massage therapy. In turn, Brett wants to take as many pictures as possible, learn more about himself and others and, most importantly, make a positive impact on those who cross his path.
With their combined passions and dreams, they plan to offer their services and create connections. Every photo tells a story, and after a month, these two have several to fill their collection.
I haven't spoken to Nikki, but I've heard her soulful voice in her songs. While Nikki sings and mixes tones from her guitar and clawhammer-style banjo, her husband and musical partner, Jason, adds harmony with his guitar to complete the duo. They book gigs in areas they want to explore more.
As long as their fingers work and the van is running, they will keep going. As Nikki sings, "Life is one big rodeo. So hold on tight. We'll be alright."
Emily & Corey are experimenting how they can blend their nomadic lifestyle with a traditional career. Together, they are sharing the ways they are redefining work while still following their passions.
They keep following what they feel, through the discomforts, risks, mysteries and the unknowns. Emily, Corey and their dog, Penny Rose, continue to live in a van because they love moving and feeling free.
Gonzalo & Jor are an Argentinian couple who decided to travel around the Americas with no precise route or even a destination. After more than one year on the road, they have already driven about 18,000 miles, which is almost double the distance from Alaska to Ushuaia (the beginning and end of the Panamerican Highway).
When they like a place they visit, they stay another day, week or even month or more. Being in one location helps them create a routine, meet locals and experience the way they live. To fund their trip, they try to get a job or sell scrapbooks, postcards and fridge magnets that they make. Staying in one place decreases their fuel expenses and increases their funds to travel further.
Armando & Mel, an Italian-American couple, call themselves "digital nomads." They support their travels through remote work: Armando is a film director, and Mel is an online writer. They chose to live in a van so they could go anywhere they need to go.
Together, with their dog Ziggy, they discover new countries through their cultures and traditions. They connect with locals and how they live instead of watching it on a TV screen. Through their blog and videos, they are inspiring others to find work that allows them a life on the road.
Alexis & Christian spent nine months building their tiny house, and now they're in a middle of a two-year project capturing the stories of the tiny house community across the nation. There's a power in storytelling, and their goal is to contribute to a ripple effect of positive change through tiny housing advocacy.
Through their videos and blog, they tackle topics such as tiny house communities, legalities, building costs and parking. These are issues that we might not think about when we consider the option of living small, but these are the issues this community faces daily.
Jessica & Rob have a dream for their family: a year living on the road. They long to see the humdrum of day-to-day life become fresh in the microcosm of their van and discover the world through the eyes of their daughter, Henley. But most of all, they want to slow down and live simply.
Life in a van becomes a rhythm. With three people, every navigation inside becomes a choreographed dance move. It gives purpose and enjoyment to the most mundane tasks. Memories are made, for better and for worse.
Jessica, Rob and Henley are discovering that life in the slow lane is an ongoing adventure and an exercise in savoring each day.
Three years ago, Justin was dating a girl who talked him into doing a yearlong road trip. They started saving and a couple months later, she dumped him. That’s when he roped his brother Adam into the idea. One night over 2-for-1 beers at the local Applebee's, Justin asked Adam if he wanted to go on a road trip after he graduated college. Adam would take photos and video while Justin wrote about the experience.
What started out as a way to take a year off has now turned into a year of work. Justin & Adam are preparing for a career of full-time freelancing.
The one thing that hasn't changed is that they remain brothers who not only share the same blood, but the same tiny space.
Many people go into nature and take it for granted. But there are some people who play in the woods, using traditional methods to forage so that they can be more connected to nature and its wild spaces.
Raphaelle + Mark's van acts as their tiny home and their business. They chose a vessel that could take them deep into the wilderness. Their workshop on wheels allows them to make natural products free of toxic chemicals and inspired by nature's wild beauty.
Meet Ingrid: A photographer and videographer from Peru. Her partner, Matty, is a musician and artist from New York. Together, they are spreading the awareness of the environment and being vegan. They are driving across North America sharing ways others can travel while still being conscious of their environmental impact.
It's no surprise that we wholeheartedly support that message.
You might remember my interview from December with Jay, a man who lives in a Matchbox Tiny House in Boneyard Studios. I asked him for recommendations of other tiny dwellers, and he, surprisingly, suggested his sister. Jay's sister Jude doesn't just live small like other people I feature here; she embraces it. She has lived in several tiny structures for the past seven years, including a yurt, cabin, dome and now, a school bus.
The community Jude lives in is fascinating. She and her partner Yadi are part of an income-sharing intentional community called East Wind. The community supports each other through two industries: East Wind Nut Butters and Utopian Rope Sandals. Their work is busy and everyone reaps the benefits.
This interview is unique, not only because of the structure this couple lives in, but also for the story about the people who live in it.
Tom and Sam met in Indonesia in November 2013. Sam was traveling solo and Tom had planned to travel Europe and Asia after his father passed away. It was love at first sight, and they spent the next three months traveling Southeast Asia together.
