Danielle & Mat in a Ford Van

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.
We’re a couple of minimalist, nomadic van dwellers sharing our ongoing lifestyle experiments and the adventures of fellow explorers.

Square Feet: 72

Make, Model, Year: 2002 Ford E-150 Campervan

Years Living Mobile: 1

Mat and I have been living and traveling in our van for over a year, but because we take house-sitting jobs during colder months and because we sleep in guest bedrooms when we’re visiting family, I’d say we’re hardcore part timers.

Currently Living: Montreal

We’re currently house sitting in Montreal, Québec, Canada, for a month before heading to Ottawa to house sit and spend time with family and friends during the holidays.

What were you doing before you went mobile?

We owned a four-bedroom house and worked full time before we became nomadic. We still had some alternative elements to our settled lifestyle. We had a vegetable garden, laying hens and fruit trees to produce some of our food, and we used bikes, buses and community car-share programs to get around. 

Why did you make the change?

There were some positive elements to owning our home, but we felt overwhelmed by the enormity of our mortgage commitment (35 years), by the stress of never getting a break from working and by all of the stuff we were accumulating. So we decided to drastically downsize our lives and see what life would be like if we owned less and lived more.

So far we like our simple lifestyle a lot more!

How did your family and friends react to the decision?

Our friends and family have always thought we were a bit weird, so I don’t think our lifestyle choices shock them anymore. They’ll usually laugh at us at first, ask a bunch of questions out of concern for our well-being and then ultimately support us because they see how happy we are doing what we love.

What was the process like to move into your mobile home?

Moving into the van was super exciting for us! For the first couple of weeks that we owned the van, we’d sit in it long after it got dark, talking about how we were going to set it up and the places we’d travel to. 

Since we were used to traveling with just our backpacks, we actually needed to increase the amount of stuff we brought with us, which is the opposite of what most people do when they move into a van.

How do you get Internet?

We get Wi-Fi at cafes, libraries, grocery stores, co-working spaces, restaurants—pretty much everywhere! The tricky part for us is finding a place where we can sit down and work for eight hours straight. We’ll usually split our day in half and spend four hours at a cafe in the morning and four hours at a library (or different cafe) in the afternoon. Sometimes we can even get a Wi-Fi signal in the van if we’re parked near a shopping mall, Walmart, etc.

Where do you receive mail?

For mail, we have a PO box that friends and family can check for us when we’re not home. But we hardly get mail anymore because we’ve set up everything so that we can do all of our banking, taxes, etc., online.

Where do you shower? 

Our van doesn’t have a shower, so we’ve had to find creative ways to stay clean when we’re on the road. We could have taken the easy road and gotten a membership to a gym so that we could have showered at their locations everywhere we went. But we’re trying to spend as little money as possible, so we haven’t done that yet. 

We have a solar shower (a black plastic bag with a nozzle from Coleman) that we can use on sunny days when we’re at a private campsite. We’ve also used showers at campsites and at friends and family’s places. To stay clean between showers, we try to go swimming every day, use wet wipes to freshen up and apply dry shampoo to keep our hair looking semi-presentable.

How do you balance work and living in a small space?

This is a great question because it has actually been a huge challenge for us to balance work, travel and personal projects since we moved into the van. This summer, we were working online four days per week, writing Exploring Alternatives blog posts and filming, editing and posting our YouTube videos in the evenings—all while trying to enjoy each new place we were visiting. It got pretty stressful to be honest, so we prioritized what was important to us. And that’s why we decided to work full time on Exploring Alternatives.

What are your hobbies on and off the road?

We don’t have exciting hobbies like surfing or rock climbing, so we’re pretty boring in a way. We do love spending time in nature, taking backcountry hikes and urban strolls, as well as reading, chatting over coffee, eating veggie meals, watching movies and meeting other people who are living alternative lifestyles.

Mat is an incredible artist so he spends some of his time sculpting and painting, while I’m working on improving my writing. Mat is also teaching me how to throw a Frisbee so that I can play ultimate one day.

What are your top three go-to items in your tiny home?

Snacks: We always have snacks with us because a) food is amazing, and b) there’s nothing worse than arriving in a new place with empty stomachs and an empty cooler.

Folding Windshield Sun Shade: We use it all the time. It kept us from overheating in the van all summer, it gives us extra privacy and we even used it around the head of our bed last winter to insulate our heads from the cold air.

Crank Flashlight: My dad gave us one, and it’s great because we never have to worry about buying or charging batteries.

What has been the most rewarding thing about living small?

Can I give you two answers for this one? We love that our minimalist lifestyle has enabled us to see so many new places and that we’ve been able to live comfortably on a much smaller budget.

What is the most challenging thing?

The world is not set up for people who want to live with less. There are bylaws that make sleeping in a vehicle illegal, and there are building codes that prevent people from living in tiny houses. It’s tough to accept rules like that when we feel like simple living is a positive thing that should be embraced and encouraged.

The environment is another big challenge when we’re living in the van: heat, cold, rain, humidity, bugs. We’re directly affected by nature more than when we’re in a house.

If you could change one thing about your lifestyle, what would it be?

I wish we could slow down time so that we could spend more time in every place we visit.

We almost always find incredible people and places on the road, and it’s hard to say goodbye all the time.

Do you plan to go back to your previous way of living?

We are not opposed to settling down in one place eventually, but I don’t think that will happen anytime soon. We are quite opposed to getting a mortgage and full-time jobs again though. We’d much prefer to stay debt-free, spend less and work less.

What is your advice to future homeowners who want to live small or hit the road?

Living in a tiny space is rewarding in many ways, but it’s not always easy and it’s not for everyone. It’s easy to romanticize living in a tiny house, or in a van, so we always recommend that people try living in a tiny space first—even just for a couple of nights or weeks—before committing to doing it full time.

What's next? Any news you want to share?

After a couple of fall house-sitting gigs in Canada, we’re planning to move back into the van and head South until April, and then we’re going to explore Canada’s East Coast!

It’s so important to find a community of like-minded people who are doing the same things you are because they’re going to make you feel normal. They’re going to encourage you. They’re going to inspire you.

Follow Danielle & Mat of Exploring Alternatives

Edited by Kate MacDougall.
All photos credit to
Exploring Alternatives.