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 one.
Square Feet: 70
Currently In: Portland
Make, Model, Year: 1993 Chevy G30 Van
A lot of people decide to live in a van as a way to downsize and simplify life. For me it was the opposite, I had been traveling for a couple years and I saw the van as a step towards stability and having my own home.
I bought the van a couple days after returning from India. I immediately built out a simple bunk and floor and took it on the road for a couple of months working on farms.
That winter I returned to the pacific northwest and stayed with a friend while installing the wood stove, kitchen and solar panels.
Years Living Mobile: 2
I have been living in my van for two years now, although in the last six months things have shifted a little bit. I began dating a man with a converted school bus, and after traveling for several months together in the van, Andy and I parked both vehicles in a driveway in Portland. Since December, we have been staying mostly in the bus and using the van for side trips.
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This is such a difficult question.
Sheepskins: I use them to sleep on, and to keep warm and cozy.
Solar Panels: The solar panels are crucial. Having a self-contained power source for charging cameras and lights was a big step in the van build.
Wood Stove: The wood stove is probably the best thing in the van. It’s great for warmth, cooking, ambience and is also a conversation starter.
Tell us a little about your mobile photography project.
Last spring, my friend Cheyenne and I launched a Kickstarter to turn my van into a mobile photo gallery.
We traveled for seven weeks around the west, and set up 13 pop-up shows in parking lots, farmers markets and national parks. Since our trip was funded through Kickstarter, we decided not to sell our prints, but to simply show them. Every artist or performer wants an audience, but the art world can be exclusive and hard to reach. Often times, someone has to declare that an artist is important before their work can be seen. We wanted to send a message of empowerment to all the creative and curious people out there. If you want to show your art, do it. If you want to explore the world, do it. If you call yourself an artist, you are. We connected with so many inspiring people along the way and shared a thousand incredible moments. We also learned a ton about our own creative processes and how to work together.
What has been your favorite place to visit?
A lot of magical and serendipitous things happened in New Mexico, but it is difficult to name a favorite. Utah is breathtaking and expansive, Wyoming is majestic and Northern California's small towns are quirky and historical.
What has been your favorite place to park?
One of my favorite places to park is on National Forest areas. It's free and often quite beautiful. I have parked in so many spots, from McDonald's parking lots to quiet residential streets, to urban industrial districts. But the common thread is that it has to feel safe. I will often try out a few places before settling on one, and I have never had any issues.
What has been the most rewarding thing about living in a van?
For me it has been the stability and space. Having a home that I feel so much ownership over warms my heart. Being able to take it anywhere excites and motivates me.
What is the most challenging?
The biggest challenge is not having enough space to do all the creative projects I want.
What is your advice to others who want to live small or hit the road?
If you think you want to live small, start by taking an assessment of what you own and what you actually use. Begin the process of downsizing and simplifying your life.
Who inspires you?
A huge inspiration has been Edna Lu the tea bus. Guiseppi travels around the states serving free tea as a way to build community. I’m also greatly inspired by my friends.
Do you plan to go back to your previous way of living?
I hope to live in as many ways as possible. I would live abroad, I would live in a tent, I would live in a house, in a bus, on a boat—as long as I stay open to change.
What's next? Any news you want to share?
Andy and I just bought a house in Portland. We realized that with my van and his school bus, we wanted a home base for our vehicles. We essentially bought a house for our tiny homes. We are both very community minded, and having a house will allow us to build on that community, live with friends and have a guest space as well as a work space. Our mortgage is far less than the rent we would be paying, and we have roommates to help with it. We are choosing to continue to live in the school bus while we use the house for yoga, art and growth.
The other news is that Cheyenne and I are slowly slowly working on a zine of our trip. It will be a compilation of photographs we took along the way.