Tom, originally from South Wales, spent the next year with Sam in her home country of Canada. He received a visa for a year to live and work there. After a year, they drove around North America while they waited for another visa. They got back to Canada to continue the wait, and then finally received Tom's visa and went back to the border to activate it.
While Tom was in Canada decorating Sam's apartment, immigration officials found photos of Tom with Sam and argued he was there working illegally and taking a job away from a Canadian. They gave him 10 days to leave the country.
They spent almost five months apart before meeting up again in California. This is the story of their lives after Canada and the journey that brought them together on the road.
We spent a few days with car dwellers Megan + Michael back in November, and it feels good to be catching up with them again. We are inspired by their travels and hopeful that there are people out there making it work in something they might already own. Not only might a car get you places faster, but you also won't have to go out and buy a van and spend time converting it into an adventure mobile.
These friends of ours are not only living this lifestyle; they are sharing easy-to-prepare recipes and encouraging others to eat off-the-grid meals. Their blog is designed to minimize the amount of stress, time and ingredients you have to bring when you're camping in order to fully enjoy the experience outdoors. We love the message they are spreading and can't wait for them to show up at our home or meet up on the road.
Leave it to Jess + Jorge to make us laugh throughout this interview with them. After three years living in their VW Vanagon, these two have tried out an Airstream, renovated a van, experienced breakdowns and almost bumped into a bear.
This couple tells it how it is, through both the highs and the lows. And we still can't help but think their van is one of the coolest rigs we've ever seen.
The Roll with Me interview series has been so focused on land dwellers that we almost missed out on featuring a different type of tiny house: a sailboat. Meet Lynn & Bregt, who find the best way to roll is with the waves on the sea. Trade your hiking clothes for a swimsuit and hop aboard!
Alyssa & Donnie's story is extra special to me because I have been following them and their adventures even before they began #vanlife. Alyssa reached out to me when they were converting their van. I have been able to watch their progress and planning come to fruition, and I have witnessed this newfound happiness with the freedom in living small.
I have been captivated by their creativity, which is both as beautiful individually as it is together. They have a vision to share how people connect with each other and with the natural world, and I can't wait to see their project unfold.
Danielle and Mat reached out to me a few months back and asked if we had any video footage of our camper trailer. At the time, we did not. So while I procrastinated sending them some videos, Danielle and Mat were quick to answer my questions, send me photos and get back to me. Below is a look into the lives of two creative individuals who spill raw reflections into blog posts and capture incredible footage of people living alternative lifestyles.
We can't wait to meet up with these like-minded people in our travels and share experiences together.
I always love interviewing couples who live small, but lately, I have felt quite empowered by the solo adventurers. It can be difficult when you're on your own to make ends meet after quitting your day job or traveling solo for months on end.
But Ben shows us that it can be a rewarding way to live. He lives off his savings, doesn't have a serious itinerary and only stays in one spot for a long period of time when his van break downs.
And as for an adventure sidekick? All Ben really needs is man's best friend.
I'm not sure how I found Shelby & Simon, but I'm happy I did. Just recently, I ended up spending a few hours watching van life episodes on their YouTube channel. I learned things like how you can park under the radar and how to give adorable deer kisses.
Reading through their blog, I can't help but experience the raw nature of van life. It isn't always as pretty as we paint it, and it's important for people out there to get out the real story. Shelby & Simon are those people. They make light of the bad and move on with humor, which reminds us that life is too short to get hung up on things not going our way.
I remember hearing about Boneyard Studios a year ago or so when Greg and I were looking into building a tiny house. And I remember thinking, "What a cool idea!" This nonprofit organization has a mission that I can fully support. I love how they demonstrate creative urban infill, promote the benefits of tiny houses, support other tiny house builders and model what a tiny house community could look like.
This is the story of Jay Austin, the owner and designer of a tiny house that sits at Boneyard Studios. If you are in the DC area, I'd encourage you to stop by and tour the house Jay has lived in the past three years.
It's funny how you connect with some people and then you can't stop talking about them afterwards. That's how I feel about Eva. We've been emailing for two weeks now and I learn something new each time we correspond or I look at one of her illustrations.
Eva & Victor follow the same story you've already heard before: a couple leaves the city to travel and live in their van. The difference is that they haven't stopped being dedicated to their crafts. Eva paints vans and illustrates a travel journal. Recently, she took a collection of painted vans from her travels and put them into a calendar that she is promoting through a Kickstarter. While Eva paints, Victor runs as a competitive mountain and ultra runner. He also surfs whenever they are close to the ocean.
The two of them are unstoppable and their photography speaks to that. Try to keep up with them as they use their talents to capture the world around them.
I found Travis through his photography, and once you see the photos below, you'll understand why. While I was double tapping Travis's photos, I discovered I was also following his partner, Shay. As a Divemaster, Shay's photos feature her in crystal clear beaches and deep within rainforests. You can't help but want to escape with her into the water and swim among sea creatures and coral.
But for now, I will sit back, camera in hand, while I learn from two of the best on how they are able to live their passions on land and underwater.
There might be correlation between living small and taking pretty pictures. Or perhaps, coincidentally, the people I interview have a knack for finding beautiful things to photograph on their travels and are able to capture their own joy living this lifestyle. Either way, it’s hard not to want to escape to Europe to meet this lovely couple and caravan with them on the coast and throughout the countryside.
Lauren and Calum share through their writing and photography that the simple things in life are much more enjoyable.
Born in a canoe, under the aurora borealis, somewhere in the heart of the Canadian North. Raised by wolves. Bison soul. Bareback rider. Sagebrush gleaner. Ponderosa pine tree hugger. Gregarious Hermit.
These are the words Jillian uses to describe herself on her blog. And even though those words captivate me and take my breath away, I feel something stronger.
Jillian is a creative soul, but not in the usual way we see on our Instagram feeds. She delivers much more. Her beauty is also captured in the light around her, her relationships with the creatures of this Earth and the way she takes an inanimate object and gives it character and power.
This is a woman you want to go on adventures with and dance on the hood of your car. But until then, I will be in a daze as I watch her life unfold inside and outside her Airstream.
Idle: to spend time doing nothing. Theory: to spend our time idling. Bus: vehicle, home, and friend.
It's hard to say just a few words about Rachel & James. They are two beautiful souls who are on a quest to find the meaning and purpose of both work and leisure.
I think we can all learn a thing or two by the way Rachel & James live. They actively pursue doing nothing—which is actually a whole lot more meaningful than trying too hard to do something.
What do I mean by that?
To be still while you listen to the forest or bathe quietly in hidden swimming holes requires you to accept the world around you and embrace it. So many times we don't want to be confronted with the unknown or the mysteries that surround us.
Rachel & James are immersed in this lifestyle because they want to feel something and they want to make sure you feel it too.
It should be no surprise that I am inspired by everyone in this tiny house movement. Each person I interview shares their passions with the world in unique ways.
But I am impressed that Jess + Andy are using this lifestyle to give back to creatives like themselves. In a little over a year, they have traveled more than 18,000 miles to offer in-kind services to nonprofit organizations, artists and entrepreneurs in need.
It's one thing to live small on the road and do it for your own adventure and gain. It's another thing to live small on the road and do it for others.
I have to admit, I didn't start following Shannon on Instagram because she lives in a tiny house or because I thought she might have looked familiar from the reality TV show, "Tiny House Nation." I actually became interested in Shannon because of her yoga and pole-dancing skills.
Browse through her feed and you'll know what I'm talking about. It's hard not to be impressed that she does all this on a pole in the middle of a small living space.
Looking to downsize, but aren't certain you could live in a camper or van in someone's backyard? Shannon's honesty will help you decide if a tiny house is for you.
I normally don't interview people who aren't living full time in their tiny homes, but I am really inspired by what Taylor, Alex & Sam are doing.
Let me rewind for a second. It's funny to think that I met Taylor at Whole Foods of all places. We were both in line to get coffee, and Taylor was dancing by herself to the music playing in the store. I couldn't help but start laughing.
We got to chatting, and she said that she and her girlfriends, Sam and Alex, were passing through Colorado on their way to Idaho because they are part of SAM (Sharing America's Marrow). The three of them are on a mission to register at least 50,000 potential bone marrow donors in the U.S. so that they can help save the lives of patients with blood cancers and diseases like leukemia and lymphoma.
I mean, that's powerful stuff. But I don't have to tell you that. These three girls have a story of their own.
There is always a backstory to the people I interview for this blog series. Sometimes I find them through Instagram or read an article about them and shoot them an email. But it's pretty rare that I meet up with people first and then discover they are living this lifestyle.
And I wouldn't have met Kelly & Justin if it wasn't for Sarah & Jon—two people that became my friends all because Sarah picked up my business card at a local coffee shop. Sarah must be pretty good at finding people because through the Instagram world, Sarah connected with Kelly & Justin. So when Sarah invited Greg & I out to grab a beer, Kelly & Justin were there as well.
While we were all chatting, I got out my phone to follow Kelly & Justin on Instagram. When I said we went by Tiny House, Tiny Footprint, Kelly said, "I'm pretty sure we already follow you!" And sure enough, she already was.
This Instagram world has been so fascinating. I didn't ask how they found us, but just felt warmth knowing that this tiny house movement has brought so many of us together.
Why a new American dream? The old dream—Coca-Cola, apple pie, house in the suburbs—just isn’t doing us any favors, even if we are lucky enough to achieve it. It makes us fat, sick, and traps us in a cycle of debt.
Three weeks ago, I was with some girlfriends in Salida, CO, when I noticed a beautiful, green van in front of a hardware store. It was the type of tiny home I dream about—you know the one. The one that's ready to hit the road, with your gear strapped on top.